Russo Returns; An interview with Andrew Pyper about Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders!

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For Pyper-Maniacs like me, any new output from Andrew Pyper is a reason to celebrate! Last year we were fortunate to get not only the Audible release, Oracle, but also the full length documentary, ‘Demon in the White House’ based on Andrew’s research into writing The Residence.

Well, here we are nine months later and Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders arrives, this time with a full audio production behind it! And friends – it is phenomenal.

For a spoiler free review see here: https://stevestredauthor.wordpress.com/2022/05/20/audiobook-review-oracle-2-the-dreamland-murders-by-andrew-pyper/

Now, as with many people listening to the audiobook, I had a number of questions pop up. Unlike a lot of people listening, I have a tendency to frequently bother Andrew – so once again, I did just that! I asked and he answered!

I will say – this interview does contain some minor spoilers – so I’d suggest you go check out Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders first, then return and see what steered Andrew through the woods and abandoned amusement park in Becket, Massachusetts.

Interview:

SS: As always, Andrew, thank you so much for doing this!

Nate Russo is back. I find this character to be utterly fascinating. He seems to be this combination of some of your prior characters – bits of Bartholomew Crane, Patrick Rush, Miles McEwan and David Ullman – these damaged men who struggle with aspects of their past – but in this instance Russo has one foot on the other side (closer to Danny Orchard) and has a firm belief in the supernatural. Would it be fair to say that Russo might be the most damaged of your characters though? If we look at him struggle through ‘Oracle’ with where he came from, and now, his desire to connect with someone while also pushing everyone away in ‘Oracle 2’ surely speaks to a conflicted, broken man.

AP: I see Nate as a figure who has at least partly arrived here out of noir fiction – a man of few words, quick with his fists, can take a punch, lonesome love life, dark past. The noir detective is usually beaten up by “having seen too much” of the world. This is where Nate’s difference arises: his vision is of a supernatural nature, so what he’s seen too much of is from this world and the underworld. I don’t know if this makes him the most broken of my broken protagonists, but it’s a big part of what interests me about him, that’s for sure.

SS: Clare Fernandez might be just as damaged as Nate, but in a more human way. Where Nate is broken from his upbringing and this malevolent Ghoul, Claire is dealing with PTSD, hurt from her partner (Tillman) and the effects of a disintegrating home life. Was she a hard one to nail down and develop her nuisances?

AP: Once I saw Clare as a single mom whose son is drifting away from her – or so she worries – her character came together for me. She’s a woman in the FBI. That alone suggests an extra degree of discipline, a thick skin, compartmentalizing the person from the professional. But the cost she bears for doing the work is, as it is for Nate, terribly painful and yet almost impossible to mention, to share. Accessing that, for me, came down to feeling my way to her as a parent, imagining the pain of being far from my child in order to do my work, to do something good.

SS: Let’s not forget Greg Tillman. Now, Greg at times appears to be both an attempt at a calming presence and keeping them on track but also some comic relief. I think, this might be the first real time I’ve read anything from you with legitimate banter/humour to this level. How as it writing that?

AP: Writing the scripts for Oracle 2 was a different experience from writing the novel manuscript for Oracle in a number of respects. One distinction is thinking more about what the characters say in a script, and revealing character through dialogue alone. With that comes the fun of letting them go at each other, demonstrate their misgivings and anger and contempt through wars of words. Nate and Tillman are almost constantly on the verge of throwing a punch at each other. So how do you punch a guy with language? Yeah, those are good scenes to write.

SS: The Boneman returns, which was great to see, but to our surprise – the character seems to be afraid of what it encounters. You have a few lines here – where Russo believes that The Bone Man only wants Nate to live to look through his eyes, but surely they’re more connected than that?

AP: The Boneman hasn’t reformed in Oracle 2, but his dependency on Nate is revealed. Those two are a pair, they need each other (to do what special things they do). So what’s that mean when they come up against a bigger, older, more powerful evil? It forces the relationship between the Boneman and Nate to change – not bending toward friendship or anything like that, but recognizing the larger supernatural network they exist in.

SS: The folklore in this is really fascinating. Hearing the chapter where our archivist (whom I’m going to believe was 100% based on me and my archiving skills no matter what you say!) describes the history of this creature and how the Indigenous won’t name it and it exacts vengeance on people and how then the women are tried and hung at the same spot was great. How much of that was based on real folklore? Was any of it based on folklore from Becket itself? The Red Woman/Cunning Women aspect was really well done.

AP: Thank you! And yes, the archivist is 100% you! (What harm can it do to give you that?) (STEVE SIDE NOTE – HOLY HELL HE ACTUALLY ADMITTED IT! HAHA!) The mythic underpinnings of Becket aren’t based on any particular folklore narrative, but rather a melding of a few varied histories. For me, the important aspect was how past crimes build on other crimes, whether we remember them in the present or not. Metaphorically, the history that lives under Dreamland is the history of what we now call North America: crimes against Indigenous people, crimes against “outsiders,” crimes against women. My intent was to give that history life through a figure of vengeance and power, a singular figure that announces itself just when we think we’re “moving on.”

SS: The production of this is just stellar. As “just the author” you must be over the moon listening to how great of a job Audible did. Do you know if the voice actors and actresses recording their pieces together or separately? If separately, they really did a great job with the post-production. Did you have to do any re-writes or anything like that as it went on?

AP: The performances and sound design really are superb. I joined the cast via Zoom during some of the recording sessions and it gave me goosebumps listening to them embody the words I wrote with such passion and intensity and range. As for the production, full credit goes to Greg Sinclair who brought such care and detail to the series. There were some micro adjustments to the scripts as the recording went along, but I think the final version is pretty close to the scripts I wrote.

SS: A common theme in a lot of your work is the sentiment “every town/house is haunted.” Is this something you’ve believed or contemplated since you were a young boy? If not, do you remember when it began to fester?

AP: I guess I’ve never entirely gotten over that feeling of being a kid and entering a friend’s house and realizing it’s home for them, but a strange place for you. A place with its own history, its own secrets, its smells and hidden corners and ceremonies and rules. And every town has hundreds, thousands of such haunted houses. It all comes down to the stories that attach to these places, and is less dependent on the places themselves. Look at any house, any hospital, any store, any school, and ask: What happened in there? That’s when the ghosts appear.

SS: Correct me if I’m wrong – but I believe you previously said ‘Oracle’ was crafted from a story you had been working on and when Audible approached you, you ironed it out, right? Was the approach to ‘Oracle 2’ different at all? Knowing it was going to be a full production, was this written more as a screenplay as it wouldn’t just be Joshua Jackson narrating the entire piece?

AP: Yes, Oracle was a completed novel manuscript when I was approached by Audible, whereas Oracle 2 was commissioned as audio scripts right from the get-go. The difference was fundamental: novels live in a single voice and point-of-view, while scripts live in multiple voices. I wasn’t thinking too much about the production aspects as I wrote Oracle 2, but I certainly was thinking about actors eventually performing what I was writing. I think that’s why there’s more “play” in the scripts, more teasing and flirting and attacking and expression of feeling.

SS: Lastly, in the past you’ve mentioned that none of your releases/ideas had excited you when thinking of it as a series/writing a sequel. That you’d told the story that needed to be told and that was that. Nate Russo seems to be the key to unlock that desire and that excitement. Will we see more of Nate Russo? Either in Audible work or in written releases?

AP: I don’t know at the moment if Nate Russo will return, but I’d love it if he did. You’re right: all my previous books and stories were conceived as standalones, closed worlds. But when I wrote Oracle I knew it was something different. It wanted to be a series. And for a while, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a part of that. But when Audible came along and provided a venue for doing a series in a different form from a series of novels, it provided the answer.

Huge thanks to Andrew for doing this! If you’ve not – definitely check out both Oracle and Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders!

Oracle:

https://www.amazon.com/Oracle/dp/B0938HTBX9/

Oracle 2: The Dreamland Murders

https://www.amazon.com/Oracle-The-Dreamland-Murders/dp/B09CLLNBD7/

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