G. W. Thomas
Jack Passarella is the author of two Buffy-related novels and the Wither series. His latest is Wither's Rain. He took time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions about the world of Wither, Buffy and Ghostbreakers in general.
GW THOMAS: How do you see BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER within the sub-genre of Ghostbreakers? Does your new novel use many of these elements?
JACK PASSARELLA: Buffy is a ghostbreaker with a modern sensibility. At first blush, she's an unlikely ghostbreaker, but that's part of the contrarian premise: the damsel turns around and fights the monsters. Buffy's line is, and I'm paraphrasing, "I'm the thing that gives the monsters nightmares."
Buffy is the Chosen One, but she has, after some initial reluctance, embraced her role as a ghostbreaker. She is one in a long line of Slayers, and Slayers generally don't live to collect on retirement plans. Why the Chosen One is always a young woman hasn't been addressed in the show to my knowledge. It goes against stereotypes, which is a good enough reason. As a writer, I try to give the reader something unexpected, new or different. Working within genre already forces some predictability into the mix, so any way I can avoid the expected helps make the story more exciting and entertaining.
WITHER'S RAIN is an evolution of the concept introduced in WITHER. Wendy Ward, my Wiccan/college co-ed, uses magic and her wits to fight the monstrosity in WITHER. In WITHER'S RAIN, I reinvent or re-imagined Wendy's role in both books. She is confronted with the idea that she is, as you call it, a 'ghostbreaker.' The evil of Wither represents chaos and is unnatural, whereas Wendy becomes a force OF nature and FOR nature, a balancing of the scales. Wiccan beliefs celebrate and embrace nature, so it seemed natural -- if you'll excuse the pun -- for Wendy to become a champion of nature in the battle against evil and chaos.
GWT: Dr. van Helsing was the original vamp-chaser. Since then vampires have taken over the driver's seat so to speak. Why do you think readers want supernatural ghostbreakers (I thinking of Buffy's amazing gifts and of Angel.)
JP: Maybe it's the ultimate empowerment fantasy. More likely, it's a way to make the bad stuff badder, by having the forces of good more powerful, even supernaturally endowed. Angel is a case of fighting fire with fire, vampire against vampire. He's stronger than most and more resourceful. Buffy takes a consider beating on a weekly basis. It would be unrealistic to have a 'mere' human take such a pounding and still be around to fight another day.
I face this supernatural
issue with Wendy's magical development. I want her accumulation of magic
to be gradual to maintain that suspension of disbelief. Each step along
the way should feel possible within the context of the story. At the same
time, I have these evil forces with much more power. They need to be fearsome,
unrelenting, etc. to drive the narrative threat. To overcome these enemies,
Wendy needs to balance her supernatural abilities with quick thinking and
resourcefulness. That combination is needed to get the job done. That helps
me keep the books and the series grounded in the real world, rather than
in a high fantasy setting.
GWT: When the hero is powerful and coming back in the next novel, how do you make a book like WITHER'S RAIN scary?
JP: Even though Wendy is developing magical powers they seem, to her, unequal to the task. In WITHER, the evil took the form of towering, implacable creatures with the power of flight. In WITHER'S RAIN, the evil possesses and corrupts a human host, becoming devious and magically powerful, able to blend into our society and walk among us in the light of day. The situation is scary for Wendy because she feels overwhelmed by her adversary. Also, other characters in the book, characters without any magical abilities are at risk from the evil force and its minions. There's enough danger to go around.
GWT: Anything you'd like to add?
JP: Ultimately, I think our ghostbreakers touch a deep chord within us. We want good to triumph over evil, no matter how great the evil is. Within the metaphors of our fiction, we can embrace the power of destiny, a guiding hand, a higher power that will make us strong enough to overcome that which threatens us. There's a catharsis in believing that somehow, some way, we will survive. As Nietzsche said, "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger."
GWT: Thanks very much for your time, Jack.
JP: Thank you.
Interested in buying WITHER'S RAIN
out Jack's Home Page