Thursday, December 15, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
We want to do our small part to help out.
The International Association of Media Tie-in Writers is suspending annual dues for current and new members effective immediately and on through 2012...dues will be re-instated on January 1, 2013.
That doesn't mean we'll be shutting down and riding out the economic storm...quite the opposite.
We'll continue to introduce our members to tie-in editors and licensing execs with our quarterly mailing of member credits and contact info...we'll continue to put out TIED-IN, our newsletter about tie-in writing...we'll continue to give out the Scribe awards for excellence in media tie-in writing...and we'll continue to moderate our highly popular private discussion board for media tie-in professionals.
And over the next month or two, we will also be renovating our website, freshening up our Facebook presence, and adding an audio category to our Scribe Awards.
We hope this will not only help our current members but also draw some new professional tie-in writers into the fold.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Night Terror is set late in season six of Supernatural, which followed the huge apocalypse arc that concluded in season five. I was told right up front by the editor that my book should be a "monster" book, not anything dealing with the angel/demon mythos that had ostensibly concluded.
The premise of my novel is that a sleepy town in Colorado becomes terrorized by nightmares that come to life, which includes everything from B-movie monsters to natural disasters to Nazi zombies.
I tried to include classic psychological and anxiety-driven nightmare situations along with the type of fantastical nightmares young sleepers might have. My family brainstormed with me around the dinner table a couple evenings in a row to help me come up with assorted nightmares.
Of course, the Winchester brothers head to the town to stop whatever is causing the nightly mayhem, and soon realize that because of their horror-filled personal histories (for example, one brother has spent time in hell; the other was possessed by the devil), they had better not fall asleep, perchance to dream.
How did you come to write for Supernatural?
I've been a Supernatural fan since the first season's first show and my enjoyment of the show has grown as the mythos has become richer. My wife is a huge fan, as are my two sons, so my writing Night Terror was almost as exciting for them as it was for me. I reclaimed some of the cool factor father's tend to lose in the eyes of their children once they hit their teen years.
Do you think you have to be a fan of a show to write a successful tie-in?
Every writer would probably have a different answer to that question. My answer is yes, I need to be a fan of the show. That might limit my options for writing tie-ins, but I need to feel the same elevated level of excitement and intensity for tie-in projects that I have when I'm writing my own novels. I would never want to take on a project where I felt I was going through the motions of writing just to earn a pay check.
Did the storyline change much from the original outline during the writing process?
Not a whole lot. The biggest changes were subordinating the ultimate cause of the living nightmares in the overall plot, accelerating the story and expanding the scope of the nightmares.
I talked to [show-creator] Eric Kripke's assistant on the phone and she suggested adding a town-wide tragedy to the mix to expand the "reason" for the monster's appearance. She also told me to take a "no censors, no budget" approach to the novel, meaning I should show more violence than they are allowed on network television and take advantage of the cost-free special effects afforded by printed words on the page.
One fansite said Night Terror has the feel of a Supernatural feature film, so I think I succeeded on that front.
How did you first start writing tie-in books?
After my first, co-author novel, Wither, came out, the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed it and said that it "hits the groove that makes TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer such a kick."
I was a huge fan of Buffy and reading that review, I thought, maybe I could write a Buffy tie-in novel. I approached Lisa Clancy, the editor of the Buffy books at the time with that quote and my stated enthusiasm for the show and asked how I should go about being considered to write one of the novels.
She told me to write a complete 10-12 page outline and a scene featuring all the main characters, which would ensure I could write their voices. That was the first time I wrote a complete book outline from start to finish in such detail before writing the book itself. I decided if I couldn't nail the characters' voices in the sample chapter, I wouldn't bother submitting the proposal.
Members of my family were also fans of the show, so I asked some of them to read my sample chapter and let me know if I had accurately captured the voices. They thought I did, so I submitted my proposal and it was accepted.
Ghoul Trouble, the editor said I would be a good fit for the new Angel tie-in novels and asked if I would consider submitting a proposal for one. That book became Angel: Avatar. A few years later, the new editor called with an open slot for another Angel novel, and that turned into Angel: Monolith.
For Night Terror, Cath Trechman, the Supernatural tie-in editor at Titan Books, found me through my website, saw I had written other tie-ins and wrote supernatural thrillers, thought I would be a good fit and asked if I'd be interested in submitting. So, other than my first inquiry for Buffy, each tie-in book has resulted from an editor contacting me, and that's always a good feeling.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt when you first started writing tie-in material?
As I mentioned, if I hadn't been able to make the characters sound on the page the way they sounded on the screen, I would have stepped away from the tie-in world. I had heard stories of otherwise successful writers who had tried and couldn't do it. I hadn't tried before so I didn't know.
I think that's the first thing you have to learn about yourself as a tie-in writer. Can I capture the character voices, then the tone of the show, then develop a story that feels compatible with the show's universe?
Also, the deadlines are much tighter than for general fiction -- two to three months is very common -- so you have to work fast. That's where having the book completely outlined is invaluable. No worries about writing yourself into a corner or experiencing writer's block. Any logistical, story structure problems would have cropped up much earlier, in the outline stage.
You also write non tie-in material. How important is it to you that you create your own sandpit rather than just playing in someone else's?
Obviously, with your own novels, you have complete creative freedom and expression. It's your creation, your spell to weave. You can kill off any of your characters, take the story in any direction you want. Your story's success equates to your success.
With a tie-in novel, you have to return everything the way you found it. You can't kill off lead characters (unless you can resurrect them convincingly) or alter the show's canon.
I always describe media tie-in novels to readers I meet as having the feel of lost episodes. It doesn't change what you know from the show, but if you enjoy the show then the book is something you should also enjoy.
Creatively, with tie-ins, the setup work – character development and world-building – is already done for you so you can jump right in to the story. On the publication side, the tie-in novel will have a limited readership. By that, I mean it will be a tough sell to anyone unfamiliar with the show.
And, since tie-ins are work for hire, you basically get your payment up front and there's little chance of earning much else from a title no matter how successful it is.
Of course, odds are the show has more fans than the average mid-list writer. So you hope fans of the show who do read the tie-ins will like your work enough in that world that they're willing to venture into your own worlds.
All of my tie-ins have been for supernatural properties and since my own novels are supernatural thrillers, my odds for crossover readers are better than they'd be if my own novels were westerns or romance novels. Even with Night Terror, a few early readers have already emailed me and said they want to try out some of my own novels, such as Shimmer. So that's the best case result.
What's the biggest challenge of writing a tie-in novel?
Nailing the voices and tone of the show. You have to be a good mimic in your writing. Writers strive to develop their own voice, characters and style. When you tackle a tie-in project, the licensed property's characteristics take precedence. It's not necessarily harder or easier, but it's a different skill set. Being a fan of the show certainly helps when you're trying to fit something into the existing show's continuity without repeating something that has been done before. Supernatural was in the middle of its sixth season when I began work on Night Terror and I was familiar with all that history. Even show, I flipped through the show guides to refresh my memory of previous episodes.
What top tip would you give someone who's desperate to become a media tie-in writer?
What works for me and what always comes first is being a fan of the show for which I want to write a tie-in. When I can't wait for the next episode to air, I know I have enough enthusiasm for the show to translate that energy into a successful tie-in novel.
What helped a lot with Supernatural: Night Terror was having access to current scripts. For a while I had access to scripts that were five or six episodes ahead of what had aired. As a viewer, I was very accustomed to hearing the characters on screen. The scripts showed me those voices on paper, which is where I had to create them. Initially, this was to show me how Sam's soul would be restored to his body, since my novel would take place after that event and I needed to be cognizant of the details. But it soon became apparent to me that the scripts were a great asset to have to immerse myself in the voices of the characters. I referred to them often during the writing process.
Supernatural: Night Terror by IAMTW member John Passarella is available now from Amazon US, Amazon UK, B&N and all good bookshops.
For more information about the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers go to www.iamtw.org
Saturday, September 10, 2011
DPL: By profession I’m a cardiologist and I practice in Orange County, California. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. I grew up in Alabama where I attended the University of Alabama for college and the University of Alabama College of Medicine for medical school and internship. I then moved to Houston, Texas where I did my residency in internal medicine and then my cardiology fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute. After that I moved to California and have been here ever since.
Marilyn: How you came about being chosen to write the Royal Painsnovels based on the TV series.
DPL: This came about from my friend Lee Goldberg. He writes the Diagnosis Murder and the Monk media tie-in novels and he was approached about doing the Royal Pains series. He suggested me to the publisher and that’s how it began.
Marilyn: Will you tell us a little bit about the process of putting a TV series into book form?
DPL: Basically when you write a tie-in novel you are using someone else’s characters and creating stories based on the series. This means that there are restrictions regarding what you can do since they control the characters. You can’t go too far afield. So basically you’re taking someone else’s characters and creating a story around them, which of course must be approved by the creators from the beginning and throughout the project. It’s been an interesting and challenging process. I’ve learned a lot, which was my main goal in taking on this project. It’s a new type of writing for me.
[Reposted from Lee Goldberg's Blog]
I write books more for myself than for my readers. I figure if I am not entertained, my reader won't be, either. Author Christa Faust feels the same way...
A reviewer recently accused me of creating a “Mary Sue” character in my Supernatural tie-in COYOTE’S KISS. For those who don’t know what that means, a “Mary Sue” is a too-perfect wish-fulfillment character that represents the author’s own idealized persona.I don't think I've ever created a character in a book or a screenplay that was a personal fuck fantasy figure. I'll have to try that one of these days...but I doubt it will be in a Monk novel.
While I freely admit that the character in question is a wish-fulfillment character, it’s a completely different kind of wish. I created that character not because I’d like to be her, but because I’d like to fuck her. After all, we tie-in writers have to do something to spice up the daily grind.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
BIG SCARY BLOG: Talk about your process for creating a media tie-in book.
MATT FORBECK: If I’m not already familiar with the basis of the book, I immerse myself in it as best I can and become a fan of it too. As I do that, I look for story hooks, little “what about that?” or “wouldn’t that be cool?” bits. Those become the seeds of the novel. Once I have that, I write up an outline, get it approved, and dig in for real.
JEFF GRUBB: I think all media projects have a core ethos, an underlying truth about them. The original creators of the project may not know what it is, and in fact it may evolve over time. One of the goals I have when working on a media tie-in book is to dig down and find that piece, find that core ethos, and remain true to it in the story. Guild Wars 2 is very much about people coming together to fight a greater threat – that is one of Dougal Keane’s major conflicts in the book.Next, I’ll try to find a story that interests me and seems to offer some new angle that neither the show nor its existing tie-in titles have explored. In some cases, such as a tie-in line that’s been running for a while, an editor might ask me to craft a story specifically to advance a part of an ongoing narrative.
DAVID MACK: It’s a lot like most other writers’ processes, I imagine. Either I solicit an editor for a shot at writing for a particular license, or they approach me. Either way, if it’s a property I know well, I might already have ideas ready to pitch and develop. If it’s one that I’m curious about but don’t know intimately, I’ll dig in and immerse myself in it until I start to get a feel for its big picture, its characters and its broader storytelling arcs.
Then I write a proposal, just a few pages, to see if my general idea is what the editor is looking for. Once we settle on an idea, I prepare a much longer and more detailed full outline that can be presented to the license-holder for approval. Once we get the green-light, I go to work on the manuscript.
To stay in the right mindset while working on a given franchise, I’ll try to listen to music soundtracks from it (if they’re available), and have DVDs ready for reference and quick refreshers on characters’ speech patterns, etc. Online references are also often invaluable tools, especially for a series that is still in production while one is working on it. Thank Heaven for the invention of wiki reference sites!
SEAN WILLIAMS: Well, firstly, I have to make sure I know the property sufficiently well to do it justice. With Star Wars or Doctor Who, say, that would be easy: I’ve been a fan of them for decades. Depending on the kind of project, the next step would be to get right down into the details of the story and character, since they’re the aspect of the tie-in most important to get right, at least in the early stages. This is always accomplished in collaboration with editors and other stakeholders in the project–the people who own the property, basically. I’m not just telling a story for me: in a real way I’m just channelling something for someone else. But that is a fun process, and a challenge, one I take very seriously. There are snafus sometimes, without a doubt, but whether I have one month or one year to write a tie-in, I give it the same energy and consideration I would give one of my own books. To do anything less would be to cheat everyone involved.The entire series of interviews is well worth your time, regardless of whether you are into tie-ins. There's a lot of great insights into the craft and business of writing books shared by the authors, all of whom are experienced, hard-working pros.
Nancy Holder won the award for best original novel in the general fiction category for Saving Grace: Tough Love. The honors for best original novel in speculative fiction went to Nathan Long for Warhammer: Bloodborn: Ulrika the Vampire. This is the second time Long has won a Scribe for his work in the Warhammer franchise.
The Wolfman by Jonathan Maberry snagged the Best Adaptation/Novelization award while Nathan Meyer won for Best Novel, Original or Adapted, in the Young Adult category with Dungeons and Dragons: Aldwyns Academy.
Friday, June 3, 2011
The most difficult thing I, personally, found about writing a tie-in was that stories (outside of those stream of consciousness things everyone feels compelled to experiment with in college) require the protagonists to learn something, and then to grow and change as a result of it. (As a writing mentor once said, "Your story needs to be about the most interesting thing that ever happened in this character's life. If this is not the most interesting that ever happened to them, then throw away the story you're currently writing, and write about that.")
Good advice, if you're writing a stand-alone novel. But, as part of a series (not to mention part of a television series), that can be tricky...
Especially if the series you're writing about is going on even as you're composing your story.
With a tie-in, what you want to do is have your character learn something, grow and change... and still be the same person they were when the story started. I visualized the journey as a rope, of which you then tie up the loose ends. Your hero/heroine have to come full circle and end up in the same place they started, so that their adventure may be neatly slipped into the fabric of the main (more important) text - the show, without causing barely a ripple.
Monday, April 4, 2011
This year’s Grandmaster is Peter David, who has worked in television, film, books (fiction, non-fiction and audio), short stories, and comic books. He’s the acclaimed author of over fifty novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers. His extraordinarily prolific output of consistently excellent books includes two dozen original Star Trek novels, three Babylon 5 novels and novelizations of such major motion pictures as Spiderman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, and The Hulk.
David is also one of the most successful and acclaimed comic book scripters in the business with popular runs on such titles as Supergirl, Star Trek, Wolverine and, in particular, his work on The Incredible Hulk franchise (in comics as well as books). His many awards include the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Award. He lives in New York with his wife Kathleen and their three children.
Our 2011 Scribe Nominees are:
CSI: SHOCK TREATMENT by Greg Cox
BURN NOTICE: The Giveaway by Tod Goldberg
MIKE HAMMER: THE BIG BANG by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
MURDER SHE WROTE: The Queen's Jewels by Donald Bain
PSYCH: The Call of the Mild by William Rabkin
SAVING GRACE: TOUGH LOVE by Nancy Holder
GUILD WARS: GHOSTS OF ASCALON by Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb
STAR TREK: MIRROR UNIVERSE: THE SORROWS OF THE EMPIRE by David Mack
STAR WARS: FORCE UNLEASHED II by Sean Williams
SUPERNATURAL: HEART OF THE DRAGON by Keith R. A. DeCandido
WARHAMMER: BLOODBORN: ULRIKA THE VAMPIRE by Nathan Long
FINAL CRISIS by Greg Cox
GOD OF WAR by Matthew Stover & Robert E. Vardeman
THE WOLFMAN by Jonathan Maberry
BEST YOUNG ADULT
ALPHA & OMEGA: THE JUNIOR NOVEL by Aaron Rosenberg
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: ALDWYNS ACADEMY by Nathan Meyer
THUNDERBIRDS: SITUATION CRITICAL by Joan Marie Yerba
The Fifth Annual Scribe Awards will be given at a ceremony and panel discussion held during Comic Con International in San Diego in July 2011. Details will be announced soon.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
My second-to-last Burn Notice novel,"The Reformed", comes out today, to be followed this summer by my last Burn Notice novel, "The Bad Beat," so in honor of that, and because my ego demands that I tell you all every small, insignificant detail about my life, here's a bit of background information about the writing of the book. (If you'd like signed copies of the book -- or any of my books, for that matter -- I suggest you contact the fine people at The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles: They'll have signed copies after this weekend. And if you live in Los Angeles, I'll be doing a booksigning this Saturday at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks at 2pm, along with my brother Lee, who'll be signing his latest Monk book.)
1. The client's name is Eduardo Santiago. He's a Cuban gangster who has been....wait for it...reformed. I don't know a lot of Cubans. But one I do know is the excellent writer Eduardo Santiago, author of Tomorrow They Will Kiss and a former student of mine. So when I started the book, I used his name as sort of a place holder for another non-Eduardo Santiago name. But then, after 300-some pages of him being Eduardo Santiago, well, he became Eduardo Santiago for good. Sorry Eduardo.
2. There's a hard-as-nails-and-other-cliches-friend of Sam's named Chris Alessio. Chris and I went to elementary and middle school together and then I didn't seem him for 25 years. When I finally did see him, I found out he was damn near a professional paintball player and wrote extensively on paintball stuff for a variety of different magazines. So when I needed information about paintball markers and needed a hard-as-nails-etc bad ass, he became Chris Alessio.
3. Julia Pistell, whose name appears in this book as a person who has had their identity stolen, went to graduate school with me and is one of the best humans alive. She happened to be visiting Wendy and me last January, when I was in the middle of the book, but didn't have a title yet. However, the fine people at Penguin needed a title and needed it right now, except that right now happened to be while Julia, Wendy and I were eating lunch at a deli in Palm Desert. So I said to Wendy and Julia, hey, anyone got a title? And Julia came up with The Reformed. (This was after The Godfather was rejected.)
4. I finished writing this book last March. I started it in December 2009. So, at that point, I'd read the scripts through the middle of season 3. I tell you this so when I get the inevitable email from someone asking me why X happened when Y happened in Season 4, I can remind them that Season 4 didn't exist when I wrote this book, even though it does now (which is why Jesse isn't in the book). Generally, as with all the books I've written in the Burn Notice series, I try to keep them evergreen so they don't work in lockstep with the seasons and can be read any time.
5. There are swear words in this book. Just to clarify my position on you being offended by swear words: Oh, go fuck yourself. This isn't a kids book. Nut the fuck up. You don't like it? Don't buy the fucking book. Really. Have a great day!