Unexpected Questions with John Wiswell

John Wiswell is a disabled writer who lives where New York keeps all its trees.

He won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Open House on Haunted Hill,” and the Locus Award for Best Novelette for “That Story Isn’t The Story.”

His work has also been a finalist for the Hugo, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards, and has been translated into ten languages.

His debut novel, SOMEONE YOU CAN BUILD A NEST IN, was released from DAW Books on April 2, 2024, and was named one of the best Fantasy books of the season by The Guardian, Amazon.com’s Editors, Paste Magazine, BookPage, and The Library Journal.

John loves making friends with monsters. You can find John all around the internet through his Linktree: https://linktr.ee/johnwiswell.

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If you were transported into one of your books as a character, what kind of character would you be and what kind of adventures would you have?

I only have one book out, and its protagonist eats an awful lot of people. So I guess my adventures in that book would be… dinner.

If you were to write a love story between a human and an alien, what challenges would they face?

I did! It’s called Someone You Can Build A Nest In, and it’s out right now. They have plenty of challenges. Is it ethical to lay eggs in your partner? How do humans heal stab wounds? Would she like it if I devoured her mother? But the greatest challenge is what hits all couples: communication.

 Which trope of science fiction (phasers, transporters, time machines, much more) would you like to see put into our own reality? And how would you use it in a mundane way?

A healing ray would be so handy. It would revolutionize medicine. And after the revolution, we’d naturally reduce it to mundane and trivial uses. If I could click a button every time I banged my shin against the coffee table, for instance, my whole quality of life would improve. No coffee table would be safe.

 If you were stranded on a deserted planet with only one book to read, but it turned out to be one of your own, how would you feel?
If you had to choose between being a mermaid or a dragon, which would you pick and why?

Dragon! Dragons are basically the cats of Fantasy. Giant critter that swats at anything that gets too close and spends all day napping. I might just be tired, but slumbering for centuries in my lonely mountain sounds great right now.

If you had to describe your writing style using a board game, which game would you choose and why?

I’m pretty good at subtext. I’ll say Clue.

 If you had to survive in a fantasy world with only the contents of your fridge, what would be your game plan?

The Indiana Jones movies taught us all that refrigerators are capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. So, I would take the fridge apart and refashion it into a suit of armor. Neither beast nor hero will pose a threat to me. And as I stride across the landscape as a freon-cooled juggernaut, I can enjoy all that ice cream I’d been saving.

 What off-beat location would you like to see host a convention, and why? NATIONAL PARK

Genuinely, a national park would be amazing. Go to a botany panel underneath some redwood trees. Get an ecology lecture from rangers who have protected wolves. It’d be tricky to manage the weather, but it would be special to match stirring programming with a spiritually nourishing environment like that.

 If you had to choose between having the ability to speak with animals or plants, which would you choose and why?
Plants. I can speak to some animals, mostly humans, and I’d like to change things up.

 If you could have any fictional pet as a companion, what would it be and why?

Jeff the Shark from Marvel Comics is my ideal pet. For my whole life I’ve wanted a shark that lived on land and was as psyched to hang out with me as I am to hang out with it. And that’s Jeff! Right down to how I would have imagined his little shark-legs. He’s even housebroken, which is rare in sharks.

 Mash together two of your favorite SF properties.  What’s the new work about?

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead: Your next stop, Godzilla.

 What’s the silliest misconception you’ve had about something scientific, what was it and how did you learn you had misapprehended?

In high school when I heard the number of “Scientologists” was growing, I thought it was about time someone had started a religion based on science. But I didn’t bother looking it up. I spent the next decade thinking those science-worshippers didn’t sound very scientific.

 If you could time travel to any point in history, which era would you choose, and why?

One table at Milliways, please.

Finally, can you tell us about your new book?

Happy to!

Someone You Can Build A Nest In is the story of Shesheshen, a shapeshifting monster who lives isolated in her isthmus. To her, humans are only ever selfish threats to her safety. After some monster hunters poison her and drive her off a ravine, she thinks she’s been slain–but she is rescued. Rescued *by a human*. Homily is a generous, gregarious lady who mistakes Shesheshen for a fellow human. She nurses Shesheshen back to health. Shesheshen has never experienced kindness like this, and the more time they spend together, the closer they become, and the harder it is for her to hide her secret. If this is love, then she has to tell Homily. She’s about to confess when Homily mentions why she’s in the isthmus: she’s hunting a horrible shapeshifting monster. Has Shesheshen seen it anywhere?

What follows is a series of adventures and hard decisions that make both Shesheshen and Homily confront their secrets, and some problematic inlaws. I’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing reception my little monster has gotten. You can read more about the book here: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/739891/someone-you-can-build-a-nest-in-by-john-wiswell/

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