Ruuf Wangersen’s debut novel is The Pleasure Model Repairman, reviewed here. I was fascinated by this new author and the rather startling new work he has produced. He kindly sent me a response to my questions about his experience as a writer and his interest in Science Fiction.
MB: William Gibson [in his book Distrust That Particular Flavor] explained that, when he moved from writing fiction to writing non-fiction, he “… felt as though I was being paid to solo on some instrument vaguely related to one I actually knew how to play.” I see you have written a number of screenplays. How did the transition between those and writing a novel feel to you? Were some skills or ideas more useful than others?
Ruuf Wangersen: “Your William Gibson quote is also strangely clairvoyant. […] I just thought it funny you should reference such a personally apropos analogy. By the way, I love Gibson.
As for my own screenplay-to-novel-writer metamorphosis: I wrote screenplays for many years and over that time had both exciting, adrenaline-coursing, walking-on-air moments, and, at the other end of that spectrum, far too many crushing disappointments to count.
More than once, I received notes back from this producer or that director who scrawled a comment along the lines of “This reads more like a book,” or “Why are you taking so much care with crafting your scene description? It’s only a script!” Most of these were compliments on the writing if not the form. But eventually, as they say, I grabbed a clue. I’ve written what I think are some pretty good scripts, and I’ve read many by other screenwriters that are just incredibly elegant timepieces. But in the end, a script is not a thing. It’s a blueprint for a thing. I’ve found it so much more satisfying to be creating the final product.
Though I think of the time as well spent. The narrative rigor of writing screenplays to a precise length, with story beats at all the right places has, I believe, made me a better novel writer. I feel very comfortable with the rhythms of the modern Hollywood movie, a sequence of storytelling expectations so many of us have internalized to the point that they can be deemed presumed knowledge in one’s reader. It makes world building so much easier than it must have been for, say, Ray Bradbury, or even P K Dick. […] I feel quite comfortable straying from the narrative melody in my work, now, confident I can find my way home again, or can make my hat my home, story-wise, and that’s something I tie in large measure to my screenwriting experience.
What’s probably happened is that, whereas before, I was writing screenplays that were really books, now I’m doomed to write books that are all screenplays! One can’t escape one’s past…
The thing I can say with certainty is that I loved writing this novel. I love the freedom and the space, and I’m confident I’m working in the right medium for me.”
MB: How far in the future is The Pleasure Model Repairman set?
Ruuf Wangersen: “How far in the future TPMR [The Pleasure Model Repairman] is set is a trickier issue. The question goes right to the center of the maze, where the walls are painted with the glyphs of the thematic archetypes that matter to me most. Perception of time, the interplay of memory and identity, nostalgia as societal glue, and the pulpy residue of the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same. Of course, there is a straightforward answer that skirts all this voodoo babble, and it’s that this world must be very far into the future, indeed, given the sophistication of artificial beings and the sprawling family of development worlds called Earth.”
MB: Are you thinking of writing a sequel, considering how the novel ends?
Ruuf Wangersen: I do have a sequel or a prequel (or some form of quelude) webworming around in my head; it’s a book that takes place in the same messy, mixed up mindframe as TPMR, anyway. Sort of a futuristic Romeo and Juliet tale. Hopefully a lot funnier, especially toward the end.”