Interview with author Simon R GreenDecember 6, 2015
With many novels and short stories to his credit, author Simon R Green has now entered the world of movies as his acclaimed ‘Ghost Finders’ series has been turned into a movie, Judas Ghost. Recently, we had a chance to talk to Simon about his life as an author and what it was like to have his written work become a film.
So was writing something you were always interested in or did it kind of creep up on you as you got older?
I’ve always been interested in being a writer, simply because I enjoyed books so much. But I actually started out as a professional actor. I was getting roles and making a good start, but I just couldn’t make a living at it. So I drifted sideways into writing. It didn’t happen overnight; I spent years getting rejected. But when I was thirty I was made redundant, and I decided that if ever I was going to take writing seriously this was the time. I spent three and a half years unemployed, and wrote seven novels, all of them repeatedly rejected. I finally got a job, working at a book shop in Bath. I started work on the Monday, and on the Wednesday I got a letter from Ace books in America, saying; That novel you sent us two years ago, we’d like to publish it. And we like the characters so much, would you be interested in writing five more books featuring them? So I carried on working at the shop for a few months while the contracts were sorted out, and then I started my life as a full-time author. And here I am now, with fifty-three published novels, two collections of short stories, and my first film, Judas Ghost.
When did you realize that yes, this was something you could actually make a living at, or did you simply come to terms that this what you were going to do, regardless of impact financially?
It was always my ambition to be a full-time author, while understanding that even published authors often can’t make a living at it. I’ve been very fortunate, that people wanted to read what I wanted to write. It took me several years before I realised that I was actually able to make a good living. But I think I’d still be doing it, whatever the circumstances. I always liked what Stephen King said, when people asked why he wrote horror stories; What makes you think I have a choice. Authors write, because that’s what we do.
You seem to enjoy writing books in series form. Where did this come from and what are the reasons you favor this style of writing?
It all comes down to the characters. If you’ve got a really good character, it seems a shame to waste them on just the one story. People can change and grow, as their lives continue, and following a character from book to book can be fascinating. In other series, it’s simply the size of the canvas; my Deathstalker books were science fiction space opera, and had dozens of characters on dozens of worlds, alien races and inter-planetary wars. You couldn’t cram all that into just the one book. I like running a series, to explore the worlds I’ve created, and see what happens when you try different things with the characters. And audiences do love to immerse themselves in well-constructed science fiction and fantasy worlds.
Once you have an idea for a book/series, do you have a certain writing routine that you stick to or does it change depending on the characters or story?
I plot my books in advance, in great detail; but on the other hand, I always leave room for happy accidents. Sometimes I’ll introduce a character intending them to just fill a specific function; and then find they won’t leave the stage. Sometimes an idea will just grow and blossom, offering unexpected possibilities. I have always believed in being ready to rush off in any direction that looks like fun. I write all my early draughts in pencil on paper, and only do the final versions on the computer. I works for me. Some books start with an idea, others with a character. But it always comes down to; what happens next?
Was there ever a time that you thought about giving up on writing and doing something else? Why?
Every time I look at a blank piece of paper, and nothing comes for ages and ages, I wonder if maybe it’s time to do something else. I started out life as a professional actor, before I was a writer, and there is a part of me that would love to go back to that. I still perform in open-air Shakespeare productions, with local groups.
Your best-selling book series ‘Ghost Finders’ has been made into a movie called ‘Judas Ghost’. Could you tell me a bit about how that all came about?
It all started because my work kept getting optioned, but nothing was ever made. So I decided I’d better get the ball rolling myself. I wrote an original screenplay, found a great director, and we took it from there. I used the background of the books, but created a new set of characters; so I could kill off as many of them as I wanted.
Were you at all nervous or apprehensive about your work being adapted for the big screen?
Like many authors, I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about what happens to scripts, when other people get their hands on them. I still remember one author telling me about a film he’d written featuring vampires. The producers told him; We love the script, but do they have to be vampires? Couldn’t they have AIDS? But I was very fortunate to find a director who was on the same frequency as me, and while he kept pressing me to do re-writes, never wanted to change the essential structure of the story. When I saw the film for the first time, I paid him the best compliment I could; You made the film I wanted to see.
Where did the idea for ‘Ghost Finders’ initially come from? Was it a difficult series to write?
It started with the idea of the Judas goat; a trained animal that leads other animals into the slaughterhouse so they won’t panic. I thought; what if a group of professional ghost investigators were called into deal with what they thought was a standard haunting, and then discovered there was Something Else, much worse, waiting for them? Using the judas ghost as bait to draw them in? The story and the characters just poured out of me; and while the script went through a number of re-writes, it was all about polishing and refining. The basics never changed.
What was your reaction when you finally got to see ‘Judas Ghost’? Was the experience such that you would agree to adapt more of your work in the future?
I was delighted in the way the cast brought my characters to life, and very pleased with the way Simon Pearce maintained the mood and atmosphere throughout. I have another finished screenplay waiting to go, and of course I have fifty-three published novels, just waiting to be adapted.
What kind of advice would you have for people looking to write books or screenplays?
Write. Write every day. Finish what you write. Then send it out to publishers. And when they’re rejected, as they will be at first, don’t let that throw you. Keep writing, and keep submitting. I started writing stories when I was a student in London. I sold a handful of stories over several years, and then nothing. But I kept working. So that when I did finally get my first break, I had work ready to show my new editor.
Can you tell me what is next for you? Do you have any interest in writing an original screenplay?
I’m currently working on two new book series. The Secret Histories, featuring Shaman Bond, the very secret agent. In books like THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TORC, DEMONS ARE FOREVER and THE SPY WHO HAUNTED ME. The tenth in the series, DR DOA will be out next year. I’m also writing the Ishmael Jones mysteries; Agatha Christie style murder mysteries with fantasy elements. The first, DARK SIDE OF THE ROAD is just out in the UK from Severn, and I’ve just handed in the second, DEAD MAN WALKING. American companies have expressed interest in optioning the Secret Histories, and my Nightside books (featuring a secret agent who operates in the twilight zone, solving cases of the weird and uncanny. But I’ve always been a long time movie fan; and I would love to write more screenplays, adaptations and original works.
I want to thank Simon for taking the time to talk to us
Judas Ghost is released December 1 on VOD/DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment