INTERVIEW: Lucy A. Snyder on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Along the Scenic Route’

A short interview with author Lucy A. Snyder on her contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

LUCY A. SNYDER: The short answer is that editor Jonathan Maberry asked me if I wanted to write a story for the anthology. Because I’ve been an X-Files fan since the series premiered, I was very happy to join the project. I first knew Jonathan Maberry from the Horror Writer’s Association; a few years ago, he was co-editing a zombie anthology that unfortunately never found a home. I had submitted a story to that which he had accepted, so he knew my work and figured I’d be able to write the kind of story he wanted to see. (He also contacted me about writing poetry for Scary Out There, a YA anthology that was recently published by Simon & Schuster)

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

LAS: I saw the series premiere back in 1993 and was instantly hooked. I loved the dark, cross-genre nature of the show — it mixed up science fiction, horror, mystery and conspiracy thriller elements. It reminded me of other shows I’d loved, such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. And I loved the characters, too. As much as I enjoy the genres the show explored, if I hadn’t connected with the characters, I wouldn’t have kept watching.

TX-C: What informed the decision to frame a lot of the story around Susie Rainwater?

LAS: I approached this story as if I were writing an episode in the 3rd season (my favorite season). Episodes of the show often employ multiple viewpoints to reveal story and provide clues to the viewer. Mulder and Scully often know far less than the viewer at the end of any given episode as a result. I normally stick to just one viewpoint character in a short story, but if I wanted the story to have the cinematic feel of an authentic episode, I knew I needed at least viewpoint characters. Obviously, either Mulder or Scully needed to provide the agents’ point of view.

So in planning the story, I had to figure out which other character would best show the reader more about the supernatural mystery than the agents could witness. Who would have the most at stake in the story? Who would be very close to the supernatural events? Who could act as a witness to those events without understanding them in a way that would neatly resolve the mystery for the reader? I quickly realized that young Susie Rainwater was that character, and so a fair bit of the story needed to be shown through her perspective.

TX-C: Native American legends and disrespect toward them is key to the mystery – did you always want to explore these concepts similar to X-Files episodes like ‘Shapes’ or ‘Teso Dos Bichos’?

LAS: I would say that Native American legends are certainly an important element, but whether they’re the key or not is up to the reader’s interpretation of what happens in the tale. When I was brainstorming the story, I did have those legends in mind, and I was thinking of the X-Files episodes that explore them.

TX-C: This is set immediately after Season 3’s ‘The List’, which Mulder & Scully reference – any reason why that episode specifically?

TAS: Since I knew I wanted to write something that would fit with Season 3, my initial bit of homework was to re-watch that whole season. “The List” takes place in Florida, and the episode after is “2Shy”, which is in Cleveland. Mulder and Scully are shown to be traveling by car, and that would be a long road trip of at least a thousand miles. A lot could happen on a trip like that, so wasn’t it likely that they could encounter another mystery along the way? Especially if Mulder chose the scenic route instead of the interstate? That’s the start of my story: they stop for food and then get embroiled in strange events in a small town.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

TAS: I am not a believer, but the paranormal fascinates me nonetheless. It’s entirely plot-worthy.

Many thanks to Lucy for her time. You can follow her on Twitter @LucyASnyder.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW: Ryan Cady on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Kanashibari’

A short interview with author Ryan Cady on his contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

RYAN CADY: I’d known Jonathan Maberry through social media and the Horror Writer’s Association, and one day on the HWA Facebook page he put out an open call for X-Files pitches for the anthology – I guess they had a couple slots left. I pitched him “Kanashibari” off the bat and a month or so later he let me know I was in! I remember being stuck at a red light when I got the email and pulling over to read it, I was so excited.

T-XC: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

RC: Definitely. My grandmother and I were the only people in my house growing up who liked horror, so I have a lot of distinct memories of watching it with her. We were always big “Monster of the Week” people, and I think a lot of those episodes informed my approach to horror as a genre over the years.

TX-C: What made you choose the Kanashibari folk myth for your story?

RC: I used to experience sleep paralysis pretty regularly, and back in college I’d done a little reading on the kanashibari myth, and I’d always wanted to tell some kind of story with it, but I’d never really gotten around to putting one to paper. A couple years ago I was watching some Alien Abduction documentary thing, and they mentioned offhand that sleep paralysis could account for the entire phenomenon, and I was just so hooked on that explanation.

It really struck me as something Scully could latch onto and Mulder could look down his nose at, so when Jonathan called for pitches, those ideas just sort of came together.

TX-C: You tap into the heat of Los Angeles from Scully’s less than impressed perspective, and its Japanese community – do you feel these are areas that haven’t much been explored in The X-Files?

RC: I think L.A. in general, doesn’t get a lot of play in horror. It’s newer, it’s bright and sunny – I get it, that’s a tough setting for trying to be spooky. I liked the idea of Scully sort of rolling her eyes at the place, like, what can happen here that’s worse than all the crazy stuff I’ve seen so far?

And community-wise, X-Files was always really good about exploring these little pockets of America, and I’ve always felt like the really diverse and varied communities in Southern California are ripe with stories – and not just horror stuff, even though that’s our cup of tea.

TX-C: There’s a nice ambiguity as to whether either Mulder or Scully’s theories about what’s happening are right – was that intentional throughout?

RC: Absolutely. At the end of the day, two people working in close proximity like that are going to influence each other a lot, as we see in the show, and so I really wanted to dig into the doubt that Mulder’s “need to believe” would bring to a skeptic like Scully.

And as much as I think we all love Mulder, there’s a perverse kind of comfort in proving him wrong, proving that we’re safe and the monster isn’t real.

Although the ending of this story does leave a little room for monsters.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

RC: You know, I’m not sure. I’m certainly something of a skeptic, but I was raised pretty religious, and I haven’t quite let go of some of my philosophical leanings there. The world is so big and so old and so strange, I think there might be some things lurking out there that just defy explanation.

Many thanks to Ryan for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @rycady.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW: George Ivanoff on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘An Eye for an Eye’

A short interview with author George Ivanoff on his contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

GEORGE IVANOFF: Jonathan Maberry had two slots open up for the anthology and invited members of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers to pitch for them. I submitted two pitches and one of them got through.

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

GI: Yep! Loved it from the moment it showed up on TV. So getting the chance to write a story for this anthology was a big fan-boy moment for me. It also gave me the excuse to buy it all on DVD as a tax deduction. Research! Research is so important!

TX-C: This is easily the strangest and creepiest story in Secret Agendas – what were your inspirations for the use of eyes?

GI: Thank you for your kind words. My favourite episodes of the series were the stand-alone creature eps rather than the conspiracy mythology based ones. And I love the “is-it-a-monster-or-isn’t-it” approach. So that’s what I wanted to write. As for the eyes… well, eyes are such a sensitive part of the body. And I’m very squeamish about eyes. The best starting points for creepy stories are the things that creep out the author. And the thought of a creature covered in stolen eyes creeped me out in a BIG way.

TX-C: What made you start ‘in media res’, as it were, with Mulder toward the end of the story?

GI: It was simply a case of wanting to start the story at an exciting point. And given that the story falls very much into the “is-the-monster-real-or-isn’t-it?” category, I figured that the first scene should make you think that it is real.

TX-C: There are some definite Biblical & religious overtones with Orvell, not to mention hints of historical abuse – what made these form part of his character?

GI: Once I worked out that the story would be about an optometrist and stolen eyes, the title just popped into my head. “An Eye for an Eye” is a biblical quote, so that led me to finding other biblical references to eyes; and that resulted in me wondering about how to turn the biblical references into a cause. I take a dim view of religious extremism (extremism of any sort, really), which so often is the excuse for all manner of horrible behavior. So I used extremism as the starting point for the historical abuse. And it all came together to form Orvell’s back-story. Even in a fantastical story, there needs to be believable historical motives for a character’s behavior.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

GI: No! I believe in science. 🙂 But the paranormal makes for exciting story telling!

Many thanks to George for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @george_ivanoff.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black

INTERVIEW: Lauren R. Forry on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Stryzga’

A short interview with author Lauren A. Forry on her contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

LAUREN A. FORRY: Total. Blind. Luck. In 2014, I saw a post from Jonathan Maberry about this upcoming series of X-Files anthologies on the Horror Writers Association Facebook page. Two authors had needed to drop out of the project, so to fill their slots he was accepting pitches for stories and the offer was open to anyone. I’d had some short stories published by that point and had signed with my agent, but my first novel hadn’t been accepted anywhere yet, so I really doubted if a pitch from me – a nobody – would make the cut.

I thought about it over the weekend, and I still wasn’t sure if I should submit. When I tried to think of a story idea, I hit a total block. Then that Monday morning, I was walking my dogs before I went to work and the start of a story popped into my head. As I drove to work, the story really quickly began to take shape, and I realized I would be an idiot if I didn’t at least submit a pitch. The worst that would happen is that I’d hear “no,” and, like any writer, I’d already heard that plenty of times.

When I got to work, I sat down at a computer and started typing up my pitch. I teach at a local college and was in the tutoring center that day. I didn’t have any student appointments, so I kept working on the pitch and, after reading through it a few times, I emailed it Jonathan. I thought, well that’s that. At least I tried!

A few weeks later, I was leaving a movie theater and checking my emails. I had just seen Birdman and was in pretty good spirits when I saw an email from Jonathan. I figured it was the rejection. I had to read the email three or four times before my brain registered that he’d chosen my pitch. I literally stood in the middle of the theater, unable to move and with this stupid grin on my face, as all these people swarmed past me on their way out.

I responded, said I could submit the story by the deadline, and that was that. So it turns out, it really would have been a stupid, stupid decision if I hadn’t submitted my pitch.


TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

LAF: Oh, yes. The story of why I’m into The X-Files is actually part of our family lore now. I was eight when the show premiered, and you wouldn’t think it’s a show an eight-year-old should watch (and it probably isn’t). But my dad was a FBI Special Agent. He worked out of the Newark, NJ office and was, before his retirement, the East Coast Aviation Coordinator. FYI – nobody bullies you at school when they know your dad works for the FBI.

So I had grown up loving the FBI, playing with my dad’s badge, fingerprinting my family members, those sorts of things. And my dad loved TV shows and also the supernatural/paranormal. This is a guy who made 8mm short films about aliens when he was in college. So as soon as he heard about The X-Files, he was sold. In 1993, there weren’t as many procedurals on TV as there are now and really none that focused primarily on the FBI so that, too, was really exciting for him.

I very clearly remember standing in our kitchen and my dad saying, “Lauren, there’s this new show on about FBI agents. Do you want to watch with me?” (I was a pretty well-adjusted kid who didn’t scare easily and had a healthy understanding of real versus pretend. I was also writing my own stories about witches and dark blobs by that point and my favorite book was ‘Bunnicula’ by James Howe, so my parents already knew I liked weird, scary stuff.)

Dad and I watched the pilot together and every single episode after that for the next nine seasons. We lined up to see the first movie wearing X-Files pins and hats that my sister’s boyfriend had got for us (he worked at the movie theater). We would tape episodes with our VCR if we were going to miss them and always waited to watch them together. When, for an elementary school class assignment, I had to write to one of my heroes, I wrote a fan letter to Gillian Anderson. My parents helped me tracked down the address to send it to using the TV Guide. I never received a personal reply, but I did get a signed photo of Anderson and David Duchovny. Every time the “parental discretion” warning came on the screen, we’d always laugh because it was at my parent’s discretion that I was watching the show in the first place.

My dad sadly passed away in 2013, so he never knew about my getting to write Stryzga, and watching Season 10 earlier this year was the first time I’d watched new episodes without him. But I feel he may have somewhat had a hand in making sure I submitted my pitch to Jonathan.


TX-C: What made you want to use ‘Darkness Falls’ as a jumping off point for your story?

LAF: For some reason, and I might never know exactly why ‘Darkness Falls’ has always been one of my all-time favorite episodes ever since it first aired. I even have a YA novelization of it lying around my house somewhere that I got when I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn more to the monster-of-the-week episodes than the conspiracy episodes, and there’s just something about Mulder and Scully, still getting to know each other while being stuck in the woods with this mysterious, deadly force around them that always appealed to me. It’s a bit like a horror movie, with the characters getting stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere as they’re picked off one by one.

When I was trying to wrap my head around a pitch, I didn’t have much time to think about where in the timeline I should set my story because I’d wasted time trying to think if I should submit a pitch in the first place. So I thought, why not relate it to my favorite episode? I’ve watched ‘Darkness Falls’ probably dozens of times over the years, so I knew it well, and I realized that there was a natural break between that episode and the next, ‘Tooms.’ Mulder and Scully were in pretty bad physical shape, and they would have needed some time to recuperate. But ‘Tooms’ doesn’t address anything that happened in ‘Darkness Falls’ – Mulder and Scully are back in the field, in perfect physical condition.

So I thought, well, what happened in between? How long would they have needed to heal? ‘Tooms’ can’t be their first case back since ‘Darkness Falls,’ so what could have been their first field assignment since that fateful trip to the Pacific Northwest? My brain started filling in those gaps and a story started to emerge. The ideas flowed so easily, that’s when I knew I’d chosen the right timeframe for my story.


TX-C: You make a point of Mulder being very protective over Scully a key element of the story – was it interesting to write them so early on in their dynamic?

LAF: I found it fairly easy to slip into the mindset of their early relationship simply because there was less history that I had to worry about. Mulder and Scully have been through so much over the last 20+ years and along with the growth that’s happened during those decades, there is also a lot of emotional baggage to deal with.

So going back to a time where they were still getting to know one another – and know each other’s limits – was a lot of fun. They hadn’t yet dealt with Scully’s disappearance/abduction and coma. Mulder still didn’t know much about what really happened to Samantha and the conspiracy behind it. Heck, even Skinner and CSM don’t show up until ‘Tooms,’ so the characters felt a bit freer without all of that history weighing them down.

Also, because they’ve not yet experienced the worst to come, they’re still learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They don’t fully know, yet, what the other is capable of, and I wanted Mulder to become overprotective because he feels what happened to Scully in ‘Darkness Falls’ is his fault. In the last scene of the episode, when he’s standing over her bed and she’s unconscious, and he says, “I told her it was going to be a nice trip to the forest”? Like the doctor says, two or three more hours and she likely wouldn’t have made it. So here’s Mulder with a partner that he works well with, who understands him, who he’s developing a close bond with, and he almost kills her? He’s suffering from serious guilt right there!

We know now that there is worse to come for them, but at that moment, it was one of the worst experiences they’d had since they’d known each other, and I felt he needed to deal with the repercussions of that, and Scully, too.

TX-C: Where did the inspiration to use the Stryzga come from? Is it a myth you’ve been familiar with for a long time?


LAF: I actually started with the idea of a summer camp and wanted a monster that would fit in well with that setting. There is a camp in the Poconos that I went to for years as a kid and later worked as a counselor at, and I’ve always wanted to immortalize it in a story. Most of my descriptions of the camp in Stryzga, including the abandoned cabin, come directly from my memories of that summer.

So once I had that setting and developed an idea for what I wanted the monster to do, I searched various legends on the internet. The X-Files covered a lot of the major legends, like the Jersey Devil, so I had to find something the show hadn’t already used. I found the Stryzga the most intriguing, and the fact that it attacks night-time travelers and people who’ve wandered into the woods at night fit perfectly with a summer camp set in the woods.

(And I’ve been recently informed on Twitter of a typo I made in the spelling. It should actually be strzyga, so I apologize to lovers of Slavic mythology for screwing that up!)

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

LAF: I’m not a hardcore believer, but I’m not a total skeptic, either. I guess I’d say I have a healthy, if realistic, optimism that there might be ghosts and the like out there, but I’m not going to believe everything I hear. For example, I’m convinced my grandparents’ house was haunted, but I don’t think people have captured “real” ghosts on camera or a recording. I once burst out laughing at one of those real-life haunting shows on the Discovery Channel because these people had recorded a “ghost” screaming, and they played the original recording on the show. It wasn’t a ghost. It was a fox. I used to live in the London suburbs where there are a lot of urban foxes. When foxes scream, it sounds like a person being murdered. (Seriously. Search for screaming foxes online. It’s not a pleasant sound to hear at 3am, but it’s not a ghost, either.)

And as for aliens? Mulder would be disappointed in me, but I don’t think aliens have visited Earth. I did some research on the Fermi Paradox (if space is so big, and the possibility for intelligent life so prevalent, where are all the aliens?) for my next novel, and I believe that there has to be life out there somewhere, but it’s not come here. Yet.

Many thanks to Lauren for her time. You can follow her on Twitter @laurenaforry.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW – Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Kate Corcino on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Border Time’

A short interview with authors Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Kate Corcino on their contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

jrvie7q7mlwjbjksTHE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

BRYAN THOMAS SCHMIDT: Jonathan Maberry invited me and I asked my friend Kate, who was a more knowledgeable fan at the time, to join me.

KATE CORCINO: Bryan Thomas Schmidt first asked if I was a fan of X-Files. After my enthusiastic response he invited me to co-write the story with him. I leapt at the opportunity, as any writer fan would!

TX-C: Have you both always been a fan of The X-Files?

BTS: Actually, I became a fan for the story, because I had not related to the whole conspiracy theory thing in the 90s when it was originally on and had been too busy getting my Masters degree to watch much TV anyway. I had started watching a few reruns when the opportunity came along, and thought it would be a good fit, so I asked Maberry, and when he said yes, I then watched all 9 seasons, 2 movies, read all the novels, all the YA books, and the prior anthologies in about 8 weeks before we wrote the story.

KC: Yep, from the very beginning. I’d rave about the show to anyone who’d listen–I even got my mom watching. I think she became an even bigger fan than I was.

TX-C: What inspired your story here? You touch on various elements, including the treatment of Mexican people on the US border – were there any real-life inspirations?

BTS: Kate currently lives in El Paso. I did for two years and for a decade before that spent a lot of time on business down in that region. The real murders of women in Juarez has been an ongoing issue for two decades. It remains unsolved. I thought it would lend itself well to an X-Files spin, tragic as the real story is, and I immediately saw ties to the Mulder-Samantha mythology.

KC: Absolutely. Living on the border, and being a half-Latina woman, allows me to witness the complicated relationships that are woven into the fiber of the people here. There is a very real history here of Las Desaparecidas, more than 150 women and girls who’ve gone missing and whose disappearances have never been solved. Revisiting that horror in our story was a way of keeping the frustration and anguish current and real to an audience who otherwise might not be aware.

TX-C: Can you describe the process of writing the short story in tandem?

BTS: We decided I would write Mulder and she Scully. We outlined it, and I wrote the opening scene of the disappearance of a victim, and all Mulder, she wrote Scully, then we polished for voice.

KC: We tossed ideas back and forth in IMs, outlined together over the phone, then passed the story back and forth for each scene in our assigned POVs. I think this story came together the fastest of any story I’ve ever written. I tend to be a slow, perfectionist writer. Bryan made the process of collaboration easy and fun.

TX-C: Given the myth arc links in the story, did you always set out to make this very personal to Mulder’s search for Samantha?

BTS: I think I answered that above, but the goal was to create a story that felt like an episode of the show. So I wanted to weave in some threads episodes had in common, including the humorous banter of the two leads, their different approaches, and some mythology. The Samantha storyline lent itself best to the main storyline we’d chosen, so it was the obvious choice.

KC: We wanted the story to feel like an episode, including exploration of a larger arc. Mulder’s search for Samantha fit perfectly with the tone and topic of our storyline.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

BTS: I believe there is a spiritual realm and spirit warfare with angels, demons, and other forces. Beyond that, it’s fun to write about, but I don’t know what else I believe. I have encountered real spirit warfare stuff when I was a missionary and traveling in Brazil and Ghana, so I know that’s real. I have never seen a UFO though, but I assume other intelligent life might well exist somewhere in the universe.

KC: *laugh* Even before experiencing “unexplainable events”–stories for another time–I was always a Spooky Mulder fan. So, yes.

Many thanks to Bryan & Kate for their time. You can follow Bryan on Twitter @BryanThomasS and Kate @KateCorcino

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW: Jim Beard on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Desperately Seeking Mothman’

A short interview with author Jim Beard on his contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

JIM BEARD: I saw a post on the American Horror Writers Association Facebook page from editor Jonathan Maberry about needing to fill some slots in the book. I admire Jonathan to the nines — he’s a living, breathing action hero himself — and couldn’t believe the opportunity was presenting itself. I wrote a pitch, sent it in, and about a week later got a Private Message from Jonathan asking if I could deliver a finished draft in x amount of time (pun intended). I said, uh, yes? He said “Welcome to the X-Files.”

I found out later I was up against about 680 other pitches. Yow.

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

JB: Full disclosure: since Second Season. My wife started watching from Episode #1, back in the day, but I came to it later (can’t really remember why). Being a big fan of the Occult Detective genre of fiction, I twigged to it immediately and here we are, all these years later (and yes, I went back and caught up on First Season).

TX-C: The Mothman is a well known American urban legend – what made you want to use that as a jumping off point for your story?

JB: It jumped into my mind, unbidden, for realz. I think it was because it was a subject that hadn’t really been covered on the show before, not really. Or it might be the actual, documented undue influence the Mothman has on people. Regardless, as you say, it became more of a jumping off point because the plot went where it wanted to go. Which is a very cool thing to happen to a writer in my estimation; a story that has a life of its own.

TX-C: You put Mulder through the psychological wringer here – did you enjoy letting Maeve get under his skin?

JB: Ha — I saw what you did there 🙂 Yeah, I did. I write mainly pulp and in pulp the characters tend to receive more physical abuse than anything, so placing Mulder into a twisty-turny, mental labyrinth was a feast for me as a writer. And between you and me, he kind of deserved it. A little.

TX-C: Did you enjoy writing Mulder’s perspective specifically here? Was that a conscious choice from the beginning or did it evolve?

JB: Weird thing is that I’m more of a Scully fan, but Mulder demanded to take the wheel on this one. I think that’s for the best because writers should come out of their comfort zone and tackle characters and subjects they may not have cared much for and see what makes them tick. Mulder’s ordeal here grew organically as I plotted and I’m proud of what transpired, even if it meant that Scully took the backseat this time.

If I get a second chance to write X-Files again, that will be rectified. Oh, yes.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

JB: As in other things, I’m an agnostic on that score. It depends on what day of the week it is. As Mulder might say, “I want to believe,” but common sense sometimes rears its ugly head and shatters the attractive alternatives.

Show me a ghost, though. I’m ready.

Many thanks to Jim Beard for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @writerjimbeard.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW: Marsheila Rockwell & Jeff Mariotte on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Transmissions’

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…

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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.

You can find Marsheila at http://marsheilarockwell.com and Jeff at http://www.jeffmariotte.com, plus you can also follow them on Twitter @MarcyRockwell @JeffMariotte.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

 

INTERVIEW: Jack Venturo on The X-Files: Syndicate Control (fan fiction script)

As his fan fiction sequel to I Want to Believe and the first nine seasons drops, Jack Venturo discusses how The X-Files: Syndicate Control came to be…

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THE X-CAST: What made you want to write “The X-Files: Syndicate Control”?

JACK VENTURO: My kids started developing an interest in the paranormal so I introduced them to the show. They couldn’t wait to see how it ended but I knew the ending felt a bit incomplete. I’m a story teller by nature and I always had a wish list of what I would have liked to see happen. I started writing ideas down and then began outlining the timeline of the screenplay. I figured I could finish it and send it to FOX to see if anything could come out of it. Maybe they’ll see there is still interest out there and make a new movie.

TX-C: What makes this different from Season 10 or the comic Season 10?

JV: I never read the comics or the books, I am strictly a show and movie guy so I couldn’t tell you what happens in the comics. I wrote my screenplay in 2014/2015 and finished it before they began production on the revival episodes of season 10. I was a bit saddened that my screenplay wouldn’t get a chance to be read by FOX, but as a fan I was excited for the revival. My screenplay and the revival have some similarities in the basis of the characters but the storyline and plots are vastly different. I continued were the original series and movies left off. I went back into the guts of the original story arc and revisited the villain from the first film, Conrad Strughold. I introduced new villains and left the dead be dead. I answer some old mysteries and introduce new ones as well.

TX-C: Were there any plotlines or characters you left behind from the series?

JV: I always loved the Lone Gunmen and one of my favorite characters of all time is the Cigarette Smoking Man but I went in writing this screenplay knowing that they were dead and the challenge was not to bring them back but to create new characters while giving these iconic characters a nod and a show of respect. The characters I created are them on steroids. Mulder’s new sidekick is a guy named Dean Finchman or “Finch” for short. He is smart, funny and incredibly talented when it comes to tech. The new villain is not in the shadows as before; he is right in front of you every day. Kevin Morris from the episode “Conduit” is back in my story. I did purposefully leave out Gibson Praise which was developed by the series as a key character to make room for everything and everyone else. There is a lot to revisit. There is a mystery in the script that connects to Gibson’s potential future storyline. Everything is connected and all plotlines come full circle.

TX-C: Do you envisage this as the end of the story or would you write a sequel?

JV: My idea of this screenplay was to introduce new characters that could hold their own in the world of X-Files and continue their story in different formats, think of the Marvel Universe. You get The Avengers then you get standalone superhero films then you bring them all back together again then you get the Agents of Shield TV Show then back to The Avengers my idea was to present it this way. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson both are very busy in their schedules with several projects if they did an X-Files movie with the new characters then later those new characters could continue the story arc in new X-Files episodes along with Mulder and Scully doing cameos. If this was done, we could have a new X-Files movie every year with a new season following it. New agents, new cases, new surprises, new villains and Mulder and Scully coming in when they could. I WOULD LOVE to keep writing this world!

TX-C: When did you first discover The X-Files?

JV: I use to watch a show on FOX called Sightings it was a news setup type of show with reporters who would go out in the field and investigate the paranormal. I loved that show. I saw a commercial for this new show called X-Files and thought I would give it a try. I was hooked!

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

JV: Ever since I saw my first episode “Conduit” (Season 1 Ep 4) I was laying on the floor and couldn’t move. I was so in awe of this show. I was 12 and I had never seen anything like this on TV before. No matter what, I would watch the show. If I couldn’t watch it live, the VCR was ready to tape it.

TX-C: What is your favorite episode?

JV: “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” S4E7 I actually have a replica Zippo lighter engraved with the “TRUST NO ONE” on it, my wife gave it to me as a gift. This episode showed you so much and in such a fun way. Showing that this villain wasn’t really a “monster” but a human with feeling and a life outside of his work, connecting you to him made him all the scarier.

TX-C: What is your favorite season?

JV: Season 4 had some great episodes, a good balance of serious and funny.

TX-C: Who is your favorite character?

JV: It would be very easy for me to say that it’s Cigarette Smoking Man, but after really thinking about the shows and movies I can truly say that my favorite character is Langly! He was the poster boy of 90’s paranoia and he was so cool to watch. Him along with the Lone Gunmen living the way they did was fascinating. He was a true hero!

TX-C: What is your favorite moment from the series?

JV: I have so many but the most memorable would have to be Small Potatoes S4E20 the beginning with the baby tail. The doctor holds it up and says “Oh no, Not another one.”

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

JV: I always have, I was born in Peru and always heard stories of UFO’s in the mountains. Growing up in Florida and being a movie fanatic I was searching the paranormal before the internet was invented. The Chupacabra was my white whale!

Many thanks to Jack for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @VenturoProds.

The X-Files: Syndicate Control is now available free to download here.

INTERVIEW: Jade Shames on The X-Files: Secret Agendas – ‘Give Up the Ghost’

A short interview with writer & composer Jade Shames on his contribution to The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, out now from IDW Publishing…

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THE X-CAST: How did you come to be involved with Secret Agendas?

JADE SHAMES: I’ve known Jonathan Maberry for a long while and he reached out to me asking if I’d like to contribute to the anthology. I was thrilled.

T-XC: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files?

JS: Yes. I was pretty young when it debuted but I remember watching it every week. Still, I was fortunate enough have dated a girl in college who was a super fan and I still keep in touch with her. I made sure to let her read the story before sending it to Jon. I wanted to have the approval and insight of someone who REALLY knows the show. Her name is Kara Helmick-Nelson, by the way, and she’s a very good writer.

T-XC: So here’s the big question – where did the idea to put yourself in the story come from?

JS: I was trying to evoke the feeling of straddling two realities: Scully’s life as an agent and her life outside of that; Mulder’s confidence in his mission, and his insecurities; Sam existing in the paranormal, and Sam existing in the realm of science; The X-Files universe and our own. Inserting myself into the story was a way to further this feeling. And I think it creates a fun experience. It allowed me to make fun of myself and give the reader something they may not have seen in a story like this before.

T-XC: Your tale deals with some fascinating ideas of ‘meta’ reality & wish fulfillment – what made you want to write this kind of story? And is ‘Sam’ based on a real legend?

JS: I love those “deal with the devil” fables. Sam is based on that. He’s a Mephistopheles. But, in X-Files tradition, there also had to be a Scully side—a scientific explanation—which I drew from stuff like neurolinguistic programming, hypnosis, the McCollough effect, and other such things that seem to “hack” the brain. I loved the idea that the devil could be a kind of “brain virus”.

T-XC: You do some great character work with Scully here – do you think she truly wants a ‘normal’ life?

JS: Thanks! My thinking was that, at this point, Scully did consider it. She’s getting older and really doesn’t have anyone else in her life to share these experiences with except for Mulder. I like to think that both Mulder and Scully have had doubts about their mission and have had secret desires for a different life. I would have loved to see one moment in The X-Files where Mulder is on the toilet, perhaps hungover or sick, and lonely, and he says to himself, “What the hell am I doing?”

But in the show, we don’t see these things. Scully seems OK with this being her life, and in my story I wanted to suggest (spoilers) that perhaps that was due to a vestigial Sam code lurking in her brain, which is why she has the sudden change of heart at the end. Maybe it was Sam’s revenge—to keep her moving in a direction that deep down she doesn’t want to go. Or maybe she really does find satisfaction in her adventures. It’s open ended. Scully is a very complicated person and why she chooses the life she chooses is something we may never understand. I love that about her.

T-XC: Do you believe in the paranormal?

JS: Hmmm…well, I believe that science cannot currently explain everything, but I also believe that science will continue to explain things we once thought were unexplainable—meaning that what seems like paranormal activity now, will eventually be forensically explained. So, in way, yes.

Many thanks to Jade Shames for his time. You can find him at http://www.jadeshames.com also follow him on Twitter @JadeShames.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.

INTERVIEW: Andy Mangels on The X-Files Secret Agendas – ‘Perithetica’

A short interview with best-selling author Andy Mangels on his 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?

ANDY MANGELS: I am one of the early members of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW.org), a group of authors from around the world who work on media tie-in books, from film and television to video games and role-playing games and comics.

Occasionally, a member will be working on an anthology — or know of one someone else is working on — and pass word through the group that stories are wanted. Such was the case with Jonathan Maberry, who was recruiting for his trio of X-Files short story collections for IDW Publishing. I pitched him, and he accepted, and then it was off to the darkest reaches of reality to come up with a suitable story!

TX-C: Have you always been a fan of The X-Files? There are lots of winks and in-jokes to this story…

AM: I began watching midway through the first season, and quickly caught up. I became quite an X-Phile by Season Four, so much so that I pitched an unauthorized guidebook to Citadel Press in 1997. There were a ton of authors doing guidebooks, but they all told essentially the same story, with just episode guides and such. I pitched a book that would include interviews and profiles with everybody BUT David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. That book, which came out in February 1998, was ‘Beyond Mulder and Scully: The Mysterious Characters of The X-Files’, and I interviewed 31 different actors from the series, including William B Davis, Jack Black, Terry O’Quinn, and many others!

So, yep, I’m an X-Phile. And when I was figuring out where to set my story, I very deliberately chose a time and era in the series that appealed to me the most. It enabled me to put in Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and X all reflecting on events that had recently happened or presaging events yet-to-come. As a fan, I love it when authors (or filmmakers) reflect on the mythology and history of the characters they’re working with, even in tiny ways, so I made sure to do the same for fans. A casual reader might not get all of the in-jokes and references, but they won’t be bothered by them; a “true fan” will hopefully love the care I took with continuity.

BTW, there is a very specific Twin Peaks reference in the story as well!

TX-C: Where did the idea behind the ‘zombie ant-virus’ come from? Any real life touchstones?

AM: Absolutely, it’s real. And utterly screwed up! I heard a glancing reference to zombie ants on some TV show, and looked it up online. Not two days later, I was at a friend’s apartment, and they had borrowed a National Geographic from a friend, and its cover story was about the zombie ants (November 2014)! The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus really does infect ants, take over their brains and control their bodies, then “fruits” and explodes their heads, spreading more fungus!

Mind and body control are staples of conspiracy theories. Funguses and spores can be terrifying. So the idea that somebody in the X-Files world — Hell, in our own world — could or would be experimenting with this led to the beginnings of my story! And it’s not just the control or infection/infestation that makes it so squicky; it’s that feeling of those infected that there is literally no way to regain control. They are trapped within their own body as something else controls them, and gestates, and eventually “fruits.” I hated the fact that scientists kept using that word, “fruits” to mean a head exploding. Fruits are good things, not exploding heads! That said, the alternate title for my story was “Fruited Plains.”

By the way, I purposely tried to stay away from too many allusions to X-Files season two’s “Firewalker” — which had some glancing similarities to the cordyceps story — but I did acknowledge it through Scully.

TX-C: There’s a nice shade of conspiracy to the story – did you enjoy adding characters like Mr. X?

AM: X was always one of my favorites on the show, and I loved how he, more than perhaps anyone, toyed with Mulder. He really was often trying to help him, but his methods were sometimes the jerkiest possible methods.

In licensed stories for books or comics, we aren’t inhibited by budgets, so we can have a cool guest-cast or cameo appearances. We are restrained by show mythology and continuity. However, with as many different licenses as I’ve written over the years, I’ve ceased thinking of continuity as a restraint. Instead, I view them as an inspiration to explore within their world, rather than break characters out of their world.

TX-C: Were interesting supporting characters like Dewey inspired by people or characters in particular?

AM: Dewey was kind of an amalgamation of some of the redneck guys I’ve known in life, but in prose, one can get inside their heads and thoughts. If he had been onscreen, you mostly would have just had his looks and a tiny bit of dialogue to help you understand them. In prose, I got to explore his thoughts more, whether they were about his dog, his affair, or the weird stuff he encountered. In my mind, he was kind of a Jason from True Blood, or Darryl, pre-Walking Dead.

I’ll tell you what was inspired by reality, other than the plot. The setting! I’ve always tried to realistically reflect real places when I write about them. When I co-wrote three Roswell novels, I got a phone book from Roswell, a bunch of maps, and called the Chamber of Commerce a lot with questions.

For this X-Files story, I extensively used Google map to plot out the trajectories of everything. I knew I wanted the grain silos and elevators in Oklahoma, so I figured out the towns that were kind of somewhere near both a military base and a large body of water. That was Purcell, Oklahoma. I did a bunch of research on Purcell, including calling City Hall and the public library for everything from fishing season dates in Lake Purcell, to train schedules, local traffic patterns, and etc. I researched dust explosions in grain elevators, local Native American tribes, and where the cemetery was. I also called a local Medical Examiner to ask about how they would properly process the body in the story.

Most importantly, in my research, I found the perfect spot for the facility that Mulder explores in the story: the Rhodes Grain silos in Norman. You can look up a video on YouTube that shows what’s left of them. Watch it and you’ll see the exact location I wrote about, though it is a lot worse for wear in that 2010 video than it was in my story.

TX-C: Do you believe in the paranormal?

AM: If you’re talking extraterrestrial life, absolutely. I think it’s idiotic and presumptuous to think that we’re the only intelligent life in the galaxy or beyond. Whether they are visiting us or watching us or probing us… that doesn’t seem as likely, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they are aware of us.

If you’re talking supernatural elements, to a point. I believe that the soul or spirit within us lives in the energy that courses through our bodies. As energy cannot be created or destroyed, it stands to logic that when we die, our energy goes out into the world. So, everyone and everything that has come before is all around us. Perhaps that energy can sometimes take form, or be seen, or communicate, or affect reality, or even be rehoused in a new form.

If you’re talking governmental conspiracy and experimentation, again, absolutely. In today’s world of leaked government papers and revelations about secrets from the various wars and so forth, only a fool would believe that there aren’t a whole lot of secret agendas (hey, also the subtitle of this X-Files book!) being carried out in facilities and laboratories.

Thanks for the interview guys, and I hope readers will really like The X-Files: Secret Agendas and my story, “Perithecia.” I just learned the other day that it is out in audiobook as well, read by Bronson Pinchot, so I have to rustle up a copy of that to listen to! And if you like this story, please check out some of my other work, including the upcoming Wonder Woman ’77 Meets The Bionic Woman series, starting on December 7th from Dynamite and DC Comics!

Many thanks to Andy Mangels for his time. Having a 30-year history in both the comics medium, and in best-selling books and award-winning DVD production work and magazines, a lot of retailers and fans have read his work for decades in various forms. You can find more about him on his webpage, http://www.andymangels.com and on Wikipedia! You can also follow him on Twitter @AndyMangels.

Questions by Tony Black, who you can follow on Twitter @Mr_AJ_Black.