Bruce Campbell Talks About His New Book and His Traveling Game Show

If you’re not aware of Bruce Campbell you may have stumbled onto this web site in error.

A working actor for four decades, Campbell is probably best known for his role of Ash in the “Evil Dead” films and TV series, but has also turned in fine performances in such films as “Bubba Ho-Tep,” Congo” and the television series “Burn Notice.” Mr. Campbell is also an author, currently touring the country in support of his third and latest book “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor.”

He’s promoting his book and hosting his interactive game show, “The Last Fan Standing,” at the Kansas City Alamo Draft House. While traveling the country to promote his work, Mr. Campbell took a few moments out of his busy schedule to speak with Media Mikes!

Mike Smith: You note in your new book that you’re now at a time in your career where it’s easier to say no to a role. Was there ever a role in the past that you regret not accepting?

Bruce Campbell: Nope. Nope. Because if you don’t like the work that is on the page you’re not going to like the work that is on the stage, as they say. Which means if you didn’t like it on paper you’re not going to like the finished film. That’s the blueprint for the movie…the script. I mean I’ve never turned anything down and later went, “Wow, they made that piece of shit turn out pretty good!” (laughs) I always feel confident that when I turn material down it’s because it’s not strong material. That’s the best way to go, instead of thinking “you know, maybe that director can turn it around” or “that actor could be good in that crappy part.” So now I intuitively go to the script now and if the script isn’t good I’m not going to do it.

MS: You note in the book that, while working on “Spider-man 3,” Toby McGuire tongue-in-cheek commented that “we can’t make a Spider-man movie without Bruce Campbell!” Were you approached to appear in either of the re-boots?

BC:
No I wasn’t. And I wouldn’t have anyway because if Sam’s not doing it I’m not doing it. (NOTE: Mr. Campbell has collaborated no less then nine times with director Sam Raimi. He is also a favorite of the Coen Brothers).

MS: Can you tell us what fans can expect when the participate in your interactive game show “The Last Fan Standing?”

BC: It’s a really fun show. My buddy Steve Sellery had called me and wanted me to come host a game show for the troops. He works for the military. So I went to a base in San Antonio with this game. The format is that everyone in the audience has a clicker. Everybody plays. We don’t weed anybody out. We don’t hand select. We don’t vet anybody. They could be an idiot when they get up there. (laughs) We begin with some preliminary rounds. It’s a regular game show format but it’s different in that it’s a game show for geeks. We have questions like “How much does Thor’s hammer weigh?” Questions that only geeks would know. But after I thought of a trivia show for the troops I told Steve that this would translate perfectly into my world. We’ve done it dozens of times and now we’re taking it on the road to 17 or so cities. (NOTE: Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, is said to have been forged from the inside of a star, which would make it pretty damn heavy. Some comics have it being made of Uru, a metal found only on Asgard. The Uru version is said to weigh 42.3 pounds)

MS: Your new books ends with the words END OF CHAPTER TWO. Are you gathering new stories now for CHAPTER THREE?

BC: Every day. Every day, my friend. Every day is a new adventure! I’m thinking that in 15 years I’ll publish my final confessions. That will be MY George Lucas trilogy.

Fat Mike of NOFX talks about the bands new book “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories”.

Mike Burkett better know to the world as Fat Mike is the bassist/lead vocalists for California punk rock band NOFX and owner of Fat Wreck Chords. Together with first time writer Jeff Alulis and his band mates Eric Melvin, Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and Erik “Smelly” Sandin the guys have just released their first tell autobiography aptly titled “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories”. The book which is being released via Da Capo Press is a down and dirty tale of punk rock debauchery told candidly by those who lived it. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Fat Mike recently about the book and also about the bands upcoming album and tour.

Adam Lawton: Where did the idea for you guys to do a book come from?

Fat Mike: It was something that we had been talking doing now for awhile. It wasn’t until I read “The Dirt” by Motley Crue that I started to take doing our own book seriously. Once I read that book it got me thinking that NOFX could do a really good book because I think our stories our better. Our stories are a little less rock and roll. I had also read the book “Please Kill Me” which really changed me as I thought the book was just so good. Our story is right up there but totally different so we said “let’s do a book”.

AL: Did the other members of the band have any reservations about doing this type of book being that it was going to go pretty deep?

FM: There were things that I knew the guys were going to be a little uneasy to talk about. Eric Melvin had never talked about being molested before and Smelly never wanted to talk about his times with Courtney Love. Those guys went in and gave it all up for the book. Smelly really told everything which makes the book his in a lot of ways. We had to wait this long to do this because 10 years ago guys wouldn’t have wanted to tell these stories. You have to get to a point in your life where you are comfortable to talk about these things. For me the chapter which talks about cross dressing was something we added at the last minute because as of 2 years ago I wasn’t ready to talk about that publicly.

AL: Was it difficult revisiting some of those darker memories that make it into the book?

FM: The chapter where I talk about killing my mom was from a very hard part of my life but at the same time I think it was one of the best things I have ever done. My mom brought me into this world and raised me and I was able to give her the greatest gift I could ever give by helping her when she needed it. I wanted to put this in the book because it’s a heroic thing to be able to do that when someone needs your help in that way. Just letting the doctors take care of it is bullshit. That’s what a coward would do. My lawyer didn’t want me to put that stuff in the book so there’s a line stating that it’s the only part of the book that’s not true. (Laughs)

AL: What was it like going back and reading some of the chapters written by former band members?

FM: The chapter with Dave Casillas was really funny because he denied a lot of the stuff at first but then by the end of his interview he said “I guess it could have all happened”.  During the older days of the band when everyone was doing a lot of drugs I only drank beer so my memory from those years is really good. I remember stuff no one else does. It’s the past 15 years that I have a problem remembering. (Laugh)  I just remember those early days so well. Nowadays we will do a House of Blues tour or something like that where everyday kind of blends into the next however, when we first started we would stay at some ones house and sleep on their floor for 3 days, get crabs and then get told not come back. (Laughs) Those are the things you remember.

AL: Were there pieces of the book done separately or were there portions that everyone worked on together?

FM: Everything was done separately. That was something that Jeff Alulis wanted so that we would be able to open up more. What I love about the book is that after reading it we all learned things about one another that we had never known. There was one part of the book I had to call Eric Melvin about just to give him a warning about what he was going to read because it’s a pretty hard thing to read.

AL: What was it like working with Jeff in this capacity as compared to the group’s previous video work with him on “Backstage Passport”?

FM: It was difficult and very trying at times. He didn’t change any of our stories but he did change some of the wording to make himself look like a better writer. (Laughs) He used words that I would have never said. It was still the same thing but he just cleaned it up a bit and made it readable. We went with someone who had never written a book before because we didn’t want someone with a lot of experience who would take our experiences and change them. Jeff felt his way through the book and the early reviews have been great so I think we made the right decision. I am really proud how it turned out.

AL: Did you notice any similarities between writing a book and writing an album?

FM: Our new album is I think our most personable album yet. For me it was like peeling off my skin. The new album which will come out in June is the first album that I wrote and recorded a lot of while I was using drugs. In the past I have always gone into the studio and recorded sober. What I found while working on this album was that I cared more. After I would do a line I became extremely focused on making whatever song I was working on the best it could be. A lot of this came from not only writing the book but also from when I was working on the “Home Street Home” musical. With a musical you can’t put in one word that’s not needed as you have 2 hours to tell an entire story. You can’t waste a word. You will definitely be able to tell the influences of the book and the musical on this new album.

AL: With a book and album coming out this year what are the bands tour plans?

FM: When we make a record we tend to not tour like a lot of other bands do. Our schedule generally doesn’t change in that we will do a two week tour, have six weeks off and then we will do another two week run of shows. With having a book out we really want it make the New York Times Best Seller list so we are going to be doing a bunch of signings and stuff like that to help promote the book. The book was already in its fifth run of printing prior to the release on April 12th so we are really excited for everything.

Be sure to check out our review of NOFX’s “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories” in the book review section of the site.

 

Randall Wallace Talks About “Living the Braveheart Life”

Randall Wallace may not be a man you know by name, but you most definitely know his work. A prolific screenwriter, director, producer, and songwriter, he is most well known for writing the films Braveheart, The Man in the Iron Mask, Pearl Harbor, and Heaven is for Real. His Braveheart screenplay garnered him a Writers Guild of America Award and both a Golden Globe nomination and Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. In addition to writing, he is also the producer behind films such as We Were Soldiers, as well as being the director of Secretariat and Heaven is for Real, among others. I was lucky enough to sit down with Mr. Wallace to discuss the release of his upcoming book: Living the Braveheart Life: Finding the Courage to Follow Your Heart. The book itself is an interesting read, as it is both biographical and motivational, asking readers to ask themselves what it is they are willing to die for. Readers will learn the story behind the story of the Braveheart script, while learning about the man who wrote it.

You’ve written in quite a few different mediums- songs, books, screenplays- how does your writing process differ between them?

“I think about that a lot, and I never have a consistent answer. I think that everything that’s true is complicated. Everything that’s true has a paradox about it. You’re trying to find the most simple way to say something and finding that simplicity is what’s difficult. There has to be a great deal of courage to start the writing journey. Writing is an act of faith.”

You write a lot of stories of these epic adventures where the everyman steps up to become the hero. With that in mind, do you ever see your own story being turned into any sort of film in the future?

“I don’t know. (laughs) Robert Redford is a little old to play me now. Honestly, I think it would be a hard story to tell. I know it because I try to tell it in some ways in this book. I have three sons, and I wonder at times what their perception of me is because in some ways, their’s is the only one I care about. Everybody else’s opinion of me is whatever it is, but their’s matters, and it matters not so much in what it says about me, but what it says about them. You know, to them, I might sit down and scribble away on a piece of paper and get paid for it, but behind that there are the thousand rejections and nights of despair. I want you to know that I was as much alive when no one knew who I was as I am now. I hesitated about writing this book because really Braveheart is the story, and in movies, maybe you don’t need to see behind the curtain- why would you want to? In a certain way, I think my life is a movie- it’s called Braveheart, it’s called Pearl Harbor. In a way, I can express more of the truth of whatever is me through that stories that move me.”

What’s next for you? Are there any projects you can share?

“I’ve got a new project that is about military working dogs- the SEAL team dogs. The dogs are warriors too, and the interplay between not just human and canine but the sense that we all want to find what is essential in ourselves so that we can make contact with it. In Heaven is for Real, it was a really a deep exploration into spirit and faith. Now I want to do something that’s gritty.”

Randall Wallace’s Living the Braveheart Life: Finding the Courage to Follow Your Heart is available for pre-order now and will go on sale September 8, 2015.

Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe talks about new album “Resolution” and his memoir “Dark Days”

Randall Blythe is probably best known for his work as lead singer of the band Lamb of God. In 2012 while on tour in support of their latest album “Resolution” Blythe was arrested upon entry into the Czech Republic as part of an investigation related to the death a fan at one of the bands shows 2 years prior. “Dark Days: A Memoir” is the first book release by Randy which details this ordeal from the days leading up to the arrest and the roller coaster ride which ensued during the preceding months. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Randy recently about the book, what it was like reliving those experiences and also about the bands upcoming album and summer tour run.

Adam Lawton: What was it like going back through your journals and reliving those experiences during the writing of the book?

Randy Blythe: I think people were looking for me to have some sort of cathartic experience during the writing of this book and it just wasn’t. For the most part it was an unpleasant experience. It wasn’t fun while I was going through it and it wasn’t fun writing it. I think the story has value and there are some things in there that might help some people actually. I think this story needed to be told before my memories faded too much. I was thankful for the journals I had. It was weird to look back at them and read about this low point in my life. This wasn’t the first time I had looked back at journals where things weren’t going well but when I looked back at this specific journal and the fact that I was writing it while in a Czech prison was really heavy. There are some funny parts in the book but for the most part it was not a lot of fun going back. I learned a lot about the writing process through this whole thing but again it wasn’t very enjoyable.

AL: Did you have to do a lot of self editing when you were making your way through the chapters?

RB: I all heard was that we have to amputate things. (Laughs) That was more at the very end. Prior to that I was able to just write and write. When I write I am very clean and careful so there is not a lot of re-writing that has to be done. Aside from some grammatical era’s which the copy editors handled there wasn’t a lot of restructuring. When I first started I had this sort of romantic view of a writer/editor relationship as I had read stories about writers that I liked that had these intense relationships with their editors where they fought back and forth about what was going in the book. That’s what I was expecting but instead I got a lot of encouragement which is what I needed. I guess I wanted my hand held a little bit through the process but, I didn’t get that. (Laughs)

AL: Was there ever any worry about bringing further attention to these events and their relationship to the band?

RB: I had to examine that and certainly think about it for awhile. I don’t think there can be much more attention drawn to the situation that what has already happened. Anytime an article or something comes out whether its something it’s something as simple as going to Disney Land the events from the Czech Republic are going to be mentioned. No matter if it’s applicable or not it gets mentioned. There’s just so much misinformation out there about this that I figured if it’s going to be talked about I might as well set the record straight. If this brings the story to new people then at least they will know the real story. It won’t be something they found on the internet which needed to be put through Google translator or something like that. They get the straight dope from me. I wrote the book in a way that people from outside the metal scene will understand. I wanted people not from that world to read this as well. There is enough universal treatment and value related to personal accountability that no matter where you are in life you can relate to a degree.

AL: When this is all done do you feel you will be able to close the book on maybe just a small piece of that experience?

RB: Yes. I know I am going to be still continually asked about this but once press and everything is done for the book and it gets brought up later on I can just refer people to the 500 page book I wrote about it. That’s it. Just a very short answer as the book has everything people need to know about what happened.

AL: The first two songs from the band’s new album “512” and “Overlord” are quite different from one another can you tell us about that and if there was anything different in the creative process this time around for you guys?

RB: “Overlord” is actually the first song the guys have done where I can sing over the top of it. It isn’t a bid deal or something that was done consciously. One day Willie was playing some blues licks and I started humming along and that’s really all that happened. It just was very natural and organic. As far as how things were done with this album it was all the same. We have been doing this for 21 years now so we aren’t reinventing the wheel or anything like that. We have been doing this a long time and it is what it is. We just try and grow as musicians with each new album.

AL: The band kicks off a summer tour run in a few weeks can you tell us about that and any other plans you guys might have for 2015?

RB: We will be out on the road with Slipknot for 8 weeks. After that we have about a month off before heading over to South America for 3 shows. After that we head to Europe for about 5 weeks with Children of Bodom and then we will be in the UK with Megadeth.

AL: After what happened in the Czech Republic does traveling to these other countries every worry you at all?

RB: No. From time to time when I’m walking down the jet way I do get a little nervous. (Laughs) I have been around the world twice and it wasn’t ever like I was in hiding for two years or something like that. I was right back on the road immediately after everything was over.

Be sure to check out our review of “Dark Days: A Memoir” in the review section of the site.

Author Jason Offutt talks about his latest book “A Funeral Story”

Depending on who you ask, Jason Offutt is one of the leading journalists on things that go bump in the night, or he’s the helpful professor for hundreds of future journalism students at Northwest Missouri State University. Both can agree though, he’s a damn good writer. Avid readers of Jason’s work might be surprised by his next release, “A Funeral Story”. Instead of providing a good non-fiction scare, and a need to leave a nightlight on, Jason has crafted a fiction book that will have people snickering and laughing as they turn the page. Jason Offutt took time during a busy finals week at Northwest to talk with Media Mikes about his first novel.

Jeremy Werner: Alright Jason, tell us about “A Funeral Story”
Jason Offutt: “A Funeral Story” is a story about a 30-year-old man that still lives at home, plays dungeon and dragons with his old high school buddies every Friday and nobody knows that he likes to pick up and have sex with strange women at funerals.

JW: (laughs) Where does an idea like that come from?
JO: I have no idea, actually, where it came from. I was sitting at Kansas City International Airport waiting for a flight to Houston and it just popped into my head. I carry a notebook everywhere and I probably wrote three chapters as I was waiting on a plane.

JW: So this isn’t based on anyone?
JO: No. Nobody at all.

JW: Do you see any of yourself in this character?
JO: No. I never picked up any strange people at funerals…I think lots of writers do this, they try to put people in ridiculous situations and see how they react. And somebody trying to pick up sex at a funeral is probably the most extreme I could think of. That’s probably where it came from.

JW: I’ve read the book and it can be pretty filthy. Was there any part of you that was worried about publishing something like this?
JO: Well…a little bit because what I’ve written before is family friendly. So to that extent, yes. I am going to put a warning out there for people who are use to my non-fiction that this is not family friend, but one of the things that I’ve been known to do is take things to a level that people probably shouldn’t go to. (laughs) That’s what I did with this.

JW: Now, if someone who doesn’t know you was to look at your previous writing examples, and even people who’ve read all your works, they’ll notice you usually write about the paranormal. Were you starting to get burnt out on writing about the paranormal or did you just want a change of scenery?
JO: Right. I’ve been finding that out. I’m going to be on a Travel Channel show this season because I’m the go-to paranormal guy. But…I’ve always wanted to write novels. Ever since I was 10-years-old, I remember telling my parents I’ve wanted to write novels when I grew up and of course they laughed, rubbed my head, and sent me off to play. But that’s something I’ve wanted to do forever. I’ve been stuck with the non-fiction mainly because I was a journalist for 17 years and that’s what I’ve done. And I finally decided…if I want to write novels, I should probably do it because if I don’t now, I’m going to regret it later.

JW: Is this your first novel?
JO: It’s my first novel being published. I wrote one before it that’s being published in a year from January. I got two novels coming out in 2016. They’re a book series on…it’s an apocalyptic type series.

JW: Are you going to stick with fiction for a while or do you see yourself going back to writing about paranormal occurrences and what not?
JO: If the right subject, the right book hits me, yeah, I’ll definitely go back to non-fiction. But I’m having a lot of fun right now writing fiction.

JW: In terms of your fiction writing, do you ever see yourself straying away from humor and going more for a serious tone?
JO: No matter what I write, something funny comes out because that’s just what I’m use to. I really, really want to write a horror story. I really want to write something terrifying. So that’s something I got going on in the future.

JW: I assume you’ll pull some inspiration from some of the real-life horror stories you’ve heard from people.
JO: Oh yes. I’m definitely going to heavily rely on the non-fiction work that I’ve done on the paranormal and on ghosts, spirits, monsters. I think that’ll help…lend it a lot of realism.

JW: I know you’re always working on something. Do you have anything that you’re piecing together and working on now?
JO: I’m working on something. I’ve got a lot of notes down. My wife and I just had a baby about a month and a half ago.
JW: Oh wow. Congratulations. I didn’t hear that.
JO: Well, (laughs) it was a bit of a surprise because I had vasectomy six years ago.
JW: Oh. Holy crap.
JO: (laughs) Yeah…I was OK six years ago, everything went well, but I was one in a couple of thousand people that found out my super power is I can heal myself. So I took notes throughout the pregnancy and wrote a bunch of funny stuff that happened. The tentative name for the book is “The Vasectomy Diaries”.

JW: I know you’ve written about your kids and being a father before. Do you still do that?
JO: I still write a weekly humor column and I write funny stuff about the kids, once and a while when they do something ridiculous, which is quite a bit. So I still do that kind of writing.

JW: I know you have a lot of different projects and there was a monster killing book you were working on. How’s that coming along?
JO: I found a publisher and it’s coming out in January.
JW: Tell us about it.
JO: The book’s called “How to Kill Monsters Using Common Household Items”. It’s a book about what would happen if the monsters took over and invaded your house. What do you have if a werewolf breaks into your house? What do you have lying around that you can use to kill it? And I go through just random things around your house that could kill a werewolf, vampire, demonic clown, gnome, killer robot from the future, velociraptor, lots of other different types of monsters.

JW: Is this another humor book or could it be considered real advice?
JO: It’s more humor, but you know what? You could seriously beat a zombie to death with a prosthetic leg. So it’s pretty handy.

JW: How many monsters do you cover in this?
JO: 14. Including reanimated corpses like Frankenstein’s monster, dragons and your evil twin from an alternate dimension.

JW: Do you ever see writing as your full-time gig?
JO: That…I think that is about every writer’s dream, to do it full time, but realistically…there are only about 120 writers in the country, that’s all they do is write books. I could see that if I got successful, but you know what? I really enjoy teaching college students. So even if I did get to the point where I could write books for a living, I don’t know if I would. I think I’d keep teaching.

“A Funeral Story” is available December 19th.
You can check out Jason at his website, http://www.jasonoffutt.com, or follow him on Twitter: @TheJasonOffutt
You can also read his writings, at jasonoffutt.blogspot.com and at from-the-shadows.blogspot.com

Five Finger Death Punch’s Jeremy Spencer talks about his new biography and 2015 plans

Jeremy Spencer is the drummer behind the bombastic sound of the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch. In the past couple years the band has released two successful studio albums and performed to thousands of fans. To add even more to an already crazy schedule Spencer found time to pen his first book a biography titled “Death Punch’d: Surviving Five Finger Death Punch’s Metal Mayhem”. The book is a candid, no punches pulled account of Spencer’s life both in and out of the band. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jeremy recently about the books creation as well as what the band has planned for 2015.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us a little over view of the book and tell us why you chose now to the time to release a book like this?
Jeremy Spencer: It all sort of started around the time that I had just gotten out of rehab. I had started writing basically about my whole life as a way to process and get something outs. It was very therapeutic. Anytime I had some down time I would start writing. Once I had a large amount of stuff I started looking back over it and found a lot of it very interesting. I sent it out to my dad to get his take on it and he thought that some of the stuff I had written could be a benefit to people. He did think it needed to be edited down so I would be ostracized as it was very raw and real. (Laughs) He helped me with that and I ended up sending it off to our management and they loved it. From there they started shopping it around to the publishing companies. It wasn’t anything I was planning on but things took shape and we moved forward. Even though our band is still popular and on the upswing which is not when books from band members normally come out, but that ended up being all the more reason to put it out when we did. I think the story can help a lot of people and the positive feedback has been great thus far. This book has helped me with a lot of different things in so it just been a great experience so far.

AL: Being so fresh out of rehab was it hard to look back at some of these stories you put in the book?
JS: Some of it was horrifying! I wasn’t proud of a lot of it, especially when it was where I hurt someone. Those things made me sad. I have tried to work through things the best I can and I certainly wasn’t proud of who I was during those times. At the same time if I didn’t go through that stuff I wouldn’t be where I am now. I think by being a drug addict it forced me to look at things that I may not have if I was sober. Once you start dealing with the addiction side of things you realize that there is more deeply rooted stuff to also address as well. That for me has been a blessing.

AL: The books layout jumps back and forth between the past and present. Was that something that was a conscious decision or was that idea taken directly from your initial writings?
JS: That was something that happened during editing and was suggested by the book company. I am really glad they suggested that because it’s a bit different. I haven’t really read any books that do that. I wrote sort of chronologically and that has been done so much that we decided to change it up. I am really happy with how it turned out.

AL: Throughout the book you speak very candidly about the other members of Five Finger Death Punch. Was it difficult being that truthful knowing your still going to be working with them on a day to day basis?
JS: For sure. I definitely toned things down a bit as my intentions were not to throw anyone under the bus. I made sure to talk with the guys about anything I may have thought was questionable beforehand. I gave them a chance to read the parts they were in ahead of time if they wanted to just in case there was any worry or things like that. This project meant a lot to me and I didn’t want it to hurt anyone. I had to obviously pull back the curtains some so the reader could get a better feel for the story so if needed I changed people’s names or things like that. I was very cautious about all those things. Again there were a few things that got removed. Some of the things I found hilarious at first we decided to leave out after talking a little bit more about them because ultimately they didn’t fit well with the story. I think everyone was pleased with how the book turned out as no one was exposed too much.

AL: With the book having been out now for a few months is there anything that made it into the book that you sort of regret having in there?
JS: I am comfortable with. I don’t really want to change anything or wished I had done something differently. If that first draft I submitted would have come out it would have been terrible! (Laughs) The book went through a lot of editing. The whole thing was a process as there are just so many different steps you have to go through when writing a book. I have lived my several times over now.

AL: The band recently wrapped up a really great co-headlining run with Volbeat but, have there been any discussions about what the band will be doing in the coming year?
JS: The band has huge plans for next year. Once we get through the holidays we will be heading over to Japan for a run of shows there. After that we have a little time off and then we will be heading in to the studio to make the new record with hopes of a summer release. We also have some plans to do a few spring shows and a European run with Judas Priest. First thing first we have to get the new record done and out.

Author Naomi Novik Talks “Temeraire” at NYCC

Naomi Novik has in the past several years taken her readers literally across the globe in her best-selling Temeraire novels. Beginning with the first, His Majesty’s Dragon, the fantasy series is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an alternate history where talking dragons comprise a valuable aerial force for their respective nations. More specifically they follow the adventures of William Laurence, a British naval captain whose capture of an enemy ship bearing a rare dragon’s egg leads him to a new life as an aviator with this hatchling he names Temeraire. Novik’s dragon is intelligent, witty, intensely loyal to his human captain and often defiant of the society of his time. And he is just one of many in a hugely diverse cast of humans and dragons. Such vivid characters thrown into Novik’s rich reworking of actual history really make this a standout story.

The books are scheduled to wrap up with its ninth installment,  League of Dragons, hopefully sometime next year while director Peter Jackson currently holds the screen rights to the series (More on that below). With all of the above going for it, and the fact that it’s a personal favorite book series of mine, I was so excited to get to speak with Naomi at New York Comic Con while she signed books for her fans.

Lauren Damon: When planning the novels, because they’re centered around the Napoleonic Wars, do you have an outline of what history is going on or do you start with your plot?

Naomi Novik: Oh I definitely check the history first and sort of look into the details. I have a general sense of where the plot is going because I know where the Napoleonic Wars go and I know how I modify the Napoleonic Wars so in that sense I know before I go in. But in terms of figuring out how the details of my plot are going to dovetail the details of history, it’s sort of like a back and forth. I generally get the broad strokes of the historical events first, make sure my plot works with that and then as I write, I generally check on the more specific details to make sure that I’m not contradicting something.

 

LD: Have you ever hit a snag because history went a different way than your plot?

Novik: You know I’m sure that happens on a routine basis and I just don’t remember all of them…I can’t think of a specific historical event example, but what I can remember is one time I was writing a scene set in Istanbul describing a place and it turned out that that place just didn’t kind of exist. But while reading about that I discovered about a location called the cistern—which was sort of this underwater cistern of the Byzantine era that used to store water for the city and then later on was abandoned and people would still be able to reach it through the basements of their homes. And would occasionally throw things down there. Sometimes bodies disappeared down there and I thought, that’s fantastic! So I put it in. So it actually worked out for the best.

 

LD: When it comes to the battles sequences, which read as hugely cinematic, how do you plan out just the logistics of those?

Novik: The battles are almost always heavily influenced by actual Napoleonic battles. I mean it depends. The actual battles that take place in the course of a military campaign, then the individual scenes that are about sort of—you know there’s the battles in a war and there are fights that are sort of an adventure sequence, right? And those are more just out of my imagination and the battle scenes are—I have a wonderful book called The Military Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars which basically shows…you can watch the movement of all the companies. It breaks up battles over several days. So you see here’s how they were, sort of setting themselves up, here’s where they were this day, here’s the terrain they were moving on, here are the ways that this person didn’t know what this person was doing and they misunderstood one another. And they got bad information from their spies. And all sorts of details like that which I tend to use as kind of, not exact—because of course my battles are quite different—

LD: They add the aerial level.

Novik: Yes, exactly, because there’s a third dimension going on which changes the tactics and  also just the historical locations but yeah, I mean I try to keep that same scope. That scale.

 

LD: When it comes to certain characters, fans love to pick up on certain expressions or character tropes that repeatedly pop up in your stories—Like Laurence’s concern for his neckcloth or Iskierka [a truly fiery fire-breathing dragon] saying “See if I don’t!”—When you become aware of fans grabbing onto these things, or sort of catchphrases, do you get self conscious about it?

Novik: No, not really. You know, I feel like that’s part of theIn a way I feel like finding those things is part of the pleasure as a fan. I like it myself as a reader. I like recognizing a character’s vocal tics, the character’s all definitely have their own, quite distinct voice in my pen. And I feel like if I tried to…if I became self-conscious and tried to muck with that in a way, I’d probably lose my own internal sense.

 

LD: Are there certain characters that you really enjoy writing their voice, their dialogue?

Novik: Yeah, I mean Temeraire, obviously. Temeraire is just always fun. Iskierka is always fun. I love writing the dragons voices. I feel like the dragons voices are always really cool. And there’s that pleasure of writing a voice that’s not quite human so I really like to do that.

 

LD: I love how you even include sexuality into the discussions that the dragons and the humans have because I feel like you don’t often see that associated with the fantasy genre:

Novik: I do feel you know it’s an interesting thing, that in that period there was simultaneously more prudery in a certain sense. Like you didn’t talk about certain things. But at the same time you lived with it a lot more. You lived with death a lot more. And in a way, living with death, I mean you lived in much closer quarters—especially on ships and you sort of had to pretend it wasn’t there. But it really was. And I mean, with dragons especially, I feel like dragons don’t have shame in the same was that human beings have shame. You know, they don’t cover themselves for warmth, so they don’t have any of that body stuff going on. So Temeraire just kind of doesn’t get what’s going on a lot of the time. So his perception is very fun. But I feel like it’s very much that that’s a thing that happens that’s part of life and I don’t know…I feel like I don’t want to pretend that’s not there.

 

LD: Iskierka in particular in regards to her Captain, Granby’s homosexuality is just kind of  like ‘Yeah, of course that’s how he is!’

Novik: I mean to a dragon it’s like what’s the difference between these two—it’s like two action figures, you know?

LD: Or dress up dolls? [Note: The dragon’s frequently make fashion decisions for their humans.]

Novik: Yes, exactly, that’s from Iskierka’s point of view absolutely!

LD: Peter Jackson holds the filming rights to these books—what’s happening there?!

Novik: Basically what happened was you know, after Guillermo Del Toro dropped out of The Hobbit and [Jackson] took over, that essentially put a stop to all his other projects. He’s finishing up the last Hobbit now, and I know he’s going to take a well deserved break and then we’ll see, you know?

LD: Did you see the giant Smaug up on the floor and think eventually?
Novik:
I hope so. I hope so. I mean it’s amazing.

 

LD: Now you wrote the first one in 2006?

Novik: I wrote the first one in 2004 and then they didn’t publish it until 2006 because they asked me to write two more so they could bring them all out one month after another. So I wrote the first three in like 2004-2005, so it’s been about ten years writing it.

 

LD: So back when you were writing it, or at any point since,  have you ever head-cast actors you’d like to see in any of the parts?

Novik: No, no…I don’t. Although I will say I thought at one point—I actually think Tom Hiddleston could make a great Laurence.

[Note: At which point I showed Naomi my Loki iPhone case as a sign of support.]

Excellent! I mean I say that like I’m a huge Tom Hiddleston fan, I mean I love Loki he’s such a fantastic character, I love him…But there are many actors of whom I’m a huge fan who I would say would not make a good Laurence. But I think he actually would.

 

Famously fan-friendly, Naomi is a co-founder of the Organization for Transformative Works, “a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the fair-use rights of fan creators” and has written her own fan fiction.

LD: Being here at NYCC and just kind of in general are you happy to see that fan fiction is something you hear more about in public discussion, do you think it’s coming sort of out of just something you see online?

 

Novik: I hope so. You know, in fact we had this panel about fairy tales and of course 95% of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings are fan fiction. It’s the same impulse as fan fiction. It’s using characters that other people recognize to tell your own stories in a way that allows you to communicate and form a community around fiction. So there’s nothing actually new about the fan fiction impulse, it’s just that we’re doing it about media of a different form, right? Which is quite interesting.

LD: Speaking of fan communities–you just opened your own fan forum, is that a convenient way to consolidate your fans?

Novik: It’s not even that, it’s more that you know there are a lot of fans who don’t feel like they know where to find the place to talk. And I love giving them a place to talk now. And a lot of people said that they wanted one, so we went ahead and put it together. But I love–one of the things that I love about the fannish community in general is that it’s so widespread. There’s so many different places and proliferating conversations and I love that. It’s not like, I would never want everybody to come to feel like that they had to come to my site. It’s more like here’s another place to talk if you want to hang out and talk about Temeraire.

 

LD: Do you have a memorable first fan encounter, or when you became aware or your series having fans?

Novik: I fortunately, the year the Temeraire books came out, I went to like seven conventions that year. And I went to a lot of smaller science fiction conventions first which was a good kind of ramp up. And I mean it’s just really wonderful you know. For me it’s a completely positive experience. I mean I get tired and sometimes I lose my voice. There’s just something wonderful about coming out here and feeling this kind of fannish energy all around you. And it’s not a sort of, I don’t know, it’s such a thing that I myself would do. I feel like I’m just meeting my people from the other side!

The 9th and final Temeraire novel, League of Dragons, is aiming for a release sometime next year while Novik will also be releasing an entirely new fantasy novel, Uprooted, on June 30th 2015.

Brian Kevin talks about his book “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”

Brian Kevin is a writer who contributes to magazines, websites travel guidebooks. He is also the associate editor at Down East magazine and the author of “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”. Media Mikes had the chance to chat with Brian about his journey through South America and how Hunter S. Thompson inspired it.

Mike Gencarelli: When did you first find the work of Hunter S. Thompson?
Brian Kevin: I came to Thompson via Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998, which I think is true of a lot of people my age (I’m 34). In the book, I describe the film as kind of a dorm room standard during the late ’90s, when I was a college student, and I’ve since praised it in other forums (http://goo.gl/kL3jl2) as really one of the more faithful literary adaptations in recent cinema. So that kind of piqued my interest in Thompson’s work — who the fuck is this guy? what could this possibly look like on the page? — and I spent the next couple years catching up on the Thompson canon.

MG: Tell us what made you decided to take this yearlong journey across South America?
BK: I’d read enough to know that Thompson had spent this year abroad in the early 1960s, reporting on Cold War issues from South America, and it occurred to me this must have been a pretty pivotal time in the life of a writer I admired. But for all the unauthorized biographies and oral histories and documentaries and other materials out there about Thompson’s life and work (particularly after his death in 2005), his year as a foreign correspondent hardly warranted a mention. I was curious enough to dig through a couple of microfiche archives and unearth the articles he wrote from South America, most of which hadn’t seen the light of day for fifty years. The more I looked into it, the more I admired Thompson’s gall for just up and hitting the road, trying to will himself a writing career. I had kind of gone a safer route — some entry-level magazine jobs, then grad school — and I was feeling like it hadn’t gotten me anywhere. Around the same time I was digging up Thompson’s forgotten South American reportage, I suddenly found myself divorced, functionally unemployed, and sitting on a mountain of student loan debt. So I did the only rational thing and traded in a bunch of frequent fliers miles for a ticket to Colombia to follow the Thompson Trail.

MG: What was it like to revisit the places where HST lived and worked?
BK: A lot of people see the title of the book and kind of assume I was carousing my way across the continent in some kind of wanna-be-gonzo fog, but I actually couldn’t be less interested in that. To me, it was all fieldwork — I wanted to revisit the topics that Thompson wrote about for the National Observer fifty years ago and, in the process, get some insight into what he learned in South America that shaped him as a writer and a human being. For all his later gonzo persona, Thompson at 24 was whip smart and super disciplined about understanding the forces shaping Latin America during the Cold War. So traveling in his footsteps meant giving myself a crash course in Latin American history, culture, politics, and ecology. And yeah, that fieldwork sometimes involved drinking heavily with miners, capsizing a boat in Colombia, and patronizing a Paraguayan brothel (sort of), but it really was all in the name of education.

MG: What did you find was the most interesting find of your exploration of twenty-first-century South American culture, politics, and ecology?
BK: Well, the surprising thing was the extent to which the issues that Thompson reported on fifty years ago are still very much shaping the continent. Thompson wrote about Peru’s struggles to overcome a powerful political oligarchy, for example, and that’s still very much the story of Peruvian politics today. He wrote about Brazil as this sleeping giant shackled by inflation, and fifty years later, that’s still arguably the biggest economic story playing out in South America. He more or less predicted the rise of the FARC in Colombia and the ascendancy of cambas in eastern Bolivia and a bunch of other story lines that are still unraveling in 2014. In a nutshell, the interesting thing in country after country was how present the ghosts of the Cold War still are — and that made Thompson’s ghost feel very present as well.

MG: Do you feel that you yourself have changed after this exploration?
BK: You know, I reflect on this a little in the book, and the answer is tricky. A lot of the book ends up being about travel itself — about the reasons people give themselves for picking up stakes and about their expectations of what they’ll come home with. Often, this includes some kind of transformation. People want to come home changed in some profound way, and I’m not convinced this isn’t kind of a bullshit goalpost. My time on the Thompson Trail gave me an education, which is really what we should be after anyway.

MG: What do you think it takes to be a “gonzo journalist” in today’s world?
BK: I think this is a term that starts and ends with Thompson. I don’t think “gonzo journalism” is a form or a genre that a writer can just opt into. It’s one specific writer’s style — Thompson’s — and while it can certainly be imitated, the results are almost uniformly shitty. But I do think that the best nonfiction writers working today approach their subjects with the same fearlessness and unorthodoxy and humor and personal investment that were all critical components of “gonzo.”

MG: Do you have a follow up planned for “The Footloose American”?
BK: Yeah, there are a couple of projects in the hopper. One is a deep profile of this globetrotting, nineteenth-century Forrest Gump-type character who destroyed everything he touched, and the other is a sort of a combination road trip tale and education expose. I realize both of these sound a bit weird and cryptic, but you’ll just have to take my word that they’re fun and interesting, and I’ll be all for saying more when they’re a little farther along.

Steven Awalt talks about his book “Steven Spielberg and Duel: The Making of a Film Career”

Here’s a trick question for you? Where did film director Steven Spielberg go when he wanted some information about…Steven Spielberg? The answer was an amazing web site known to fans all over the word as SpielbergFilms.com. Created and maintained by Steven Awalt, the site lasted for seven years, only closing down because of Awalt’s various projects. One of those projects, the well reviewed book “Steven Spielberg and DUEL: The Making of a Film Career,” will be released on March 26.

With a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from DePaul University, Awalt is more than qualified to discuss the most successful filmmaker of his generation. While awaiting the release of his book, Awalt took the time to speak with me about everything Spielberg.

Mike Smith: What is it about Steven Spielberg that made you follow his career so carefully that you created a web site dedicated to his work?
Steven Awalt: He and George Lucas were really the first two “filmmakers” I knew when I was growing up. Of course, when I was younger I was a big fan of the Disney films but when “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” came out it really knocked me on my young butt. The scope of it was just amazing for a little boy. And then as I got older and looked at his films, I think it was his sense of humanity that really appealed to me. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his work with characters. Going back to “Close Encounters,” people focus on the spaceships and the aliens but, at the center of that film, you have a very emotional story about a family falling apart. Even in “Jaws,” you had the Brody family and, of course, the dynamic between the three men. “Duel” is really a great portrait of a man losing his mind. It’s all about paranoia.

MS: Do you remember the first Spielberg film you ever saw in a theatre?
SA: It was “Close Encounters.” I had just turned five, so he caught me at a very young age. Between that and “Star Wars” from earlier in the summer, it was the perfect age to be.

MS: I was sixteen. Trust me, it was a great summer to be sixteen as well!
SA: (laughs) I wish to God I had been older. You got to experience “Jaws.” I first saw it when it aired on television (November 1979). The funny thing was that it didn’t at first stick with me…not like “Close Encounters” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because it scared the hell out of me! Now it’s one of my favorite films but back when I was younger…I wish I had born in the same generation as yours because it must have been really great to be there.

MS: Of all the films that Steven Spielberg is known for, why did you choose to highlight “Duel?”
SA: Originally I had wanted to write about “Close Encounters” because it’s such an important film to me. I had been deeply researching it for years while I ran the old SpielbergFilms web site. At the time someone else had just come out with a very strong book about the film, independently written, and I was so upset because someone else had gone after it. I still plan to get to that “Close Encounters” book but when I thought about it, I realized that Steven’s work before “Jaws,” namely “Duel” and “Sugarland Express,” hadn’t really gotten their due. I thought it was fertile ground and I hope I’ve been able to start what I hope will be a series of books about his work. “Duel” and “Sugarland” are great films but they really kind of got buried by the success of “Jaws,” “Raiders,” E.T.” ….everything.

MS: Do you have a favorite Spielberg film?
SA: I definitely have a favorite. And, like most people, my favorite film is different then what I consider his best film. His best film is actually too hard a question, but my favorite film of his, from a personal perspective, is “E.T.” That film came along in my life…when I needed it most. It probably sounds funny to say that about a movie but I’m sure, at the same time, many fans can relate to that. I had a pretty rough childhood. My father was an alcoholic…he just wasn’t there for me. He died when I was a kid. So the film really spoke to me. A lonely young boy who misses his father…again, it’s the heart of the film that makes it so beautiful. Even to this day it’s a very important film in my life. And it comes from a very personal space in Steven because of the divorce of his parents. The scene in the garage where Elliot and Michael are looking for things for E.T. to build his communicator with…finding their dad’s old shirt and smelling the cologne on it…that’s the one thing I love about his work so much, that it’s so relatable.

MS: I’m paraphrasing this comment from the late director Sydney Pollack, who in 1984 told TIME magazine that he felt Spielberg would never win an Oscar until his films “grow up.” I actually met Pollack at a retro screening of “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and asked him about his comments. He maintained to me that Spielberg needed to focus more on adult material. Do you think that he intentionally changed the kind of films he was doing because of that thinking? (NOTE: Spielberg’s next film after “E.T.” was the critically acclaimed, very grown up “The Color Purple.” The film received a total of eleven Academy Award nominations though, surprisingly, not one for Spielberg’s direction. This film, and 1977’s “The Turning Point,” share the record for most Academy Award nominations without a single win. Ironically, the winner of the Best Director Oscar that year was Sydney Pollack).
SA: Only Steven himself could answer that question accurately. But I think that, having started out making films in his early 20’s, Steven grew up with his films. I would imagine he was looking for different kinds of entertainment…not entertainment, per se’, but different kinds of stories about human beings. “The Color Purple” is an interesting film. I’m not a huge fan of it, but it’s definitely a turning point. To me the film that signals a new Spielberg on the screen isn’t “The Color Purple,” it’s “Empire of the Sun.” A certain weight comes with the film that I don’t think “The Color Purple” has. To me “Empire of the Sun” is a signpost for people who were so surprised by “Schindler’s List” and the films that followed. I really think you can start to see that in “Empire of the Sun,” which he made when he was in his late 30’s. So I imagine it was just a normal maturing. I guess the only person who can really answer that question is Steven.

MS: You’ve hinted that you’re working on a book going behind the scenes of “Sugarland Express.” Is it going to be in the same vein as this one?
SA: Absolutely. I like to think of it as a continuation of the “Duel” book. To me I’m writing one big book, but this one will have a different approach. It’s obviously a different story but it will show the expansion of Steven’s talent and his growth as a filmmaker.

MS: Are you hoping to maybe one day be able to document all of his films?
SA: I’m hoping to at least get through Steven’s films from the 1970s at least, because that’s my favorite period. I’d like to write about a lot of filmmakers from that era. I’m a big fan of George Romero. I’d love to write about Martin Scorsese. Brian DePalma would be fun to write on as well. But yes, I hope to at least cover the 1970s and his four masterpieces from that era.

Murray Langston talks about his new book “Journey Thru the Unknown”

Here’s my Murray Langston story. When I started out in the theatre business one of my responsibilities was to put the new films together and watch them to make sure they were ok. One Friday morning I came in to assemble and screen a film called “Night Patrol,” that Mr. Langston not only co-wrote but starred in, both as Officer White and the Unknown Comic. As the film started I began to panic, as the opening credits were in French and subtitled. After a few moments I ran to the office and called the film company, screaming at them that they had sent me a French print. Thus began a scramble at New Line which ended when one of the film people in the office, who had seen the film, notified his bosses that the filmmakers intentionally put the opening credits in French and assured them, and me, that the film was in English. And it was. Ha-ha on me! And the many people that would come out of the theatre wanting their money back because they didn’t know “Night Patrol” was a foreign film.

Born in Canada, Murray Langston always had a knack for being funny. After entertaining his fellow sailors while working as a disc jockey in the Navy, Langston ended up in California, where he made his professional debut on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” doing his impression of a fork. He eventually earned a gig as part of the supporting cast of “The Sonny and Cher” show. But he shot to fame when he put a paper bag over his head and appeared as the Unknown Comic on “The Gong Show.”

In the almost four decades since he slipped that bag over his head he has not only continued to entertain but has helped nurture some of the greatest comedians of his, and our, era. To promote his new book, “Journey Thru the Unknown,” Mr. Langston sat down with me to talk about his career, his influences, and his two beautiful daughters, of whom he is immensely proud. After I regaled him with the above “Night Patrol” story, which he enjoyed, the questioning began in earnest. I should add hear that Murray Langston is always “on” and never misses an opportunity to make you laugh.

Murray Langston: Where are you calling me from?
Mike Smith: Kansas City.
ML: Oh…I’ve heard of it.
MS: I’ve got four or five questions whenever you’re ready.
ML: I tell you what….you’ve got six. And you can’t ask me what the capital of Ohio is.
MS: That was actually my follow up to the first question.
ML: (laughs). Good one. Don’t ask me the distance from the sun to the moon either. Don’t know it.

MS: For those who haven’t read the book yet, tell us a little about what led you into show business.
ML: Two words. Jerry Lewis. He’s what led me into it. Sitting in the theatre as a kid and watching those movies. I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I think he also inspired Steve Martin. He inspired a lot of people. And I’m so grateful because I’ve had a wonderful life…and am still having a wonderful life.

MS: That’s all that matters.
ML: Exactly. I’m enjoying every minute of every day.

MS: You are originally from Canada, which has also given us great comic minds like Dan Aykroyd, Mike Meyers, Jim Carey. What is it about Canada that makes people so funny?
ML: I don’t know. Maybe it’s the cold weather. We just wanted to get out of there and comedy was a good way to do it. You know, when you do shows in Canada the people aren’t really applauding, they’re just trying to keep warm.

MS: I can’t think of anyone that has an appreciation of comedy that doesn’t know of the Unknown Comic. When you would do your live shows you would open as the Unknown Comic and then, after a break, would return to the stage as Murray to finish the act. Were there any bits you felt more comfortable doing as the Unknown Comic rather than as Murray or vice versa?
ML: Not really. The Unknown Comic was more a visual act. I’d do impressions with the bag or magic tricks. Really, except for a few one-liners all of the jokes as the Unknown Comic were related strictly to the bag. Once I took the bag off it was a completely different show because I would talk about things that were happening in my own life.

MS: The book has a great collection of photographs. I think a lot of the people that read it are going to be shocked because they’re going to recognize you instantly by your moustache and realize you entertained them on many, many sketch comedy shows. Do you have a favorite guest star that you worked with on these shows?
ML: Obviously a huge moment for me was when I got to work with Jerry Lewis on “The Sonny and Cher Show.” That show was four and a half great years. I mean I got to meet everybody. From Ronald Regan to O.J. Simpson. All of the great musical acts that came along back then. “The Sonny and Cher Show” is definitely a highlight of my life.

MS: You mention often in your book the influence Jerry Lewis had, not only on you but on so many other comedians. Is there another comic actor around these days that you think could be referred to as having achieved “Jerry Lewis” status?
MS: You know who almost did that…Jim Carey, who I worked with a couple of times in Canada. I would say that he came pretty close to it for a few years. I’m one of those guys that, whenever somebody can get up on a stage and make people laugh for 45 minutes or an hour, I’m going to appreciate them because I know what it takes to do that. I really like Louis C.K. In fact, someone told me that he’s said he only became a comedian because of the Unknown Comic…because of watching me in his early years. I love his work. I love a lot of people’s work. Like I said, anybody that can do it I’m a fan of.

MS: I’ll understand if you can’t answer this one. Did you ever go on a secret mission with Chuck Barris when he was with the C.I.A.?
ML: (laughs loudly) Yes. No, Chuck told me that when he was writing the book he thought it came off as boring so he paralleled his true life story with a fictional one just to make the book more entertaining. And it certainly worked. It made for a good movie. But none of that stuff was true. And I hope people know that now.

MS: Finally, as you approach age 70 you’re still going strong. What do you have coming up?
ML: I just finished a play. And I’m getting ready to perform at the Wolf Trap Theatre. Is that in Vermont?

MS: Virginia. It’s very nice.
ML: I have a couple more joke books coming out, plus I currently doing the audio verison of “Journey Thru the Unknown.” I’ve got a joke book about Donald Trump and another one about the Kardashians, so I’m always busy. Plus I’m always looking out for my two daughters. (NOTE: Mr. Langston has two daughters: Myah, a singer/songwriter and Mary. Mary has Down Syndrome and is truly the light in her father’s life) My oldest daughter (Myah) just signed with Capitol Records and has a record coming out soon. They’re going to be HUGE! Her band is called My Crazy Girlfriend. And it’s really interesting. I wrote in my book how my influence was Jerry Lewis and the next thing I knew I was working with him. From the time Myah was 8 or 9 years old she was a huge fan of Brittney Spears. She idolized her. And now she’s been a back-up singer on her last three albums. That’s an interesting parallel, I thought.
MS: How is Mary?
ML: Mary is doing great. She’s the joy of my life. I’m picking her up from school and she’s spending the weekend with me.

MS: She’s an angel.
She is my angel. She makes my life worth living a hundred times more.

Tony Lee Moral talks about his book “Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie”

A filmmaker himself, author Tony Lee Moral is best known for his books about the legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock. In 2002 he released “Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Marnie'” and followed it up a decade later with “The Making of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds'” His next book is also about the master of suspense, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass.”

With the growing popularity of Alfred Hitchcock, 33 years after his death, Mr. Moral has released a revised edition of his first book. He recently took the time to answer some questions about the influence and genius of Alfred Hitchcock.

Mike Smith: You’ve written three books on Alfred Hitchcock. What is it about him as a filmmaker that makes him your favorite subject?
Tony Lee Moral: Hitchcock for me is the definitive film maker, and his career and films span the history of cinema. His films have been a huge part of my life, ever since I saw my first Hitchcock film (I Confess) at the age of 10. I took part in the 1999 Alfred Hitchcock Centennial celebrations and have interviewed many scriptwriters, producers, actors who worked with Hitch. The more I watch his films, the more I become fascinated by the man behind the camera, as there is so much to learn from his life.

MS: Why do you think that, more than three decades after his passing, people are still interested in his films?
TLM: I think Hitchcock was a great storyteller and that will never go out of fashion. He was a master entertainer who put the audience first and always wanted to take them on a roller coaster ride. “Psycho” is probably the best example of that, as watching it is like a trip to the Horror-Fun House.

MS: Do you have a favorite Hitchcock film?
TLM: That is very difficult to choose, I’d say “Marnie” because of the characters and psychology. “Vertigo” is a very close second. And after that I’d choose “North by Northwest” or “The Birds.”

MS: As a filmmaker yourself, have you ever caught yourself intentionally cribbing a shot from Hitchcock’s work?
TLM: Absolutely, I’m very influenced by Hitchcock’s film grammar, from Long Shots to Big Close Ups for emotional impact. For my “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass” book, I really studied his use of film and my respect for him as a master film maker deepens. He was a true director who understood the medium of cinema and was a great teacher who influenced many other directors.

MS: What did you think of the film “Hitchcock?” Did you think Anthony Hopkins captured Mr. Hitchcock’s aura?
TLM: I liked it, but have only seen it once in the cinema, which isn’t a good sign. I thought it was light hearted and not mean spirited. I admire Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as actors, but there were dramatic licenses taken in the film which I didn’t agree with. Overall, if it brought Hitchcock to a new, fresh young audience then that’s a good thing.

MS: What is your next project (either written or film)?
TLM: My next project, which I’m currently writing, is a book about Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation, especially since his death and the recent biographies that have followed it. It’s going to be very revealing and I’m really digging deep for this one, though it won’t be published for several years. I’m speaking to people who haven’t spoken out before about Hitchcock, and I’m hoping that this book will change the way we view Hitchcock and his movies in years to come.

Phil Hall talks about his latest book “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time”

If you’re a fan of movies you’re probably already familiar with the work of Phil Hall. A contributing editor to the on-line magazine, “Film Threat,” Hall is also a well respected author of such film books as “The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies: Films From the Fringes of Cinema” and “The History of Independent Cinema.” His latest book, recently released, is entitled “The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time.” Mr. Hall recently took the time to answer some questions for Media Mikes:

Mike Smith: What makes a movie “Bad?”
Phil Hall: We need to clarify what “bad” means. I am not writing about the mediocrities that you forget about after the closing credits have rolled. My book celebrates what I call the “anti-classics.” These are the films that inspire wonder – they are so profoundly misguided and egregiously off-target that you have to wonder how they ever got made. These bad films are the cinematic equivalent of narcotics – you get hooked by their toxicity and you become a happy prisoner to their crashing awfulness. It is a wonderful addiction, for sure.

MS: What inspired you to write the book?
PH: A few years ago, I was an actor in a film called “Rudyard Kipling’s Mark of the Beast,” and while on the set a number of people were talking endlessly and enthusiastically about the Tommy Wiseau film “The Room.” I recognized that people tend to become animated and involved when talking about the so-bad-they’re-good films, going to the point of quoting the screenplays verbatim, and I thought that I would bring together my choices for 100 of the best of these anti-classics.

MS: You have some critically popular films, “Mystic River” among them, on your list. Any reservations on labeling films like this “bad” when they were well received?
PH: My book is not a be-all/end-all text book. My book is an expression of my opinion as a film critic and film scholar. Remember, the appreciation of films (or any art form) is strictly subjective. I know people who loathe “Citizen Kane” and “Gone with the Wind” – that is their opinion. And remember, opinions are like a certain lower body cavity – everyone has one and most of them stink! Whether you agree or disagree with me is strictly your call. This book is my vehicle to share my opinions.

MS: Have you received any feedback from any of the filmmakers?
PH: The book covers the full spectrum of the cinematic experience, from the silent era to the present day. Thus, many of the filmmakers cited in the book are no longer with us. As for those that are still active, I don’t know if they are aware of their inclusion in the book.

MS: Do you have a favorite “bad” movie?
PH: That’s sort of like asking if you have a favorite child, isn’t it? Some of the films cited in the book — the musical version of “Lost Horizon,” “Chariots of the Gods,” “Airport 1975” – have a special emotional tug because I saw them in the theater when I was a little kid. Others hold a special meaning because I shared the viewing experience with friends and/or family. And I am always discovering new films, so today’s favorite could easily become yesterday’s corny memory.

MS: Are you planning another book?
PH: This is my sixth book that has been published since 2004. I think I am overdue a long rest!

Crispin Nathaniel Haskins talks about his book “The JAWSFest Murders”

When first time author Crispin Nathaniel Haskins took pen to paper he combined two of his greatest passions: mysteries and the film “Jaws.” The finished product is the recently released “The JAWSFest Murders.” Haskins took time out while promoting his novel to sit down with Media Mikes.

Mike Smith: When did you come up with the idea for the book?
Crispin Haskins: I have always wanted to be a writer. As far back as I can remember I thought it would be cool. Last August, just before I went to Martha’s Vineyard for JAWSfest, I had a job interview for a sales position at work. I didn’t really want the job but I thought that I needed a change. I decided that if I didn’t get the job, I would use the time that I would have spent in the sales job finally writing my book. I thought of Paul McPhee (Artist), Jim Beller (Author) and Erik Hollander (Filmmaker), friends of mine using “Jaws” as a vehicle for their creative output. It’s the best thing to do. When people are frustrated about their life I have always said, “Follow your heart and the money will follow.” So, I did. Two of my favorite things are “Jaws” and mysteries. That’s how “The JAWSfest Murders” came to be.

MS: The book is very in-depth as to where things are on the Vineyard. Did you have to appeal to any of the islanders to use their places of business in the book?
CH: I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even tell anyone that I was writing a book until I was about sixty pages into it. It was a very personal thing for me. It still is. As for the in-depth Vineyard descriptions, I am really happy with people saying that they really felt like they were on the island. I am really touched by that. People also say that they can tell that I really love Martha’s Vineyard and that’s true. I guess the two are part and parcel. I had just returned from JAWSfest so it was still fresh in my mind. Any gaps I had, I called friends on the island or used Google Maps. That street view feature was awesome for answering questions in my head like, “What the heck was across the street from the Edgartown bus stop??” I love the Internet. I used the Internet for a lot of my research into the history of the island too.

MS: The book has a lot of inside references to the “Jaws” film series that fans will spot. Was that an intentional tip of the hat to the readers?
CH: Absolutely!! Do you think you got them all Mike? (NOTE: I thought I did but the challenging way he asked me tells me I’m do for a second reading) Some were more obvious than others. When I was writing I thought that I may as well have some fun with it. My immediate audience would be “Jaws” fans so “Jaws” references would be a must. My main character is a fan of the film so he would obviously be thinking about “Jaws” locations as he walked or drove past them but I thought why not take it one step further? Why not put a few in there that ONLY hard core “Jaws” fans would get. Like a secret language… That was fun.

MS: As a fellow member of the “Jaws” fan community, I found that several of the characters seemed very familiar. Were any of them based possibly on someone you might know with an entertainment web site?
CH: (laughing loudly) Did you see yourself in a character or two? Well, I haven’t divulged all of the character’s identities exactly. Some are a little more obvious than others and some are amalgamations. Some are completely fictitious of course. It is a novel after all! The villainous characters are completely fictitious and one character is named after a friend who asked me to name a character after them.

MS: How has the book been received by readers?
CH: I can’t get over the positive response and reviews on Amazon! The book is selling well and the reviews have been overwhelmingly great. It really means a lot. It’s one thing to write a book but then to put it out there to be pecked by birds is quite another. It was nerve wracking. My worry seems to be for naught though. I’m very thankful for that.

MS: Is there a new book in the works?
CH: There is. Or rather, there are! I am working on two books right now. One is a follow up to “The JAWSfest Murders.” Charles is back on Martha’s Vineyard to visit Chief Laurie Knickles and it’s not long before there is blood in the water again! I’m really enjoying writing this series. The second book is a collection of horror short stories. I love reading short stories so I’m slowly working on putting a collection together. I have no idea how many stories there will be. I’m playing that one by ear. You’ll get the first copy Mike!

Check out our review of “The JAWSFest Murders”, here

To order your copy of “The JAWSFEST Murders” please visit www.marthasvineyardmysteries.com

Ian Doescher talks about his book “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”

Ian Doescher has loved Shakespeare since eighth grade and was born 45 days after “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope” was released. “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” is Ian’s first book and it is such a blast blend the two very different worlds together. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ian about the book and his love for “Star Wars”.

Mike Gencarelli: So why did you choose “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” as your first book?
Ian Doescher: That’s funny, I feel like I didn’t really choose it — it chose me! The idea came to me after three things converged: I watched the Star Wars trilogy with some good friends from high school, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my family. That was all within about two months. So I had Star Wars, Shakespeare and mash-ups on my mind, and the idea was formed out of that combination. Happily, this book mixes two of my passions, so it was really a joy to write.

MG: What was the biggest challenge to blend the Shakespearean aspect into the world of “Star Wars”?
ID:  The biggest challenge is how to make it somewhat believable that the action and futuristic technology of Star Wars could somehow exist on an Elizabethan stage. I handled the action by using a Chorus to explain what’s going on, as Shakespeare does in Henry V, but we still have this Shakespearean language mixed with things like blasters, lightsabers and the Death Star. You probably have to set aside any realistic expectations of a Shakespearean play when you read the book.

MG: How did the whole process take you from inception to release?
ID:  I was extremely lucky in this process, and I don’t take that for granted. After I had the idea, I looked up Quirk Books online (knowing they had published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other mash-ups) and found the email address for my editor. I emailed him out of the blue with my idea, and he said he would take a look at the manuscript if I actually wrote something. That was enough to prompt me to write the first act, which I sent to him, he enjoyed, and off we went. Quirk handled the contract with Lucasfilm, and the book was published just under a year after I had the initial idea. This is not the way publishing is supposed to happen — normally it takes much longer for a book to go from inception to release, formal proposals and agents are involved, and so on. Again, I recognize how lucky I am!

MG:  What is your favorite piece from the “Star Wars” universe that you were able to put into the book?
ID:  Han Solo has always been my favorite character, so probably putting his dialogue into iambic pentameter and writing some soliloquies for him was the most fun part of the book. He’s just such a stud — hopefully I made him a Shakespearean stud.

MG: Why is Han Solo your favorite “Star Wars” character?
ID: He was so full of swagger, and for a kind of dorky kid like me it was inspiring to watch someone that cool on the screen. It’s no wonder that Han Solo was the role that made Harrison Ford’s career.

MG:  Do you know if this has yet to make it into the hands of George Lucas?
ID: No, I haven’t heard. I’d like to believe he has read it!

MG:  Since the book is called “Verily, A New Hope”, can we expect a few sequels in cards?
ID:  It would be really fun to see the sequels happen, but at this point nothing is certain. There’s still so much richness to be explored in the trilogy — I have fun imagining what it would be like when Luke finds out Darth Vader is his father, or what Lando might soliloquize about. Maybe the biggest question: how would Yoda speak in a Shakespearean context? It would be fun to play around with (and ultimately answer) those questions.

MG:  What else do you have planned next?
ID:  I’m developing a children’s book with a friend of mine who is an illustrator, and I think there’s another Shakespearean adaptation in me (whether it’s the Star Wars sequels or something else).

Jason Brubaker talks about his graphic novel “reMIND” and “Kung Fu Panda 3”

Jason Brubaker is a visual development artist at Dreamworks Animation. He spends his free time though making graphic. In fact, he, at the time, had the highest funded graphic novel at more than $95,000 called “reMIND” and “reMIND, Vol.2”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jason about his graphic novels and his work on the upcoming “Kung Fu Panda 3”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the origin of “reMIND”?
Jason Brubaker: That’s a long story. It started out as a song that my friend and I wrote about a cat that would always come and hang out at our apartment all day. The song spawned ideas of a music video which I storyboarded. At the time my job was a storyboard artist so that was just how I thought. I storyboarded a rough concept of a cat building a robot suit and teleporting to an underwater Lizard world to fight a Lizard King with a toaster. Yeah, it’s weird but I really wanted to learn to animate so I thought this would be a good place to start. Years later after spending all my free time animating clips for this music video about a cat, I started getting animation jobs. The project was never going to get finished because every time I saw dramatic improvement in my animation ability I would reanimate entire scenes and it became a mess. At the end of 8 years I only had about 3 minutes of animation that I liked and a story that had no ending. Eventually I scrapped the idea to make a graphic novel. I pretty much just started from scratch and threw out years of stuff that just didn’t work but the design of Victuals, the robot suit and the lighthouse were pretty much untouched. I figured out a complete story to tell and the characters finally clicked into place.

MG: Tell us about some of your major influences for these graphic novels?
JB: Victuals was loosely based on the cat that would wonder into our apartment long ago and Sonja was loosely based on my wife. I’m not sure either look or act like my characters though. So I guess you could say they are VERY loosely based on them. I’ve always loved stories with really strong female characters much like Miyazaki’s work and I was hoping to get that same sort of feeling that Miyazaki’s movies always give me. Chris Bachalo (more of his old stuff), Joshua Middleton and Christian Schellewald are the big influences right now.

MG: Are you surprised by success of Kickstarter?
JB: Yes, very much. In fact I still don’t understand how it made as much money as it did.

MG: What was your biggest challenge with “reMind Vol.2” compared to the 1st volume?
JB: The biggest challenge with Volume 2 was just sitting down to put in the work. I was so busy fulfilling orders and keeping up the online hype for the first book that I didn’t have time to make any progress on the second one. Eventually I had to just lock myself into a room and turn off all communication in order to get it finished in a reasonable amount of time.

MG: Take us through your day to day work with Dreamworks Animation; what are you currently working on with them?
JB: At Dreamworks, I’m working on “Kung Fu Panda 3” as a Visual Development Artist. I pretty much just paint pictures all day on the computer in Photoshop. Sometimes I need to make a 3D model so everyone can look at a set from any angle they want to decide what will work best. Sometimes I have to paint “color keys” and sometimes I just create simple props. It’s a pretty fun job because I get to work on many visual aspects of a large production.

MG: Tell us what you have planned next after “reMind”?
JB: Honestly, up until a few months ago I would have told you about my big comic plans for the future but at this time in my life I don’t really know what is going to be next. I might take a break from starting a new comic because I have a few other ideas that I feel are important to me now. But for the time I’ll just have to keep it vague.