John Passarella has written another Supernatural tie-in, Rite of Passage. Gather.com read and interviewed him about it. (Warning: Book spoilers) Read part 1 here.
How did you come up with the story for Rite of Passage?
“Certain choices were made for me. I knew they wanted another monster-of-the-week novel, so I wouldn’t step on the Leviathan arc. I knew I couldn’t use an angels-and-demons plot. No Castiel. Set in season seven, before “How To Win Friends and Influence Monsters.” At that point, I know where Sam and Dean are emotionally (and mentally) and where they are in their relationship. I needed to find a monster the show hadn’t used yet and something that had enough mythology behind it that I could use and tweak to last for an entire novel. Because of Bobby’s upcoming fate, I wanted to look at family dynamics, and their makeshift family, how Bobby had become a father figure to the brothers. I wanted to mirror that, in a dark way, with the plot of the book. Those ideas helped shape what became Rite of Passage.”
Why did you choose the oni from Japanese folklore?
“The longer the show runs, the more creatures they use, so it’s a matter of finding one that hasn’t been used yet, and one that has some meat to its mythology to play it out over the course of the novel. I’m always looking for ways to reinterpret what’s in folklore about a given creature, that maybe some detail was figurative rather than literal and what would that mean. I mentioned the pitching process above. Well, for that step, I actually need to come up with four or five creatures for short pitches. The oni was one of the four I submitted. I was given the option of using two of those four. I had developed more story in my head for the oni pitch, so I went with that one and wrote my outline.”
Because your story takes place between two episodes, was it difficult to write Sam, Dean, and Bobby knowing that you couldn’t have too much character development and had to leave them in pretty much the same place they started out in? Did that restrict you in any way?
“This is always an issue for tie-in writers. We can’t change continuity of the show or of the characters. Other tie-in writers have described this process as getting to play with toys in a toy box, but having to put them back the way you found them. When a book is set between two episodes, you can’t move characters much at all. My goal is to stay true to what Sam and Dean and Bobby are going through in the show during this point in the continuity. Sometimes you can have outside characters struggling with the same choices and decisions as the show characters, and then have those characters make decisions and face the consequences for better or worse, in a way that our heroes can observe and note as it relates to themselves. Since the Winchesters were about to lose Bobby after “Death’s Door,” I wanted them to have a moment (an interlude) where they focus on that family-like bond so we see they don’t take it for granted. By observing other family bondsÂ—mostly supernatural and destructive family bondsÂ—on display in Rite of Passage, it lets them recognize the importance of what they have.”
Supernatural could never show the deaths described in the book on television, whether because of budget or level of gore. Was it easier to write the story you wanted to tell knowing you weren’t restricted in that way in terms of action/violence/gore?
“One of the basic directives for the books, as opposed to the show, is to make use of the unlimited “budget” for special effects and the lack of television censors. Where the show has to cut away from some of the violence, I can “show” it in the novel in a no-holds-barred kind of way. In Night Terror, especially, I continued with a gruesome scene for a few more beats where I normally might have otherwise faded-to-black. In the novels, I’m looking for ways to make use of the unlimited effects budget and opportunities to amp up the violence (or gore) a bit. On-page violence and gore is not as visceral to me as the on-screen variety. In a way, the reader’s own mental projector can shoot the scene I describe as vividly as they want to imagine; on the show, the off-camera screams, noises and shadows serve the same function in a different way. That said, I thought some of the episodes that aired in season six had some very gruesome bits of violence! I can tell they were taking some chances.”
Because of where the tie-in novel takes place in season 7, it’s hard not to find the parallels between Bobby’s injury and Dean’s reaction and what comes up next on the show. Was that something you planned from the beginning?
“Basically, yes. I knew it was coming, and I wanted to foreshadow that loss in a near-miss kind of way. That scene gives Sam and Dean an opportunity to reflect on how much Bobby meant to them. It was a visceral way to demonstrate that they don’t take him for granted.”
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” is a song that Supernatural fans will recognize; why did you choose to use that song at the end of the book as opposed to another one?
“I always plan on using a few song titles during the course of the novels, and while I’m writing, I try to think of songs with lyrics that apply to situations in the book, or simply fit the mood of a particular scene. Since Sam is thinking about how there are worse things than death that could happen to him, it was a no brainer for me to use “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (a song I love) to reinforce that sentiment.”
Â© Meredith Jacobs 2012