Reader’s Question: What is your impression of the film industry? Is your decision to focus on novels related at all to your experiences doing films?
Vivian Schilling: I think film is the most powerful tool of persuasion we have today. It can literally influence cultures. Because the stakes are so high, it tends to attract corruption and those willing to compromise their integrity in pursuit of money, power and their dreams. That’s not to say everyone and every aspect of the business is that way. I’ve had a lot of good experiences and have met most of my closest friends through film. As for my decision to focus on novels, I simply prefer writing novels above all else. After starring in Savage Land, my career as an actress was in a good place. I had a very good agent wanting to take me to the next level. At the same time, I had St. Martin’s Press asking for my next novel. I knew I could not pursue both and expect to do well at either. I had to make a decision and without hesitation, I chose to write my next book. Storytelling is my first love and I find the most satisfying expression in novels. There are absolutely no restrictions in novels like those in film. Film is a beautiful art and I hope to make many more in the future, but nothing can compare to the thrill I get from creating a world all my own … One that readers can enter and bring to life through their own imaginations.
Reader’s Question: I understand that you had a near death experience of your own. Was it similar to what you described in the book?
Vivian Schilling: It was similar to Kylie O’Rourke’s in one way — it was dark as opposed to the overwhelming majority of reported near death experiences that are full of light. Other than that and the profound feeling of wanting to know more, the two experiences are very different. Kylie’s NDE incorporates an entire mythology surrounding death drawn from my research of past cultures and beliefs. It is meant more as a myth than to be taken literally, one to aid in the exploration of death and spirituality.
Reader’s Question: Do you believe in the angels of death that you talk about in Quietus and that when it’s “your time” there is no escaping it? What is your book saying about mortality and predestination?
Vivian Schilling: Deathbed visions have been documented all over the world for centuries. I have a difficult time ignoring the statistics. I would like to believe there is a presence that helps us to cross over, quite possibly our loved ones who have passed or some type of spirit of mercy. The angels in Quietus, however, were a way for me to put a face to death. I drew their likeness from many different personifications of death. It was the clearest path for me in understanding the subject, but again, not meant to be taken literally.
As for what my book says about mortality, I think it touches upon a myriad of issues. I think it says that death is a very real and inescapable part of life. That we need to accept that rather than run from it. That death can be a beautiful transition, one worth introspection and respect. As for predestination … I think it says that there is a certain order to life, a synchronicity that we are unable to grasp, therefore unable to escape. That’s not to say we don’t have control over our choices and our futures, simply that life and death are very interwoven and complex. One only need to study nature for proof of this.
Reader’s Question: Has your own near death experience made you more or less fearful of dying?
Vivian Schilling: At first it made me more fearful. But then it led me on a path that has very much set my mind at ease. I won’t say that I’ve resolved all of my issues concerning death, but I feel much closer to an understanding.
Reader’s Question: Was there a particular reason you made Kylie a decorator/refurbisher?
Vivian Schilling: There were a number of reasons I chose decorating and refurbishing for Kylie’s profession. Considering Quietus examines the balance between the physical and spiritual world, place plays a significant role in the story. I believe places can embody spiritual energy. I wanted to have Kylie in touch with this and at the same time empower her to manipulate and change her surroundings. I wanted her choice of surroundings to be a reflection of her own spirit and inner struggles. When considering her profession, I also had to take into account Jack and the thread that keeps their relationship intact. I knew they needed to work together and wanted it to be a profession in the arts. Jack is not the most creative of the team. He is about physicality and things he can touch. Kylie lives in a much more cerebral and creative world. I needed to bring these two characters together in a way in which they would flourish and compliment each other. Because Kylie and Jack are very much loners, I wanted them to be self-sufficient, without cell phones and assistants or an army of workers. I wanted them to succeed on their own terms. Making her an interior decorator/refurbisher answered all of these concerns. It also led to a much deeper understanding and usage of place than I originally intended.
Reader’s Question: Do you find that your screenwriting experience has helped with the writing of your two novels or is this a completely different ball game?
Vivian Schilling: While screenwriting is certainly very different from writing novels, I believe it provided me with a solid foundation from which to build. Screenwriting is a very lean form of writing. Very little detail is given, only the essentials for a director, producer, actor, etc. to build upon. Screenwriting teaches you to edit as you go along and to be flexible and open to new ideas. It teaches you to take direction, to sift through sometimes conflicting notes from producers and directors. Learning to accept criticism and knowing which to take and which to discard is an invaluable asset to a writer. Screenwriting taught me to prepare outlines and character biographies, both now essential to my work as a novelist. When I approached my first novel, I did it as a screenwriter. I used the screenplay as an outline and built upon it. I now approach writing as a novelist. I will continue to write screenplays, but my work as a novelist will remain my first love wherein I find my greatest depth of freedom and storytelling.
Reader’s Question: Did you have any religious affiliation prior to your own near death experience? After?
Vivian Schilling: I was raised Catholic, but fell away from the Church in my teens just about the time of my accident. After my experience, I did a lot of exploration into various religions. While moved by the ideas and conviction of some, I’ve settled on no particular affiliation.
Reader’s Question: I saw a Publisher’s Weekly quote on Amazon that compares Quietus to “an Anne Rice novel – without all the goth trappings.” How do you feel about this comparison? I, myself, think Quietus is above and beyond anything Rice has ever written.
Vivian Schilling: What an incredible compliment. Thank you. Quietus was spoken from my soul and it truly means everything when a reader connects to it. As for the comparison, it is sometimes easier to compartmentalize than to explain what a writer’s work is about. Though I believe my writing is very different from Rice’s, I am nonetheless honored by the comparison. Rice has a poetic command of language that has earned her a tremendous following. Like a Rice novel, Quietus deals in the supernatural and touches upon some dark sexuality, yet I think our approach and underlying themes are vastly different. I can only hope that over time, my own style of storytelling will earn me the “Vivian Schilling” category from which other writers are compared.
Reader’s Question: Is Kylie’s character at all biographical?
Vivian Schilling: As a writer can only draw from what they know and experience, I think it is nearly impossible to not draw from ourselves and from those around us. In Quietus, Kylie takes on many of the questions and themes I wished to explore. We both are intrigued and challenged by death, but our experiences and reactions to those experiences are very different.
Reader’s Question: Are your movies available in any video stores? What was the most fun film you did?
Vivian Schilling: Except for the foreign film, Germans, which has only been released abroad, all of my movies are out there, it’s just a matter of hunting them down. Some are more difficult to find than others, as they were distributed by Hemdale which became inactive in 1996. The most fun I ever had on a film would have to be the western Savage Land. As I was raised with three brothers and no sisters, Savage Land gave me the chance to be the tough one. I put on a gun-belt, rolled around on a stage coach, growled at everybody. I loved my character’s spicy personality and budding relationship to Marty Cove’s character at the end. I loved going back in time and living in the Old West. Though it snowed in August (and my character was without a coat), Canada was simply breathtaking. If possible, I could have set up a dry-goods shop in the Old Frontier and never left.