Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ms. Tree On TV?

This could be a very big year for Max Allan Collins' MS. TREE. ComicMix reports that a new MS. TREE novel (based on the comic book) and a TV pilot are on the way.

Well, it turns out Our Gal Friday (that's a joke, but you've got to read Ms. Tree to get it) may be headed to the small screen. In an interview with Comics2Film, Collins disclosed the Oxygen Network has "gone beyond an option (and paid) the purchase price." They've assigned two screenwriters to the write the first movie, both women, and it's being regarded as a pilot for further movies and possibly a teevee series.

Obviously, things have been held up a bit by the WGA strike, but Collins took his original treatment and turned it into Deadly Beloved, a paperback novel published last December by Hard Case Crime. Cooler still (since Collins is the author of about a million mystery novels, including the aforementioned Heller boos, and teevee/movie tie-ins, including many of the C.S.I. books) the cover was painted by Ms. Tree artist Terry Beatty.

Considering other Hard Case covers have been provided by the likes of all-time paperback mystery master painter Robert McGinnis and Marvel Zombie cover king Arthur Suydam, Terry's in some pretty heady company.

I Am Michael Weston

From IAMTW Member Tod Goldberg, author of the Burn Notice novels...

Since the first week of December, when I sat down with Matt Nix to talk about writing the first book based on his show Burn Notice (called The Fix), I've pretty much spent all of my writing time, my waking time, much of my sleeping time, a considerable amount of free time, trying to think like Michael Westen. This means I spend a lot of time imagining I am doing spy shit. I now know how to blow stuff up really well using household items. I'm prTubbsetty handy in a fight. I've got witty rejoinders coming out of my ass. I know the streets of Miami like I'm fucking Philip Michael Thomas (I mean that literally -- I imagine if I were fucking Philip Michael Thomas that he'd drive me around a lot showing me places where he filmed episodes of Miami Vice, pointing out precisely where it all went so terribly, terribly wrong...).

In the past, I've generally written fiction without a deadline, which is actually a far more preferable way for me to work. I like to navel gaze. I like to ponder. I like to play Madden for three of four hour stretches. And the result is that it took me three years to write Living Dead Girl, two years to write a book that I ultimately decided sucked, ten years to write Simplify (of course, those were all stories...), a year and a half to write Fake Liar Cheat, about 18 months to write a new collection of stories (which I'm putting the final touches on now, too) and I imagine it will take me about a year or so to write the next big book I plan to write, which, as I've told many people over the years, will be about the Salton Sea in the 1960s. I've done the research. I know the characters. I have the story. But for a long time, I haven't been prepared mentally to write it. It's not a tremendous amount of fun to write a novel -- it requires monastic patience from those who love you and monastic personal patience -- particularly not a novel like Living Dead Girl, which really took the wind from me for a long time. I imagine this Salton Sea novel will be like that, too. I need to write it. I yearn to, really, but I also don't look forward to the kind of mental torture that sort of work puts on me. It happens the same way with stories, really -- there were two this year that did it to me -- one in Barrelhouse called "Walls" and one in Hot Metal Bridge called "Palm Springs", both of which got nominated for the Pushcart, so maybe I did something right -- but at least with a story, it's done with in two weeks, a month.

But...this Burn Notice book? It's a fucking hoot. Minus the 2 weeks I was in Bennington and the two weeks I had fucking Captain Tripps, I've spent every day from the first week of December writing The Fix. And it's true that not every day is a good day, as Ice Cube would agree, there are however many days where I feel like if I saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp it just might say Tod G's the pimp. I can see the finish line from here, maybe another 10 days to go, maybe slightly longer, and while I'll be happy to stop thinking I'm Michael Westen and to start thinking about these two short stories I've been putting off since December, I must say that writing this sort of comic noir is pretty damn fun to do. I've got two more to write after this one, each with a substantially longer deadline, thank god, and I've really had to teach myself that I don't need to have an unreliable narrator facing some sort of mortal pain in every line, like many of my stories and novels previously have had, and that it's okay to just have fun, line by line, day by day, writing for the entertainment of it all. I've been asked by a lot of people why I decided to do these books and my answer has been the same each time: It seemed like it would be pretty cool. It seemed like I'd reach about 50,000 more readers than I usually do. It seemed like a great way to learn, again, how to write something completely out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself in new and interesting ways. And the end result? Well, I guess you'll know in August.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mr. Monk and the Parallel Universe

I thought the two-part MONK season finale was great, but it points out one of the pitfalls of writing a tie-in series while the TV show that it is based on is still in production. It means that there are going to be some continuity miss-matches between the TV series and the books...and there's nothing that can be done about it.

I finished my book MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY back in October 2007 and it will be published in July 2008. In between that time, the MONK writers wrote, produced and broadcast the season finale. I am now well into writing MR. MONK IS MISERABLE, which comes out next the time I deliver that manuscript, the MONK writers will have just begun writing the season seven scripts. You can see the problem.

Andy Breckman, the creator and executive producer of MONK, knows in advance what I will be writing and approves the storylines. But I certainly don't expect him or his staff to feel creatively bound to any of the events or details that I create in my books. The show comes first. That said, there are bound to be diehard fans who expect strict continuity between the books and the TV series ...and they are going to stumble over a few miss-matches.

Both my book and the finale, "Mr. Monk is on the Run," involve Monk encountering a man with six fingers on one hand. That's actually okay. A fan could assume that my book takes place before the events in the season finale. In fact, it only reinforces Monk's attitude towards the "second" man with 11 fingers that he meets. The book and the episode would fit together pretty well chronologically, "factually," and even emotionally, if not for the last scene of the two-parter.

Oh well.

I have a disclaimer in my books that warns readers that, while I try hard to stay close to the continuity of the show, the long lead time of the books makes that next to impossible (an entire season is produced between when I turn in the book and when it comes out).

I read all the scripts and I talk to Andy about what he has in mind for the season ahead, but even so, continuity problems are bound to happen. Hypothetically, for example, Sharona may come back on the show some day and the story they come up with may have nothing to do with MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS (and, unless they adapt the book, won't acknowledge those events at all).

I don't obsess about the miss-matches and neither does Andy. He once said to me that, in his mind, the Monk TV series and the Monk books are separate entities...the same characters in parallel universes...and while they are consistent with one another most of the time, there are bound to be some differences now and then.

There's the TV shows and there are the books. They are not one in the same. He is okay with that and so am I. I hope that most of the fans will be, too.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Where the Wild Tie-In Writers Are

More and more high profile authors are turning to tie-ins. Dave Eggers, author of A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS, is writing the novelization of the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's picture book WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. The novelization will be based on the script by Eggers' and director Spike Jonze, which expands on Sendak's 300-word book. Publishers Weekly reports that the novelization was Eggers' idea but it was Sendak who lobbied Eggers to be the one to write the tie-in. Harper Collins will publish the book, Eggers' first since 2000 not to be published under his own McSweeney's banner. It was not an easy deal to craft:

The publisher acquired world rights to the novel about a year ago, in a deal that involved not only Eggers but lawyers from Warner Brothers, since a tie-in book was already part of the movie contract. Intellectual property rights of both Sendak and HarperCollins (Where the Wild Things Are was originally published by Harper & Row) also had a bearing on terms. As [editor Dan] Halpern put it, negotiations involved “many different moving parts.” But the goal was always to have any tie-in book published by a Harper imprint, per the preexisting deal between Warner Brothers and Harper, which owns publication rights to the Wild Things franchise. Sendak, who has since been affiliated with other houses, agreed “there was something correct” about Harper doing Eggers's book.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Latest News from IAMTW Members

Karen Traviss and Sean Williams have been nominated for the Phillip K Dick Award.

Christa Faust's novel MONEY SHOT received a rave review in Crimespree Magazine and so has Max Allan Collins' AMERICAN GANGSTER novelization.