This interview was conducted and written by staff writer, Michael Worthan.
When I first ran across your Ex-series I was hooked, it was like someone took the best of both superheroes and zombies and created one of the most tumultuous and interesting universes out there, and even though Marvel was doing it as well your novels were more fleshed out, I dare even say more interesting. So to see you go from Superhero Zombie books to -14-, The Fold, and Paradox Bound was something of a great adventure for your readers. From my readings of these novels I have seen that there is a slight crossover between them, whether in appearance or slight nods to certain aspects. Is there a possibility we see a wider expanse of this Universe? Or were those just fun parts you wanted to insert?
Tough question. Part of it’s just fun. I’m a longtime comic book fan, and I always liked the small, subtle crossover nods a lot of them used to do so well. So there’s definitely the fun aspect, yeah. Of course, these days it’s a lot harder to do that. People have just come to expect shared universes, and they spend a ton of time trying to decipher and quantify every reference and inference. So those fun references get you in to trouble sometimes because people will lunge at them and demand to know what they mean or where they fit in.
And, let’s be honest... we all love the idea of the big crossover. To see different characters interact and face common threats. And it’s fun to write, too.
So, do I have some grand fifteen-year-twenty-book scheme where everything fits together like a massive ninth-dimensional puzzle? No. Do I like writing these little nods and hints? Yes. Do I have some general thoughts where it could all lead? ....Maybe.
What drew you to write Paradox Bound and how difficult was it writing something that dealt with time and time travel in the way you did?
Well, I love time travel stories. I was introduced to Doctor Who back in fourth or fifth grade, when PBS was the only source and the only Doctor was Tom Baker. And then there was Back to the Future and Terminator and sooooooooo many good time travel books (The Anubis Gates, Thrice Upon a Time, Roadmarks). So it’s not so much getting drawn to it as “eagerly awaiting my chance.”
Was it difficult? I don’t think the time travel aspect of it was more difficult than anything else. That’s always the fun of being behind the scenes and getting to do all the sleight of hand. It looks complicated on that side, reading it in a day or two, but on my side I had a year to make everything line up just right.
Out of all of your books which is one you would love to have made into a high budget TV show or movie? Any possibility this happens in the near future?
Another tough question. I’ve worked in television and film, so I know the pitfalls and traps of the different formats. Like, when we say a TV show, do we mean a network show? A cable show? A premium cable show? A streaming show? Every one of these would mean a slightly different adaptation. Same with a movie—no way to turn a 300+ page novel into a 130 page (if you’re lucky) screenplay without making some changes. That’s just the reality of adaptations and filmmaking. So when I get asked this, I’m kinda forced to ask for many more details or to just say “I’d just be happy to see it.” Both of which are true.
There’s always a possibility. I’ve had some interest in the Ex series, -14-, and The Fold, and some very tentative talks about Paradox Bound. There’ve been meetings and lunches and drinks and even some options from big-name actors and studios. But in the end it’s tough to get something made in Hollywood without a lot of momentum behind it. I still have high hopes someday I’m going to get a few on-set photos with people playing characters I created.
What took you away from the Ex-Series? I did see on your blog you had set the next chapter aside, is that something you want to come back to later on down the line for a few more books, or even possibly a grand finale?
I would love to come back to the Ex-series for one or two books. Hopefully I’ll get to someday. I had a lot of the next book planned out.
As for what took me away... Really, it was just economics. Simply put, any series is going to have a finite audience, and that audience is always going to be bigger at the start. Nobody ever really comes in and decides to start at book three—they start at book one. Even if someone accidentally picked up book three first, they’re going to go back to book one—they won’t keep going forward from there. And some of those readers go on to book two, and some don’t. Some of those go on two book three, some don’t, and so on. It’s always going to be a decreasing slope. Even if they announced a megamillion movie series tomorrow and sales of the series jumped a hundredfold, you’d still see that same slope, just a lot higher up.
The Ex series has never lost money (many, many thanks to all the fans), but everything says that slope I mentioned is just about to duck below that line. And so my agent and editor and I all decided it’s better to go out on more of a high note and focus on other things for now. I’m not thrilled about it, but I find it hard to argue with at the same time. At the end of the day, publishing is a business, and it’s a business I’m involved with.
But, like I said... maybe someday things will shift and another book or two will be possible.
I’m assuming people ask this all the time, but what is advice you give to anyone who is starting to try and write or to someone who wants to become a writer in the future?
There’s a couple things, and they sound trite, but they’re all true. First is to keep writing. Write a lot. Finish things, move on to new things, then go back and rewrite the old things. Nobody expects to get a multimillion dollar contract the first time they swing a baseball bat, to set a world record the first time they run, or to get hired as a high-end chef off the first meal they ever make. Writing’s the same way. There’s going to be a lot of practice and learning and work, and some of that work ultimately goes nowhere. I wrote at least three novels and tons of short stories before I got my first sale. Most writers do. But that’s the work that puts you in the position to do better work, that teaches you how to be a better writer.
Second thing would be not to rush. These days, especially with e-publishing and self-publishing, there’s this ongoing pressure to move fast. To write something and get it out there. And the unspoken implication is that, if you’re not self-publishing four books a year, you’re somehow falling behind. You’re failing at this somehow.
This isn’t true. Take your time. Do a second draft. And a third draft. Take time between them. You’re always going to have more success as a quality writer than a quantity one, and you can’t get quality if you’re rushing through. You can rush through individual drafts, sure, but that just means taking more time and doing more drafts—and there’s nothing wring with that.
If anyone’s’ so interested, I’ve got a whole big pile of writing advice over at Writer on Writing. I’ve been posting there for over ten years now, going over all the mistakes and screw-ups I’ve seen (and made) since I started doing this.
Any future events, book tours, conventions, or signings happening where your fans can meet you?
The next two big things for me are going to be WonderCon in Anaheim and then Phoenix ComicCon. If anyone’s in the Los Angeles area, the second Sunday of every month I host the LA Writers Coffeehouse at Dark Delicacies in Burbank. We just sit around and talk about writing and publishing, bounce off ideas off each other. Like I was just saying, I made a lot of mistakes on the path to where I am today, and if I can help anyone skip over one or two of them, I’d love to do that.