First of all, what inspired you to become an author?
Before I could read, my mother read to me. A lot. Once I could read, I read constantly. My family was “Library Family of the Year” more than once. As soon As I realized writing books was a job, I wanted to do it. And I started right away, self-publishing books written and drawn in crayon and bound with yarn.
You have written quite a deal of books based upon popular franchises, Godzilla, Star Wars, The Avengers & Planet Of The Apes, to name a few. How did you get into writing movie novelizations?
I was asked. My first few original novels (The Waterborn, The Blackgod, Newton’s Canon) did relatively well and established that I could write and meet deadlines. My publisher at the time was Random House/Del Rey. I was sitting with an editor from there, Steve Saffel, during an awards ceremony at a convention when the television show “Babylon 5” won top honors for its category, and I said something about what a great show it was and how deserving it was of the award. Steve heard that and, unbeknownst to me had just acquired the rights to publish B5 books. He thought that since I was a fan, I might be interested. After writing three books for that franchise, I was offered a chance to work in the Star Wars universe, and it continued from there.
Another notch on the belt, was a Godzilla graphic novel titled Godzilla: Dominion. Your first comic/graphic novel may I add. Was the process a new learning curve for you, switching from a novel format?
It was, but in the end it wasn’t a very steep curve. Storytelling remains the same. The difference was in pulling apart the descriptive elements of the story from the narrative and then trusting the artist to interpret those descriptions. My trust was not misplaced.
Did Legendary ask you to write Dominion? To fill in the gap between G:KOTM & GvK?
Yes. I think it was an idea that had been percolating within the creative team for a while. I did a short chapter from Godzilla’s point of view in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which served as a sort of trial balloon for the concept.
Dominion was from Godzilla’s POV, how do you begin to think like Godzilla? and write from his perspective.
I’m never sure how to answer that. As for any character, I did research – I watched animal documentaries, I read up on the behavior of certain animals – I even watched the behavior of anole lizards in my own yard. I revisited ancient mythologies in which gods and monsters are difficult to distinguish from one another. And I watched Godzilla movies. From all of that, I put together a working model of Godzilla’s POV in my head. After a first draft, Legendary and Toho brought their ideas about this to the table, and together we worked out the final iteration.
A movie told from solely Godzilla’s POV would be quite phenomenal, right?
I think it could be, yes.
Were you a fan of Godzilla before having wrote Dominion, King of The Monsters and Godzilla Vs Kong?
When it comes to movie tie-ins, do you get an advanced look at the movie?
Usually not. I get to see scripts, stills, artists conceptions, and so on, but almost never the actual movie. In most cases, the movies are still in production or postproduction when I’m writing the books, so there is no movie to see. Even when the movie is done, I live in Savannah, and screenings tend to be in L.A. Even with encryption technology, most studios are reluctant to send digital versions of a movie out to authors, for what I think are obvious reasons. That said, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to view Godzilla vs. Kong before completing my final draft of the novel. But it was the exception, not the rule.
Are you given scenes from the screenplay that didn’t make it to screen for the novelizations, as the novels always feature extra pieces that we don’t see in the actual movie?
Sometimes. In this case the screenplay was pretty close to the final movie, so instead I discussed possibilities with the creative team – things that they might have included in the script if time allowed, stories and backstories that made sense in a longer, denser form like a novel. I was also keen to incorporate story lines from the graphic novels and earlier novelizations.
When working for Legendary (who live up to that name) what’s the process like writing for the Monsterverse? This is their world, their baby, is there a team that advises or oversees the telling of the stories?
Sure. They have a mythology team and a Mythology Manager, and the process of getting these books together involves a lot of conversation and collaboration with them.
Having written for the Monsterverse and working closely with Legendary would you ever think of pitching your own Godzilla concept for a movie?
Not Godzilla per se, although I have some fun Hollow Earth ideas. That said, I wouldn’t presume to pitch anything to Legendary unless they asked me to. They already have their in-house creative team.
I’m gonna ask THAT question…what did you prefer G:KOTM or GvK? Also, in GvK were you team Godzilla or Kong?
I liked both movies, actually, but I’m going to have to give the edge (a thin one) to Godzilla vs. Kong. Partly because I really love Kong, and always have. I wasn’t really on either team in terms of who I thought should win. I just wanted a kick-ass story, and I got it.
With G:KOTM & GvK being movie novelizations and Dominion being your own creation, are there plans for you to continue your venture in the Monsterverse with more stories featuring Godzilla or Kong or the other titans?
At this point, I don’t know any more about the future of the MonsterVerse than anyone outside of Legendary. I’m told what I need to know to write the books, but I’m not internal to their decision making and planning. I would be happy to be involved and would certainly participate if asked. But there are a lot of other writers out there who could probably bring perspectives to the Monsterverse that I can’t, so I wouldn’t be surprised or in any way dismayed if someone else is asked to play a role moving forward. I’m happy and honored to have contributed as much as I have already.