Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Behind the Music of BURN NOTICE: THE END GAME

(Reposted from Tod Goldberg's blog)

It's hard for me to believe this, but my first tour of duty on Burn Notice is just about over -- pending, of course, a new contract -- as today is the official release date of my second Burn Notice novel, The End Game. I am about 30 days from being done with my third Burn Notice novel, called The Giveaway and that will then be 18 months, 3 books and 180,000 words. The publisher hasn't told me if there will be more, though I understand the first one has done well and the fans seem to like it and it was critically well received, which is always nice. Writing these books is certainly a different kind of experience for me -- I write them very, very quickly. More quickly than I'd like, really, but the turn-around time on them is such that I really only have about three months to write each one and have a normal life in-between. And by normal life, I of course mean a normal writing life, which in this case means that while I wrote those three books these last 18 months, I also completed a new short story collection -- Other Resort Cities -- which will be out in October and which I am exceptionally excited about as well, wrote dozens of book reviews and essays and articles and also have a day job directing an MFA program in creative writing. So it's been a challenge to write quickly and lucidly while keeping the voice of Michael Westen in my head all the while. 

So, The End Game. Here's a little Behind the Music on it:

I knew I wanted to do something somewhat sports related and so Wendy and I hatched the basic plot one evening over pizza. I had the plot of the novel written on scraps of receipts and such and when I presented it to Matt, he liked it but also suggested I talk to Rashad Raisani, a staff writer on the show, who had a similar idea that was just too expensive to shoot. That week I came into the BN production offices for a couple of days while they broke the episodes of the second season so that I could get the flavor for the changes the show was going to take, as well as get an idea where the show was going in season three, too, since obviously my books are written not at the precise same time that the show is written. (For instance, I've been getting the scripts for the 3rd season over the course of the last month or so, but by the time I turn in The Giveaway, I'll probably have only seen the first 9 episodes on paper.) Rashad kindly gave me the notes he'd written up about these very cool yacht races and I incorporated some of that research into the book, plus I picked his brain on a few ideas I had on the caper itself, since that had been one of the things he was still trying to work on when they ditched the idea. So it was very cool to have someone who basically was on the same wave-length with me before I actually started the writing.  I then spent three months writing the book...and then I wasn't happy and added a new chapter from Fiona's pov when the copyedits came in, which probably didn't thrill my publisher, but it felt like something was missing. I've been tinkering a lot with adding different povs into the books -- Sam's, Fiona's, and in this new book I'm writing, you get the client's pov for a chapter, too -- because that's the one thing I'm really able to do that you can't get on the show. Plus, it's fun for me as a writer. Writing in the same voice in back to back books, as I did essentially with The Fix and The End Game, which were written with very little break in between, can be boring, frankly, so in order to stay inspired and excited about a project, writers trick themselves on their down days, they add new POVs, they blow up a boat, they kick someone in the head, they bring in a new character, whatever. 

As in The Fix, there are a couple of inside jokes for folks in the know. A villain is named for two friends of mine, one of whom is a big time famous author. A mutual friend of mine and Matt Nix's shows up briefly, by full legal name at least, The husband of a well-known romance-author-friend of Wendy's appears as a former NSA agent. Two other friends end up as one very odd therapist (the same two friends also ended up in The Fix as an odd character named James Dimon...but now I've used all of their combined names, so they won't be in the next book...I guess I better make some more friends...) and several sentences begin "when you're spy" because, dammit, that's what the people want and I am a people pleaser. 

(Though, despite that, I'm not going out on the road to please the people for this book as it unfortunately is being released right when the new book is due. But fear not people, as I'll be touring the world in the fall for Other Resort Cities and will happily sign all the Burn Notice books you'd like. But if you really want a signed copy of The End Game, I suggest you contact the wonderful people at eitherMysterious Galaxy or the Mystery Bookstore, both of whom have a bunch of signed stock. )

Monday, May 4, 2009

Star Trek Screenwriters Pick Their Favorite Tie-Ins

The LA Times asked Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, screenwriters of the new STAR TREK movie, to pick their favorite TREK tie-in novels. Their choices were:
"Best Destiny" by Diane Carey (Pocket Books, 1993). "A beautiful imagining of Kirk's childhood and how it shaped him to love the stars." 
"Spock's World" by Diane Duane (Pocket Books, 1988). "If Mr. Spock is your favorite character, this is amust read. The relationship he forges with Dr. McCoy finally gets the nuanced treatment it deserves."
"Prime Directive" by Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens (Pocket Books, 1990). "One of the best incarnations of the original bridge crew, with every character given equal consideration and full development, against the backdrop of a real-deal science fiction story." 
"Ex Machina" by Christopher L. Bennett (Pocket Books, 2004) "A great example of how a 'Trek' novel can fit within 'canon' while existing between the movies we love."