A short interview with best-selling authors Marsheila Rockwell & Jeff Mariotte on their collaborative contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…
THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?
MARSHEILA ROCKWELL & JEFF MARIOTTE: We’d worked with Jonathan Maberry on a couple of other anthologies, so when he asked for pitches for The X-Files, we were in! Luckily, he liked our idea, and he’s a great editor to work with, so it was pretty smooth sailing.
TX-C: Have you both always been a fan of The X-Files?
MR: I’ve been a fan pretty much from the beginning, though I thought the later seasons were a little hit or miss. Still, “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is probably my favorite episodes of all time, so I’m glad I stuck around for that one!
JM: I admit I never watched the show religiously. If I caught it when it was on, that was cool, but if I missed it, that was okay, too. I always saw it as kind of a spiritual offspring of The Twilight Zone by way of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and loved that vibe.
TX-C: Why did you decide to frame the story through Micah’s perspective?
MR & JM: We figured everyone else in the anthology would probably be telling their stories from either Mulder or Scully’s POV (or both), so we thought using the POV of a local would not only make our story stand out, but also heighten the ambiguity of the ending – who’s right, Mulder, or Scully? Without being in either of their heads, the reader is left to make their own decision regarding what the titular transmissions really are…
TX-C: Can you describe the process of writing the short story in tandem?
MR & JM: We always start with a detailed outline that we hammer out together beforehand, so most of our arguments about plot, etc., are solved there. Then whoever has a better sense of the story will begin writing until they come to a good stopping point (usually the end of a scene, but not always), then pass it off to the other person. That person edits what the first person wrote, then writes the next bit and passes it back, and it goes on that way until we get to the end of the outline (which hopefully is also the end of the story). Then we both do an editing pass or two (sometimes more), and at the end of the process, we often can’t tell who wrote what. That’s when we know we’ve done a good job.
TX-C: There’s a down to earth sense of home invasion terror to this story, with families in danger. Did you draw on any inspirations for that?
MR: We did a lot of research into psychopaths for our original SF/H/thriller, 7 SYKOS, and we’re both very interested in serial killers. Family annihilators are a type of serial killer that informed some of the details in the story, but of course the motivations behind their crimes and the ones in “Transmissions” are very different…
JM: In addition to what Marcy said, I was intrigued by the setting. We’re both Arizonans, and I’m fascinated by the state’s more remote locales. It’s a huge state, and there are vast pockets of it that are largely uninhabited. At least by human beings. So we thought it would be fun to do something in that kind of setting.
TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?
MR: I do in the sense that I believe in forces of good and evil. I’ve never been able to watch The Exorcist all the way through – it scares the crap out of me. I don’t know about things like poltergeists or hauntings, but I’m open to the possibility.
JM: I’ve had experiences that I can’t explain in any other way, and I’ve known enough other people who’ve had inexplicable experiences. I don’t know if those are paranormal, but I believe that there’s more going on in the world than we can easily grasp.
Many thanks to Marsheila Rockwell & Jeff Mariotte for their time.
Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.