Seth Patrick is the author of The Reviver, the first in a trilogy which was published last year, and The Returned, which is published in a few days. He has kindly answered some questions...
Let’s start with your published book The Reviver, can you tell us a little about it, and where the inspiration came from?
Reviver is set in a world where a small number of people have the ability to bring the recently dead back to life, just for a few minutes. Long enough to allow for the police questioning of a murder victim, for example. It follows one of these Forensic Revivers, Jonah Miller, as he discovers some unpleasant truths about the career he’s found himself in.
Inspiration came from Edgar Allan Poe. Two Poe stories collided in my head – The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which is widely regarded as the first ever modern detective story, and The Facts in the Case of Monsieur Valdemar, which is a tale about a terminally ill man being hypnotised at the point of death: the man dies, but keeps talking. I had an image of the detective in the first tale interviewing the dead man in the second, and that led to what became the first chapter of Reviver.
There’s a supernatural aspect to the story – was there a reason you decided to include this, rather than making it a crime thriller with the revival twist?
I had the first chapter right at the start, almost exactly as published, and I loved it. There was no way I was going to lose that, and the supernatural element is fundamental to it. My options were to go for a crime-of-the-week series, maybe with the supernatural element as a long-term plot arc, or to go all out and embrace the supernatural side.
In the end, I decided that the revivals alone simply weren’t enough – having the hugely dramatic, creepy revivals backed up with basic crime stories would feel lopsided. So: I went for it!
Will we see the same characters back in the second book, I’ve become quite attached to Jonah!
The old team is back, yes. It’s been wonderful to spend more time with them, even if I’ve been, well, unkind to some of them. Ahem.
How do you think the world would respond if Revival was real, do you think we’d accept it, or become a little panicked?
One thing I tried to do in Reviver was make it feel as real as possible, and draw a contrast between something that is measurable, repeatable, demonstrable (revival) and something that is utterly without hard evidence backing it (spiritualism).
I think much of science has started out being regarded with a supernatural level of fear, but once the methods and parameters of the phenomena are known the fear tends to vanish. Even if we have no deep understanding of what underlies a phenomenon, we feel like we have a handle on it.
So if revival was real? I think curiosity would mean we’d tolerate it, then familiarity would allow us to accept it.
As an aside, I did actually get a serious letter from a reader who wanted to know if the book was based on an actual branch of forensic science, and if so where could they apply for a job? I had to tell them it was entirely made up. When I read that letter, I wondered what it would be like to actually have thought it was based on truth. My conclusion was: terrifying.
Moving onto The Returned, which is published this month, can you tell us more about that?
It’s the novelisation of the French TV series shown on Channel 4 last year, set in an Alpine town where people find that dead relatives have reappeared, apparently unharmed and entirely human, with no memory of their death.
I had to write it without knowing anything about the second series, currently being filmed, but when they read the first draft they had to let me in on some of their secrets so it would be consistent with the show.
Getting the job was all a bit sudden. My editor called out of the blue and offered it to me, with a very tight schedule. Considering it took me seven years to write Reviver, I wondered if saying YES would be a bit crazy, but it was great to have that level of faith shown in me. I loved the show, so I was very keen to do it. It did knock the release of the sequel to Reviver back, though.
There appears to be quite a bit of confusion over the various TV series and the books – can you help set the record straight for me?
I’ll try! Les Revenants was a 2004 French movie, on which the 2012 TV series is based. Les Revenants translates directly as The Returned. Meanwhile, The Returned is also a 2013 novel by US author Jason Mott, which has a similar premise but is otherwise unconnected.
Resurrection is a US TV series based on Jason Mott’s novel. They’re also filming a US version of the French show, to be called The Returned.
Meanwhile, a show called Babylon Fields is being made by NBC, which is based on a 2007 pilot that didn’t get picked up for a series, again using a very similar premise.
And of course, we now have The Returned, a novel by Seth Patrick, based on the French TV show.#
What are your influences when it comes to writing, books, films etc? What are you reading now?
I’m very much an SF/Horror fan. Mundane stories lose me very quickly. Even the best stuff, it feels like a really really high quality version of Eastenders to me. As a kid my influences were Stephen King, Clive Barker, Alan Moore.
When I’m hard at work I sometimes have no time to read, and I’ll find myself buying books ready for a binge, so I have a massive reading pile right now that I’m just about to get stuck into. I have a love of short stories, so the one I’m most looking forward to is Ramsey Campbell’s collection Alone with the Horrors.
Do you think you’ll stay with the same genres, or is there anything else which interests you?
I suspect everything I write will have some SF or horror elements. I can’t resist. The old Raymond Chandler quote comes to mind: “When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” For me, it’d be an alien, a robot or a demon. Or all three! With a gun!
Can you tell us about your writing day, are you disciplined about it?
I’ve been pretty good this year. The deadlines for The Returned were tight, so I had to be, but I found myself exhausted when I finished and did nothing useful for about a month. Then I had to get on with redrafting Reviver book two, and that’s been tough, but I’ve been getting at least four hours a day done. It’s the old Dorothy Parker quote, ‘Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.’
I’m not great at keeping to a regular schedule, where I get up, do the hours, and have the rest of the day clear. Instead I tend to get sucked in and think about a book ALL THE TIME and drive my wife crazy. So, yeah, I could do with being more disciplined and be able to give myself a break from it.
What’s the one book you wish you’d written?
I’m not sure I’d ever want to imagine someone else’s work as my own. I’m very proud of Reviver, and I hope to have a long career. Although the money from Fifty Shades would be handy…