The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Interview with Carolyn Crane, Author of Disillusionists Trilogy

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor


ImageThe ending of Double Cross really threw me for a loop.  I had to re-read the last few chapters to see if I had missed something (I hadn’t).  Then, I called Amazon to make sure the entire book had been downloaded to my Kindle (it had).  I can’t be the only one who’s had this reaction.  Were you trying to torture us?  (In all seriousness, I loved the ending …even if I might go crazy waiting for the final book!)

Oh no! You called Amazon? I didn’t even think that was possible!

I do feel I underestimated the degree of torture that would be. It seemed like a clear stopping point when I wrote it, because everything is known, the Dorks mystery is solved, and a new movement begins where Justine is presented with a new challenge, a very personal one. Packard will be compelled to overturn things, Otto will want to keep the status quo, and that’s a big fight that will take place, among others. I will definitely think twice about this level of intensity at an end, though. It’s hard, as a writer, to put yourself in a reader’s shoes. I learn new things with every book.

[Beth’s response: Again, I thought the ending of the book was awesome.  I’m just not very patient!]

Although I always thought Packard was the right guy for Justine, I liked Otto and thought he was a decent guy.  But after what he did at the end of Double Cross, he’ll have a hard time redeeming himself in the eyes of many readers–including me.  So is Otto evil?  Was he that way all along?  (I’m not even gonna ask about Sophia; I think it’s pretty clear she’s working for the Forces of Darkness!)

I’m trying to create a world where you need to atone for the bad things you’ve done and you get rewarded for good. Packard and even Justine sort of had it coming in this book. Packard especially. Otto, he went a bit overboard on the darkness thing!  

Is he evil? Otto was deeply affected by the events in the old school, and it took him years to pull himself back together after that. Being hunted by the Dorks, and then kidnapped and held, definitely spiraled him back down, brought out the worst darkness in him. So, while I wouldn’t say he’s evil, he’s gone pretty far in the evil direction and you don’t really come back from that as a hero.

Since the books are told from Justine’s perspective, we know exactly why Justine is attracted to both Packard and Otto, but we’re at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to their feelings for her.  What is it that each of them is drawn to in Justine?

As one reviewer quite brilliantly put it, “Whereas Justine sees people as they could be, Packard sees them as they are–literally.” Seriously, you really hit it on the head actually with that. Packard sees people as patterns, as if they’re locked into cycles of behavior, and it’s a depressing way to view things. He almost sees people as mechanized shells. Justine is always trying to break free of that. She inspires him. She challenges him to be better. She makes him free, literally and on other levels. They have fun together, too. He laughs with her. That was new for him. He loves her.

Otto thinks Justine is his soul mate, somebody who understands him, because they share the same neurotic darkness. It’s a bit narcissistic, his obsession with her, bordering on twisted. When they’re together, I think about two junkies pulling each other deeper into the gutter.

Many of the characters struggle with the ethicality of disillusionment in Double Cross.  On the one hand, disillusioning criminals takes away their free choice.  On the other, it really does a lot of good, making the city safer and leading many of the reformed criminals to better paths (e.g. Shady Ben Foley fundraising for spinal injury research).  Where do you stand on this particular debate?

It’s one of those issues where I could argue both sides. Which is why I like it. In the end, I’m slightly more with Justine when she presses Otto on it. She says something like “don’t people have a right to be who they’ve become? Even if it means they have to stay in prison forever?” I sort of feel like being “where you are” and growing from there is an essential part of the human journey. I think if somebody is really despicable in some way, they should be kept from society, but I don’t think they can be forcibly evolved. Maybe that person needs to go through what they need to go through. Disillusionment short circuits human growth. (or, in Trekkie nerd terms, it’s sort of a mini-version of breaking Star Trek‘s prime directive about no interference with the internal development of civilizations.)

One thing I’ve been wondering about ever since I read Mind Games: why is Packard the only one unaffected by the zings?

He invented it. He know how to sort of “vent” the zing so it goes out the other side of him.

What were your favorite parts of the first two books to write?  Which parts were the most difficult?

My fave ever part of Mind Games was Justine’s dinner in the restaurant with Otto, where she has that realization of who he is. In Double Cross, I loved writing the scene with Marty (for the fun power flip!)

Most difficult would be the hunting lodge with that creepy guy in Mind Games. Then in Double Cross, actually, the big sex scene toward the end (with Packard). Those scenes can be hard for me. And this one had to contain SO much. Gah!

Is there anything–anything at all–you can tease about the third book?  (See my earlier comment about going crazy waiting.)

The action takes place three months later. There will be a wedding! Shelby and Simon will be Justine’s bridesmaids. And characters you might not expect to show up will show up. (I’m not suggesting Avery, though!)

Okay, total speculation here: I think Dashboard Gumby is the hero of the final book.  He’s going to swoop in, brandish a tiny sword, save the day, and then he and Justine will run off together and live happily ever after.  Am I close?

You are psychic! Did you ask that as a joke? Gumby does play a bit of a role in helping Justine figure some things out. I’m not kidding, actually.  

[Beth’s response: Half joking.  Gumby was way too prominent a character not to play a role in the resolution of the series.  Though the thought of Justine and Gumby running off together, sitting on the back of a bus staring at each other blankly, a la The Graduate, just amused me!]

Thank you for coming, Carolyn!

Hey, Beth, what great questions! Thanks so very much for having me here. This was really fun.


Author: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

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