Please welcome our June featured author, Duane Swierczynski!
Interview by Don Crouch, New Mystery Reader
Dude!! Thanks for taking some time, what’s the insanity factor in your life these days?
Fairly high, but it’s the good kind of insanity. The insanity I’ve been dreaming about since I was a teenager. I mean, really: the moment I start complaining about writing novels and comic books for a living, you have permission to put a bullet in my head.
Let’s start with SEVERANCE PACKAGE, which is quite a remarkable accomplishment.....talk a little bit about the genesis of the project....
Severance has many mothers, but I guess the first little seed was planted when I read about the Valerie Plame case, and how she ran a company that was pretty much a CIA front. I wondered: geez, imagine being of the poor schlubs who works there, totally clueless about what’s really going. Because I would have been one of those poor schlubs.
The narrative matrix is fascinating, did you plot out each one and then sit down to knit them together, or did you put the whole thing together as you wrote it?
I wrote Severance with no outline, no plot in mind—just the opening situation, and a vague idea about where it might end up. (Which changed on me, anyway.) I have plotted, and still do—especially with comic book scripts. But there’s no thrill like totally winging it.
The book seems very cinematic, and early reviews are screaming for it to be filmed, were you thinking about that as it came together?
No—but it might seem cinematic, because my method of writing involves transcribing what’s happening in the movie in my head. I don’t think it’s a good idea to write with Hollywood in mind, just as it isn’t a good idea to write with a market in mind. The story is the boss.
Speaking of movies, we were jacked to hear that THE BLONDE has been optioned and all that stuff....where are we in that process, and if you could pick the writer and director, who would it be?
Well, there is a writer, and I couldn’t be happier: Paul Leyden, whose debut script, The Factory, was just filmed, starring John Cusack.
We’re excited for the potential of Michelle Monaghan playing The Blonde!! With the recent announcement of her pregnancy, will that have any affect on the schedule?
It’s still early—I know Paul is working on the screenplay, and that’s usually the first step with these things.
Based on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, she seems pretty suited for this gig, from a skills standpoint and from, uh, the zeitgeist side of things too....
Oh yeah. I fell in love with her in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, too. How can you not fall in love with someone who’s so into old vintage paperbacks?
OK, crucial question, who do you like for The Operative?
That’s the crucial casting question? Seriously?
Well, maybe not crucial, but we love the guy….
Actually, when I write a character, I never have a specific actor—or person—in mind. Their faces tend to be blurs; what I mostly hear is how they talk.
In the last few months, you’ve become a major player in the comics world, writing Moon Knight, Cable and Iron Fist for Marvel Comics, talk a little bit about that world, and what it’s like as a novelist making that transition.
I’d take issue with that “major player” part—I’m still so new at this, I still believe there’s an Olympic-sized pool on top of the Marvel building…..
You mean there isn’t one?
…..But comics remind me a lot of journalism, in terms of the deadlines. I’m doing 2-3 scripts per month right now, and it’s almost like a weekly deadline. Plus, there’s constant feedback from my editors, and story idea meetings… again, not unlike editorial meetings at a magazine or newspaper. If something sucks, I know immediately.
With a novel, I pretty much crawl into my mental cave for months on end, then emerge with a manuscript. If something sucks, I don’t find out until I’m finished.
Most of our readers are, shall we say, not in the superhero demographic, but there are some great “non-powered” crime comics out there telling rich, detailed stories.....any recommendations for them?
Hands-down, my favorite is Ed Brubaker’s CRIMINAL, which is brilliant, primal and gorgeous to look at. Crime fiction junkies would also love Jason Aaron’s SCALPED and Brian Azzarello’s 100 BULLETS.
What crime novelists out there are exciting you these days?
Argh, I hate this question, because I always forget someone I absolutely love. So let me cheat and list a few things on my Amazon wish list right now (which is how I keep track of future books I want to remember to pick up): Joe Lansdale’s Leather Maiden, Don Winslow’s The Dawn Patrol, Ken Bruen’s Once Were Cops, Jeff Abbott’s Collision, and Charlie Huston’s Every Last Drop.
You’ve done a couple “interactive” novels—one about Sherlock Holmes—THE CRIMES OF DR. WATSON, the other BATMAN-MURDER AT WAYNE MANOR (Quirk Books) that are truly fascinating, where did they come from?
Totally the idea of the publisher, Quirk Books. They asked if I knew anybody who’d want to write them, and being the shameless opportunist I am, said: “How about me?”
They remind us a lot of the GRIFFIN AND SABINE stuff that Nick Bantock did back in the 90’s, only with, you know, crime and stuff...
That was definitely one of the inspirations for the book, as were those Dennis Wheatley interactive mysteries from the 1970s.
Will you play in this particular sandbox again?
I have a few ideas in mind, but it depends totally on Quirk.
So what happens next for you, Duane....is the next novel in the hopper, and what can you tell us about it?
There are these crazy, neurotic writers who are very superstitious when it comes to talking about forthcoming books… and I’m one of them. Sorry!
Well, that’s about all the time we have, amigo....great thanks for speaking with us today, thanks for SEVERANCE PACKAGE, which is without doubt one of the most entertaining reads of 2008, we hope it’s a huge success for you!!
Thanks so much, Don!
Duane Swierczynski is the author of The Blonde (St. Martin's Minotaur) and the writer for the Marvel Comics series Cable and The Immortal Iron Fist. Until recently he was the editor in chief of the Philadelphia City Paper, and almost never wanted to kill his employees. Visit him at www.duaneswierczynski.com!