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A Conversation With John Saul
An interview with Lisa DuMond
November 2005

© John Saul
John Saul
John Saul
John Saul was born in Pasadena, California in 1942 and grew up in Whittier. He attended several colleges but never obtained a degree. He spent fifteen years working in various jobs while attempting to write a book someone would want to publish. His first, Suffer the Children, appeared on all the best-seller lists in the country and made the #1 spot in Canada. Subsequently all his books, have made all the best-seller lists and have been published world-wide. He lives part-time in the Pacific Northwest, both in Seattle and in the San Juan Islands, and on the Big Island of Hawaii.

John Saul Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Perfect Nightmare

Perfect Nightmare

The title of your novel, Perfect Nightmare, is so apt, with many of the scenes being almost too creepy to read. How did you dig so deeply into the primal fears of females to produce those heart-stopping moments?
I think the fears in Perfect Nightmare are pretty primal for everyone; certainly the whole idea of not knowing who might be in your house when you come in is truly creepy.  In this respect, I don't think males are much different from females, though males may be less likely to admit to their fears.

You chose a teenage girl to be one of the strongest voices in your novel, though no one truly listens to her until it is too late. Is there a message in that for adults and youth? Did you choose the character precisely because she would not be taken seriously?
That's the great thing about teenagers as characters: people tend not to take them as seriously as they ought to, so it's possible for a situation which would be easily controlled if discovered early enough spin completely out of control simply because one person prefers not to believe what another one is saying.  What made Lindsay work so well was that she had the pressure of the impending move on her; she didn't want to move; and she'd made her antipathy to the move very clear to everyone; ergo, even when she vanishes, it's easy for people to believe she may simply have taken off, despite what her mother says.

The mother and daughter in Perfect Nightmare share a special link. Is this something you believe exists? Have you actually experienced it yourself?
Such a bond certainly appears to exist now and then; I've read all kinds of accounts of mothers awakening in the middle of the night with the certainty that something terrible has happened to a child, only to discover that they were absolutely right.  I tend not to be much of a mystic, but certainly there are unexplainable phenomenon all around us, and I'm quite certain there are dimensions to the universe in which we live that we know nothing about.  In short, anything's possible...

Abductions and abduction/murders, especially of women and girls, seem to have reached almost epidemic proportions. Was this a factor when you were writing the novel? Was there any particular case which inspired you to write Perfect Nightmare?
As far as I know, your statement that they have reached "epidemic proportions" is absolutely false.  I may be wrong, but the last time I checked, the incidence of abductions of women, girls, boys -- whatever -- hasn't changed much at all in decades when you look at it in terms of incidents per hundred thousand (which is the only legitimate way to look at it.)  What has changed is our ability to know everything that's going on everywhere, and the morbid fascination of much of the news media with reporting whatever shocking crimes they can find.  I personally find it fascinating that Fox News can spend hours and hours covering the disappearance of a girl in the Caribbean, but somehow can't find the time to report on the corruption in the White House, which affects all of us far more than the disappearance of a single girl.  What is truly disheartening is the perception by parents today that there is a sexual predator lurking on every block, and that they must keep their children locked indoors at all times.  The facts don't bear this idea out, but a whole generation of children is being to taught to fear everyone and everything.  As for a "case" inspiring Perfect Nightmare, the answer is no.  It's pure fiction.

Hearing your novel on audio makes the story especially chilling, particularly the scenes between the killer and his victims. What is your reaction to hearing your words read by someone else? Do you yourself enjoy audio books or are you a hard copy man?
I don't listen to my books on audio, and have to confess that I'm still addicted to the printed page.

As society struggles over what to do with sociopaths and sexual predators, you present a perfect study of the threat these criminals pose. What do you believe should be done with these offenders? Prison? Therapy? The death penalty?
For those who can be proven to be an ongoing danger, I would advocate therapeutic restraint.  The death penalty?  Oh, please!  The death penalty hasn't been a deterrent to anything at all in its entire sordid history, and we're fast losing our right to call ourselves a civilized society simply by not only keeping it, but by trying to expand its use.

Knowing the content of your work, I have to ask: are you a news junkie? A Court TV watcher?
I never watch Court TV; it seems to me to smack of voyeurism;  as for the news, I do my best to keep up with what I consider important, which is much more involved with politics than crime.

Perfect Nightmare appears to be a natural choice to be adapted for film. Is there a chance readers will get to see a movie version of this terrifying tale?
No bites from Hollywood yet.  They never seem to see the possibilities they way everyone else does.

What is your next project?
I never talk about work in progress.

Copyright © 2005 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction, horror, dark realism, and humour. DARKERS, her first novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She is a contributing editor at SF Site and for BLACK GATE magazine. Lisa has also written for BOOKPAGE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Science Fiction Weekly, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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