Immortal is, as you described it above, a mashup of a few different genres: a little sci-fi and contemporary fantasy, some historical fiction, and a few other genres. The story is narrated by Adam, a man who has been around for roughly sixty thousand years. And in a lot of ways he isn’t anything special: he doesn’t get older and he doesn’t get sick, but other than that he’s fully capable of being wounded and—in theory—killed. So almost more important than the long lifespan is the fact that he is highly intelligent—smarter than I am, at least—and very clever.
The book flits between the present narrative—in which Adam finds himself in a fair bit of danger—and stories about his past that inform the present circumstances. We all draw from past experiences to help us understand current events. With Adam, that experience spans nearly all of modern human history.
2. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
I’m not all that sure, actually. The first draft of Immortal was finished a little over six years ago. All I remember is that I wanted to write a novel—this would be the third one I’d completed—and I wanted to write it in first person. Playing the role of immortal man as author just seemed like something fun to try. I had also been publishing as a humorist, and a lot of that was in first person, so it was a natural voice for me.
3. What are you currently working on?
That depends on what day it is. I have two novels that have been completed and are sitting around waiting for me to look at them again. Neither of them will be going anywhere until after Immortal is out, for different reasons. I’ll have to revisit both of them at some point. I also have a feature screenplay that’s won a couple of awards—based on one of the novels I wrote before Immortal, called Charlatan—that is done until someone else tells me it needs a rewrite.
The one thing I’m doing that does involve immediate writing has to do with a film project I’m not at liberty to discuss because of a non-disclosure agreement. (In my other life I’m a screenwriter, if you hadn’t guessed.) It’s a fun project, and should take up enough of my time while waiting for Immortal to debut that I don’t go insane staring at the calendar.
4. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I am simply in awe of Neal Stephenson. I don’t actually read a tremendous amount of fiction—perhaps unsurprisingly I spend much of my reading time buried in books on history and science—but when I do I like to pick up something that I simply can’t imagine writing myself. Stephenson is like that; he’s on an entirely different plane from the rest of us.
I’m also a fan of quirkier works that kind of fit into contemporary fantasy, except not really. Christopher Moore is a great example. Eric Garcia, too—he wrote a series of detective novels starting with the premise that dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, they’re just hiding. Good stuff.
5. What makes Immortal different from other books?
I think the narrative structure of Immortal is fairly different. Adam is an extremely informal, albeit not entirely reliable narrator. His take on history is interesting because he was there for so much of it, and if you asked him, he’d tell you that a lot of the stuff we consider epic in hindsight really wasn’t much of a big deal when it was happening.
But I’m cheating. What really makes the book different is that it’s a contemporary fantasy with the usual allotment of non-human creatures, but without any magic. Adam’s world is exactly like the world we live in because it IS the world we live in. It’s just that he’s been around for so long he’s managed to encounter some of the less common species most of us would have to live five lifetimes to come across.
6. What made you decide to not have any magic in your books despite it being a fantasy type story?
I don’t know if I can call it a decision, so much as a series of incremental steps. Fairly early into the book I realized I wasn’t going to get far in an immortal man story without some other fantastic elements, but it was important to me that this be a guy who simply lived for a long time. I didn’t want him to be a wizard or an alien or a god or anything that would somehow make his life experiences less applicable to us mortals. I needed him to be a version of you or me, just older. I also wanted the history he lived through to be our history as much as possible. If you throw magic into history, it affects a lot of things that I didn’t want to see changed.
One particularly cool consequence of swearing off magic is that it has helped me to avoid some of the tropes one sees in most fantasy novels. Fantastic beings are a little less fantastic, a little more down-to-earth, a bit more real than they might be otherwise. A place can be found for them in our world.
7. How long did it take you to write Immortal? What is your writing process like?
The first draft took only a few months, but there were rewrites so I guess I can’t really answer the “how long did it take” question definitively. And my writing process is a bit insane. I began Immortal with Adam, and with a vague idea of what the ending was going to be like. Beyond that I made it up as I went along. And I’ve approached everything that way: start at the beginning, keep going until I reach the end. I don’t take notes or outline or write sections outside of the order they appear in the book. And since I’m “the reader” I have to keep myself interested while I’m writing, so my first drafts tend to be propulsive and breathless; I only put in space to exhale and assess in later drafts. Basically, I write from the seat of my pants… while falling down a flight of stairs.
8. Will there be a sequel to Immortal? Will this be a series?
There is a sequel to Immortal, which is one of the novels I alluded to earlier. It’s called Hellenic Immortal, and it’s basically done, although since I’m the only one to have read it, that conclusion may be premature. And there will be a third book. I’m doing research for that book right now, a process that may take some time because I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in it yet. It has to exist, though, because there are questions raised in the first book that are not answered in the second book and will have to be addressed in the third.
Beyond that? I don’t know. There might be more books in Adam.
9. Who would you have play Adam the Immortal in a movie?
Hah! That’s a tough question. Adam looks thirty-two, so it would have to be an actor that could play that age. Both Robert Downey Junior and Johnny Depp project the kind of intelligence the role would need, but I don’t think either of them can pull off thirty-two any more. Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice could probably do it.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
How about some links? You can read more about Immortal at genedoucette.me/immortal including a sample chapter. And genedoucette.me/category/immortal will give you a summary of my blog posts on writing it, plus some shorter book excerpts.
Immortal will be available from Amazon on 10/1/10. Your proverbial local bookstore will have it too, but probably not right away—hopefully before Christmas.
Gene is giving away one copy of Immortal to one lucky reader. Contest is open WORLDWIDE so everyone is elgible to enter. Please note that he doesn't have ARC copies yet so there will be a slight wait to receive your prize. Contest will end on August 6th. Leave a comment or question for Gene about his book to be entered. Please leave your email address with your post so I can contact you if you win.