Thomas E. Sniegoski is an author I've mentioned here at the Daily Dose more than a few times. He is the creative force behind one of my favorite new series: The Remy Chandler novels. When we were chatting it up about angels on Tuesday, I brought him up again. It is my very great pleasure to now introduce you to Mr. Sniegoski through this wonderful interview. We've been emailing back and forth for the last couple of weeks and I've enjoyed my interactions with the mind behind Remy Chandler. I hope you enjoy getting to know him too.
According to your biography, you got started writing comic books. What attracted you to that genre?
I’m a HUGE comic book geek. Can’t even tell you how many I actually own, probably in the high thousands. There are full comic book boxes (the ones that look like little coffins) everywhere here. It’s real problem, but I just love the art form, always have. In fact, I still travel to Lynn Massachusetts (where I grew up) every Saturday to hang at the local comic book store to pick up my weekly comic book fix, and talk funny books—it’s pretty amazing.
One of your first series of books was The Fallen upon which ABC Family created a mini-series. What was that experience like for you? Seeing your creation come to life on the screen?
Talk about surreal. They shot the movie in Vancouver, and I went out to the set on the last week of shooting. I can remember, being driven to where they were shooting—a large farm area—and I could see this huge, structure of metal pipes hanging over an open area in front of the main farmhouse. It was really large, and you could see it at a distance as we drove closer.
It looked like a spaceship or something, but the closer I got, I could see that there were actually people: actors, attached to this thing by wires. Come to find out, it was the rigging used to do the flying effects. It was an amazing sight to see these actors, hanging by wires from this enormous contraption, fighting in mid air. I think that was when it all kind’a hit me. I was just speechless. All of what was going on, was happening because of something that I wrote. It’s something that I’ll remember forever.
Why angels and fallen? Your work avoids calling denizens demons, in fact, you are very specific about the fact that they are fallen angels or cast out for their rebellion. What was your inspiration?
The inspiration for all my religious types of stories comes from my Catholic upbringing. The angel fascination comes from the old Polish church that I used to attend. There were these amazing, and kind of frightening statues of the Arch Angel Michael, dressed in armor and wielding a sword, or sometimes a fearsome spear. One of the paintings on the ceiling depicted a winged Michael, in full armor, standing on the head of man with a body of a serpent; obviously this was Satan.
It always stuck with me that here were these creatures, that I’d always had been told were nice, helpful beings, but at the same time they were dressed in armor, and carrying weapons. When I started to do actual research into angel mythology, that’s when it all came out. These weren’t nice being at all, these guys were badasses; God’s stormtroopers so to speak. That just opened the floodgates for me.
And in regard to the whole Denizen, Demon thing, I wanted to be very specific, fallen angels in my mythology (the Remy Chandler mythology) are not demons; they’re angels that have committed sins against God. Demons are a whole other thing; we’ll be getting a hint of them in the third Remy book, Where Angels Fear To Tread.
What kind of research did you have to do into the different Hosts?
One thing that I’ve learned about doing angel research, from one book to the next, everything changes. Every researcher has a different take on things. In one book a specific host can be responsible for one particular thing, and then, in another book, they can be responsible for something completely different. I just go through the books, pick what I like, and then, if I can’t find something that I’m looking for, I make it up.
Has response to the Remy Chandler series been positive?
I think it has; I hope it has. Right now I’ve just delivered book 3, and I’m contracted to do one more. I’m waiting to see if Roc wants more. I think the response to Remy, especially after the novella in Mean Streets, has been extremely positive, so I’m hoping to get signed for a few more books . . . I’ve got quite a few more Remy stories to tell.
Remy goes beyond The Fallen series, he's a Seraphim who lives as a human. From the writing, there is Remiel and there is Remy Chandler -- are they really two different beings now? Or has the Seraphim evolved that way?
Remy has made himself this way. With his attempt to BE human, Remy has sort of split himself; hiding away his true, angelic nature. The Seraphim side is very cold, and violent; it’s a warrior nature, and really doesn’t think much about feelings or anything like that. For Remy to be human, to be truly human, a nature like that has to be suppressed, but, as you can see if you’ve read the books, it often comes bubbling to the surface. This just goes to show you that one really can’t hide what you actually are.
His love story with Madeline was unique and powerful. You chose to introduce readers to the relationship at the end of Madeline's life rather than in the first throes of romance. I found it to be the more provocative choice. What led you to that choice? Creatively? Did you start there?
Since Remy’s humanity is such a powerful device for his stories, I felt that we needed to see him at his most vulnerable. Here was the perfect example of actually being human; the pain of losing a loved one. I think this provided me with the ultimate setting to show this character struggling with concept of humanity, but at the same time, trying to determine if that is was he truly wants. Remember, Remy could shuck all the human nonsense and go back to Heaven; he could end the terrible pain he’s feeling and he struggles with this.
“Do I really want to be human that bad? To feel this horrible sense of loss?” And the answer is yes. With the loss of Madeline, he learn what it’s really like to be human.
While we have not seen any others as yet, what other supernatural beings populate Remy's world?
I’m still playing with that. In the third book we meet some more biblical favorites, but we also meet some more demonic creatures as well. There’s even a hint of mythological beasties still being around. It’s interesting, I recently read an article about an earlier version of the bible which included references to all this strange mythological creatures, but in later revisions, they had them all removed. That got me thinking, of course.
He's dealt with the Angel of Death in the first book, the release of Lucifer in the second, where will Remy's next book take him?
Remy is going to wrapped up in a missing person’s case . . . a young, autistic child seemingly with the ability to predict the future through drawings that she does. Don’t want to give too much away, but I can guarantee, the case gets much bigger and wilder . . . as Remy’s cases have a tendency to do.
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now I just turned the first draft of the third Remy novel, and I’m getting ready to start work on the second book in the original BONE novels that I’m doing with Scholastic, based on the award winning comic book series by Jeff Smith. And, I’m starting to think about the fourth Remy book which I’ll be writing this Winter.
Author to Author Questions
As a writer, what's the most difficult part of the process for you? The creating? The editing? The submitting?
All the steps can be troubling sometimes. It switches off; sometimes an idea just pops into your head fully formed, sometimes you have to rip it out with pliers. Sometimes edits go smoothly, and you end up with a much better book, sometimes edits just show you how off the book actually is. The proposal process can be very frustrating. You can work for weeks trying to come up with the perfect pitch, and the spend lots of time writing it just so in order for it to be attractive to a particular editor, and then he (she) dismisses it with a wave of their hand.
“Naw, don’t really like it.”
That can drive me crazy, but at the back of my mind I know that there will likely be an editor eventually that will like it, and want to do it.
Did you experience any rejections in the process to see Remy in print? How did you cope with the rejections?
Not really. I think the only person to reject Remy was an agent I was trying to get to represent me and the first book. She read the first few chapters and really didn’t like them. She didn’t like the Remy character; felt that he was cold. That really shocked me because out of all the characters that I’ve worked on, and created, I felt Remy was the most emotional. Oh well ,I think I sold the first book a few months after that to Penguin.
Are you a full time author or do you have a day job?
I am a full time writer guy and have been since the mid to late nineties.
Would you describe a typical working/writing day? What routines or rituals do you observe to get your writing done?
If you know anything about me, it’s all about routines. I am a creature of habit. Get up at 5:00am just about every day (might sleep till 6:00am on Sat or Sunday, but not always) Get the dog out, fix him his breakfast, get him out after his breakfast. After that, I usually go on a twenty-five minute walk, or use some of the gym equipment we have. From there, I shower, shave and then get my wife ready to go off to work.
Around 9:00am is my every day phone call with writer/friend Chris Golden where we bat ideas around, or bitch and man about this, that or the other thing. Following the phone call, it’s time for Mulder (my dog) to go on his bigger walk, which usually lasts until around 10:00am. When I get back from that is when the writing actually starts. I work until around 1:00pm, have some lunch, and then I’m back to writing until around, 4:00pm or 5:00pm.
That’s a typical day for me.
Do you ever experience writer's block? If so, how do you cope with it or negate it?
Writers block is always going to be something to deal with. It’s really awful, but the best way to deal with it is to step away from what’s causing the problem. Take some time away from the particular project and work on something else, go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie; take your mind off of the troublesome project.
Usually, at least for me, the subconscious has been working on the problem, and you find the pieces starting to fall into place a little easier when you go back to it.
Are you a pantser (someone who writes from the seat of your pants) or a plotter (someone who outlines and plots out all the details ahead of time)?
I’m a plotter. I like to lay out a book beat by beat, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. This just helps me to know where I’m going. I’m not a complete slave to my outline though; many a time a book and it’s characters just end up going in completely different directions that you don’t plan which causes one’s outline to change dramatically, but that’s something that you just have to adapt to.
What do you enjoy reading?
I read everything; lots and lots of comic books and novels of pretty much every kind; though I love the old pulp novels (The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spider). I really enjoy a good crime/thriller, and horror is always good.
I’m currently reading Mike Carey’s second Felix Castor novel, which is quite good.
You can learn more about Thomas E. Sniegoski, his work and what's coming up next at his website.