John Passarella Talks New ‘Supernatural’ Novel ‘Rite of Passage’
There’s a new Supernatural novel out! Rite of Passage came out this Tuesday, and last week we hosted a contest to let you ask author John Passarella all about it! Check out our full interview with John below where we asked your questions!
What do you hope to contribute to the Supernatural legacy with the success of this novel?
John Passarella: Mainly, I’m hoping to contribute another Winchester brothers adventure to the Supernatural world. Since books have no special effects budget constraints, I try to make it grander in scale than what the show’s producers can deliver on television. I want the characters (Sam, Dean, Bobby) to ring true, in their voices, actions and mental and emotional states. So, I want it to feel like a “lost episode” but something closer to a feature film scale. A reader commented that my first Supernatural tie-in, Night Terror, felt like a Supernatural movie, so that’s rewarding to hear.
How is this book any different from the TV series?
John Passarella: As I mentioned before, my effects budget is unlimited, so I try to run with that. Also, because of the length, a 350-page manuscript vs 50 pages for a one hour TV script, I have more time to develop the villain and its mythos and deliver a more complex challenge for the Winchesters. However, since my book takes place in the continuity between two particular episodes in season seven, I have to take the brothers as I find them in the episode that precedes my book and then not change them beyond how they are in the episode that follows. I have to keep that in mind while outlining and writing the book to stay true to the time line.
How is your process of writing about a TV series different than writing about something completely fictional that you created?
John Passarella: Right from the start, the process differs. I submit four or five three-line pitches, using characters and situations I didn’t create. (And I need to capture the voices of those characters so that fans/readers can picture Sam and Dean and Bobby saying the dialogue I wrote for them.) Next, my outline has to follow the continuity of the show, and I can’t have the characters deviate from where they are in the episode that follows my novel. Some of the revision notes are also based on what has happened or will happen in the show. The whole tie-in writing process is accelerated. I need to write a Supernatural tie-in novel in about two months and I write seven days a week until it’s done. No days off. Even the revision process is accelerated. I may have seven to ten days to revise the manuscript. For my own novels, I make up the world and the characters. Anything can happen to my characters, even the lead characters, up to and including death. I usually spend four to six months on a first draft of one of my own novels. I then set that draft aside and come back to it with fresh eyes a month or more later. I may take a couple more months to revise. I may get story suggestions from my editor (usually one editor for my own books versus multiple editors and a show contact for the tie-ins), but the final decisions are mine to make. I have final say because it’s my story from start to finish. So, writing a tie-in novel is more of a collaborative process and I’m definitely not the boss. My own original novel is more of a solo performance, with complete ownership, even though my agent, editor and proofreaders assist in that performance.
Do you feel as if writing the Supernatural novels has opened new doors and revealed new things about Sam and Dean that the TV series is unable to cover?
John Passarella: I’m not sure it has opened any doors per se. It shows I can write in a third universe, after my Buffy and Angel tie-ins, so it could increase my chances of getting a tie-in writing assignment for another show. And Supernatural fandom is energetic and welcoming, so my Supernatural novels may bring some of those readers over to my original fiction. As far as revealing new things about Sam and Dean, that’s not something easy for me (or any tie-in writer) to do since the books are locked into a certain point in the time line. I can add some depth to what we already know. For example, I was able to show several of Sam’s Lucifer hallucinations. I can present the brothers with new challenges, but I can’t change them or their back story, at least not without the blessing of the show.
How hard is it to get into the heads of Dean and Sam Winchester? They’re so complex and layered after all this time, it must be a challenge.
John Passarella: I go through pages of dialogue for Sam, Dean, Bobby before every writing session, to get them back into my head. I look for verbal tics that ring true for the characters, and how they phrase comments and questions. I look at where they are in dealing with their issues and what their main concerns are at the point in the time line where my book takes place. I hint at some of their back story, but I don’t rehash every trauma they’ve suffered. If something is relevant to a current plot point, I’ll mention it. For example, I touch on Dean’s fear of flying in a scene at a hangar when the brothers are investigating the deaths of three skydivers. The goal is not to bog down the narrative with all their past travails. The best way to approach it is to get a feel for where they are at that moment in time and let that guide their reactions and responses.
It’s stated that the novel takes place during season 7, how much of the details from the series are tied into the book?
John Passarella: When Rite of Passage begins, the Winchesters and Bobby are concerned about the Leviathan threat and Dean, more so than the others, wants to make sure the Leviathan aren’t behind the incidents in Laurel Hill. But the novel will ultimately be a monster-of-the-week type of story, a standalone monster hunt. Sam is dealing with the fall of the wall in his mind. Dean is disillusioned with saving a world that doesn’t seem to want saving. So, all those issues are at play, but they still need to finish the hunt. As a reader, you should feel as if you’re reading a “lost episode” of the show that takes place between the two episodes mentioned in the Historian’s Note.
What did you first think of Supernatural when it started and what it has become now?
John Passarella: Although I watched Supernatural from season one, episode one, my love for the show grew when they started moving toward the apocalypse arc. I’m a sucker for the bigger arc in genre shows, the season long arcs, and multi-season arcs. My feeling is that those arcs add so much depth for regular viewers. The writers have a challenge post-apocalypse-arc that I don’t envy. How do you top the apocalypse? The short answer is, you can’t, but I’m still in favor of having a big bad (or big bads) that span the course of the season. The important question for me is, do you still enjoy the show? Are the scary parts still scary? Is the humor still funny? Do you like the characters and the chemistry they have with one another? For me, the answer to all those questions is yes.
Do you have any plans to write future Supernatural novels?
John Passarella: I’m certainly open to writing a third tie-in for Supernatural, but I haven’t been asked yet. Night Terror and Rite of Passage came out back to back in the Titan Books release schedule, which was cool. Two more Supernatural novels, by other authors, are in the pipeline already, for November and February 2013. Beyond that, I don’t know if the book contract has been renewed. I’m hopeful it will be, since the show has been renewed for an eighth season and could go beyond that. If the books sell, they should continue. And if Rite of Passage is received well by readers and fans of the show, I may be asked to write a third tie-in.
Check out the official description of Rite of Passage below!
After Sam and Dean Winchester lost their mother to a mysterious supernatural force as young children, their father taught them how to hunt and destroy the paranormal evil that exists in the dark corners of America. Following their father’s demonic death, they discovered that they are descended from a long line of hunters and chose to continue their mission.
Laurel Hill, New Jersey, is beginning to look like one of the unluckiest places on Earth when an escalating series of accidents and outbreaks hit the town. But Sam and Dean suspect it’s more than just bad luck. Along with Bobby Singer, the brothers soon realize that a mysterious figure is at the center of the chaos. When they uncover a connection between the stranger and three teenage boys at the local high school who are experiencing some unusual growing pains, they know they will need far more than good luck to prevent an all-out disaster.
A brand-new Supernatural novel, set during season 7, that reveals a previously unseen adventure for the Winchester brothers, from the hit CW series!
John’s Supernatural novel Rite of Passage is available now! Be sure to check it out!