Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Passage in Paperback Today!

Justin Cronin's blockbuster bestselling novel The Passage goes on sale in paperback today. The book, the first in a trilogy, is a sci-fi end-of-the world vampire-laced thriller. Cronin is an award-winning author of literary fiction (The Summer Guest, Mary and O'Neil, etc), a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and a professor of English at Rice University in Houston. Needless to say, this book was a bit of a departure from his previous writings. "With every book I write I always want to do something different," the author says. But the real inspiration for The Passage was his eight-year-old daughter, an avid reader way beyond her age level, who told him she was afraid his books were boring. Not that she'd actually read his previous books; her judgement was based on the book covers and jacket flaps. She suggested that Dad write about a girl who saves the world. And with that the seed was planted.

The Passage hit the streets in hardcover to great acclaim. Horror-meister Stephen King said, "Read this book and the ordinary world disappears." And Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, had this to say: The Passage is the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a bona fide thriller that is sharply written, deeply humane, ablaze with big ideas, and absolutely impossible to put down." Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles was skeptical about the whole vampire thing: "But by the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night. It's a macabre pleasure to see what a really talented novelist can do with these old Transylvanian tropes."

Of course, Hollywood came calling pronto, with film rights going to Ridley Scott. Cronin won't be involved in writing the screen play, but he is consulting with the team, giving them insight into what's to come in the remaining books of the trilogy. Condensing an almost-800-page book into a two-hour movie is a different skill, the author says. He's content with writing the novels.

"The first rule of writing," says Cronin, "is the same as any job: You must show up." It also helps to have kids. "One of the best things a writer can do is have children, because not only do they give you lots of material they make sure that whenever you sit down at the keyboard you get something done. You have to get something accomplished."

While The Passage is part of a trilogy, Cronin says it's important for him that each book is a strong novel on its own terms. At its heart, he says, The Passage is a road novel. The second book, The Twelve (due out in 2012) will draw a lot from espionage fiction. The concluding novel, The City of Mirrors, will be a war novel, a clash of armies, and is scheduled for publication in 2014.

If you're looking for a good meaty, engrossing book to kick off your summer reading, you won't go wrong with The Passage -- out today in paperback.

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