Interview with Mark Loeffelholz, Author of The Disappearance of Wiley Hood

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What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write The Disappearance of Wiley Hood?

The project began its life in 1988 as a 5,500-word short story, titled “The Gradual Disappearance of Wiley Hood” – one of six short stories I wrote that year as a means of learning the mechanics of the form. It was written in ‘third person’ as a deliberate effort to produce a prose-style homage to ‘The Twilight Zone.’

The story’s next incarnation came in the early 2000s, when I set out to learn how to write motion picture screenplays. ‘Wiley’ was my first project – I adapted the short story into a script that ran 98 pages (or minutes) long. Many elements were necessarily added, such as Wiley being an artist, a lovely young lady named Mary, a best friend named Brian, and a brother named Nick who had killed himself. A ‘through-line,’ featuring a psychiatrist named Dr. Nazelrod (to whom Wiley tells his story), was created as a structural device – with a punchline at the end of it.

The script was submitted to a peer review website called Triggerstreet, which had been founded by Kevin Spacey (yeah, *that* guy) and Dana Brunetti. Although polarizing because of its unconventionality, it was well-received, a runner-up for Screenplay of the Month, and spent some time ranked as the site’s #1 script. My favorite review headline for Wiley came from Triggerstreet, and I’m using it on the back cover of the book: “Kafka on laughing gas!”

The late great Richard Matheson – writer of sixteen original Twilight Zone episodes, and a brilliant novelist in his own right – is the conceptual godfather of ‘Wiley’: a) The original germ of the idea came from his “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” when I decided to give the broader concept an existentialist spin. b) When the time came to further expand the project into full-length novel form, I decided to write it in first-person, which (because of the nature of the story) required a unique and specific delivery system… I looked to Matheson’s novels, and found that the two books of his with the biggest ‘suspension of disbelief’ challenges (“Bid Time Return” and “What Dreams May Come”) shared a similar framing device: a protagonist’s story, captured in a tangible form – and then shared with a second party. Once I had this delivery system solidified in my mind, the book practically wrote itself as I used the script as an outline.

If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of The Disappearance of Wiley Hood, what would they be?

There exists a 1 hour and 48-minute playlist of songs on YouTube*, which I consider to be the story’s soundtrack; many of these songs are mentioned in the novel. I have always considered the ‘80s song ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ (by Nik Kershaw) to be Wiley’s Theme, which would play during the climactic scene in a film version. When I was deeply engrossed in writing the script (and then the novel), the horn (synthesizer?) crescendo always made me cry. True story.

*The playlist is public on YouTube.

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

My favorite genre is probably the genre of my first two books, which are noir-style 1940s private eye mystery action thrillers, in the vein of Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. ‘Wiley’ is a tribute to another favorite writer, Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, etc).

What books are on your TBR pile right now?

I’m currently reading “The Contract Man,” by AP Bateman. Next up is a Jack Reacher novel: Lee Child’s “The Enemy.” After that, a classic John D. MacDonald Travis McGee book, “Dress Her in Indigo.” Then, “The Escape Artist,” by Brad Meltzer.

What scene in your book was your favorite to write?

[SPOILER ALERT!] The final chapter, when Wiley’s disappearance finally manifests itself physically, making him essentially invisible.

Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)

I always carry blank 3×5 cards and a pen. I have a marble paperweight that says: IT CAN BE DONE.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“Physics Doesn’t Care.”

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?

Live every moment, of every day. Be HAPPY. These days are numbered.

 

Mark Loeffelholz is the author of the new book The Disappearance of Wiley Hood

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