Earlier today I posted a review of Rebecca Dessertine’s new Supernatural tie-in novel “One Year Gone” (read it here). In addition to reading the book, I had an opportunity to chat with Rebecca yesterday (you can follow her on Twitter @DessertTime).
In case you’re not familiar with her, Rebecca has worked as the assistant to Supernatural’s creator, Eric Kripke, for almost four years. Apparently that length of time is quite the accomplishment. But she’s not just fetching coffee all day. Rebecca’s had the opportunity to do a lot of work of various Supernatural-related materials, including writing comic books for the show, another novel and working on the Supernatural magazine. When I chatted with her yesterday, we discussed how she started writing these books, why Sam and Dean have never visited Salem or other supernatural cities like it, the issue of Sam’s soul and what she likes about working on the show.
The Origin of Rebecca’s Involvement
Rebecca said that working on a show like Supernatural involves a lot of great opportunities that you might not experience elsewhere. It was only her fourth day on the job that Kripke put this offer out to some of the writing and admin staff: “If anyone wants to write the Supernatural comic books, write up a pitch for me”. In other words, the showrunners definitely exercise control and approval over the Supernatural-related materials that are published, even if they don’t have direct involvement. At the time, she was definitely interested in writing for the comic book and so she wrote up a pitch that Kripke really liked and the rest, as they say, is history.
In terms of the novels, part of Rebecca’s job is actually going through the various pitches made by authors for Supernatural books, until she decided to inquire about the process and ended up writing a book with David Reed (“War of the Sons”).
As for “One Year Gone”, when the writers were discussing the fact that there would be a year-long jump between the end of season 5 and the beginning of season 6, Rebecca decided she wanted her next novel to explore that lost time period.
Location, Location, Location
“One Year Gone” takes place in Salem. Rebecca chose that town as the setting for the book because the Salem witch trials is such an ‘amazing little bit in American history’. Various theories have been put forth as to why mass hysteria was so destructive in the case of the trails, including sexual repression or even food poisoning. But when Samuel said in episode 6.01 that the Campbells have been hunting monsters since they came over on the Mayflower, Rebecca thought it was a terrific idea to put that bit of news in a historical context. And what if witches really were present in 1600s Salem and it wasn’t just a scam or young girls acting out? That idea forms the basis of the book.
I remarked to Rebecca that it’s interesting that Sam and Dean have never been to Salem (or even a city like it) in the show, which is a town with such a rich supernatural history. But the Supernatural creators want to make it clear that every town Sam and Dean roll into could literally be any town – yours or mine. Setting the show in a place like Salem, which is so identifiable, wouldn’t be conducive to the “any town” vibe of the show.
As I’m sure you recall, the first half of season 6 dealt with Sam not having a soul after returning from Hell. Parts of that frustrated me if only because I was throw for a loop by some of the characteristics of Soulless Sam. Why didn’t he need to sleep or eat, for example? I posed this question to Rebecca, because Soulless Sam is present in her book. But she goes even further than the show did in talking about how Soulless Sam doesn’t even really feel the wind on his face.
Rebecca explained that the characteristics of having a soul versus not having one should be explained more on the bonus features of the season 6 DVD. But she also took the time to explain that the writers combined more classic features of soullessness (such as the ability not to feel “human” emotions like guilt and love”) with some new features (such as the inability to enjoy food or sleep).
But let’s take it one step further. Some of the characteristics they gave Soulless Sam were, subliminally, in direct contrast to Dean’s characteristics. For example, in season 6 Dean was opening himself up to loving new people in his life, while Soulless Sam wasn’t feeling love at all. And we know that Dean has always loved food and the act of eating, so Soulless Sam didn’t enjoy eating. Dean would feel emotions like guilt, while Soulless Sam didn’t. In a way, Soulless Sam was meant to be the opposite of Soulful Dean. Which, when I thought about it, actually made a lot of sense. Of course, presumably Soulless Sam would have to eat at some point to keep his body going, but he didn’t enjoy all the “extra” things about being human that everyone else did, beyond complex emotions.
Canon or Not?
As for whether the Supernatural tie-in materials are meant to be canon…it’s really all up to the reader. The comics and novels open up a huge universe that we don’t necessarily get to see on the show. While writing the book, she kept going back to Kripke and Gamble, trying to figure out what she could reveal and not reveal. At one point in “One Year Gone”, Sam wakes up in Stull Cemetery just after getting out of Hell. Originally, the showrunners didn’t want her to write that particular scene, because they were going to have a flashback episode (which turned out to be “Unforgiven”). When certain scenes didn’t make their way into that episode, she was able to use them.
Kripke has apparently said that the Supernatural materials are not canon, they’re fun fodder. But their stories can be taken as canon if the fans want.
What’s It Like Working on Supernatural?
Rebecca couldn’t stop praising her work experience on the show. Not only does she get to work on a show with two hot guys (ok, to be fair, that’s totally my personal opinion), but the opportunities afforded to her have been tremendous. And working alongside Eric Kripke is apparently a dream job. I think a lot of fans will agree that he is, in her words “exceptional with story”.
As for what’s next, will she write another Supernatural book (which I encouraged, because I thought “One Year Gone” has been the best Supernatural novel yet)? Well, right now the staff is gearing up for season 7, and writing these novels take a very long time. But she’s throwing around the idea of writing up an original teen novel that has a lot of the characteristics of the Supernatural universe, such as monsters. Apparently she attended private school in one of the most haunted counties in the country, which could be the setting for her next novel.
If you want to read more of Rebecca’s Supernatural-related books and comics, check out her Amazon page.