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!

 

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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

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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Blu-ray Review “Atlantis: The Lost Empire / Atlantis: Milo’s Return”

Actors: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Cree Summer, Don Novello, Claudia Christian
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Run Time: 176 minutes

“Atlantis: The Lost Empire”: 3 out of 5 stars
“Atlantis: Milo’s Return”: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Last year Disney started flooding the market with their less than par animated films on Blu-ray in these 2 Movie Collection sets. A few of them that we got “The Rescuers”/”The Rescuers Down Under”, “Pocahontas”/Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” and “Mulan”/”Mulan II”. This month we are getting a few more to add to our collections including “The Emperor’s New Groove”/”Kronk’s New Groove”, “Lilo & Stitch”/”Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch” and this release “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”/”Atlantis 2: Milo’s Return”. “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is not the best thing that Disney has every made, it is watchable and put not one of my favorites.  The sequel is another story, it was original made as a TV show “Team Atlantis” but failed and ended up being pieced together as a film. It is quite the failure in terms of Disney. I would say this release is for the hardcore Disney fans only.

Official Premise: Set a course for adventure as Milo Thatch and his fearless crew dive into the mysteries of the sea.  The group’s underwater expedition brings them face-to-face with gigantic sea monsters, spectacular spirits and the mythical land of Atlantis while they discover the power of friendship and teamwork.  Loaded with thrills and stunning visual effects, this sensational 2-Movie Collection takes audiences on an unforgettable voyage they’ll want to experience over and over again!

The 2-Movie Collection release of “Atlantis: The Lost Empire / Atlantis: Milo’s Return” is a 3-disc set. Which includes both films on one Blu-ray with each film also included on their own DVD. In terms of Blu-ray presentation, the 1080p transfers are great for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, which really looks clear and the colors are beautiful. “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” is not the greatest, especially since it really has that made-for-TV feel to it. Just doesn’t work for me overall. Both films come stocked with a standard, yet impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio tracks, same thing applies here also as the video transfer. The first film sounds stunning and very epic, while the sequel does not reach that same level at all. Decent but no wow factor.

The best thing this Blu-ray has going for it that “The Emperor’s New Groove”/”Kronk’s New Groove” and “Lilo & Stitch”/”Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch” doesn’t is that it actually has special features on the Blu-ray disc. There is an audio commentary on the first film from producer Don Hahn and directors Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise.  I actually thought it was quite interesting and informational. “The Making of Atlantis” is a sweet hour long extensive ten-part documentary, which covers all aspects of the production. “The Lost Empire Deleted Scenes” includes four unused scenes. There is one deleted scene from “Milo’s Return” running thirty-two seconds long…really? Lastly there is “How to Speak Atlantean” as a faux news reel, “Atlantis: Fact or Fiction?”, which is fun for the kids and Theatrical Trailers included.

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Tara Bennett talks about her companion book “The Art of Epic”

Tara Bennett is the author of several movie and TV companion books including the upcoming “The Art of Epic“, as well as “The Art of 300”, and “The Art of Terminator Salvation”. She also contributed to the media tie-in books for ‘The Official Firefly Companions Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3’ and ‘Firefly: Celebration’. She has also done interviews and features for print and online publications, including The Walking Dead Magazine, Once Upon a Time Magazine, SCI FI Magazine, Blastr and many more. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tara about her latest book and her love for pop culture.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with your latest book “The Art of Epic”?
Tara Bennett: I’ve worked with Titan Books since 2005 when I contributed to their Making of Fantastic Four book. I’ve been blessed to continue working with them over the last decade contributing to their Firefly Companions. As an individual author, I wrote for them all four of the 24: Series Companions, The Art of Terminator Salvation and Terminator Salvation Movie Companion. Late last year, they contacted me about writing The Art of epic and I was thrilled. I’m a long-time animation nut and this was my first opportunity to write a concept to creation book for an animated film so I jumped at the opportunity.

MG: Where you able to see the film “Epic” before working on the companion book?
I had the special opportunity to go to the Blue Sky Studios in Connecticut last September, where I got to meet the entire epic team. While there, I had a fascinating three hour presentation from epic Art Director Mike Knapp, who walked me through the entire conceptual evolution of the film. I got to see all of the concept art featured in the book, watched animatics, partially completed scenes and completed scenes. Just this past February, I got to go back to Blue Sky as part of my coverage for Total Film Magazine and watch about 25 minutes of the completed film. They only locked the entire film around the first week of April so I’m excited to see the final film next week.

MG: After working on “The Art of 300” and “The Art of Terminator Salvation”; how does “The Art of Epic” compare?
The common thread when doing any “art of” book is getting to see the early ideas that are developed for each film. “Art of” books are about documenting the creative path a film takes before it becomes the finished product, so all three books afforded me the opportunity to see, and explain, the design and aesthetic evolution of each film. I graduated with a degree in TV/Radio and Film so behind the scenes stories about making films have always fascinated me and as a professional who worked in the business, I know every project has a very unique story. So that being said, it’s hard to compare those three books because they were all very different types of films. But I think the epic book is unique in showing off the wide array of artists who contributed their ideas for environments, characters looks, costuming and more, and then how their work was all distilled into the final design after a long span of trial and error. I think the book shows off their work beautifully and just how much each design phase inspired what would become the final film.

MG: How much research is required for you to do before authoring these books?
It varies on every project. I do my homework with the materials provided to me by my editor and publisher. Often, I get to do interviews with key members of the production where I really get into the history and the practical decisions surrounding every aspect of making the film. My background and general love of the film and television industry also means I’m already always reading about, or keeping up with, trends and technology so I know the right questions to ask when I get the opportunity. Honestly, it’s the fun part of the job for me.

MG: I am a huge “Firefly” fan, tell us about your work on “The Official Firefly Companions Vol. 1-3” & “Firefly: Celebration”?
Hello fellow Browncoat! Working on all of the Firefly Companions has been an absolute dream. It’s got an incredibly passionate fan base so from the start I knew I would get to write for the real hard core fans who want to know the tiniest details about every aspect of that show which was exciting. Those books are not for a watered-down, mainstream audience; those books are for the true believers and that means I got to geek out in my interviews and with my writing. Also that cast and crew is just such a special collection of people so getting to talk with them and reminisce officially about the show was incredible. It’s always thrilling to meet a new Firefly fan, of which we are legion now and always growing, so those books make me very proud.

MG: Tell us about your print and online work including The Walking Dead Magazine, SCI FI Magazine, Blastr etc?
I’ve been an entertainment journalist full time since 2003 when I transitioned out of television producing into writing full-time. Along with writing books, I also cover television, film and pop culture for an array of online and print outlets. For Titan Magazines, I’ve worked on just about all of their series and film-centric specialty magazines from 2003 to today including most recently The Walking Dead Magazine, Once Upon a Time Collector’s Magazines and Grimm Magazine. I am the east coast editor for SFX Magazine and contributor for Total Film Magazine. I write for SCI FI Magazine. Online, I write for Movies.com, FEARnet, Blaster and more. I keep myself as diversified as possible because this business is rough and I never know when an outlet might disappear or not need me. Having a lot of places to write for makes my freelancing life a little more stable…if possible.

MG: What is your current obsessions now in pop culture, whether TV, comics, film etc?
Good question. Currently, I’m in Game of Thrones mode. I really love this season and am a little more invested because two of my graduating students work on the series in the visual effects department so their names in the credits every week always makes me smile. The summer movie season is here so I’m excited about Star Trek Into Darkness, epic (obviously), The Wolverine, Elysium and more. I’m a huge The Hunger Games nerd so I’m excited about Catching Fire in the fall. And then the upcoming TV season has some exciting possibilities and I love covering new shows anticipating if any will become one of my new favorites.

MG: What do you have planned next? In terms of “Art of Books”?
The book writing world is extremely mercurial. I’m at the mercy of a publisher or editor knocking on my cyber door to see if I’m available, so nothing is currently on my calendar but I hope something pops up soon and I’ll be back in the trenches again.

 

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Jeffrey Brown talks about new book “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”

Jeffrey Brown the author of last years hit children’s book “Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son”. When this book was realized was a month before my daughter was born and I couldn’t help but ask where is the female version. Well my request was answered with the newly released sequel “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jeffrey about his books and what we can expect next. If you want to ask him your own questions be sure to check out the upcoming Virtual Chat between Jeffrey, Daniel Wallace and Jonathan Rinzler on May 1st, click here to submit questions.

Mike Gencarelli: Are you surprised by the success of “Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son”?
Jeffrey Brown: I am. I thought it would do well, on the basis of it being a Star Wars book if nothing else, but I didn’t anticipate the incredible response it got. I’m most surprised by how much kids love the book. I wrote it from and for the parents’ perspective, but kids really get a kick out of it.

MG: What has been your son’s reaction to the book?
He likes it, although I suspect spending a year watching me write and draw the book too some of the shine off it.  He doesn’t like it as much as my nephew who’s just about the same age.

MG: Where did get your inspiration for “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”?
There wasn’t really enough space for Leia in the first book, so I knew I wanted to do more with her. At the same time, I felt like I’d used up most of the four-year-old jokes and situations, so making Leia a teenager seemed obvious, and provided a lot more potential material – especially being able to show her dating Han Solo.

MG: Did you find this follow-up more challenging?
I did – first, because I’d used up some key bits of dialogue and scenes from the movies, and second, I don’t have a teenage daughter. Fortunately, I have a few friends with teenage daughters, and was able to get some ideas from them as well as my editor at Lucasfilm, J.W. Rizler. who has daughters.

How much research did you do within the “Star Wars” universe to complete these books?
Even though I’ve seen the films countless times, I re-watched them repeatedly the whole time I was working on the book. I also used numerous books, issues of Star Wars Insider, looked at toys, and finally had a good reason to spend some time intensely studying my collection of Topps Star Wars cards.

MG: Have you ever heard a reaction from George Lucas on these books?
I heard that he asked for more copies of Darth Vader and son, which is extremely flattering. As much as I was having fun with the Star Wars universe, I wanted to be true to it, and so I feel like I did it right.

MG: Can you give us a sneak preview for “Star Wars: Jedi Academy”
Jedi Academy is the story of Roan Novachez, a young boy from Tatooine expecting to spend middle school at the Pilot Academy, but ends up at Jedi Academy instead. The story is told through Roan’s journal, comics, letters from family, notes from class, and even pages from the school newspaper. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before in many ways, and I hope kids have as much fun reading it as I had making it.

MG: You co-wrote last years’s “Save The Date”; do you expect to do more feature films?
I do, although it might be a while. I have a handful of ideas I’d like to work on, but I also have a ton of books I’d like to draw, and have more Star Wars books that I’m already working on. So for now I’m just letting the film ideas percolate in the back of my mind until it’s time to really get to work on them.

MG: Tell us about your upcoming book “A Matter of Life”?
I’ve had the idea of writing some stories about my experiences with religion for a while, and A Matter Of Life started out as that book. My dad is a minister, and I’m a father now myself, so at some point the book became about fatherhood as much as anything else. It’s more meditative and thoughtful than the other work I’ve been doing lately, and is probably my most personal autobiographical book yet.

 

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Kevin J. Anderson talks about books "Hellhole Awakening", "Mentats of Dune" and working with Rush’s Neil Peart on "Clockwork Angels"

Kevin J. Anderson is the known best for his work in the “Dune” universe working with co-author Brian Herbert. He also co-authored the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel” with Neil Peart from the band Rush. He is releasing his latest novel, “Hellhole Awakening” this month and working on the next “Dune” novel, “Mentats of Dune”, due next year. Kevin took out some to time to chat with Media Mikes before he hits the road to promote his new novels discuss them and also what else he has in the cards for 2013.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your latest novel “Hellhole Awakening”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Brian Herbert and I have written about a dozen other books together in Frank Herbert’s “Dune” universe. They are all international best sellers and we love diving into that universe. But after doing all those books together we decided to take a crack at our own universe. It is trilogy. “Hellhole” is the first one, which came out two years ago. And now “Hellhole Awakening” is part two and comes out at the end of March. Hellhole is a planet that is struck by an asteroid. Due to that, there are volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and most of the native life forms are extinct. Then you have a bunch of misfits that are trying to colonize it, led by an exiled rebel general. So, these desperate colonists are trying to make a new life for themselves on a very hellish place. We have a lot of various storylines with aliens, disasters, terrific space battles and some other really cool stuff. We are very excited about the trilogy. It is really epic. The story just keeps building after what the first book has set up. (I know I should have a good one-liner to describe it—HELLHOLE is about a colony trying to survive in a place where nobody would want to live.

MG: Tell us about how this collaboration with Brian Herbert compares than your other books?
KJA:  We have been doing this since the mid-1990’s and every single year we have a new book out. We have spent most of the time in the “Dune” universe, and we really know how the other person thinks. We play upon each other’s strengths and are able to describe things and tell a story we find engaging. The “Hellhole” books gave us a chance to strut our own stuff instead of using what Frank Herbert developed in the “Dune” universe. It is nice to play with your own toys sometimes.

MG: Also with Brian, How is your progress coming along for “Mentats of Dune”?
KJA:  MENTATS is the second book (after SISTERHOOD OF DUNE) in a new trilogy set about 10,000 years before the original novel “Dune”. It is about the formation of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the Mentats School. “Mentats of Dune” will be out next spring. Actually when the phone rang for this interview, I was editing page 100 out of page 651. Brian and I are in our fifth draft, and we will probably go through ten drafts or so until we get it all finalized. We do a book every year, kind of like clockwork… which leads me into my other recent book “Clockwork Angels,” the steampunk fantasy adventure based on the new Rush concept album.

MG: I was just going to ask actually, tell us about the “Clockwork Angels: The Watchmaker’s Edition”?
KJA:  The Watchmakers Edition is the audiobook version of the novel. Not your typical audio book. It is unabridged and read by Neil Peart (the drummer from Rush, with whom I cowrote the novel). Neil has a gorgeous voice and he wanted to do this. This novel is very close to him and me as well. And what could be better than having Neil Peart read it himself? The novel and the audiobook itself were released last September. “The Watchmaker’s Edition” is a very snazzy special edition, with a modeled clock tower with a working clock inside. It has beautiful artwork all around it by Hugh Syme, the cover and album artist. (He’s done all of the artwork for Rush’s albums dating the way back to “2112”. ) It also has a nice poster inside with a timeline for the “Clockwork Angels” project for Rush and my work as well. Any die-hard Rush fan should have this.

MG: Let’s go back, tell us about origin about how this collaboration came about with Rush’s Neil Peart?
KJA:  “Clockwork Angels” is Rush’s latest concept album, like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or The Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It is a steampunk fantasy adventure about a Big Brother figure called The Watchmaker and a crazy anarchist who wants to destroy everything—who meet up with a naive dreamer, someone who grew up in a small town. He wants to visit the big city where the Clockwork Angels are. The world has zeppelins, pirates, steampunk carnivals, and the lost seven cities of gold. Neil and I have known each other for about 25 years. He’s already read my books and I have always been a Rush fan. We’ve worked together a few times. Before CLOCKWORK ANGELS, we did a short story called “Drumbeats.” and Neil wrote an introduction to a collection of short stories I did. When he was developing the story for the”Clockwork Angels” album, I started brainstorming with him just because it was fun. At some point along the way, Neil suggested that this could be a novel also. This novel is something I’ve been waiting my entire career to do. Rush’s music has inspired many of my stories. During their “Time Machine” tour, they came to Colorado (where I live) and on a day off, Neil and I climbed a 14,000 foot mountain—because what else do you do on your day off? During the hike up, we plotted the story and came up with the characters. So while Rush was writing the album, I was putting together the story in my head. I was able to put in little references to Rush lyrics—not just “Clockwork Angels” but the entire library of songs. If you are a die-hard Rush fan, you will catch them, but otherwise the story flows just fine.

MG:What/when can we expect from the third Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, “Hair Raising”?
KJA: HAIR RAISING is the third installment after DEATH WARMED OVER and UNNATURAL ACTS, and will be out in May. I’ve also done an original story, “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus” (available in all eBook formats), and I’ll have another new one, “Road Kill,” out in about a month. This series is a humorous horror series which follows Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., set in a world where all the monsters come back and live in a part of the city called the “Unnatural Quarter”. In HAIR RAISING, somebody is stalking werewolves and scalping them.
If you can’t tell, I have so much fun with my job. I love telling these stories. I don’t have enough time in the day to put down all the words in my head

MG: Tell us about your upcoming tour to support these?
KJA: I am about to start a US tour for HELLHOLE AWAKENING (San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, Dayton, Richmond VA, and Colorado Springs)—full tour schedule at http://kjablog.com. Unlike a rock concert tour, I will be there meeting with the fans face to face, give a little talk about working with Brian and Neil, and there’ll be a Q&A, door prizes, lots of cool stuff. I look forward to getting out there and meeting the fans.

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Hollis Wilder talks about cupcakes and her new book "Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan"

Hollis Wilder is the owner of Sweet! by Holly, which is a cupcake shop located in Orlando, FL. She is also a two-time Winner on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”. Besides running a successful business she also does a lot of motivational speaking and is releasing a cookbook in May 2013 called “Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan”. Media Mikes had a chance to ask Hollis a few questions about cupcakes as well as her new book.

Mike Gencarelli: When you opened your store, Sweet! by Holly, did you ever think you would be where you are today?
Hollis Wilder: Absolutely not! But in truth I did not plan most of the incredible things that have happened in my life, personally or professionally. What I have gotten far exceeds what I was hoping for!

MG: How does it feel to rank in the The Daily Meal’s Top 50 Cupcakes in America this year?
HW: Always great to get recognition from media sources, but the most important confirmation comes daily from regular customers who like what we are making and keep returning to buy more.

MG: Besides cooking you also deliver motivational talks and presentations to colleges and companiesabout empowerment, success and personal growth; tell us about that side of you?
HW: I speak about how we all need to find our own, “cupcake,” whatever that might be. Trust your inner voice and not the white noise around you. Food is a vehicle for me to communicate what is of value to me and how I try to give back to my community. I try to share the information that I have collected during my own personal journey. I love nothing more than helping others find their own excellence and develop the courage to pursue it.

MG: How did you decide to become an author with “Savory Bites: Meals You Can Make in Your Cupcake Pan”? Can you give us a sneak preview as to what we can expect from the book?
HW: I was pursued by one of the top publishers in the country, Abrams. Savory meals all prepared in a cupcake pan. It’s all about creating homemade culinary experiences without sacrificing convenience. also, I promote what I call, living life in portions. Instead of dishes that have no beginning or end, like a casserole, I put meals in the perfect portion of a traditional cupcake pan. I am promoting use of the savory bites in our new concept potluxe dinners, a reconstruction of old-fashioned potlucks but with a cutting edge perspective on ingredients and portions. Lots more to come on this as we approach release of the book in May.

MG: What else do you have planning in the cards for 2013?
HW: If i think about all the wonderful projects on my plate for 2013, I get totally overwhelmed. I’ve learned to stay in the moment and do what’s in front of me and things work out. I wrote the cookbook while running a growing business and managing a family with two small children, so basically I was creating meals and testing recipes while everyone was sleeping. This year will no doubt bring more challenges, successes and failures, but in the end I am grateful for all the incredible opportunities I have been given to challenge myself to be the very best Hollis I can be!

Kevin J. Anderson talks about working with the band Rush on the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”

Kevin J. Anderson is the co-author of the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”, which is based on the band Rush’s latest album. The novelization is co-written with Neil Peart, who is the drummer and lyricist for the band. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about this collaboration and his work with Rush.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up collaborating with Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart on “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Neil and I have been friends since around 1990; I’ve always been a Rush fan, and he reads my novels. My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure. Over the years we’ve toyed with the idea of doing a novel/album crossover project, but the stories and the schedules never synched up. As Clockwork Angels began to take shape, though, it had that right set of ingredients. As he developed the story for the songs, he suggested that I do the novel.

MG: Since Neil wrote “Clockwork Angels” as a concept album, did that make the adapting process easier?
KJA: He’s always given me props for my worldbuilding skills, and when he started putting the songs and the story together, he turned me loose to let me develop the world, to see how the pieces fit together (like “Clockwork,” naturally!). Neil had most of the framework for the story, which is set out in the songs, but I helped connect the dots, added extra characters, fleshed out the scenes. But I didn’t change anything in the album or the songs—Neil wrote what he wanted to write, and I developed a story that captured it as best I could.

MG: What was your inspiration for the dystopian fiction featured in the story?
KJA: Oddly, we consider this a “nice” sort of dystopia. Yes, the Watchmaker controls a lot of people’s lives, which is a bad thing if you’re a square peg and the rest of the world is made of round holes, but for the vast majority of the population, this really is an idyllic sort of world. But our character is a dreamer and wants something more.

MG: How did you end up merging this story with the steampunk subgenre?
I’ve been writing steampunk since 1989 (before the term was ever invented, I think), and Neil liked that aspect. He had the idea of a steampunk motif from the very beginning, and it was always part of the canvas as the story and music took shape.

MG: Tell us about your work with artist Hugh Syme?
KJA: Hugh had already done some of the paintings for the CD booklet before I started writing. I used his artwork for details and inspiration, and he read the drafts of some scenes as I delivered them. Hugh had an uncanny knack for taking a detail or a metaphor at the core of the story (something even I didn’t realize) and pulling it to the surface, which would send me back to the draft to emphasize that part and add new scenes. We worked closely together for the illustrated booklet that accompanies the unabridged audiobook (which Neil Peart narrates), Hugh and I getting the finished content, design, and layout done for Brilliance Audio in only a few days!

MG: I think that this novel would make a great movie…(Hint Hint)!
I certainly wouldn’t disagree with you, but it doesn’t matter what I think. Some movie producer has to get that idea in his or her head!

MG: Do you feel that there will ever been another additional chapter to this story?
KJA: Not as an endless series of book after book. But Neil and I love the world and the characters, and we feel that some of the side tales might be worth exploring. Not in the immediate future, though. I have two massive books I’m writing, and Rush has this tour thing they’re on…

MG: What is your favorite song on the album “Clockwork Angels”?
KJA: It often changes as I keep listening to the album. Right now, the one that seems closest to my heart is “Headlong Flight,” which means so much to the story and means so much to me about my life.

MG: What do you have planned next? Any plans to work with Rush again?
KJA: Right now I am editing MENTATS OF DUNE with Brian Herbert, my next major novel in that series, and I am beginning a new trilogy in my gigantic “Seven Suns” universe, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS. It’ll probably be a thousand pages long, and as of today I hit the halfway point! And I have two other novels ready to be cued up in the new year. It’s too soon to think about doing anything else with Rush —they’ll be touring for quite some time yet.

 

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William Joyce talks about the film “Rise of the Guardians” and book series “The Guardians of Childhood”

William Joyce is the author of the “The Guardians of Childhood” series, which is being made into the film, “Rise of the Guardians”. William also served as executive producer on the film. William recently released the third novel in “The Guardians of the Childhood” series, called “Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies” and also a picture book “Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies”. Media Mikes had a chance to ask William a few questions about turning his series into a film and chatted about his new books.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your work on DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians”?
William Joyce: The upcoming DreamWorks Animation “Rise of the Guardians”, set for release on November 21, is based on my book series “The Guardians of Childhood.” It takes place 200 years after the team’s formation in the books; it tells the story of Jack’s recruitment to the team and centers around four of the guardians; Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny. The Guardians of Childhood book series tells a sweeping tale of the ongoing battle between Pitch, lord of nightmares, and the eponymous guardians, consisting of figures such as the Man in the Moon, Nicolas St. North, the Tooth Fairy, Bunnymund the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, Mother Goose, and Jack Frost. I also worked as the executive producer, so I collaborated on all aspects of the film. Design, story, and casting.

MG: What was the most challenging aspect of bringing “The Guardians of Childhood” to screen?
WJ: Narrowing the story down to a 90 minute film, then bringing that story to the screen. Animated feature films are titanic endeavors, and take years to realize.

MG: Tell us about the next novel in the series “Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies”?
WJ: Toothania, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies, is the third and the newest in The Guardian series. It delves into the secret world of the third Guardian, the mysterious Tooth Fairy. This third chapter book presents you to Her Royal Highness, Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairies. There’s a lot more to her than has been previously understood.

MG: How many other book do you have planned in this series?
WJ: The Guardians of Childhood Series and The Guardians series will consist in total of thirteen books; the seven picture books in The Guardians of Childhood series and six chapter books in the Guardians of Childhood series.

MG: How did the idea for picture book “The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie” come about?
WJ: I’ve been working on a unified mythology for the icons of childhood since my daughter asked me if Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy knew each other. As a parent, I felt that Santa Claus, the Man in the Moon, all of them had become a little diminished. They deserve to be thought of as grand. Heroic. Epic. If Spider-Man has an origins mythology, then why not the characters we actually believed in? Creating a voice for their stories became my mission.

MG: Tell us about the road to “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” winning the Best Animated Short in 2011 Oscars?
WJ: We started Moonbot Studios three years ago, in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s an unlikely place to have an animation studio. We are, I believe, the 104th largest city in the United States. But we love it. Shreveport is home. To do the short we had to mortgage our houses and hunt for every nickel we could rub together. It was a huge risk. But we believed in ourselves and the story. Most of our employees were fresh out of college. Working at Moonbot was their first job. When we won, the whole city, the entire state of Louisiana, went nuts. It was like a Frank Capra movie come to life. They gave us a ticker tape parade, a key to the city, and sang for he’s a jolly good fellow. Our lives became like the movies we’d been inspired by and loved. It was surreal, unspeakably happy and perfect. But now our employees are totally spoiled.

MG: What can you tell us about your next film “Epic”?
WJ: Epic is an upcoming 3D computer animated fantasy-adventure film based on my children’s book “The Leaf Men.” It’s an epic adventure that just happens to be in the secret world of a teenage girl’s backyard. A race o tiny beings threatened by an ancient evil. I like to think of it as an intimate epic. It’s being produced by Blue Sky Studios and directed by Chris Wedge, the director of Ice Age (2002) and Robots (2005). It stars the voices of Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Knoxville, Aziz Ansari, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, and Steven Tyler. The film is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2013.

Jon Klassen talks about his books “I Want My Hat Back” & “This is Not My Hat”

Jon Klassen is the creator of the #1 New York Times bestseller I Want My Hat Back. The book was was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, an E. B. White Read-Aloud Award winner, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, and a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year. He has done design work for DreamWorks Feature Animation as well as LAIKA Studios on their feature film “Coraline”. On the success of “I Want My Hat Back”, Candlewick Press is releasing his follow-up children’s book “This is Not My Hat”. Jon took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about his books and his inspiration.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how “I Want My Hat Back” came to fruition?
Jon Klassen: “I Want My Hat Back” came from an idea about the cover – I liked a character not wearing a hat and the title being “I Want My Hat Back”. Around the same time I did some greeting card drawings with a bunch of animals wearing party hats but not looking too excited about it, and one of them was a bear and I thought, “well, he’s wearing a hat, lets try that.” The story itself came pretty quickly after I decided to do the whole thing in dialogue. I got very lucky to find a home for it at Candlewick – they totally got it and made it way better than I even pictured.

MG: How can you reflect on the success and internet reaction of “I Want My Hat Back” The internet meme stuff was a huge surprise. What was interesting is that they were based on photographs of the book that someone posted but they didn’t post the last few pages where you find out what happened to the rabbit, so I started getting emails from people that had found out the ending much later. I still have no idea why it got picked up and spread around like that, but I’m very happy it did.

MG: How did the story for “This is Not My Hat” comes about?
Very haphazardly, much the same way the first book did. I’d been trying some other stories with the animals from the first book and they weren’t working, so I tried a few with fish, and they didn’t involve hats, really, and then this one just came up one night and happened to involve a hat theft again! I was pretty surprised.

MG: Are you nervous about trying to achieve follow-up success with this next book?
JK: I was a little bit, but I tried to keep my head down to whatever the first book was doing out there while I was working on this second one. I knew, or at least I hoped, that some people who saw this book wouldn’t have seen the last one, and I wanted it to stand on its own as much as it could.

MG: What do you enjoy most about writing children’s books?
JK: I think I like best how clear and simple the wording has to be, even though the story can be more complex. Having the mandate of simple language is a really fun rule. I also like how it only has to be part of the story, since the pictures need a job to do, too. It takes the pressure off the actual writing part, though not off the get-a-good-idea part.

MG: Tell us about your experience working on the stop-motion film “Coraline”?
JK: On “Coraline” I did a lot of drawings for sets and props and just general concept pictures. I worked at the studio on it for a little under two years, and it was an amazing thing to be on. I would make a drawing of a little chair with some fabric on it, and then they would build it – way better than I had drawn it – with the little fabric and little fabric nails and wood details and come and show it to me. It was insane. Some of the sets were huge, too. You go and look at them being built and you just think “man, I hope I thought this through…”. I think it’s a great-looking film, though, and I’m really proud to have worked on it.

MG: What other projects do you have in the cards?
JK: I’m working on another book of my own for Candlewick and also illustrating another book that Mac Barnett wrote. Both are still in the early stages where it sounds like you’re keeping it secret but really they’re not figured out yet.

 

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Tom Dunlop talks about “Jaws”, Martha Vineyard and his latest book “The Chappy Ferry Book”

A couple of years ago, on my 50th birthday, one of my best “Jaws” buddies presented me with a photograph from “Jaws 2” autographed by one of the film’s then-teenage stars, Tom Dunlop. Less then a year later I had the great opportunity to meet Mr. Dunlop while on a visit to Martha’s Vineyard, where he lives. In our brief conversation I learned that he had followed his love for writing into adulthood and had written a couple of books related to the Vineyard and was finishing up a third. This summer I visited the island again and picked up his latest book, an in depth and entertaining look at the Chappy Ferry, the barge/boat combination that takes pretty much anything you could imagine the short distance from Edgartown to the small island of Chappaquiddick. While celebrating the release of the book Mr. Dunlop took the time to chat with Media Mikes about acting (he’s Julliard trained), the island he loves and how piloting the Ferry isn’t as easy as it looks.

Mike Smith: You originally began a career as an actor — what made you pursue writing?
Tom Dunlop: In a way, I began doing both at about the same time, but writing actually came first.

As a summer kid on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1970s, I took an interest in the Vineyard Gazette, the weekly paper not far from my home in Edgartown, and when I was fourteen I got my first summer job cleaning up the back shop after printing days. I made five bucks a week! I told Dick and Jody Reston, the publishers, that I liked reading newspapers – the Gazette especially – and wanted to learn how to write for it. They started giving me press releases to re-write and actual stories to cover. I got my first front page by-line in the Gazette when I was fifteen. It was a story about the Edgartown Regatta. Never in my life had I known a thrill like holding a paper with my story on the front page, and my name at the start!

Though I wanted to act very much, I only started performing in plays during my sophomore year in high school, because the schools I went to before that had almost nothing in the way of drama programs. My father was an English teacher at a boarding school in northern Virginia, and every six weeks or so the whole student body would travel by bus into Washington, D.C. to see plays at Arena Stage and what is now known as the Shakespeare Theater. My mom, dad, and I went on these theater trips too, and I fell in love with those great city theaters. Everything I did in school after that – and I was fortunate to go to some very good schools: Taft, Brown, the Juilliard Drama Division – was meant to prepare me to be a member of an acting company like Arena’s.

“JAWS 2” was something of a detour. I just lucked into that part. Though I was at Taft, my home was now Edgartown, and as school was coming to an end that spring, the “JAWS 2” company was looking for a kid who could sail an old-fashioned sailboat called a Herreshoff 12½. My stepfather owned the first H-12½ in the harbor. So I’d had some practice sailing it, and convinced Shari Rhodes (the casting director) and Dorothy Tristan (the screenwriter at that point) that I was the only kid in town who knew the boat well enough to do the job. It wasn’t true, but I was a good enough actor to convince them! As much of an adventure as shooting that movie was, it didn’t dissuade me from wanting to act full time on stage. So that’s what I studied and trained for, and those were the sorts of acting jobs I pursued for about twelve years after graduating from Juilliard in 1988. I loved the theater work when I landed it. But while I was preparing for a life in a repertory company, going from play to play to play within one theater, the theaters themselves were disbanding their companies, hiring actors only on an as-needed bases. Under those circumstances, I never worked as consistently as I wanted or needed to.

So it was a really lucky break that I never lost my love for journalism, because when I decided to close out my acting career in 2000, all sorts of new opportunities were waiting for me on the Vineyard: the managing editorship – and briefly the editorship – of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, feature stories to write for the paper and the magazine – and now, incredibly, books about the most amazing businesses on Martha’s Vineyard!

MS: What was it about the Chappy ferry that made you want to write about it?
TD: I fell for the Chappy ferry when I was four years old. On a stormy June day, my parents took me down to see it, and I remember rounding the corner on Dock Street and seeing this matchbox sized ferry – the original ON TIME – shoveling its way across the harbor entrance, white water spraying over its deck. (NOTE: Fans of the film “Jaws” will recognize the ON TIME as the ferry on which Brody is browbeaten into keeping the beaches open for the Fourth of July) You know how some people fixate on rockets when they first see them? Or muscle cars? Or thrillers about a shark menacing an island off the coast of southern New England? Right there and then, I fixated on the Chappy ferry pretty much like that.

To me, it’s an utterly unique enterprise – more than two hundred years old as a service, yet doing pretty much exactly the same thing it was doing the first time a guy rowed some other guy across the harbor for a penny or two. That sense of a history living on into my own time thrills me completely. I also admire the seamanship of the captains and deckhands, who drive these things at right angles to all the traffic they encounter at one of the narrowest, busiest, and most tide swept places in the whole harbor. You just can’t believe some of the weather they sail through, especially in the winter. Imagine a blizzard. And imagine that ferry sailing through it all day or all night. Because that’s what it does, almost no matter the weather. It takes a huge, truly dangerous storm to stop the ferry from running.

Most of all, though, I wanted to write about it because I knew from a very young age, exploring the files at the Vineyard Gazette and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, that no one had ever told the whole story before. The fact that I’d get to be the very first guy to do that for a ferry I adore simply blew me away. I often say I’m the luckiest writer on Martha’s Vineyard for the stories I’ve gotten to tell. But sometimes I think I’m the luckiest writer anywhere.

MS: This is your third book centered around/on Martha’s Vineyard. What is it about the island that inspires you?
TD: A wonderful question!

Some of it is obvious. If you watch “JAWS,” and if you’ve visited it before, you know that nothing else looks quite like it. Not even Nantucket or Cape Cod, which are both right next door. There’s a powdery quality to the light that softens and deepens everything it touches on the Vineyard, a phenomenon I notice every day. Even when it’s stormy, or brisk and cold, there’s something about the light over the Island that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

I love the history of the Vineyard. Outside of a city like Boston or New York, you’d be very hard to find anyplace else in the continental United States with an older or better-documented history than Martha’s Vineyard. The white men and women who settled this place in 1642 were compulsive record keepers and historians; they wrote down everything — in letters, journals, whaling logs, deeds, wills, club minutes, store ledgers, diaries, weather records, newspapers. You get to see the history of this place from all these parallax views, so that it feels as alive and present-day as any history can possibly be.

Finally the answer comes down to the stories I’ve gotten to tell. If you look at the book I wrote with photographer Alison Shaw about Morning Glory Farm, or the one about the building of the schooner REBECCA at the Gannon and Benjamin wooden-boat building yard in Vineyard Haven, or the new ferry book, you come to the very quick and certain conclusion that there’s no place on earth quite like this one. There’s no other place with a collection of businesses quite like these, which – to the people who run them – amount to causes. These are callings that most people would never feel, let alone dream up, establish, invest in and run with everything they’ve got, unless they realized that they were already fortunate enough to live in the only place on earth that could welcome and support them all.

MS: Have you ever had the opportunity to pilot the Ferry?
TD: Another great question!
Yes. Three or four times with an increasingly cocky belief that nothing could be easier. And then, just once, with such incompetence and fright that I vowed never to try it again. Some years ago, I wrote a feature story about the ferry for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine…in fact, the idea to write a book came from reporting and writing that story in 2007. The editor of the magazine, Nicki Miller, and the art director, Alley Moore, challenged me to try skippering the ferry myself, and we ran that story as a sidebar headlined “How Hard Could It Be?”

The captains were very kind to let me try it. It was winter, so we held off until those crossings when there were no other passengers or cars aboard and no other boats sailing into or out of the harbor. I stood up on the platform at the helm, the console right in front of me, looked left and right, saw no traffic, and pushed the throttle down. The ferry left the Chappy slip smoothly and growled her way reliably across the channel toward Edgartown. The only trick to it, really, is that there is a toggle rather than a steering wheel. You goose it left or right to turn the boat. And though the toggle snaps back to an upright position when you let it go, the rudder below you stays where you angled it. So the ferry keeps turning until you toggle the rudder back to center.
I confess this took a little getting used to. The first time, approaching the Edgartown slip, I noticed the bow swinging off to one side at the last minute, and though I reversed hard, I pretty much T-boned the end of the bulkhead on the right side as you face the ramp. But even though the slip appears to get narrower and narrower as you glide toward it, I began to get a feel for it. As I say, on my third or fourth crossing, I was sure I had the whole thing down. Really… How Hard Could It Be?

Until. . . .

Until one windy night at the end of April of that year, after a storm tore through South Beach at the far end of the harbor, opening it to the Atlantic. It was the first time I tried driving the ferry at night, and the first time I’d attempted to drive it in the ferocious, tsunami-like currents that had begun rolling through the harbor entrance as a result of the second, new opening to the ocean.
The captain let me take her out of the Chappy slip and the second we got into the channel, I felt the tide bang into the hull, almost like we’d hit a wall. Leaving the slip, I had a good sense of what the lights looked like over on the Edgartown side, and thus what to aim for. But as I gunned the engine and looked ahead, I realized that those weren’t the lights I was seeing, because the tide had pushed the bow of the ferry almost 45 degrees to the right, toward the Harbor View Hotel.

Further off to my right, I caught a glimpse of the flashing Edgartown lighthouse – that couldn’t possibly be right! The ferry never pointed in that direction except in “JAWS: THE REVENGE,” and we know how that turned out. I felt a wave of fear rise up – where were we exactly? What was I pointing at? I had millions of dollars of ferryboat beneath my feet. Was I about to hit something? I’d lost my bearings, and in my confusion, I pushed the toggle in the wrong direction. Instead of swinging back in the right direction, we kept turning . To make a very long story short, had you been standing on the upper deck of Memorial Wharf that windy night, looking across to Chappy, what you would have seen was the ferry leaving the Chappy slip, sailing properly toward you for perhaps three seconds, and then veering away toward the lighthouse. And then continuing to turn. Inexplicably, you’d have seen the ferry make a complete circle in the middle of the harbor entrance before finally putting her nose back in the general direction of the Edgartown slip. And finding her way there, against all odds.

I say with the deepest gratitude imaginable that Maddie LeCoq, the captain at the time, took over and put the ferry in the slip for me. Had she not assumed command, the headline would have read something like this: AMITY KID WRECKS CHAPPY FERRY / WELDON BOY “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” RIGHT TO THE VERY END. (NOTE: while some of you are reading this headline and scratching your head, fans of “Jaws 2” are giggling uncontrollably. “Weldon” was Dunlop’s character’s last name in the film).

MS: What are you working on now?
TD: Peter Wells, co-owner of the ferry with his wife Sally Snipes, wants to build a third ferry so that he always has at least two in the water, ready to work at a moment’s notice, all year-round. Peter is a far-sighted, environmentally conscious guy, and it’s his ambition to build and run the third ferry on an electric motor only. This would be a huge development in the world of commercial boating – very few operators have dared to make that leap. If Peter does this, John Wilson, who produced “THE CHAPPY FERRY MOVIE,” a wonderful short film of the ferry that comes with the book on DVD, wants to make a documentary about the building and launching and operation of this new ferry. And I want to help him do it. We think such a film would go a long way to showing how far electric motors have come, and how reliably clean, efficient, and durable they can be, even when put to the test that the ferry would surely give them.

Also, for the Vineyard Gazette, John and I are working on another project, whereby we’re finding old movies of the Vineyard – mostly home movies, but some commercial ones too – and converting them to digital files. We’re going to tell the stories of what these movies show of the old Vineyard, show clips from them on the new Gazette web site, and begin to create an archive so that these irreplaceable films are not lost to neglect or ignorance.

If the above interview has whetted your appetite for the magic of Martha’s Vineyard, Media Mikes recommends the following books written by Tom Dunlp and featuring illustrative photographs by Alison Shaw:

· MORNING GLORY FARM AND THE FAMILY THAT FEEDS AN ISLAND (Vineyard Stories, 2009)
· SCHOONER: BUILDING A WOODEN BOAT ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD (Vineyard Stories, 2010)
· THE CHAPPY FERRY BOOK: BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN TWO WORLDS – 527 FEET APART (VineyardStories, 2012)

They are available at www.VineyardStories.com, your local book store and Amazon.com

 

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Author Brandon T. Snider talks about his book “The Dark Knight Manual”

Brandon T. Snider is the author of best selling “The Dark Knight Manual”, also one of my favorite Batman books. It has recently been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Time, Forbes and Wired. Brandon has also done writing for Comedy Central’s “Come Inside with Amy Schumer” and contributed humor to the Huffington Post. Media Mikes had a chance to ask Brandon a few questions about his new book and his favorite comic characters.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your biggest challenge with your book “The Dark Knight Manual”?
Brandon T. Snider: The deadlines were quite challenging, actually! The turnaround was very quick so I didn’t have a ton of time to second guess myself and the direction we ultimately went in. At first I approached the material with a slightly more personal take but it was decided to make it more cut and dry so I had to rethink how I wanted to do it and plow ahead. I wrote it in about a month which was kind of insane. I usually like writing something, taking a breather and then returning with fresh eyes. In this case I had to finish parts and then get them in quickly while wading through the material for the next part. And somehow it all came together in the end.

MG: The design of the book literally feels like a pop-up manual for the series, why did you decide that route for the book?
BTS: That format was already in place before I signed on. Insight Editions has cornered the market on cool, coffee table-sized booksthat are filled with fold outs and fun stuff. I was approached to write the book based on my previous experiences with my editor Chris Cerasi. As far as the interactive features, I wasn’t as involved in their selection but I did give suggestions based on the material I included. Process-wise we decided early on what weapons and characters to feature and then the designer, Jon Glick, would pull the appropriate artwork and create the beautiful visuals. Christopher Nolan and his team had a true vision for Batman and his world and thankfully we were able to incorporate the best pieces of that vision into the book.

MG: How much research did you have to do in order to complete this book?
BTS: I did a fair amount of research but I never strayed from what was established in the Nolan trilogy. I didn’t use the comic books or any other version of Batman than the one you’ve seen in the recent films. My main resources were Batman Begins and The Dark Knight which I watched more times than I can count. For each viewing I’d look for different things; broad themes, embellishments and sometimes just straight up information. I wanted the entirety of the films to inform my work so it was important for me to absorb as much as I could. I had ancillary resources for the more specific details and incorporated real world factoids to enhance the idea that much of Batman’s arsenal is rooted in established technology.

MG: Based on your work, is it safe to say that you are DC Comics fan over Marvel?
BTS: I don’t think it is safe to say that, my good man! I’ve not yet had a chance to work with many Marvel characters as of yet. Had I the chance, I might just take it as I think they have a great stable ofproperties. Don’t get me wrong, I love DC Comics characters. Hopefully more opportunities will come my way to do stuff with them in the near future but that’s not for me to decide. And, truth be told, I think the Marvel and DC universes are quite different. I know fans love to compare the two but the reason they’ve both been so successful are because they’re not like one another. There are parallels but overall their mythologies are unique. It sounds diplomatic but it’s true.

MG: Who would you say is your favorite superhero/villain?
BTS: I’ve always had a soft spot for Lex Luthor and I love all the versions of him; the mad scientists, the jerk capitalist and everything in between. A man with unlimited money and resources who chooses to pursue the selfish agenda of destroying the one person who he believes is a spotlight-stealing fraud? I mean…that’s pretty great. And the parallels to politics that can be drawn fascinate and scare me.

MG: Who would be your dream character to do a book on?
BTS: I suppose my answer depends on the type of book but in general terms I’d love to write a Justice League story. If we’re talking about a manual-style book I think there’s a lot of potential in Superman’s world for that type of informational ledger.

MG: What do you have planned next after “The Dark Knight Manual”?
BTS: I recently worked as a staff writer on a Comedy Central pilot that just got picked up and stars comedian Amy Schumer. I’m also working on a few books for Harper Collins featuring The Annoying Orange. Everything else is too soon to talk about but I’m lucky to have been given a range of opportunities in my writing career and I hope to continue working on as many diverse projects as I can get my hands on.

 

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“Shit My Dad Says” author Justin Halpern talks new book “I Suck at Girls”

Justin Halpern is the man behind the Twitter feed @ShitMyDadSays.  This Twitter feed was not only turned into a very successful book but also a television series starring William Shatner.  “I Suck at Girls” is the second book from Justin Halpern.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Justin about this new book and of course what are his father’s thoughts about it.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the biggest pressure with the follow up to “Shit My Dad Says”?
Justin Halpern: I just wanted to write a book that was as entertaining as the first and that people liked just as much. There is a lot of pressure in that since you want the people who liked the first book to like the latest one as well. I wanted to write something that was self organic and that people would like.

MG: What did you enjoy most about the writing process of “I Suck at Girls”?
JH: I think being able to stretch out a little bit more. The first book I wanted to be very brief similar to the Twitter feed. I didn’t want people to have to read 500 pages. I felt I could spend a little more time developing the stories with the second book.

MG: Tell us about your inspiration behind this book?
JH: Before I proposed to my wife I had told my dad about what I was going to do and he told me to take a day and think about what I was doing and, to also think about my past relationships. When I was doing that I realized I had some funny stories that I think everyone probably goes through. I thought it would make a good book.

MG: What are your father’s thoughts on the new book?
JH: He really likes it. He originally told me he hated it. (Laughs) He said that this second book needed to be better than the first or else people were going to shit all over it. I told him people will have a tough time shitting on this book.

MG: What are your thoughts on the television rights to “I Suck at Girls” being sold already?
JH: I just need to be more careful this time. Things with this are still quite a long ways off. I am excited even though the first one didn’t work out so well. Hopefully with this one we can do things right.

MG: What do you think caused the “$#*! My Dad Says” to not last on television?
JH: CBS has some of the highest rated shows and I don’t think the show was doing all that well. You have to be a big hit to stay on the air there.

MG: Have you thought about writing a direct follow up to “Shit My Dad Says”?
JH: The current book has a lot of my dad in it so I consider it the follow up to the first book. This new book just has a lot more in it.

MG:So on a side note, I’ve always wondered why do you only follow LeVare Burton on Twitter?
JH: When I first signed up for Twitter they gave you 20 default people to follow. I was un-following all of them until I got to LeVare. I thought it would be funny if I only followed him.

MG: Are you a big “Star Trek” fan?
JH: No not necessarily. I did use to like “Reading Rainbow” though. (Laughs)

MG: What other things do you have coming up?
JH: I am out promoting the book right now and that is about it. Things are going really well.

 

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