Thursday, July 3, 2014

Author Interview - J.B. Skelter & Jack Reher

To start the month lets have double the fun with a double interview feature. Thanks to the two awesome guys, J.B. Skelter & Jack Reher. Also thanks to the wonderful people at Curiosity Quills Press for arranging the interview.

Here goes -
1) First of all welcome to the blog. Please start by telling us a bit about yourselves.

JR: Thanks for having us. I grew up in the great state of Minnesota before heading to Los Angeles for graduate school at the AFI Conservatory. Focusing on screenwriting for several years, with a feature film due out later this year - GRIZZLY - starring Billy Bob Thornton and James Marsden. It's been a long journey as a writer so far.

JBS: I was born in New York City but grew up in Colorado. I attended the University of Iowa but, I am ashamed to admit, barely touched their legendary Writers Workshop. I've done my best, over the years, to make up for that missed opportunity.

2) This is your debut novel as far as I can tell. So how does it feel to be published?

JR: Well, J.B. has a few novels under his belt. Highly acclaimed too. I was adapting one of his books for the screen and during the process, I slipped him a screenplay I had written entitled How Rex and the Count Save His Not-So-Ordinary-Town From a Werewolf on the Scariest Night of the Year... (yes, I was shooting for an outlandish film title) and I said to J.B. 'Hey, this is getting a lot of studio interest, but they think it's based on an intellectual property... any chance you want to help turn it into a series of books?"
And within a week or so, we had a publisher aboard (Curiosity Quills), contracts in place and we were off & running. CQ suggested a new title and I instantly fell in love with it. Catchy and fun. It's an awesome feeling to see something that started as an idea become flesh & blood. A physical property that others can hold and either love or hate.

JBS: Yeah, as Jack mentioned, I've written other books under my real name (which is a closely guarded secret). But in a lot of ways it was a debut novel for me because the genre and intended audience was completely new to me. Also, being able to collaborate with someone was new. As are most writers, I'm pretty independent, but working with Jack was a blast. He's a unique writer with so many fresh ideas. Frankly, I'm a bit jealous of abundance of creativity.

3) How much fun was working together on a collaboration may I ask? And how was it working with the people at 'Curiosity Quills'?

JR: It was a blast. As we were going through it, I even went back to the initial screenplay and added more content for the feature film that turned into added scenes within the novel. J.B. is like my long lost brother. A great collaborator.

JBS: Agreed. As I mentioned, this was the first time I'd done something like this. And I don't think I could have done it with two many people. Jack and I have a very similar vision. I feel very fortunate to have found that creative mate.

4) Got any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

JR: Never forget the ABC's. Always Be Creating. To the blank page. You're only as good as your next project.

JBS: Me, giving advice? A bad idea. But if you insist, I would say to write something that you'd want to read. If you spend too much time trying to figure out the latest trends and what's selling, you'll lose your own creative center.

5) So who would you recommend this book to, may I ask?

JR: Kids to early teens. This is a throwback to the old Amblin types of stories... like Gremlins, Creepshow, classic horror stories that relied on good old fashioned characters & scares versus sparkling vampires and lame love triangles. I liken REX'd to The Monster Squad and John Hughes' The Breakfast Club  crossed with the classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books.  Good, clean fun and scary. But not too scary like old Ray Bradbury novels.

JBS: My nine-year-old daughter is very, very excited to read. And I think she'll dig it. But I also think a fourteen or fifteen year old would enjoy it as well. The themes are familiar yet fresh. Come to think about it, there are plenty of adults who will get a guilty pleasure out of reading.

5) Tell us a bit about your protagonist Rex Gerard? What makes him likeable as a character in you guys' opinion?

JR: Rex is just like any kid growing up. A kid trying to fit in and find his way. But in Rex's case, he and his dad just lost their mom in an accident and they've relocated to a new town where he's sort of spinning in a daze, just doing his best to hold onto a memory yet push on. But the universe has bigger plans for Rex. He was supposed to arrive in this particular town. Scholomance plays a huge part in this. It's a reference to what Bram Stoker quoted in Dracula... where the vampires went to be educated.

JBS: I really fell in love with Rex as a protagonist. He's dealing with his own demons, with his own uncertainties. And while most of us won't face the same type of external challenges that Rex faces (at least, I hope not), he's a very relatable kid. It's hard not to see ourselves in him.

6) As far as the blurb suggests the story takes place on Halloween, So is the book set during only one day (that sounds promising, imo) ?

JR: Yes! I think a sense of urgency was important within the first book. It heightens the intense nature and amps up the stakes. Plus, who doesn't love Halloween? The day is important to Rex. It was his mom's favorite too. So, it's sort of a 'birthday' or awakening of sorts for Rex. He will never be the same after this day.

JBS: I loved the concept of the entire book taking place on a single day. But despite its immediacy, we get enough backstory to understand the motivations and fears and hopes of Rex.

7) Will you give the readers some info/hints about the monsters mentioned of the blurb?

JR: Hmmm...I'll spill the beans. It won't take away from the plot. There are references and Easter eggs to Ichabod Crane, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, and even Reed from the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon makes an appearance. Scholomance is a haven for these creatures. We've set up an outstanding mythology.

JBS: And you'll never look at Dracula in the same way...

8) Will you guys tell us a bit about the things that inspired you to be a writer?

JR: I'd say the 80s influenced me a lot. I'm still in awe by the creative juices of content that were a part of that decade. From seeing Ghostbusters and Poltergeist to E.T. which came out this week, 32 years ago... June 11, 1982! I was 4 years old!!! I remember reading old Ruth Chew books like The Witch at the Window and then later Something Wicked This Way Comes  by Bradbury and being truly inspired. As I got older, I started reading Poe and watching really old Vincent Price films. That inspired me. I wanted to create like the masters did. Those stories were roller-coaster rides. Today's are sort of lacking in the thrills like that. I think the last truly great book series for kids were the Harry Potter books. My high school creative writing teacher, Bruce Wiebe really pushed me as a writer to keep the spark going. I have to give him mad props for that. So pay attention kids, listen to the teachers that push you to be better.

JBS: As a kid, I was obsessed with the Hardy Boys. Read every one of those novels. Loved the dramatic covers. Loved the ridiculous plots. So I started writing my own detective fiction when I was ten or eleven. As I got older, I discovered a writer by the name of Jim Thompson. He wrote some incredibly dark crime fiction. For a long time, I wrote fiction derivative of Thompson. It took me years to find my own voice. I think I've found it, although some may cover their ears.

9) So tell us a bit about the other projects you are working on, if you will?

JR: I'm adapting an incredible novel entitled FACTORY TOWN that hits bookstores in October as a feature film and just signed onto to adapt IDW Comics' THE SHUNNED ONE  as a film as well. It's all about the intellectual properties. That's what film studios want!

I would tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

10) Tell us a bit about some of books you read and loved in 2014?

I just got through The Helios Conspiracy by Jim DeFelice who wrote American Sniper. I really dug it. I'm working on turning it into a tv series with the author. I have Stephen King's new one on my Nook, all set to delve into next...

JBS: It's funny, because Jack mentioned this book, but I recently re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes. I had forgotten how much I loved that book. Right now, I'm reading a book called The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien. Certainly one of the more surreal/strange books I've read. I need about fifteen or sixteen years to read all the books I want to.

About Rex'd: Welcome to Scholomance -
MONDAYS. Oh, the horror. Going back to school after a nice weekend. Homework. Tests. Gym class. It's even worse for Rex Gerard, the "new kid" at Scholomance High. Making friends, navigating the rough halls, avoiding trouble...

But on this particular Monday, it's also Halloween. Rex's favorite holiday. It was his mom's too before she passed away. And today, Rex will learn exactly how she died and what his purpose is in this life as he unlocks the hair-raising mysteries and lurking monsters of Scholomance.

But is he... is ANYONE... ready?

To be published on 18th August, 2014.

About J.B. Skelter -
J.B. Skelter is an author, high school teacher, and all-around good guy. He has written two other novels under an alternate identity, but his real name remains a closely guarded secret. Skelter lives in a ghost town somewhere in Colorado with his wife, two kids, and pet pig.

His Links - Facebook, Goodreads

About Jack Reher -
Jack Reher is a screenwriter that wrote the film Endangered starring Billy Bob Thornton & James Marsden. He recently adapted Jon Bassoff’s acclaimed novel Corrosion for the screen that Mike Macari (The Ring, The Ring Two) is producing. Currently, he’s adapting IDW Publishing’s upcoming comic book The Shunned One created by Alan Robert for the screen.
His Links - Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

PS: I have finished reading the book, expect the review online closer to the release date.

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