Jul 05 2011
This week, my special guest is the prolific novelist and screenwriter, Ryne Douglas Pearson. The film ‘Knowing’, based on his original script, was a worldwide #1 hit, earning over $180 million at the box office. He’s published eight novels and a collection of short stories to date, and will release several new books this year. Ryne lives in California with his family.
Ryne, it is an absolute pleasure to have you as my guest this week. You have quite an impressive bio. Let me start with your novels. I, for one, am looking forward to reading your new novel, Confessions, which is a departure from your usual thriller. Please, tell us about it.
Yes, Confessions is quite a departure. My thrillers have mostly been very plot driven and focused on big events with worldwide implications. Things blowing up, bad guys getting chased by good guys. All good fun and exciting reading. Confessions, though, came at me differently in idea form. I knew it would be a more personal story for a main character with this central premise: would a person of faith offer forgiveness, or seek vengeance, if given the opportunity to find the killer of a loved one?
This allowed me to stay fully with the main character throughout the story as he faces this struggle and makes some very shocking discoveries.
I love novels of intrigue and suspense. It helps me escape my crazy life at times. Can you tell us about some of your past titles?
My first five novels were all what would be called police procedurals slash military thrillers. Reviewers called several of them technothrillers ala Clancy, which I guess is close. These are the big, action-packed stories that I’ve always loved to read.
I also have a suspense novel, The Donzerly Light, with a very deep supernatural element. This began with a simple question: what if a stockbroker was given psychic abilities? Life would be pretty sweet, right? Of course (there’s always an “of course”) this gift that allows him to pick winning stocks might also lay before him things he doesn’t want to see. Dark things. Deadly things.
Also, I wrote a novel called All For One. This was probably my favorite novel to write—meaning I loved the process of this one. It has a group of kids as central characters, and I love writing kids. My favorite novel is IT, by Stephen King, which, despite its dark themes, is a beautiful tale of children facing an adult evil. In All For One, which I always tell people is a dark mystery, a group of sixth-graders close ranks to cover up the murder of the school’s sadistic bully. This is not a light book, but I drew a lot on kids I knew in my own youth to craft the characters here, which made it a bit of a trip down memory lane.
You are a screenwriter, novelist, and short story writer. Does the creative process change depending on what you are writing? If so, how?
Each is really about telling the best story possible. Screenwriting is a more mechanical process, with pieces that have to be arranged properly, but still it comes down to story.
One major difference that I’ve had to learn to deal with is this: writing prose (novels, shorts) is a solitary endeavor. Screenwriting is collaborative. At some point you WILL work with others on your script if it is to reach its potential and make it to screen. I’m a cave dweller when it comes to writing, so scripts require I expose myself to the sun at times. It’s an adjustment.
You’ve not only had your novel, Simple Simon, turned into a film (Mercury Rising, starring Bruce Willis), but also the film Knowing was based on your original script. So, just how exciting is it to see your work on the big screen?
It’s nice. Interesting to note changes that happened along the way.
You’re known as quite a humorous guy. Your novels and screenplays are known for their dark nature. Does your penchant for comedy have a place in your work?
Not really. My writing tends to be on the serious or dark side. I’m just not that funny when I try to be in writing.
It’s almost impossible to know anything about you and not know about your love affair with bacon. Tell us more. How many days a week do you indulge? How frequently does bacon get a mention in your work? Do you like your bacon super crispy?
First, no super crispy. I enjoy a bit of flop to my strips of cured swine flesh. I try to indulge at least three times a week, which I think is a Surgeon General recommendation or something. And, you know, I can only recall bacon being specifically used in my first few novels, where the main character, Art Jefferson, is addicted to bacon chili cheese dogs from Pinks in L.A.
Before becoming a full-time writer, you worked as a bus driver, camp counselor, and plumber. School bus or public bus? Day camp or overnight camp? Any stories to share with us?
I drove buses to and from Los Angeles International Airport, through Hollywood, Orange County, and I also drove charters. As for camp, both day and overnight. Stories? What stories? There are no stories.
Now, about your work as a plumber. I know plumbers see some not-so-pretty things on a daily basis. You must have some stories for us. For example, what are some of the strangest and grossest things you’ve pulled out of a pipe?
Oh, that story. Okay, brace yourself. Sometimes when a drain gets clogged you have to send this cable in with a big blade on the end to chop through whatever is obstructing the drainage. Well…are you sure you want to hear this? Yes? Okay, I warned you.
Once, when I retrieved the cable (or snake), wrapped around the blade was…a cat. Or pieces of what was a cat. It was not pretty. It had obviously crawled into an open 4-inch cleanout outside and gotten stuck, died, and blocked the drain.
I warned you!
The world of publishing is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. Any thoughts about the ever-evolving landscape? Predictions?
Paper books will be a niche market in seven years. Maybe 20% of the book market, if that. eBooks simply make economic sense.
I’m not sure what agents/publishers become. They will have to change. Some are trying mightily, and others are resisting. I would ask them one question about their resistance: how many record stores do you see? How many that sell vinyl? CDs? Joe Konrath got it absolutely right, I believe, when he said publishers are selling paper right now. Have been for a long time. If they can’t see that change is inevitable, that paper is on its way out, they will fail.
There are a lot of smart people in publishing. But the landscape is shifting toward authors being in control. Publishers that realize that and become partners, rather than masters, may be able to navigate these new waters.
Social media is terrific, but it can be a great big time vampire, too. What advice would you give to people trying to use social media effectively?
Be genuine. Engage. Don’t just spew links to your books. I’ve met some really great people through Twitter. We joke, swap tips, etc… Honestly, I’d rather build a group of people who occasionally enjoy some random thing I tweet than 50,000 automatic followbacks promising me tips on SEO and Great Online Deals!
People, even on social media, have a pretty good BS meter. It’s not about how many followers you have—it’s about how many followers actually read what you tweet in their stream. Try to be interesting. Have fun. Life is too short to be a marketing robot.
If you could have a dinner party and invite your favorite fictional characters, who might we see seated around the table?
Atticus Finch, Jack Ryan, Guy Montag, Muriel Pritchett, Ben Hanscom, Sarah Connor, and Hannibal Lecter.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now, or is it a secret?
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I don’t like stuff touching my rice. Rice is rice. Don’t put stuff on it.
Where can people find you in cyberspace?
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?
Try my books and let me know if you like them 🙂