In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at John Pedersen and his story “’Round Back.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
“‘Round Back” was inspired by a very vivid dream, a wake-you-up, get-pencil-to-paper-right-now kind of vivid.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
A lot changed between those initial scribblings and the version you see in Transcendent – initially it was a large clubhouse, inspired by a friend’s property from childhood, that bore the first signs of something being wrong with it.
I had the idea to include a throwaway line about other disappearances to better ground the story, and the first one that came to mind was the Travis Walton UFO incident.
That led me down a rabbit hole researching the area that Walton was from, which turned out to be just a short distance from my home in Northern Arizona. I surfed around the town of Snowflake via Google Maps until an unassuming building popped up, and then kept showing up in other pictures from the town. Set off from anything else, it was a rather unexciting ampitheatre, likely built for something of little importance, but because of its isolation, something started churning in the back of my mind. This little edifice, probably in reality host to little more than barbershop quartets and church choirs, suddenly supplanted the clubhouse from my dream, becoming an evil monolith set in place to appease something sinister.
All of this from wanting an authentic setting, a bunch of clicking in Google Maps, in a town within driving distance of me.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
The son in my story is inspired by all of the people I grew up around in rural Arizona. I was shooting for a down-to-earth Stephen King sort of protagonist, a working-class fellow who is sharp and perceptive, but uneducated, encountering something that doesn’t make sense in his mind. I wanted just a hint of “aw shucks” to give him personality, to let the reader have a sense of what it would be like to sit next to him at the counter of a coffee shop.
I’ve also always been enraptured by Keith David’s performance in a scene in The Thing, in which he first encounters the alien and can’t even comprehend it. He utters a sound that lets the audience know, in a moment, that his brain is rejecting what he’s seeing. I tried to capture that moment internally with the son and externally with the father in “‘Round Back.”
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
Snowflake, AZ is a rural town, making my hometown look cosmopolitan in comparison. Once the story started settling into shape, the setting became important to inform the type of characters who would live there and what kind of work they could find for themselves.
Closer to me is another very rural town, in which I have had the great pleasure of knowing several families who have made it their home. Some of the men in these families very much influenced the main characters in “‘Round Back.”
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Evil can lurk in the corners anywhere, setting in and taking rot like a creeping mold. It isn’t always obvious, and it isn’t always as glamorous as a black church or altar adorned with bones. Sometimes it can even disguise itself in how we cope with grief.
What phrase are you most proud of in this story?
“They’re black, but not lights off black, they’re black like the inside of a marble, like a black that goes inward, sorta like when you’re staring up at the stars at night and that black goes somewhere.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
It’s a toss-up between a comfortable keyboard and a comfortable place to write.
Best time investment I’ve ever given myself as a writer is joining a capable and accomplished writer’s circle. They helped push me from good ideas to good execution.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
I’d happily put my name on Andy Weir’s The Martian. Mark Watney is a dynamite protagonist and the story is riveting all the way through.
Having a Ridley Scott film based on my work wouldn’t hurt my feelings either.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
I’m a working-class guy with a full-time job, currently juggling two big scripting projects. I’d be that kid from X-Men who doesn’t need to sleep.
John Pedersen is a writer from Northern Arizona. He is currently shopping his second novel, The Archivist, a cyberpunk western. Fitting the mashup nature of the story, he is now scripting it for production as a hybrid audio book/radio drama.
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