Rod Lott at Bookgasm.com interviews Greg Cox
Rod Lott at Bookgasm.com conducted a terrific interview with IAMTW member GREG COX about writing comic book tie-ins and movie novelizations (most recently, the tie-in for the comic-turned-movie GHOST RIDER). It’s a revealing peek into the creative obstacles a tie-in writer often faces.
These days, Greg Cox is busy playing with comic-book characters. For instance, he wrote the GHOST RIDER novelization, as well as adapted DC’s far-reaching event series INFINITE CRISIS into a novel. Next up is a similar treatment for the company’s year-long, weekly serialized experiment 52. So, why novelizations? Cox stopped typing long enough to let us know.
BOOKGASM: Novelizations are almost like their own genre. In your experience, who’s reading them?
COX: I think the readers fall into two categories: the ones who can’t wait for the movie to come out and need to know what the movie’s about right now, and the ones who can’t get enough of the movie and want to experience it in a different format. I’ve heard from one fan who has already read GHOST RIDER twice!
A possible third category might be people who were confused by the movie and are hoping to find some answers in the novelization. An editor I know likes to joke that the more incoherent the movie, the better the novelization sells. I’m not sure this has ever been proven scientifically.
BOOKGASM: What do you find attractive about writing novelizations? And what’s not-so-attractive?
COX: On the positive side, you get to let someone else worry about the plotting and dialogue for once. It’s also just neat, on a fannish level, to be privy to the inside scoop on some upcoming new movie. The challenge is trying to describe a movie you haven’t actually seen; I’m always desperate for any sort of visual reference material I can get from the studio. Getting photos of the supporting characters tends to be difficult sometimes. The deadlines can be pretty tight, too.
BOOKGASM: When you finally see a film you earlier wrote a novelization for, what’s that experience like?
COX: Usually, it takes a couple of viewings before I can appreciate the movie on its own terms. The first time through, I’m too busy wincing at all the differences between the book and the movie. “Hey, what happened to the barn scene? That chase doesn’t go there. Ohmigod, they changed the dialogue. Wait a second, nobody told me that character was a woman!”
Eventually, though, after enough time has passed, I can start to experience the movie as just another audience member again.
BOOKGASM: In regard to projects like INFINITE CRISIS or 52, how daunting of an assignment is that? What’s your process like?
COX: On INFINITE CRISIS, I had no idea what I was getting into. Usually, with movie scripts, the hard part is fleshing them out to novel-length. With CRISIS, I had the opposite problem: How do you boil seven lengthy comic-book scripts down into a 350-page novel?
At first, I tried writing the book like I would a movie novelization, padding everything out as much as possible, but I quickly realized that I had to start trimming stuff instead; otherwise, the book was going to be the size of WAR AND PEACE. As is, it ended up being about 50,000 words longer than I planned.
As a result, when my editor first approached me about doing 52 as well, my first response was, “How is that even humanly possible?” We’re talking 52 scripts here. Do the math. That’s over seven times more plot than INFINITE CRISIS. To be honest, I only agreed to take on the project after DC assured me that I would have a pretty free hand when it came to abridging the story.
And, boy, was I merciless when it came to excising characters and subplots. I fully expect to get lynched in effigy when some fans find out that their favorite scenes or characters didn’t make it into the novel. But there was just so much good material, I had to cut some of it out. If you want to know which characters I concentrated on … well, there’s a reason that Booster Gold, Batwoman and The Question are on the cover.
BOOKGASM: Are there any worlds you’ve particularly enjoyed playing in over the others?
COX: I like a variety. At this point, I’ve written more STAR TREK novels and short stories than anything else, but I would go nuts if I wrote nothing but TREK nonstop. Doing a ROSWELL or an ALIAS novel every now and then keeps me on my toes. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never had to write for a series that I wasn’t already a fan of.
UNDERWORLD was a new series, of course, but I’ve always been into vampires and werewolves and such. It was great to finally write a full-fledged horror novel, complete with plenty of blood and fangs! I had never done that before.