This is Part 2 of my interview with Joseph Fink, here we talk about the writing and construction of the episodes. You can (and should) read Part 1 here to get greater context!
Like any artistic process, with time and practice come experience and efficiency. Given the now over two years, and growing, life-span of the podcast, there’s been plenty of time for Joseph and Jeffrey to perfect their routine and tighten the creation of each episode. When I asked about how each installment is created, Joseph first took me through the writing process. “Either Jeffrey or I, we take turns, will write a rough draft of an episode. So we’ll have a script, we’ve learned the amount of words that go into the amount of time that we want a Night Vale episode to be, and so we’ll write a script and then the other person will edit it to re-write, and then once we’re both happy with it we’ll send it to Cecil.” Then the recording process, which, as it turns out, is done only for the price of time. “Cecil records on his own, we’re not there he just records it, sends it back and then I edit it together using audacity, which is just free audio editing software, using music from another friend of mine, a guy named Jon Bernstein who goes by the name Disparition, he’s got just hours and hours of great instrumental music he’s put out over the years and so I use that as well.”
Although each episode of Welcome to Night Vale does contain its own distinct ideas and concepts, from time to time guest characters, such as the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, do make return appearances. And since the show continues to release episodes while on tour, its obvious Fink and co. write and record ahead to keep material coming out. “Well, we’ve been a little busy lately, so not as far ahead as I would like, “ Fink replied, a touch tired sounding, when I asked how far ahead the episodes are written and how they decide to make a guest character a recurring one. “But, em, ultimately since its just Jeffrey and I, we have a lot of freedom to just do what we want and so if one of us thinks a character is interesting, we’ll just bring them back, and then send the script to the other person and the other person will be like ‘Oh, yeah that character, let’s see what we can do with it.’ I mean, I would say a lot of the plot develops organically that way in terms of just one person will write a major development into a script and send it to the other person and the other person will be like ‘okay!’ and just kind of develop the story from there.”
Speaking of these recurring guests, sometimes they’re played by someone with a touch of fame to their name, perhaps more notably former child-star Mara Wilson, who plays the aforementioned Faceless Old Woman. Other names have included Fringe star Jasika Nicole and actor Dylan Marron. Fink explains that these appearances have come from a variety of outlets. “Y’know, they all kind of happened in different ways. I would say the very first guest star we had was Kevin R. Free, who played the host of the rival town’s radio station, and that was just, y’know, we had this idea for hearing this rival town’s radio station and Kevin R. Free is someone we know, again, actually through the Neo Futurist. He just, he’s an experienced audio-book narrator and performer, and so we brought him on. Mara Wilson we met through twitter, we just kinda started messaging back and forth and then it turned into her offering to help us and we wrote a role for her. Y’know, they’ve all come in different ways, Jasika Nicole is an old friend of Jeffrey’s from way back and he’s always wanted to write something for her.”
He also confirmed that more guests are in the pipeline, including perhaps some more notable performers. “Yeah, we have definitely more guest roles in the works that we are already planning, a couple of them, y’know some of them are just people we know that are really great performers and a couple are people that people will have heard of, but for us its just finding people we like their work and finding ways of writing something that they’ll be able to perform well.”
Welcome To Night Vale dances very flamboyantly between the genres of horror, fantasy and science fiction, while still bearing a sometime semblance of real life tangibility. Moving away from the show a little bit, I couldn’t help but ask if any of Joseph’s life had made its way into the town’s bizarre landscape. “Well yeah, I mean, when you write thousands of words, just hours of audio a year, your life is going to come into it because you’re just writing so much. I mean, obviously not directly, but everything you live is going to influence what you’re writing.”
And going a little further away from the show, I always find it interesting what scares the people who write anything horror-related for a living. In Joseph’s case, that’s quite a bit. “In terms of what I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of so many things. I tend to have bouts of pretty severe anxiety, I’m terrified of plane travel which is not great when you’re now touring like I am for a living, “ he says not without an emphasis on the obvious irony. “I think this Summer, from June to September I had 21 flights booked, which I think I still have five more to go before the end. So yeah, that’s been fun for me, dealing with having a panic attack every single time I fly, when I fly this much. Yeah, there’s all sort of things that scare me, the world’s a scary place.”
You can read Part 3 here!