I started writing it around the beginning of 2006, you know, a few years removed from 9/11, with the neverending war in Iraq and the Mayan 2012 looming and the whole apocalyptic vibe in the air. The world seemed like a pretty messed up place. At the same time, I sort of immediately dismissed the idea of a “natural” catastrophic event, meaning that I was somehow convinced that if the world was actually going to end, it wouldn’t be a solar flare. It would be us. And it would be intentional.
But in terms of writing about it, I wasn’t really interested in writing a “post”-apocalyptic novel; I felt they were everywhere and was kind of sick of them, actually, by then. So I decided to write a novel about the world actually being in the process of ending. I started asking myself: Who could possibly want the world to end? Why? How would they do it? And then Luke came on the scene, and I started writing about him, and suddenly what I had written was actually a “pre”-apocalyptic novel.
The protagonist, Luke Whales, is a TV star who finds himself in the middle of a vast conspiracy after he’s framed for murder. What inspired his character?
Luke was actually inspired by a pretty stock version of the Antichrist. Arrogant, charismatic, in a position to influence millions, if not billions, of people, and so on. But of course, since I wasn’t telling a stock version of the rise of the Antichrist, that was really just a jumping-off point.
Tell us a bit about the near-future Chicago Project Antichrist takes place in.
Chicago’s got a few upgrades (and a few downgrades), but on the whole there aren’t too many changes. People spend more time at home, getting more and more information about the outside from their screens. Theaters are gone. Surveillance is everywhere. There’s new gadgetry. But the cars still drive on the ground. Guns still shoot bullets. Due to the not-quite-defined disaster happening out west, Chicago has also become a major broadcasting hub, with a lot of studios and network companies moving inland from both coasts.
Although Project Antichrist is told mostly from Luke’s point of view, it rotates between the perspectives of several characters. Do you have any favorites?
Even though she only gets her own POV once, Iris is probably my favorite, because I still don’t know everything there’s to know about her.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing Project Antichrist?
Probably the first chapter. I must have written it two dozen times over the years. And it’s not like there would be times when I said to myself, Hey, let me just slap something together quickly. No, every time you do it, you do your best, and you love how it sounds and how it flows and how it transitions into the rest of the book, and you think this is it, this is the last time, and then you read it 6 months later and it’s just all over the place and out of tune. I haven’t gone back to read it since I published :D
One of the central themes of Project Antichrist is the prevalent use of antidepressants in this futuristic society. What inspired that idea?
The idea is that “government” is the entity whose function and goal are both control. In a society of evolving beings, control becomes gradually more challenging to maintain, so in order to stay in power, this entity must invent new methods of keeping control. One such method described in Project Antichrist comes down to depressing the population with the world events, then hooking them on stupefying meds. In The Matrix, it was the plugging everyone into the virtual simulation of life.
If we were to walk in on you while you were writing, what would we see? Would you be at a desk? In a café? On the train?
I am a gamer and I only write at my gaming computer, where I can procrastinate and become distracted whenever I want. The desk is a horrible mess. I’ve got bookcases on both sides, a painting on one wall, and a marked up map of the US on the other. If you walked in when I’m writing, then everybody is probably asleep. And my walls are orange.
Project Antichrist ends with something of a cliffhanger. Are you working on a sequel?
Yeah, so at first I thought I was writing an apocalyptic book, but it actually turned out be pre-apocalyptic. As I was finishing it, it was pretty clear that the Apocalypse itself will have to play out in the sequel. That is still very much the plan, but right now I’m working on a different novel: a sci-fi thriller set at a company that will send you to a paradise of your choice after you die, for a fee.