So le met get this straight. The U.S. Congress passes a 700 billion dollar financial rescue bill today and the Dow Jones responds by DROPPING 157 points? That‘s…annoying. Although, at the end of the day, it’s neither here nor there for me since, several years ago, I followed the advice of dream shaman and moved my money out of the markets and into Victorian curios and collector 8-track cassettes. Still, it’s a sad state of affairs. Here’s hoping the economy bounces back soon so that, once again, homeless people everywhere will be able to afford their own homes.

But enough of this gloomy discussion. Let’s, instead, turn to more upbeat subject matter: airborne viruses, cannibalistic plague victims, and a town’s struggle for survival. I refer, of course, to The Missing which was September’s horror Book of the Month Club selection. If you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, I hear your local bookstore may still have a copy or two available. So head on down and pick it up.

Today, I turn this blog over to author Sarah Langan who has taken the time to answer your questions about her book, her writing process, and her plans for a remote island getaway. Check out Sarah’s Q&A, her website ( and then finish up by sneaking a peek at a familiar set we made use of for our series finale.

Over to Sarah…


Antisocialbutterflie writes: “My questions for Sarah Langan.
1) As a scientist I have to appreciate a feasible scientific explanation for
what was going on. Where did you get the idea for a sentient virus carried
through sulfur-fixing bacteria?

Thanks! I went to graduate school for environmental toxicology, and an airborne virus seemed like a fun idea to play with. I also needed to tie the novel into the storyline of my previous novel, THE KEEPER, which involved a paper mill that released a lot of sulfur into the atmosphere. The idea hit me as I was reading about the ways in which viruses can affect human behavior. For example, a small number of people who survived the 1918 flu epidemic developed psychosis—the virus changed their brains. Also, take mitochondria, integral parts of human cells, but also thought to have originally been invading viruses. I like the possibility that that on occasion, they act independently from their hosts.


2) This may be a bit obtuse of me, but I was a little unsure as to who was
talking in the prologue. Was it Meg Wintrob? Who was the daughter slipping
into the waves? Is it some sort of allegory that I am missing?

Meg, indeed. The town librarian. Maddie was the daughter. At this point, she’s thinking back on her life, and full of regret.


Thanks again for a wonderful book.”

Thanks for reading it!


Iamza writes: “Questions for Sarah Langan:

1) Corpus Christi and Bedford are very well realized little towns. Are they
based on real places?

Bedford was based a little bit on Waterville, Maine, and a lot on my imagination. Corpus Christi is more like the suburb I grew up in, on Long Island.


2) What do you like best about writing horror? And what do you find hardest?

I love forcing characters into crises, because it’s fun to imagine how they’ll react. Pressure brings out the best and worst in people. For me, monsters and ghosts aren’t so different from deaths in families, or terrible secrets, or wars. They’re representations of those things. The hardest part is making the supernatural believable and scary.


3) Any chance there’ll be more books set in the Missing universe, exploring
the fall-out of this book in greater detail?

I plan to write two more over the next few years. But the story will leave Maine, and enter the Midwest and California. It’ll follow Meg’s son, as well as Danny Walker in a world much altered from how THE MISSING begins.


Um, yeah, sorry the questions aren’t more interesting. And thank you for an
entertaining read – I look forward to reading more of your books in the

Thank you!


Terry writes: “My questions for Ms. Langan:

Why is Maddie able to protect Meg? Why does she do so?

When the infected lick their prey, they claim them. Meg was first Greg’s claim, and then Maddie’s. Lois and the pack respect this.


What authors do you enjoy reading?”

I love Ramsey Campbell. Also Joyce Carol Oates, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Russell Banks, Patrick McGrath, Liz Hand, Philip K. Dick, and for short stories, I always like the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.


Tera writes: “Some questions for Sarah Langan: You’re characters are very
detailed and very realistic. What I find especially interesting about them
is the way you present them, warts and all. As a matter of fact, I don’t
think there’s one character in the book that doesn’t have at least one flaw
or shortcoming. So my question is how do you build your characters? Do you
base them on people you know and or do they completely reside in your
imagination? And when it comes time to creating them, do you come up with
character breakdowns that you flesh out before starting to write, or do the
characters take on lives of their own as the story progresses?

I put my characters into particular situations, and try to imagine how they’ll react, and that tends to shape their personalities. I spend a lot of time with them, and start thinking about them as real people. Occasionally, I’ll even act like them, much to the dismay of my husband. Everybody has flaws, and reading about perfect characters is boring to me. Also, it’s a dishonest form of writing.


And keeping with that line of thought – how do you approach the
novel-writing process. Do you know where you’re going to end up before you
start? Do you start off with some sort of road map like an outline? Or do
you discover the story as you go along?”

I pretty much discover the story as I go. If the deadline is looming, I try to discover it a lot faster!


KellyK writes: “It seems that a lot of the readers to this blog don’t read
much horror. Well, I do (King and Straub are my two favorite writers) and as
someone who reads a lot of horror, I have to take my hat off to Sarah Langan
for the incredible job she did with The Missing. Many of the books I read
creep me out. This one actually went a step further and actually scared me.



So my questions for the author:

– What scares you?

All kinds of things scare me, from real-life problems like war and the economy, to stuff that goes bump in the night, to whether or not there’s an afterlife. But probably, if I’m honest, it’s those things that go bump, and the coat over the chair, that in the dark looks like a ghost. It taps into something instinctual, that I try to play with in my fiction.


– Is there a specific approach you take to writing horror? For instance, I’ve
always felt that “less is more” when it comes to horror and imagining the
worst is always more frightening than having it described to you in loving

I think it depends on the story I’m telling. In the case of Jackson’s HILL HOUSE, less was definitely more. But graphic worked and was appropriate for Straub’s Houses without Doors. My stuff probably leans toward the Straub end of the spectrum, but as I get older, I’m moving toward more subtle forms of storytelling. Probably, because I’m telling different stories. But as a rule, yeah, less is always more. Unless it goes in the direction of TURN OF THE SCREW—-it’s a ghost, or maybe she’s crazy, we’ll never know! To me, that’s a cop-out. We know it’s symbolic—-it’s fiction.


– You’re about to be exiled to a deserted island. What 3 books and 3 dvds
are you bringing with you?

Oh, boy! That’s a tough one. The bible, because I’ve never read it cover to cover, the writing is pretty good, it would make for good story-telling fodder, and it’s really long. An enormous biochemistry textbook, because you can read those things fifty times, and still not know what they’re talking about. Finally, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, because it’s an incredible book.

DVD’s? “Caddyshack” because it’s funny, “The Deer Hunter,” because I could watch it every day, and “Brazil,” so I wouldn’t feel as bad, by comparison, about being on a desert island.


– Do you see yourself as strictly a horror writer or might we see you branch
out to other genres?”

I write all kinds of stuff, from literary to horror to science fiction, and I hope to keep doing it.


TimC writes: “Just finished The Missing. Hope I’m not too late to get in
some questions –

1. How did Sanguine’s mouthwash cocktail allow him to fend off the effects
of the virus? Was it the chemical composition or the alcohol content? If the
latter, then wouldn’t other town drunks have been resistant to the virus as

Yup. It was the interaction between the alcohol and the virus that kept the disease for progressing, and changing their personalities. Probably, other alcoholics in Corpus Christi were able to stifle the disease for the same reason, but the story didn’t cover their trajectories. They may have died from infection, or starved, or killed themselves, or maybe even stopped drinking long enough to change. Only Albert knew the booze stopped it. Likely, the other drunks had no idea.


2. Canada is mentioned numerous times as a possible safe haven but it was
mentioned numerous times that the virus was potentially airborne. So how
likely would it have been for Canada to have remained a safe haven? I’m
thinking very unlikely.

It was a metaphor for national discontent.


3. I agree with some of the others who were confused by Maddie’s willingness
and ability to protect her mother. I was also confused by what prompts Meg
to kill her husband. Are we to believe that at this point in the story her
mind has been affected as well and she isn’t thinking straight? By killing
him, she is pretty much signing her own death sentence, no?

By the end of the book, some of the infected express their own wills. Maddie is one of them. She maintains her humanity.
No, Meg isn’t infected. She’s protecting her daughter, disease or no disease. Her maternal instinct versus her common sense, and her instincts win out.


4. And – any plans for a sequel?”

Yup, two more on the way. But my next novel, due out in June, is a stand-alone about a woman who moves into a haunted apartment in Manhattan. Once there, her OCD flairs, and in her sleep, she builds a door.


27 thoughts on “October 3, 2008: With Special Guest Star…Author Sarah Langan

  1. Many thanks to Ms. Langan for participating here; I’ve enjoyed reading all the questions and answers. And a hip hip hurrah for Damian Kindler, Martin Wood, and Amanda Tapping for translating Sanctuary to the television screen. Great job on their part, and got to admit to weak knees watching Kavan.

  2. Your idea for the season 6 episode “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” sounds brilliant to me. Is there any chance of that idea being turned into a Atlantis movie?

  3. The gateroom! It’s REAL!!!

    And hooray for Sanctuary… I watched it on TV today =)
    Amanda’s pretty much amazing, but you knew that already, didn’t you!

  4. Just a point about the first answer Sarah Langan gave-

    1. -Also, take mitochondria, integral parts of human cells, but also thought to have originally been invading viruses.-

    I haven’t heard about that theory, but I have heard of the endosymbiotic theory which theorizes mitochondria and chloroplasts originated as prokaryotes (bacteria to the layperson).

    Though there is the recent hypothesis of viral eukaryogenesis, which hypothesizes the eukaryotic nucleus evolved from an invading virus. Pub Med

  5. Das said:

    “*shakes head in dismay* “Do you blame the Wraith, or the master?” You should actually be thanking Todd! If not for Todd, where would all the Shep whumpers be??! If not for Todd, where would all the slash fic writers be? He gave us everything – including puking all of his din-din right back into Sheppard, just like…like…an infamous Mallozzi pooch!! Yum! What more could you ask for??!”

    Knew that question was coming. I’ll go with Shep on this one and blame them both. Tis fairer that way 😉

    And, uh… thanks for that image, Das. It’s possibly *the* most disturbing thing i’ve heard all week >.>

    Just a quickie this mornin’, Joe. I’m heading back out to the coast in the vain hope I won’t drown or freeze my butt off. Keep warm yourself and try to get rid of whatever little buggers are ailing you.

    See ya (hopefully) tomorrow.

  6. Thanks to Sarah for a really great Q&A. It’s always interesting to get some insight into how writers approach their craft. I loved her answer to how she writes: “I pretty much discover the story as I go. If the deadline is looming, I try to discover it a lot faster!” ROTFL!

    By the way, I’ve already picked up The Keeper and start reading it tonight. With the lights on!

  7. Thanks to Sarah Langan for answering questions. It was quite enjoyable to read the how to and background of her approach to her book. Still not up to reading horror on my own…no puppies to protect me.

    Cool Video…sigh.

    Sanctuary was wonderful. While the webisodes served their purpose – bring us a good show and entertainment and Amanda, the TV series is better for viewing.

    Cool to see Kavan, Dan Shea, and Christopher sans his wraith outfit. But, he was in black – just wrong length coat.

    Hope you and the puppies are doing better
    Thanks for all the puppie pictures. Lulu had the “who? me look. They are adorable.

  8. Wow, just saw Sanctuary…it was great! Now here’s a gal who would find a way to save the Wraith (though she’s not doing a very good job with Todd’s alter ego at the moment… 🙄 ).

    Loved seeing so many Stargate faces!! Chris was amazing…how he can be so nasty and still manage to touch my heart, I’ll never know. Must be those lovely eyes of his. And I was very pleasantly surprised with Ryan Robbins – his character was quite entertaining. Shame he’s not in more episodes.

    Just one question – does anyone know if the caveman guy was Chris, too? There was just something about him, plus, he had nice hands. So, just wondering who was under that make-up.


  9. I also was very impressed with Sanctuary. Amanda showed that she is definite leading lady material in a completely different role than we are used to her playing. And you couldn’t really tell that the backgrounds were all CGI. Everything looked quite real. The other actors did a good job as well. The actor who played Dr. Zimmerman reminded me of the character of Danny Masser on CSI New York. I don’t know why, he just did. And the actress who plays the daughter seems like a very interesting character. And a time traveling Jack the Ripper. Very cool indeed. I think Amanda should have kept the dark hair for the season finale, she was smoking tonight.

  10. Joe, I’m watching Amanda Tappings new show. It’s great but what’s up with her stealing all the SGA actor’s? Is that why SGA was canclled? Just joking! Thanks for your insight and your blog is a joy to read after along hard day. Take care, Darlene

  11. Coucou Joseph =) Sa va bien? Moi oui! Sa fait du bien de dormir un peu^^!
    Merci pour la video =)
    Rohh moi j’ai l’indice du CAC 40 en direct sur mon ordinateur, pour l’intsant il et à +117,47, pourvu que sa dure -_-‘.

    Ofaite pouvez vous me dire quand ma carte sera arriver..?? Merci =)

    Aller passer une trés bonne journée! Bisou!!!

  12. As much as I am one of the behind-the-scenes little people, it would be nice now and then to see the stars of the show. And I don’t mean Zelenka or Chuck, even though I love them.

  13. Hi Mr M!!

    Wow, love that video clip of the gate room!! As the camera pans around, i see the big guns are out!! Also, is that the Script Editor pouring over the script?? One thing that really struck me on the tour in April is how beautifully lit that set is…it really is a most gorgeous room…Although as I may have mentioned, my wife just shakes her head and says “It’s not even painted!”….*shrugs shoulders*

    Thanks to Sarah Langan for the wondeful Q and A, I must confess I did not get a chance to read the book, but skimming through the Q and A I have just ordered same!

    Best to all in Vancouver


  14. HI again Mr M!!

    Keep forgetting to say…Caught “Whispers” last Tuesday on Sky….Wow, and again Wow and once more Wow!!

    What a fab episode!! I watched most of it through my fingers admittedly, but on re-watching on Wednesday night, braved it all (sans main)

    Bravo! Anne Teldy!!!! Yeag!!

    I always find it intriguing to see the finished product having seen little bits here on the blog. I’m thinking specifically of the video you posted of Beckett being sniffed at by the Zombie and also the director calling “Radio!” to get that jump-effect from Mr McG.

    Any-way great episode….Firmly in my top 10….

    Best to all


  15. Hey Joe,

    I’m hearing you re the economy. I like to draw on my Micro and Macroeconomics studies at times like this, but sadly I’m still at a loss to comprehend. The Australian dollar has gone from 92 US cents to around 78 US cents! Just a few months ago we were joking with our US business colleagues about the American Peso. We’re now eating our exchange rate words.

    I watched Part 1 of the Season 1 Atlantis marathon today. It was strange seeing Christopher Heyerdahl in his original non-Wraithy role. How tall is he?!! He has such a great screen presence, especially when he is Todd. And where do they get all of their leather for those coats? Space cows? We know they’re out there.

    I noticed in The Queen that his hair seemed to have grown. I put it down to him not having had a trim in a while. But in the photo’s from yesterday, it seemed back to his old length so I guess it was just one of those things. I thought it may have been to show an elapsed period of time. But I could also be looking at the photo’s from the wrong angle. Maybe I should ask Das, I’m sure she’s checked them out from every possible angle. Das?

  16. Chev – Have you been to Armageddon before? I’ve never been to any of these events so I’m still up in the air as to whether to give it a try. Could be good to go and have a look around.

  17. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to see Sanctuary because our tv was acting weird, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to take it seriously with Amanda Tapping with black hair and a fake English accent….That’s the thing with Sci-fi, people have to re-use actors because of budget constraints, and it makes people double take.

    Dang Joe, you need to get the mailbag up again! That’s one of my favorite parts of your blog! And you’ve answered so many good questions.

  18. Thanks you, Sarah Langan, for answering my questions. And thank you, Joe, for arranging her visit. It was really appreciated. And fun to read!

  19. I gave Sanctuary a try. I liked it pretty well when Magnus or her daughter were not on screen. Sorry! Amanda’s accent is so strange, I kept focusing on how it wandered in each sentence. Also her character is very melodramatic and earnest; to me she just sucks the life out of her scenes. The daughter is annoying. Kavan Smith’s scenes were like a breath of fresh air, and Christopher Heyerdahl did a great job. The effects were great. I’ll watch a bit more, in hopes that Amanda got some accent training and knocked some of the uber-sincerity off her character.

  20. I’ve seen comments that Amanda Tapping has been asked to do the SGA movie. I hope she’s unavailable. Pleases, for once, let SGA stand alone. I discovered SGA on its own, without having first watched SGl-1 (a show I’ve never been able to sit through). I have no desire to walk down memory lane with Teal’c, Daniel or Carter. I would so much rather see genuine Atlantis characters like Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, Zelenka, Lorne, Caldwell, etc. Here’s hoping she’s far too busy with Sanctuary and the SG-1 movies.

    i initially became interested in SGA because of the team: Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon (previously Ford), and McKay, as well what I considered to be the supporting characters of Beckett, Weir, Zelenka, Grodin, etc. Several of those characters have been cast aside in favor of new, and in my opinion, lacking characters like Carter and Keller. I hope to see more focus on the main team in the movie. Please, no more attempts to integrate new cast members in favor of telling the story of the team.

    I’m also concerned that we won’t see much of Teyla. You answered an earlier question of mine, that Teyla’s child would not be used as an excuse to write her out of season 5 episodes. So far, this is true. For the most part she’s been largely written out without any reason given — she just disappears. I’d hate to see that happen in the movie. Please bring back the Teyla who was a capable fighter and a strong team member with an occasional glimpse of humor, temper and friendship — the way she was in seasons 1-3. Please don’t push her into the background.

  21. Yea! The SGC Gateroom! Excuse me while I do the Snoopy *happy dance*. 😆

    @Das: Did you ask about a puppy? I think it was you. We are going to so Ca in a little over a week. When we get back we’ll search for the proper addition to our family.

    Right now I’m thinking of a couple of 1 to 2 year old males at the Great Pyrenees Rescue Club. I might like the dogs but Annabelle has the final say. If she can’t get along with any of them then we’ll probably get a puppy. But I’ve wanted a rescue pyr for about ten years now. And I am falling in love with some of these guys just from their pictures.

    That’s the story. I’ll let you know what happens!


  22. Dangit! I’m too late to talk about The Missing. Well, just wanted to say that I really liked the book, especially the character of Meg who reminds me a lot of someone I know. And really liked the author Q&A. Sarah Langan has a great sense of humor and I look forward to reading her next release.


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