Night Film is Marisha Pessl’s new novel about the death of legendary and reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova. The story plays with the reader’s concept of fact and fiction and this is reflected in the book itself which blurs the boundaries between the physical and digital.
Night Film is peppered with visual imagery – web pages, emails, text messages and photos – that are integral to the plot and readers are invited to delve deeper into the murky world of the story via the free Night Film Decoder app which unlocks further images, along with audio extracts and a short story.
We caught up with Marisha on the making of Night Film and the changes that have taken place in publishing since her last novel.
Marisha, it’s been a couple of years since you last published a novel, were you struck by how much the publishing landscape had changed?
Absolutely. My favourite thing about being an author is telling a story and that hasn’t changed. When my first novel was published, the book world was much simpler. In those days marketing was much simpler, social media was a MySpace page for the main character with an accompanying playlist and that was it. At the time this was considered something of a novelty and, while innovative, no one could have foreseen that this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of where we were headed.
Now the landscape has changed, in order to engage a new audience for Night Film, I knew I was going to have to think outside the box. Word of mouth is everything, people read what their friends are reading, they scan Twitter and Facebook to find out what’s new and what book they absolutely have to be reading, and books are competing against television, film, video games and not to mention all of the free content readily available on the internet. As a result so many potential readers will dismiss one’s novel without ever having the chance to pick it up.
Night Film is unusual for a book in that it blends a traditional narrative with visual imagery as well as a digital element.
The advent of social media, tablets and e-readers means that people are able to digest material at an unparalleled speed. If the book is good readers will stay with it, but if it doesn’t immediately grab them, it will easily get dismissed and be forgotten with no physical reminder looming there on a shelf. However daunting this might seem it can also be incredibly thrilling.
One of my favourite things about writing is the ability to tell stories, now I have a chance to tell stories across so many different mediums in an entirely new and exciting way. I knew well before I got deep into the writing of Night Film that I wanted to create a universe that was expansive enough to make use of these mediums. As the film maker, Stanislav Cordova, and his jarring disorientating world took over my brain, I knew I might have this opportunity, that Night Film could be a novel that delves into this new ground as it embraces digital storytelling like no other novel before. The visual is as much a part of the narrative as the text – the two go hand-in-hand – and the visual imagery is how the reader begins to unravel the many mysteries contained within the book.
Some of these images are genteel and innocuous but some will stay with you and haunt you. The richness and the diversity of these images along with the harrowing journey of the main characters are what might set this novel apart. Much like the old hardcover on the shelf, these images could get into the heads of my readers, it may scare them but I couldn’t be more excited by that!
The world of Night Film doesn’t just start and stop with the novel, in concert with my publisher, Hutchinson, we have created The Night Film Decoder App that is a portal into a hidden world. The app is an extension of the experience, one that invites the reader to delve further into the labyrinthine universe that we have have created around Cordova, both a way of leading the reader to the book, and shedding light on the story well after they have finished reading.
The Night Film by Marisha Pessl is published in hardback and e-book by Hutchinson on 29th August 2013. Night Film Decoder, the companion app to the book, is free to download for iPhone and iPad and Android.