I wanted to update and answer some questions about writing. Generally, I write whatever comes my way, either bubbling up from inside or sent from without.
Whatever product we create, most of us consider ourselves first and foremost writers, a label sufficient in itself. Most write because they love words and love using them. I write for a lot of reasons-- I think creating heroes that readers will want in their lives is an obsession of mine-- but I love challenges, especially the challenge of a new assignment I don't have complete control over.
For instance, I like writing Alex Van Helsing into a terrible corner and then having to write him back out of it, but that's nothing compared the challenges a writer faces with someone else characters. I might have what I think is the perfect idea, but it might not get approved-- maybe I think the Turtles should have a funny argument about old science fiction movies, but the argument might get cut because the owners already plan for a conversation like that in another project soon. That kind of cut-- which means you have to put in something else-- happens all the time. The art of writing demands control, but the art of writing for others demands equal parts control and humility.
I started out writing standalone novels in college, beginning with THE IRON THANE, a fantasy adventure about MacDuff, the hero of Shakespeare's MacBeth. But my first job working with someone else's characters was a tie-in novel for a TV series: the book was Highlander: The Element of Fire, the first tie-in to the Highlander series. I was 23 and busy with law school, and there are choices I made then that I wouldn't make now, but what I remember loving about it was that the producers allowed me to make the book a team-up between the characters of the Highlander TV series and the Highlander film series. I worked hard to blend the two.
But. I wrote the book in about five weeks with very little revising before publication, and it shows at times. There are scenes I would change or cut if I were doing them today. So it goes.
I mention all of this because out of the blue this weekend I got a series of questions from Alexander, a reader who enjoyed The Element of Fire so much that -- and can I say this is bizarre to hear about something I write when President Clinton was in his first term-- he had spent a lot of time thinking about it:
And he had questions! So I decided-- if a reader is actually spending time thinking about a book I wrote twenty years ago, I should see if I remember enough to answer.
I'm a die-hard Highlander fan, and particularly, your novel "The Element of Fire", which I think is a better story that handles both characters of Connor and Duncan MacLeod in a much better, dignified and honest way than any of the comics and, especially, the "Highlander: Endgame" film did. On top of that, I feel that the story is an interesting and fitting exploration of the first three hundred years of Duncan's life, in as far as his doubts about the Game and Prize are concerned (even though it wasn't your intention, as you had once pointed out in an interview,I think it works still), and how he morphed, basically, into the Duncan of the show. ...
But to me, the biggest and most amazing accomplishment, was the detailing of the Connor-Duncan dynamic. I love how you wrote those characters, and how they interact with one another. I love you managed to showcase their changes but also their sameness through the years, as well as point out their differences and similarities. To me, you basically set that dynamic, you made that relationship work, and as a fan who loves these characters and the franchise (despite the efforts of its producers to ruin it, movie-wise), I am indebted to you for this experience.
So on that note, I would like to thank you for this magnificent story. It may not be the greatest of literature, sure, but as a story that explores these characters through the years in a rollicking adventure, its one of the best. Thank you so much for this wonderful contribution.
So with no further ado, here are the questions I received, the answers to which require me to dig deep into the recesses of my mind:
Q: What do you think of the story so many years later? Would you have changed anything story-wise, or character-wise?
A: Oh, man, there are many things I would change-- for one thing, you'll notice that the book reads in chronological order, so that it starts far in the past and moves forward to the 19th century where most of the action takes place. On the TV show the formula was to introduce a bad guy, then have Duncan take us back and forth through flashbacks that told a parallel story in the past. I wrote the book this way, in the style of the show. But the publishers were unfamiliar with the format of the show and re-arranged the book to be in chronological order. That's on them. But there's one worse that's all on me-- there's a scene where Duncan is pretty brutal to a crooked person he's interrogating, and I regretted the level of violence after re-reading it, and wish we had cut the scene. Sometimes you're working so fast that you don't realize how a scene reads.
Q: What DO you think of Connor and Duncan as characters to write? Which of the two was easier to write, and which was the most fun? Was it challenging that you had to simaltenously a lot of information for Duncan, and not as much for Connor?
A: I liked writing Connor a lot more, because he was such an oddball, with that untraceable accent and strange, detached nature. But I really loved showing them together, with Duncan and Connor debating how to be an Immortal.
Q: Do you think Duncan cleared up his doubts about the Game, or do you think he had lingering doubts about it? In the Series, "The Messenger" episode, which after the book, he's adamant that the Game must be fought, because all it takes one Immortal to not lay down his sword. Did Duncan finally learn Connor's lesson?
A: Well, Duncan kept evolving in the TV series-- and to my knowledge never once experienced the faith crisis that I explored in the book. I just thought he should experience it-- not once in the show had either character expressed doubt that the Game might not be real. That there might not be a prize after all. I fought really hard to keep that line of questioning in, because the TV guys didn't like it-- yet in the end they allowed me to keep it.
Q: Have you read the Dynamite Entertainment Highlander comics that center around Connor and Duncan, and the former's dealing with Kurgan's Dark Quickening? What do you think of them, if you have?
A: Never have! I should pick them up, I guess...
Q: In an older interview, you mentioned that there were doubts about allowing Connor into your story. Had you had more of a blank slate, and among other things, would you have Connor in a bigger role in the story? Fans have noted that he's basically in the sidelines for the story, and would've liked him in a more proactive role.
A: Yes-- he is the mentor character, not the lead. That's because it's a Duncan book with Connor in it. I think you could have a Connor story with Duncan in it, but I think you have to pick one or the other to be the lead. (Having said that, yes, you could have an equal-time story with two leads, but in this case it was everything I could do to get Connor in as the mentor!)
Q: And after having Element of Fire, what do you think of Highlander: Endgame, the movie that paired them in the big-screen? ... What do you think of the other Highlander novels? You have the distinction, apart from writing the only Connor-Duncan story in prose, but also having written the first novel based on the TV Series. Have you read any of the follow-up novels, and if so, what is your opinion on them?
A: t's so long since I saw the movie that I shouldn't even venture a comment. I know they weren't having philosophical discussions about the game. As to the other books-- I never did!
Q: Was there ever an intention of writing a continuance to the novel? Seeing as how the novel is set entirely in the past, and the character of Lauren survived, was it ever a hope of yours to perhaps write a follow-up story, set in the present?
A: YES! I wanted more of Gabriela Savedra, especially. I loved that character, the Spaniard Immortal who apparently went to train with Amanda.
Q: Finally, what do you think of the franchise, overall? What got you into Highlander, and what has the experience of working of EOF meant to you?
A: But I was very lucky to get that gig and have been thankful for it ever since, because it influence my whole career-- because I'd written THE IRON THANE, I got Highlander. Because I'd written Highlander I got not only some Marvel Universe books, but a job with EA doing game scripts. I was so thankful for this book for the opportunity to write in a universe I loved, and for the doors it opened. I'm still thankful.