By Fully Booked Staff
Photo by Nina Subin
In the middle of nowhere is a town of mysterious hooded figures, men with perfect hair, and the Glow Cloud.
Welcome to Night Vale.
We chat with the authors of this widely popular podcast—now a novel!—and talk about the strange town, its stranger residents, and how it all came to be.
FULLY BOOKED: First off, congratulations on the huge success of Welcome to Night Vale. You have a lot of Filipino fans here, most of whom started when you launched the series, years ago. How did you come to the idea of the town of Night Vale and the illogical laws that govern it?
JEFFREY CRANOR: We started first with just wanting to make a podcast. Joseph and I wrote a play together back in 2011, and during that time, we not only developed a good collaborative process but also shared a love of podcasts. It’s such a great medium, and we wanted to create one together
JOSEPH FINK: But we didn’t want to create a podcast that someone was already doing, because they were already doing it (and doing it better than we could). I really love conspiracy theories. I don’t actually believe them, but I love them as stories. So I came up with this idea of a town where every conspiracy was true and the people there just took that as normal and went on with their lives.
In the podcast series, who writes what? Does anyone write a specific part on the podcast?
JF: We tend to alternate episodes. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part one of us writes a whole episode and then passes it on to the other, who edits it.
JC: Some episodes just take a draft and an edit, and others (particularly ones with vital plot points) may take a little more back and forth. But once we have a final script, we pass it on to Cecil who records it in his home.
Are there any characters or situations in the Night Vale universe that are (somewhat) based on real people or experiences? Or stories that have stayed with you that you wanted to explore?
JF: A lot of our characters and stories come from little phrases or ideas that get stuck in our head. I really love numbers stations. They’re these mysterious radio broadcasts that tend to be a voice just reciting a list of numbers. They’re real things, but no one is sure what they’re for or who is creating them. My fascination with numbers stations led to an episode about the voice of a numbers station (WZZZ) which was broadcasting near Night Vale.
JC: Also the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home was just a quirky recurring joke we made on our Twitter account. Eventually, the idea grew into a recurring character in the show.
They say George Lucas had the whole Star Wars universe mapped out when he started writing the movie. So did Tolkien. Was it the same for you both? Or do you build it as you go along, discovering new things about characters and story lines?
JC: We’re always discovering new things. We didn’t approach Night Vale with an end in mind. We still don’t have an end in mind. Since it’s a radio program in this town, we have always felt the world could always exist (or at least as long as we do).
JF: Just like with any town, Night Vale is always evolving. There are always new places to go and people to meet there. There are always wonderful community activities and terrifying news events that can happen there.
If you had a dream guest star on the show who would it be?
JF: Tatiana Maslany
And on that note, will we be hearing more of Wil Wheaton (Earl Harlan) in future episodes?
JC: We certainly hope so.
JF: We just had Wil on episode 78. We love Wil, and Earl is such a fun character to write for.
You have the best fans. Just about everyone is bowing down and surrendering to the Glow Cloud. What’s the most interesting fan mail you’ve received?
JF: Agreed. We have the best fans.
JC: We absolutely do. One email we get pretty regularly from them is how calming they find the show. I think maybe because Cecil is such a soothing narrator for such a frightening place, this helps people’s anxieties about the real world, which is also a frightening place.
Your new book “Welcome to Night Vale’ was awesome. It was strange, totally engrossing—a ‘same-but-different’ experience altogether. What was the process like writing this book versus the show?
JF: It was similar to the way we write the podcast. We sat down and talked through the main characters, wrote out a couple of chapters each about Diane and Jackie. Then we talked about the story and wrote out a chapter-by-chapter outline.
JC: Then we took that outline and divided up the chapters between ourselves. I wrote some, Joseph wrote others. Then we swapped and edited each others’ work: adding things, tightening and clarifying.
In the book, you take two female townies, a pawnshop owner and PTA mother of a shape-shifting teenager, and use them as the main characters for the novel. How did that come to be?
JF: Both Diane and Jackie were characters we’ve had in our heads for a while. With Jackie, I had this idea in my head about a pawn shop owner who sees bubbles of lights over the desert, which signaled some kind of change. Once we knew we were going to write a novel, Jackie seemed like the perfect character to begin developing in a more long-form medium.
JC: Diane was a character who actually appeared in one of the early episodes of the podcast, but she was just a tertiary, one-note character. Really just a name. We brought her back a couple of times, and I just became interested in who she was as this mother, this PTA member. Like with Jackie, a novel seemed like the perfect way to really explore the life of a single mother with a teenage son. I also thought about the phrase “she sees herself in her son” and what that phrase would mean if she had a son who always changed his appearance, and thus the shape-shifting Josh was born (so to speak).
Even if our favorite radio host, Cecil, took somewhat of a sidestep, his characteristic voice and tone can still be heard throughout the narration of the book. Was that intentional?
JF: Yes. We knew right away that we wanted to write the novel differently than the podcast. We didn’t want to tell Cecil’s story again in the novel, since we were already doing that in the show. We felt like there are already dozens of episodes online about Cecil.
JC: The novel gave us the chance to see Night Vale from a different point of view, to explore the lives of other characters, to go places Cecil can’t go (like the insides of others’ heads).
Thank you, Mr. Joseph Fink and Mr. Jeffrey Cranor! But before we let you both go, we need to prove that you are human beings and not residents of Night Vale. Would you mind taking a quick photo for us?
Want to win a copy of Welcome to Night Vale? Head over to Twitter to see how!
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor is available at Fully Booked Online.