Thursday, May 21, 2015

Guest Post by Spencer Blohm - Can Wayward Pines be the Next Big Book Adaption?

The big network channels like Fox, NBC, and ABC, have traditionally featured programs that were tame in comparison to the edgier programs found on cable. The networks have always tried to appeal to the most people possible, and this has kept them from pushing the envelope in the past. In recent years; however, there has been a shift in audience preference. Audiences are thirsty for shows with dynamic characters that have a dark side, rather than the typical "good vs bad" story. It is for this reason that Wayward Pines, Fox's new suspense mini-series.

Wayward Pines is based off the Science Fiction thriller novel Pines by Blake Crouch. This novel was so successful that it spawned the Wayward Pines trilogy and became an international best-seller. The plot of the book follows a man named Ethan Burke, played by Matt Dillon in the series, who is a secret service agent assigned to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents in a small town by the name of Wayward Pines, Idaho. Burke gets into an accident on his way to town and wakes up with amnesia. Staying true to the "trapped in a strange town" genre, both the film and the movie follow burke as he slowly uncovers the strangeness surrounding Wayward Pines. Although it's too early to tell how close to the novel the series will stay, the big difference so far between the two seems to be plot vs. character.

This is the struggle that every novel that is made into a series or movie goes through. Pages of exposition describing character do not translate well to the screen. M. Night Shyamalan's specialty as a director has always been his plots. His characterization never exceeds the bare minimum necessary for the plot to work. Critics of some of his other works, like Lost, fear the plot for Wayward Pines will soon become ludicrous and the characters will be under-developed. The reality is these critics are forgetting Shyamalan is working off of someone else's script. In fact, the reason he got involved with the project is that he read a script by Chad Hodge and fell in love with the project. Also, the script is heavily inspired by the novel, especially when it comes to the characters. All Shyamalan has to do is make sure the characters are true Crouch's novel, and then he can focus on what he does best; creating drama and suspense leading up to the big reveal. It also helps that the big reveal was already worked out for him in the novel by crouch. All he has to do is focus on executing this in a way that resonates with a visual audience.

With that being said, there is some top-notch talent that should help bring these characters to life. Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke is one of those casting successes where you can feel the actor is the character. Terrence Howard, who is one of the stars of Fox's hit show Empire, plays the sinister sheriff of this small town. Mix in M. Night Shyamalan as Executive producer and director, and you have a recipe for an intriguing series. Many critics and fans alike have said the series has a Twin Peaks feel. This makes sense, as Crouch himself has admitted his novel was inspired by the plot of Twin Peaks, which involves a young FBI agent investigating strange happenings in a small town.

This 10 part mini-series is continuing the trend of Fox's shift towards edgier programming. It is a chance for Fox to wrestle away the younger demographic from popular cable shows and bring the ratings back to the networks, as evidenced by the early release of the pilot episode on-demand through DTV and Comcast. Any fans of the suspense genre should check out Wayward Pine when it airs May 14th on Fox.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, culture, and lifestyle blogger. He lives and works in Chicago. When not working he can be found camped out in his apartment watching the latest films and newest television shows.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Author Interview with J.H. Moncrieff (The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave).

What is "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" about? 

Short answer? It's about a young boy's struggles with a cursed teddy bear. Deeper answer? It explores how it's human nature to be afraid of things we don't understand, and how that fear often triggers a very negative reaction.

How do you decide on a topic for one of your books?

I'm inspired by travel. Almost every trip I've taken has resulted in at least one novel idea. Often, it’s a 'what if' question that inspires me. I usually feel like I haven't chosen the topic so much as it's chosen me.
Would you consider "The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave" the darkest book you've written? Has it been the one that has affected you the most?

I don't know if it's the darkest, but it's quite disturbing in a lot of ways. I didn't expect Josh's relationship with his stepfather to get as ugly as it did. Part of me was afraid it would be too dark for Samhain, but I had to be true to the story and the characters.

What is your writing process like?

I have what I like to call an 'organic' writing process. I'll get a bit of an idea from something, and within a few days, a character will show up and start telling me the story. My job is to write down what the protagonist says as fast as I can.

What kind of research goes into it?

Maybe it's my journalism background, but I'm a stickler for accuracy, which can often mean a lot of research. Thankfully, I've found a professional researcher I can rely on, so I no longer have to spend weeks searching for details like whether or not slaves in 1700s Dutch Caribbean had pillows, or what dental care was like in ancient Egypt. From my very first professional novel, I relied on experts--I have a list of cops, firefighters, stunt drivers, forensic anthropologists, and even oilmen I can count on for fact-checking.

How did your writing evolve?

My first books were epic tales of a fish family who lived in terror of a bear that stalked them under the ocean. (Apparently I've got a thing for bears!) I was five when I wrote that series, and hopefully I've learned about a little thing we call 'suspension of disbelief' since then.

I think I used to fall into lazy writing when I was younger--characters that were caricatures, settings that were non-existent, etc. I strongly believe it's our job as writers to always push ourselves to be better than our last story--as long as we don't slip into the perfectionism trap.

What is currently on your own bookshelves? 

I love Stephen King, of course, but also Susan Hill, Daphne du Maurier, and the occasional John Saul. Barbara Kingsolver, Timothy Findley and Elizabeth Berg are my favorite literary writers, and I love Joanne Fluke's cozy mysteries. When John Douglas releases a book, I have to buy it--he's one of the first FBI profilers and one hell of a crime writer. I also love reading memoirs, non-fiction accounts about dark times and events in our history, and cookbooks.

What have you read recently that you've really enjoyed?

"The Ruins" by Scott Smith. I was surprised by how good that book was--it's simply brilliant, and very creepy. I also read a couple of short romances by Elle Rush--"Leading Man" and "Candy Cane Kisses." I don't usually read romance, but I quite enjoy her books.

Why scary stories? What attracts you to this genre?

Horror is very freeing. I've written mysteries and suspense thrillers, but in those genres, readers expect the guy to get the girl (or vice-versa) and the hero must triumph in the end. I love that calling something horror means you can do whatever you want and get as dark as you like. If a reader picks up a horror story, they know that anything can happen, and that's pretty exciting.

Since I never know how my own books will end, it's best to call them horror. That way, no one is disappointed when things get nasty.

What are you working on now?  
I'm working on a new twist on the sea-monster myth and a series of horror novels set in ancient Egypt.

Thanks for having me!

J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring the crap out of people with her books--when she's not busy being a journalist, editor, book doctor, and publicist. In her "spare" time, J.H. loves to travel to exotic locales, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox.

J.H. Moncrieff: Website | Twitter | Facebook
The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N

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