Monday, February 22, 2016

Interview with S. D. Perry

So, wow! I often reach out at random to famous people because I've figured out that sometimes it just works, against all odds. I've had contact with Carbon Based Lifeforms, Bob Mayer, Travis Milloy, James Rolfe, Gus from RoosterTeeth and Christian Alvart, though with varying levels of contact/success, some of them admittedly very brief. I got close to talking with John Carpenter once.

So now I can add another interview and person to the list. S. D. Perry! The author of seven Resident Evil novelizations, several Star Trek and Alien adaptations and other projects. I reached out to her last year, asking for an interview, and she said yes and answered all my annoying questions!

Also, joining me for this interview is my fellow creative type and best friend M. Knepper.

Let's get this started.

SA: Which author would you say served as the largest inspiration for you?

SD: Stephen King, probably. I read The Shining when I was ten, and have wanted to write since. Also my dad, who is a science fiction writer. He encouraged me a lot when I first started out. 
M: When you wrote Aliens: Labyrinth, were you intentionally going for a bleaker tone?

SD: It was a bleak graphic novel first. So, I already had about 100 pages of material, that I had to pump up to about 300. The story wasn’t my idea, just the character development and dialogue, descriptions, stuff like that.

SA: When and why did you begin writing?

SD: I’ve always written. My first poem, about my cat, I wrote when I was 8. I started keeping a journal when I was a tween, and wrote in it pretty much daily all the way into my 20s. By then, I’d started getting published.
M: What are your thoughts on the state of publishing?
SD: Well, self-publishing seems to have taken off, and I’ve considered doing some myself, but it’s a hard row to hoe if you don’t already have a fan base. Plus, advertising would be difficult; I’m pretty awful at self-promotion. I’m lucky to still be contacted occasionally by companies looking for write-for-hire. The royalties suck--contract writers usually write for a flat fee--but I enjoy writing for the sake of writing, so I don’t mind the work involved, trying to create an entertaining product based on someone else’s IP.

I do think that traditional publishing has some issues. When my original work makes the rounds, I get a lot of rejections by editors looking for the next breakthrough novel that will make them a zillion dollars, rather than someone just recognizing the quality of the work. It can be really frustrating.
SA: Being an author, I know that this is kind of a loaded question, but I still try to ask it whenever I can, because the answers are often interesting: Where do your ideas come from?
SD: The same place yours come from, I imagine: dreams, real life, random thoughts. In contract work, I look for inspiration in the original property. 
M: Did you intentionally go for a more action-orientated tone for Aliens: Berserker?
SD: Again, based on a graphic novel. I wrote it from the “outline" of an already published material.

SA: How did you get into the business of writing for already existing intellectual properties?

SD: My father was into it. When he got backlogged, writing novelizations of graphic novels for Dark Horse, he offered to let me co-write one of them. We did two together, and after that I started getting contacted on my own. Write-for-hire is kind of exclusive, generally invitation only, but once you get your foot in the door, your name gets around. 
M: How do you feel about the e-book market and Kindle?

SD: I have a Kindle, and love it. I read a book or two a week, at least. I gotta say, though, that a lot of people WANT to write, but don’t actually have the skills to publish. It’s hard to wade through so much bad writing to find the occasional doesn’t-totally-suck read. Maybe that’s harsh, I know that most of the people publishing are sincere and have worked hard to write their own book(s), but just because their friends and parents say it’s good doesn't mean it actually is. Unless you’re some kind of prodigy, your early work is going to be practice. I don’t understand the overwhelming rush to publish; I look back at some of my early work and cringe. Okay, some of my later work, too. Writing is an art and a craft, like learning to play a musical instrument; just because you’ve picked up a violin and figured out how to make noise with it doesn’t mean you’re ready to perform in front of people. I’m still practicing, and I’ve been writing for over 20 years.

SA: What kind of roadblocks do you run into when writing for already existing intellectual properties?

SD: Depends on the property. Novelizing something, like a movie script, is pretty regulated--that is, you stick to the material and don’t wander too far. Some franchises are very strict; when I did Star Trek stuff, I had to use a ST encyclopedia so that I wouldn’t contradict stuff that had already been written. I did an Alien(s) book not too long ago that was VERY research heavy, timelines, character bios, etc. 
M: Coffee or tea?
SD: Tea, usually. I’m old now, coffee kills my stomach.

SA: Which was your favorite IP to write for?

SD: Hmm. Not sure. When I’m working in a shared universe, I’m a fan of whatever the material is--that’s my job, to be a fan and then try to keep that feeling while I’m writing. So, I guess my favorite is whatever I’m working on at the time.
M: Favorite musician?
SD: Easy. Beck.

SA: I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there who would be angry at me if I didn't ask (although I already did ask on your Goodreads and got an answer) but, what happened with the Resident Evil franchise? Why are you no longer doing novelizations?

SD: I was hired to write those books. I was contacted by an editor working at Pocketbooks to write four novelizations, two game based and two original. They did pretty well so he hired me to write a few more. Pocket--or, rather, their parent company, Simon and Schuster--had leased the publishing rights for a set amount of time. Once their “lease” expired, someone else got the rights. For me to write more, whoever currently has the rights would have to hire me to do so. 
M: Did you enjoy writing the Resident Evil novelizations? Which one was your favorite to write?
SD: They were fun. I was in my mid-20s then, slamming them out first draft over a period of weeks, perpetually late on deadline… I wasn’t a very good writer at that point, but I didn’t know that. Caliban Cove was probably my favorite, because it was the first book I’d done where I had some real creative control.

SA: If you could novelize or expand upon any IP in the whole world, what would it be and why?

SD: I’ve never really thought about it. I’m happy just to be hired… any horror franchise, probably. Silent Hill would be fun. I got to do a little for The Walking Dead, which was very cool.
M: Have you ever written any film scripts or screenplays?
SD: Nope. I got a book on screen-writing some 20 years or so ago, and decided that the format was too rigid for me. Plus, visuals really aren't my strong suite.

SA: If you could co-author a book with any author current alive today, who would it be and why?
SD: I don’t know. I’m a pretty solitary person… okay, introverted to the extreme. I’m one of those people who doesn’t ever answer the phone because of performance anxiety. There are a lot of writers I respect and enjoy reading, but I couldn’t imagine trying to work with one of them. Collaboration can be tricky. 
M: Favorite author?
SD: I have favorite books and stories more than favorite writers. Like, Hell House, by Richard Matheson, is one of my favorites; I re-read it every December, but haven't cared for some of his other work. I like M.R. James a lot, most of his short stories. I loved Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill, most of Stephen King, early Clive Barker (Books of Blood) and Dan Simmons for Fires of Eden and The Terror. And Lovecraft, of course, although most of his dream-based stuff doesn't work for me.

SA: What do you think of Kindle Worlds, which allows anyone to write legal fan fiction for select IPs and get paid for it?

SD: I don’t really have an opinion. I know a lot of writers don’t like it, because they think Kindle isn’t paying enough. Myself, I think that if a fan wants to write in a shared universe because they love it, getting paid is icing. 
M: Do you have any future books planned?
SD: Yup. I’m on a deadline now for a TV show-related book, I have an original horror novel making the rounds via my agent, and I have a book due around Christmas that’s sort of original--I have to write about humans attacked by some kind of violent creature(s), but that’s the only restriction. Survival horror, in other words, which I’ve had some experience with.

And there you have it. I would like to thank S. D. Perry again for answering my questions and talking with me. It's been awesome.

You can find all of S. D. Perry's book's HERE on Amazon. And here she is on Goodreads. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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