Newsletter #122: Zoom Monster!
What was the longest idea I've ever had for a story? How do you know if an book is worth doing?
Hey guys, it's Scott.
Forgive me, I am walking outside so I'm using Airpods, so the sound might be a little bit off for this one. But it is Tuesday. I don't know the date, that's how crazy it is over here. But I was going to answer to your questions, Ty sent over a couple good ones. But first, there's a bit of housekeeping. Canary #5, the penultimate issue of the series, is out today from Comixology. We're really proud of this one. It's definitely one of the books that really pushes the boundaries of western and horror to try and do something especially different and poignant, hopefully. I can't say enough good things about Dan Panosian and his art on this, and I'm really honored to be partnered with them. And, again, I hope you'll check it out. We're really deeply proud of this one and it's easily one of the darkest books that I've been a part of.
Also, just to give you guys an update, my life is just—I'm a Zoom monster right now. That is it, to be total open. I hope it's okay. I mentioned that we took out Clear for TV and film and we're getting a really good response. We're in a lot of meetings and extremely excited about it. We have some really awesome people we're talking to and that part’s super exciting. And then I'm also on Zooms to try and finish staffing the writers room for Wytches, which is going to start on the sixth of March, so really soon. Listen, there's never a time in your career as a writer where you're going to feel totally secure. I've told the story about Neil Gaiman and his comment to me many, many times, so I won't repeat it here, but Ty, you can put a link to a post where I've mentioned it:
But just so you know like, for me right now, I'm so excited about everything happening with Wytches, but I'm scared too. It's really nerve racking. The people that we're talking to, and again, we're not finished with the room, but I think they're amazing and their ideas for the series are great. And it's the same kind of thing that helped get greenlit, putting together a great room of people that essentially elevated the material. And I got to showrun it and sort of guide the conversations, but then allow them to elevate it. But this is something brand new for me still, and moving over to that zone and giving something that you care so deeply about, Wytches is so personal to me and Jock, to other people to then help adapt and to allow into that space is terrifying, especially when they're so well versed in their field and you're not. So I don't have ambitions about going over and switching over to start writing for television. I mean, I wrote the pilot and I'm writing another episode and I’m co-showrunning it, so there's a lot of TV right now in my daily diet, but that said that's because I think we could make something really special.
We're trying to make it something that really pushes the envelope of animation, does something different than you've seen, is really built on the sensibilities of Jock’s artwork, and then narratively is extremely dark (and is hopeful, too), really goes to that brutal place that the series Wytches went to but in an even bigger and more expansive way. So yeah, just please know that if you're a writer or any kind of creator and you're trying something new, and you're like, “do other people that have been in this business get as scared as I am about trying something new?” Whether it's about pushing yourself on a different kind of book or trying a new part of the medium, like writing and drawing your own thing, or writing something that's a really different format than you've tried before, as long as you care about that thing you're going to be scared, you're always going to be, and being scared is something good. And everybody I know, from Stephen King to Neil Gaiman, all the way down, like hundreds and hundreds of levels to me, we all get terrified. I'm super excited about this, but I am scared. So please know that that doesn't go away. Okay, so let's take a look.
Baroupa asks, “what is the longest an idea sat in your head before you decided to pursue it?”
Hmm. Well, sometimes things have very short gestation periods. And sometimes they have very long ones. Probably the longest thing is Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder.
Barnstormers is based on an idea I had when I was doing prose. I wrote a short story called (and Ty, you can link to it here if you want) The Star Attraction of 1919. And it has sort of a similar premise where a guy crashes into a wedding and then the woman that's getting married winds up running away with him.
But it was just the bare bones of an idea, and I had to do it very quickly, because not to get down a rabbit hole but when I wrote my first story collection, I wrote it very stylish. It was very funny and witty and postmodern. It had all these weird things mashed together and was very of the moment in the early 2000s. And it sold very quickly for a good amount of money (that I didn't see, but a good amount of money) for that and an (unwritten) novel. And I wrote the book, I finished the collection, and I handed it in. And then after I'd handed it in, I had this panic attack and I realized it didn't feel honest. And so my editor, the late Susan Kamil, she passed away a couple years ago, she was fantastic. She wound up being the head of, I think, a big division of Random House but back then she was just in a division called Dial Press that published Elizabeth McCracken and a bunch of people I love. She was wonderful and I went to her and I said, “listen, if you give me six months, I know I can write a couple new stories and tweak a couple of the ones that are in there, because I figured out what I want to write about, and it's darker and it's about uncertainty and it's about not knowing if we're good or bad instead of just being funny and clever.” And she was kind enough to give me that time, and so I went in there and I really retooled the book. And I was terrified, again, really scared of it, but I tried to make it something more meaningful to me. And one of the last stories I did was The Star Attraction of 1919. And I knew there was a lot more to that story, and I did not get to do it for that time period. I just didn't have time, it was the last thing and I eaten up all the time and they'd already given me six months. So that story really exists 15 years in my head, not exactly the way it is now at all, but I knew I wanted to return to it and build it out to be about something more meaningful and bigger than what I had in that story collection. So that's probably the one that's had the longest gestation period, honestly. I'll tell you, there's other ones that I've thought about for a while, for a few years and that stuff, and a couple are coming to fruition soon. So I'm excited. We're going to be talking about new books soon. So other question…
J’Dangelo asks, “how do you know if a germ of an idea is worth doing?”
That's a great question. Honestly, if it stays with you. For me, if I keep coming back to it, it means it's hitting a nerve. So sometimes it'll just be a cool premise where it's like, what about what if they're different species of vampire in the Old West? And I'm like, “that's an awesome premise.” But that premise, that just stays with me and I come back to it, but then I have to unpack it and be like, “what is it about that idea that I can't stop thinking about?” And it has to be more than just a cool premise. I mean, if it's cool to you, it means it's touching something for you. It's hitting something. So you have to figure that out. I do, at least in my process. So I had to figure out what I love is that it means that there are these monsters throughout history that we're unaware of that also influenced history, but are a reflection of us at our most heroic and most terrifying moments as a nation. And that was kind of the lens through which to approach American Vampire and then it would broaden out and to all these things.
So it's that or it's like By a Thread—Jack came to me with that idea and I made him go through it. He's like, “well what if this stuff is covering the earth and we have to hang by these threads?” And I was like, “why does that appeal to you?” And he's like, “because I think there'd be nowhere to go, and what if the kids found out, and maybe there's a place to go that…” Good. Pursue it, pursue it. If something sticks with you and you keep thinking about it and it keeps you up at night or you return to it over and over like an itch, that's how I know it's something worth pursuing. Because it means that there's something meaningful in there to you. If it's an idea that's just like, “Oh, that's so cool,” and then you kind of forget it and have to remind yourself about it or until you stumble on it again, you haven't thought about it, that's usually not worth it, it's kind of just like a cool thing. But anyway, I hope that's helpful.
Sorry, this post is a little bit exhausted, but I'm a Zoom monster these days.
We have pieces for the next class. I'm just taking my oldest kid away to Colorado for a few days on Sunday. It’s like, the one couple-of-days thing I have before I have to bury myself and work for the writers room and everything where I don't know when I'm gonna come up again for air. So that's why I haven't scheduled the class, but we will do it, it's going to be good, we're gonna have a blast. There's really good pieces and a good topic. And I really appreciate it, you guys! Thank you again for everything.