Why was Amelia's story split into two parts?
Well, I actually wrote a fairly long book about the first part, that included both the conference of the Gods and Amelia and Paragon's search in Limbo. That part was lying around for a couple of years, and in the meantime I got the idea for the second part, which is a new and self-contained story, plot-wise.
Did it alter the story flow?
It did. The first "Amelia" book had 36 chapters, but now I shortened it to 27 chapters and moved nine of the chapters from "Limbo" into "Rosa's Baby," merging them with the 18 chapters of the new plot.
Why did it take two years to make a sequel?
Originally I hadn't thought of the story as anything except a standalone book. But in the meantime Paragon gave me no peace, and I got ideas for two completely different stories with him and Pollux, where they help lost souls during the missions they're assigned in Limbo - the level where frustrated and wavering souls temporarily stay. These are the spirits that, in extreme circumstances, manage to manifest themselves as ghosts in our world if their psychological tensions at the time of death are so severe that they couldn't find peace and follow the tunnel of light to the afterlife, the way most spirits or souls are fortunately able
That sounds almost scientific. One could almost think it actually
Well, it does make sense. It's been confirmed for me by countless TV programs with examples of people who are harassed by ghosts and call in mediums to deal with the problem. A skillful medium is sometimes even able to determine who the unhappy spirit belonged to and help it to the other side, so the owners of the house can get peace. An important element is often the fact that the ghost wants attention, to be recognized in its existence and its unhappy fate, and the moment that that understanding and recognition appear among people in our world, the final transition to the other side more easily falls into place.
That's the place that you call "Soul Administration"?
Yes, the Seventh Heaven in my terminology. And here again I can draw on a number of management features that build on assumptions we humans have already made about life after death.
Why did that "Soul Administration" bit seem to offer you more
Because there's naturally a lot of mental tension and drama centered around unhappy souls, and I already have a human conflict running in the story that can lead to death for one reason or another, by accident, illness, or suicide. In fact, I've already dealt with all these variations in the upcoming series collected under the title "Paragon" or "Paragon & Pollux."
So in this context, you also developed Amelia's problems into a
In the end it was more about Amelia's father, Christian, but he'd also appeared in the first part. It occurred to me that, since he'd exceptionally been allowed to survive in the first part, this might lead to complications in the heavenly machinery, producing the risk of a major disaster. That was the starting point for the ideas that led to the plot of "Rosa's Baby."
You return to the plane of the gods and set the stage for a
Lucifer was a pleasure in the first book, so he was too good to ditch, and I thought we deserved to experience a humorous confrontation between God and Lucifer. I had a lot of fun doing their meeting at the end of the second book. I'm probably indebted to several funny Hollywood versions of that theme.
There is also a lot of humor between Paragon and Pollux...
That's also something I became fascinated with as things developed. This will be more evident in future books, where a contrast between the basically tragic motifs will be moderated by the down-to-earth (so to speak) and matter-of-fact way the two of them handle the psychic problems. There's a lot of potential humor in combining the psychic and intangible elements with solid old-fashioned mechanical technology.
In this book there's an upgrade to the new digital technology,
It was an obvious development of the problems experienced in the first part with analog technology that was worn out and could no longer handle the new times, with information overload and the need for a more flexible workflow. Apparently this also applies to Heaven's Office...
There seems to be a fairly nuanced sense of commitment around
That's no coincidence. The chapter is completely autobiographical. It's my own mother who appears there and I have, in my own bittersweet way, wanted to commemorate her in that appearance. Actually, it's not just her in that portrait, in many ways it's also me. My own failed marriage undoubtedly contributed elements to this drama. Maybe at the same time it was an unconscious way for me to manage my own ghosts? That's one of the chapters that was shifted from the first part to the second. The first book about Amelia was written shortly after my divorce, but in some ways it was also the tranquility and the free time to think I had at my disposal afterwards, that led me to discover the new possibilities of using literature as a form of personal expression. Had I continued to live in a tension-filled relationship, I probably wouldn't have had the time and the energy left over to write an entire book, yes, even several books.
I suppose that's something writers sometimes use, the
They do, just think of all the films about authors and screenwriters. To me, "Amelia" was my first book where real life had to be appear credible. In "Questland" the narrator was not really a human being but only an avatar, but in this book people had to be convincing, and I presumed they would be if I drew on something personal. Since then, of course, I've been able to overcome this psychological limitation.
You also vividly describe Amelia's sudden and rapid aging when
The tale of Charon's barge and the river Styx is an old mythological image that has stayed in my consciousness since childhood. I ran across it in several contexts, most prominently during a school showing of Carl Th. Dreyer's 16mm short, "They Reached the Ferry," where the final image shows Charon in a barge punting two coffins across the water to the Realm of the Dead. That picture has strangely imprinted itself on my memory. I don't think there's any doubt that from an early age, I've been preoccupied with situations that involved death and destruction. It's only now that I've really recognized that unconscious fascination.
You have a weakness for expressionist symbolic imagery?
I have, and in regards to what books can offer of that sort, I got a great pleasure in my youth from reading science-fiction novels, not just the mechanically impressive ones like Dick's and Asimov's accounts, but also the more sensitive and thoughtful ones like those by Bradbury and Vonnegut. And I don't even need to mention the wonderful examples from Carl Barks's unique universe.
There's a spectacular escape scene involving wicked child souls
It was interesting to describe the naughty souls and their joy at coming back to Earth and causing all kinds of dreadful accidents. Lucifer really had a subtle plan here, but story-telling conventions required him to fail. After all, I work in a funnier mode than Ira Levin's thriller version of a similar theme. (Rosemary’s Baby)
The coma patients are a thought-provoking feature...
It was obvious for me to comment on that aspect of the theme of reincarnation. As long as patients are kept artificially alive the souls, of course, are unable to move on to more stimulating rebirths. To imagine that they gather in the hospital's basement and discuss their situation was a fascinating element to add.
Again something unchristian like reincarnation...
Yes, but when asked, it's actually surprising how many so-called Christians believe in rebirth. I've written a book with reincarnation as a major story element, "Sasha's Second Chance." Our personal consciousness can of course be seen as a little fragment of the greater cosmic consciousness we belong to, and which makes up a collective community where we perhaps unconsciously seek comfort and solace through the pursuit of a greater meaning than in our own small lives. The appeal of religions is based in large part on a quest for spiritual community.
Can the audience really manage the constant shift between the
Who decides what the audience is? My audience is made up of those who can accept it, or more than that, appreciate it. This reflects, in fact, my basic slant on life as seen in all my books, namely a more-or-less tragicomical attitude to everything that happens around us and to us. Humor is a great tool to bring along in your luggage on your way, for it makes it easier to accept unexpected situations and sudden adversity. Nobody has promised us that life should be easy and reasonable, or just and fair. Numberless reports from around the world tell us that adversity, injustice, and a hard fate are more the rule than the exception. Belief in some regulating governing power is probably an illusion, something we carry with us from a past that was even more chaotic and threatening than it is today. I'll come back to that theme in "Matthew and the Apocalypse."