Slayer Lit

Slayer Lit Interview

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A SPARK OF LIGHT IN THE DARK
Christopher Golden Talks about DARK CONGRESS and Tara

Conducted by Shiai Mata

Christopher Golden

Christopher Golden is back, and he's brought Tara Maclay with him. The award-winning author will see the release of his newest Buffy novel, DARK CONGRESS, this August. And this book is not without controversy, stemming from the recent revelation that Tara (shot to death in the sixth season of BtVS) will return to life...at least temporarily...in the course of the story.

For some fans, simply mentioning Tara's death causes arguments and recriminations to erupt. She may have died quickly, but her fans did not go silently into that good night. Obviously, Chris isn't about to announce all of the details of her resurrection...you'll have to buy the book to learn those, folks...but what he has revealed has caused no some amount of discussion, concerns and even apprehensions on the part of some fans.

And so, in an effort to try and address some of those issues, Chris has graciously agreed to speak with SlayerLit. Many of the following questions were submitted by the fans themselves.

SL: Chris, thanks for joining us again. Based upon what you’ve shared with us here in your last SlayerLit interview, as well as what you’ve divulged elsewhere, DARK CONGRESS sounds as if it’s going to be a bit of an epic story…or at least a fanboy’s dream come true. You’re bringing Oz back into the fold, you’re including Wiccan Watcher Micaela Tomasi, you’ve got Faith right in the thick of things, and you’re even sneaking in the Gentlemen. And yet, since you’ve revealed that you’re also resurrecting Tara, that seems to have become the focus of discussion…often intense… among fans. Do you feel that perhaps the Tara issue is “hijacking” DARK CONGRESS?

CG: I don't think I'd go that far, but it certainly is getting attention that's somewhat out of proportion to the amount of the book that is dedicated to that plot thread. On the other hand, I don't mind. Being able to bring Tara into the story was a key element for me to be interested in telling the story in the first place. The Willow/Tara story arc in the novel is a mirror of the central story arc that makes the whole thing resonate a bit more.

SL: Was bringing Tara back a prime reason for writing this book, or was it something that developed in the course of plotting it out? In other words, what’s the chicken and what’s the egg?

CG: DARK CONGRESS existed as an idea set during an earlier season. Therefore, Tara was already a part of the original pitch. When I decided to set the novel in season seven, I still wanted to use Tara and, in fact, thought it was a great opportunity on a number of levels. Though the big plot is about monsters and politics and motivations and deceptions, the themes are all about loss and grief. In any case, the answer is that DARK CONGRESS existed first...and bringing Tara back grew out of what I wanted to do in the book.

SL: Let’s go to the heart of the issue: is this the real Tara you’re using?

CG: I don't even know what that means. Tara is a fictional character. However, if you mean is it a ghost or a dream or a demon or something, the answer is no. It *is* Tara.

SL: What sort of resistance…if any…did you encounter from the publisher, from Fox, or from Mutant Enemy when you pitched resurrecting her character? Reportedly, the Powers That Be had been very firm in the past insofar as rejecting other efforts to bring Tara back in one form or another.

CG: The publisher was thrilled with the idea. Fox, from what I can tell, was also thrilled. The only note I received from them on the subject was simple and to the point--the genie must be put back in the bottle at the end. (Don't take that literally. There's no genie. It's a figure of speech.) As for other efforts along these lines, that's the first I've heard of it.

SL: Were you given restrictions on what you can and cannot do with the character in the course of the story?

CG: Other than the genie comment, nothing. Debbie Olshan at Fox has always been very generous with me in that way. Unless it's something that really raises a red flag for them, they've usually given me a pretty free hand. Things like THE LOST SLAYER and PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW are good examples of that.

SL: Does the return of Tara trigger the events that occur in DARK CONGRESS, or does her resurrection happen as a result of those occurrences?

CG: Neither. Her return does involve another character (a new one) who is involved with the Dark Congress, but its more a confluence of events.

SL: You’ve mentioned that this story helps ‘correct a cosmic error’. Do you consider Tara’s death in “Seeing Red” to have been a mistake?

CG: Of course it was. But that's me answering the question as a fan. As a fan, I wanted Tara to continue to thrive. She had become the beating heart of the Scoobies, and their conscience in some ways. For proof of that, just look at the way things went after her death, the way the relationships of the characters seemed to unravel. On the other hand, as a storyteller, I understand why, conceptually, it made for good storytelling. Unfortunately, I don't think the payoff was worth the loss. Had Willow gone all Dark Phoenix and been the big bad for a season or even half a season (as opposed to a couple of episodes), maybe. But the characters didn't seem to grieve enough. The relationship had seemed so real, but in spite of her freakout, Willow's mourning didn't have the realism that the relationship had. As a viewer, I had the feeling that the whole thing was expedited in order to move on to other things. So if there was a cosmic error, to me it was that Tara's death was given short shrift in the overall scheme of things. It should have mattered more. The fact that I wanted to see them have what I think of as a "proper farewell" is something separate. It has nothing to do with my feelings about the way the story was told. Instead, it's about how much I admired that relationship.

SL: As a writer, do you think the logic behind killing Tara made the act necessary, or do you think the same sort of creative impact…having Willow go dark and threaten to destroy the world… could have been reasonably achieved another way?

CG: Well, let's be clear on this...the character is Joss Whedon's. What he decides is necessary is necessary, no matter how much some fans might wish he had decided differently. But as I said above, I don't think Tara's death actually had the creative impact it COULD have had, because of the seemingly hurried aftermath. As for whether or not Willow going dark could have been achieved another way...there's always another way. It's just not the path that was chosen.

SL: When you came up with the idea of Tara’s return, did you bring it up at all with your friend and occasional writing partner, Amber Benson? Is there any chance she contributed some creative thoughts to the concept?

CG: Amber was the first person I told, even before I suggested it to the editor. I've told her the whole arc of what happens to Tara in the story. She's all for it. As for contributions, we work together on many other things, but not on this.

SL: How does Willow take to the fact that Tara is alive again?

CG: How would you, if she'd been your soul mate?

SL: You’ve called this an opportunity to have “closure” with the character for yourself. Do Buffy and the other Scoobies…and in particular Willow…have the chance to have proper closure with Tara as well?

CG: For those answers, you'll have to wait for the book.

SL: A number of fans are adamant in the refusal to acknowledge that Tara was ever murdered in S6. As such, some of these fans have publicly said that they will not be reading your book, because as Tara ‘never died’, there’s no reason, they insist, to read a story where she is brought back to life. As an author, what are your thoughts when you hear something like this?

CG: To each their own. I included these elements in DARK CONGRESS for my own reasons, to address my own feelings on the subject, at least within the parameters that Fox would allow.

SL: Was there anything you suggested for DARK CONGRESS that was rejected on the grounds that it’s too close to something Joss Whedon has planned for the Season 8 Buffy comic book?

CG: Nope. In fact, I knew almost nothing about the comics before the manuscript was out of my hands. I'd seen only a few sample pages of Season 8, and tried to do what I could to keep it in line with what I learned from those few pages.

SL: You’ve said before that you had a few Buffy stories in the back of your mind that you’ve never had the chance to do, perhaps the most notable being your “Faith in love” novel. Did you ever think to pitch a Willow and Tara book to the publisher?

CG: Not after Tara died. Doing a flashback story had no appeal, because I knew how things ended.

SL: At the end of the day, once you’ve “put the genie back into the bottle,” as you said, are you satisfied with how you’ve handled the Tara subplot, and with DARK CONGRESS in general? In other words, in your own estimation, have you given her the full respect and reverence some fans think she was denied, or would you still wish you could have done more with her in this story?

CG: I'm satisfied with what I was able to do within the parameters of what Fox would allow. Do I wish I could have done more? Sure. I wish I could have brought her back permanently. And the fan in me still hopes that Joss will do so in Season 8. Regarding season 8, by the way....it's the best Buffy we've had since season five. Probably better, actually.

SL: Will you or Simon & Schuster be doing anything special to promote the release of the novel? Any appearances this summer to tout it?

CG: No plans at the moment. I don't know what the publisher might have planned.

SL: Chris, if this is the last Buffy book you ever write, are you satisfied with it being your “epitaph’, so to speak?

CG: Certainly.

SL: As always, thank you for sharing your time with us here at SlayerLit!

CG: My pleasure.