Thursday, July 29, 2010

Author Spotlight - Adam L. Garcia

The new Green Lama novel
Mike Fyles interior illustration sneak peek!

Adam L. Garcia grew up in Brooklyn, New York and was raised on comic books and movie serials. A graduate of New York University's Film & Television program, he has worked in animation, film and television; won several awards for his photography; has written and directed two short films and wrote an original television pilot "University Place."

His first novella, “Horror in Clay” from Green Lama Volume One, was nominated for Best Short Story in 2009 Pulp Factory Awards.

He is currently at work on his next Green Lama novel, Crimson Circle, as well as a story with an original pulp hero, Dock Doyle; both for Airship 27. The Green Lama - Unbound is his first novel. You can read Adam's blog here.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small private community at the Western end of Coney Island called Sea Gate. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s generally because the only time anyone talks about it is when there’s a flood or hurricane, or both. Those are always fun days.

I went to Abraham Lincoln High School, who’s alumni include Neil Diamond, Harvey Keitel, Stephon Marbury and no names such as Joesph Heller, Mel Brooks and Arthur Miller.

Did you read books or comics as a kid and if so, what were some of your favorites?
I read a lot of books and comics as a kid. My father collected comics all his life so I basically was born in to comics. We’ve never really counted but we assume we have upwards of 100,000 comics. With that said it would be tough to nail down one specific comic or novel that was my favorite, though Brian Jacques’ “Redwall” Series, George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, and Robert Harris’s Fatherland were some of the books that I loved when I was younger. I think it’s pretty clear I was a really dorky kid.

What movies and TV shows sparked your imagination in your youth? As an adult?
Without a doubt Star Wars, the Indiana Jones films and Ricard Donner’s Superman had the biggest effect on me as kid. Apparently I forced my mom to watch Superman everyday, and when we drove over bridges I would make everyone hold there hands up as if they were flying. Star Wars and Indiana Jones, well, they were life changing. It also didn’t help that my dad would show me his old movie serials (which I absolutely adore) all the time, so I understood what those films represented.

What I’m trying say is, I’m basically a 67 year old man in a 27 year-old’s body. Did you see 17 Again with Zac Efron? It’s exactly like that, except not at all.

In regards to television, I would say Farscape was the show that made me want to start writing and realized what you could with the medium. It showed me you could tell large, sweeping story-lines as well as have deep, multi-layered characters that grow over time.. Shows like, the Twilight Zone, Fringe, Babylon 5, Cowboy Bebop, Batman: The Animated Series, The Simpsons, Futurama, Mad Men, Justified, The Office, Arrested Development, Firefly, Freaks & Geeks... the list goes on. I absolutely adore scripted television.

I will say that I view films as short stories and television series as novels (each chapter is an episode), so I usually structure my stories with that in mind .

Did your parents encourage or hinder your interests?
There aren’t enough kind words to describe my parents. They are the most supportive parents anyone could ask for. From photography to film to comics to writing, they’ve always encouraged every aspiration I’ve had and have always been my number one fans. I pitch a lot ideas past them and they sometimes like to act like my agents and will talk about my work to anyone who will listen; but that’s how they are with all my siblings, which is really how it should be.

Also this basically is all my dad’s fault, so they’d better be encouraging, dammit.

What do you read now for pleasure? What writers or other story tellers inspire you?
Right now, I’m in the middle of “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke. It’s a wonderful tome of novel. I’m not the quickest reader in the world, but I never go anywhere without a novel in hand. Once in a blue moon I might read a non-fiction book, but generally speaking I like to read any kind of fiction, though I definitely find myself reading science fiction, fantasy, and adventures than anything else. I also pick up a weekly comic or graphic novel or two to get my fill of comics.

In terms of other writers that inspire me: Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Michael Chabon, Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, Joss Whedon Stephen King, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, George R. R. Martin to name a few. I’ve actually met Whedon, Lucas and Gaiman and have told them as much. Though I did tell Whedon I don’t like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so who knows how well that went over.

When did you start writing fiction and what kind of stuff was it? Do you remember any particular stories from then?
I think I was eight when I started writing my first novel, “The Land of Nowhere” which I think was about my friends and I in a haunted hotel; though I was definitely writing before that. I also tried to write another novel when I was 16 called Justice’s Kingdom which was meant be something like 1984, but in a world where the South won the Civil War. I hope to revisit that story some day. I also wrote a screenplay Star Wars parody called Mini Wars when I was 14, and it reads like a 14 year old wrote it, which is to say: pretty awful. There were also countless comic books I would write and draw, some better than others, but all pretty goofy.

You went to NYU, what did you study?
I studied Film and Television, with a minor in History, because I’m a huge nerd.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind?
I generally don’t listen to music while I’m writing, mostly because I lose focus, though I spend much of my commute listening to music and frequently find music that inspires certain stories or scenes and will play them over and over while I conceptualize a scene. The music ranges depending on the mood I’m looking for, but nine times out of ten it’s Raffi’s “Baby Beluga.”

Outside of writing, do you have a day job? What field?
I currently pay the majority of my bills working for the TV show of a certain female lifestyle guru. I work in the “Field Department” which means whenever she leaves the studio, that’s when we get involved. We’re basically her travel agents and have to film her while she’s on vacation. I won’t say who it is, but it isn’t Snooki. I do know more about arts and crafts than I really should and once ate a $1,200 pot roast while on set. Had I known it was that expensive I would have shoved it into my pockets and sold it in back alleys for $100/slice.

If you do have a day job, how do you create the space (mentally) and time (logistically) to write? Are you an X words a day writer or a binge writer?
It’s not so much an issue of creating the space to write, but rather mentally creating the space to have a day job. I’m more of an “X” words a day writer, giving myself little goals to meet every time I sit down, even if that goal is one word.

One of the most common questions writers get is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Personally, I think that is the wrong question. I think the real question is "How do you get the ideas to stop? How do you focus and narrow your thinking  enough to get anything written down?"

I suppose the answer is I don’t let them stop. I watch the scenes play out in my head and write down what I see, though I often go through several drafts of a scene before I move on. I usually try to write in a linear fashion, so I’m discovering the story just as the reader would, but sometimes I’ll get an idea for a later scene, or a piece of dialogue and will jot it down where it will roughly end up in book. This usually gives me a destination, I need to get the characters to this point. Though typically by the time I reach that point I completely revise the scene. I also tend to write fat, I put every idea on the page, then go back and trim and cut significantly until the story is as lean as possible.

There are themes and ideas that come out while I’m working on one story that might not be appropriate for whatever reason, that I’ll save for later.

Do you carry a notebook around and jot ideas as they come to you? Or bits of dialog or setting?
I carry a soft-cover Moleskine and a pencil everywhere I go. I feel naked without it. I’ll jot down notes, ideas, dialogue, settings, questions as well as draw doodles of me as a cowboy.

How did you come to get involved with the Airship 27 group?
Pure happenstance. Ron and I each had a booth a the 2009 New York Comic Con and bumped into each other and began talking comics, movie serials and pulps. I gave him a copy of my independent comic book “Nick Adrian: Security Guard” (which answers the age old question of “What if Dirty Harry was a security guard at the Gap?”) and he brought me on board.

What inspired you to choose the Green Lama to write stories about?
My father. One of the pride and joys of his Golden Age comic collection is the complete set of the Spark Publications’s Green Lama books, so I was very familiar with the character. When I realized I could add to the mythos of one of my father’s favorite characters it was a dream come true.

Again: This is all his fault.

I really liked your story, Horror in Clay, in Green Lama Vol One. What led you to choosing the Golem as the focal point of the story?
Firstly, thank you! I will say though that your story --“The Studio Specter”-- was, in terms of style, story and tone, much truer to the original Green Lama pulps than mine, and was one Crossen could have written.

Thank you. I was going for that.
In regards to “Horror in Clay,” being half-Jewish, the Golem myth was one I had been familiar with for a long time and always fascinated me. The idea for the story that eventually evolved into “Horror in Clay” was one I had been trying to write since college, but could never find the right medium, or the right approach. It wasn’t until I hooked up with the Airship 27 and the Green Lama that I found the best way to tell it.

Also, as a Jew, I just really liked the idea of starting off a story with hundreds of dead Nazis. If I kill Nazis in every story, I would. It doesn’t even have to be a pulp story. I’ll write literary fiction set in 1885 New England and will have one the characters say: “Let’s go kill some Nazis.” Hitler was a monster but he did give us the world’s greatest fictional villains.

You have your first novel length work on the Green Lama coming up. Is that your first novel? What were the challenges compare to the novella length story?
This is my first published novel.

In some ways I found it easier than writing the novella since I had a larger canvas to play with but this also meant I had to juggle a lot more seemingly disparate story-lines and work to bring them together in a satisfactory way at the end.

My writing process is such that I write a treatment for the story which lays out in rather vague terms the major story beats, and helps guide me, but more often than not the story and the characters take on a life of their own, so mid-way through I usually put the treatment aside and see where the characters take me. I do find that they generally stay close to my original plan, though they have surprised me.

Unbound was originally planned to be written as two separate novellas, since I didn’t think Airship 27 would want to do a full-length novel, and I simply wasn’t sure I was strong enough a writer to write one just yet so I only wrote a treatment for the first novella which would end on a cliffhanger. When I submitted it to Ron Fortier, my editor, he preferred not to do a cliffhanger ending and asked that I either change the ending or expand it into a novel. So while I only had a very nebulous idea of what the finale would be I decided to charge ahead and tell the complete narrative. The original treatment was used as an early guide for what eventually became the first two-thirds of the novel, though I added several sub-plots and characters to the point that the final book only has a passing resemblance to my original plan.

A tricky part of this book was balancing the epic plot without losing the character development. I didn’t want this to be just another Green Lama story, I wanted this to be the biggest Green Lama story ever, but I also wanted the characters to come out of the story changed (maybe not always for the better). It’s part of the reason why this novel is set after the original pulps because after this, there really is no going back.

Surprisingly, mixing the two mythologies of Cthulhu and the Green Lama felt incredibly natural.

I will say the biggest challenge was writing the book so that it could stand on its own, and would be speak to fans of the original Green Lama stories as well as a modern audience that probably have never heard of the character, let alone pulp fiction. My hope is that fans can read the book in context of the original pulps and feel this is part of the natural progression of the character and that someone unfamiliar with the character will want to go and find the original and other Airship 27 stories.

Can you tell us about your research into the original Green Lama novels and their author?
I’ve read the first 11 out of the original 14 Green Lama pulps. The first 6 have been recently reprinted by Adventure House, though that latter 8 haven’t been reprinted in sometime. I had the chance to visit Mr. Crossen’s archives up at Boston University and was able to obtain photocopies of 5 out of the 8 remaining stories. I’ve read the entire Spark Publications run on the character and what few Prize Comics shorts I could find. I’ve also listened to the many of the radio dramas and read over the scripts while at the archives. I also found a rare pitch sheet and bio of Jethro Dumont, which I assume was for the unproduced television series.

I do go into depth on the my research in my essay at the end of the novel.

Will you be writing about the Green Lama again, and will they continue to be novels?
Yes. I’ve begun writing the next Green Lama novel currently titled Green Lama: Crimson Circle, which will be a sequel to Unbound as well as a sequel to the very first Green Lama story from the old pulps.

The story will be set roughly six months after the events of Unbound and will be smaller in scale when compared to the previous novel. Whereas Unbound is about Jethro accepting his destiny, Crimson Circle will be about Jethro facing the darkness within. In many ways, it’s meant to be the Green Lama’s Empire Strikes Back.

I am also working on plotting a third and final Green Lama novel that will close out this loose trilogy and hopefully tie everything together in a big way. After that I’m going to be stepping away from the character--unless I find a story worth telling, of course.

If you could write stories featuring any fictional character, who would it be?
Captain Marvel (Shazam), Spider-man or Indiana Jones. If I get to write any of those three I can die a happy man. If I could write them all at once in some massive crossover, my brain would probably explode.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the audience?
I’ll have a booth with my comics collective Bag & Board Studios [ ] at the 2010 New York Comic Con in October, so please stop by and say hi. I’ll be dressed as the Green Lama and will be only addressed as such.

I’m also working on a graphic novel called “Sons of Fire” which a dark take on Smallville as well as a short story for Airship 27 called “Dock Doyle” that will be a play on the Doc Savage pastiche. Separately, I’ve been conceptualizing a time travel story currently titled The Grey Men, which I would describe as stylistically similar to Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige.

1 comment:

Ken Horowitz said...

Nice interview, Pete. I especially like the question about how writers with dayjobs find time and (mental) space to write. Keep on interviewing!