“Rotten Little Town: An Oral History (Abridged)” is a story sticky with congealed shadows, convivial and terrifying. What was the inspiration behind the story?
In this case it was the format that provided the inspiration. We have all seen articles like that. I thought, what if the reader can perceive of something evil taking place, within and around the action?
I feel that the true beauty of the story comes from how well you layered every curious happenstance that seemed too good to be true, each instance of darkness that could be explained away by coincidence. My first read of the story was fast, as if I’d picked it up while waiting for a dentist’s appointment. The story both intrigued and engaged me. On my second read, I made it a point of consciously noting each of those layers and how the “dialogue” of the cast and crew carry the story forward. Do you find that story format is integral to the story itself or do you find yourself experimenting with format and structure as the story comes together?
In this particular case, as said, it was a specific desire to write within this format that led to the story. But yes, I do experiment quite a bit. It is to keep myself entertained, as much as anything else.
It has been said that writers write what characters want. A character wants a glass of water, the writer writes the when, where, and how. A character wants to create a hit television show that succeeds no matter what, the writer tells the story of how that happened. A truly skilled writer leaves enough unsaid that readers cannot help but see what most of the other characters miss. What was the greatest challenge of writing this story? Was there are truth you wanted to include that never made it to the page?
The biggest challenge of this story was establishing two outright villains, a mastermind and a loyal minion, who committed acts of outright evil that they never talked about and preferred to ignore, while being mostly clear about the extent of their crimes.
You have a deep appreciation of movies and television, from casting, to setting, to the intricacies of adaptation to the screen. Are there any source materials—novels, comics, stories, and the like—that you feel have become stronger for their jump to the screen? As a fan of various media, what would you say is the most important thing fans should keep in mind when they watch screen adaptations?
Jaws and The Godfather are the two classic examples of works that became stronger as they hit the screen, from their literary sources; I would say the same of the Michael Mann version of Last of the Mohicans. What I would mostly say to “fans of the book,” in any case, is that the new medium has its own challenges and that much that changes in the process of adaptation is actually stuff that must change in the course of adaptation. The biggest problem is, I think, adapting anything that is driven by an internal monologue.
Do you have a favorite television show that never made it past the first season?
I absolutely adored the 2000 TV version of The Fugitive, which never made it past fourteen episodes, and this certainly made me sad.
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