flies when you’re orchestrating a global apocalypse.
Cronin started writing his genre-busting best-seller,
"The Passage," more than a decade ago. He and
his 8-year-old daughter would amuse themselves by making
up a twisted story about a race of nasty vampires, or
"virals," created by a tragic accident and
reckless military scientific research.
his daughter’s delight, their tale also featured
"a girl who saves the world."
had no intention of turning the story into a book, but
he soon realized it was "too good to ignore."
"The Passage" was published in 2010, it spent
three months on the New York Times best-seller list, and
Cronin immediately morphed from an English professor at
Rice University in Houston and mid-list literary author
into a summer-reads heavy hitter.
final book in the trilogy, "The City of
Mirrors," came out May 24.
author’s original collaborator, meanwhile, is now an
18-year-old college freshman and aspiring playwright.
Where did the years go?
chatted with Cronin about the new book, which begins
with survivors naively believing their nightmare has
passed and ends with a decisive showdown between Amy,
the world’s savior, and Zero, aka Professor Tim
Fanning, the first and most powerful of the virals.
After devoting more than a decade of your life to
"The Passage," "The Twelve" and
"The City of Mirrors," was it hard or easy to
write the final sentence of the final book and then let
It is a somewhat melancholy moment that has its
challenges. So much of my time, waking and sleeping, was
occupied with this imaginary world. Then all of a
sudden, there was nothing left to imagine.
I finish a novel, I tend to spend a period of months
moping around and being semifunctional. But eventually
something else, some sense of what I want to do next,
comes to fill that space in my head — and slowly but
surely I embark on that.
Many people reading "The City of Mirrors" will
be shocked to find that Zero is a villain they can
almost — ALMOST — empathize with. Why did you write
an origin story for your big bad monster that reveals a
heartbroken softie on the inside?
I wouldn’t want to create a monster who did not touch
us in some human manner. You’ve got to splash a little
light on the villain, just as you need to rub a little
dirt on the hero. That’s what makes people
interesting, their contradictions.
story is meant to accomplish that, so that you at least
understand him. Because in spite of everything that’s
bad about him, he was still born an innocent soul.
Is it true that Fanning’s backstory parallels your own
life in many ways?
Yes, I borrowed facts of my life for Fanning. I went to
Harvard and so does he. I had always wanted to write
about Harvard, but the occasion had never come up.
Finally it did.
is an academic, which I was. Very different field of
study — he is a professor of biochemistry — but
aspects of the life are the same. Also, I wrote his
story as a first-person narrative, so he’s using my
language, meaning a mind meld was inevitable.
on top of all that, we were both attacked by bats and
infected during a scientific expedition in the jungle.
No, wait. That happened only to Fanning.
Did you have a favorite character to write?
could take any character and tell you why he or she is
my favorite. Different characters touched different
nerves in me. I love Fanning’s voice. Michael’s
ingenuity is something I admire intensely.
secondary character who I came to be very connected to
was Greer, who I kind of adore unreservedly: the soldier
who becomes a mystic.
Just curious: What’s up with your contempt for
neckties? Peter, the soldier-turned-family
man-turned-president of the Texas Republic, distrusts
men wearing ties ("the most incomprehensible
article of clothing in the history of the world").
What did ties ever do to you?
I don’t really have an issue with neckties. Once in a
while, I actually wear one and it feels very
fashionable. But I like to think that a post-apocalypse
world would be necktie-optional.
think a world on the brink would be, at most, business
What does your daughter think of how you’ve chosen to
end the saga?
She hasn’t told me yet, because she hasn’t read the
third one yet. She wants to read the first two books
again before she reads the third. A lot of people have
said they want to do that.
she has this very time-consuming day job right now,
which is called being a freshman in college, so she’s
going to do it over the summer.
think she’s both kind of pleased and embarrassed that
this challenge she made when she was 8 then occupied her
dad for the next 10 years.