Pike Talk: Hollywod, The Listeners & The Cold One
PIKE here: Sorry I haven’t checked in lately. After finishing the first draft of Witch World II, I got caught up in family issues in L.A. that I didn’t expect. I left Santa Barbara for a few days and only just returned. For that reason, I have yet to send out the last eight copies of Witch World that I’ve signed. For those of you who have all but given up hope, they are coming.
It’s exciting to see Spooksville actually being shot. Hollywood truly is a brutal town. Literally dozens of times I’ve had projects all set to go into production but something would always happen. It’s strange to think back to when I first published Remember Me. The whole town wanted to make a movie of the book. Then it came out that the Demi Moore film “Ghost” was in pre-production. Over the years various agents have told me if Remember Me had happened at the start, Hollywood would have made two dozen films of my books by now.
Yet, ironically, I’m not sure if it was bad luck. I do believe things happen for a reason. Fall Into Darkness was a success as a Movie of the Week, and the network wanted to do Chain Letter next, followed by several other titles. But when I saw how terrible Fall Into Darkness was, I went through a decade where I simply couldn’t sign away any rights to my books.
Maybe I overreacted, I don’t know.
Finally, though, I’m back in the game and I’m happy to say that Alosha’s chances of being made are looking better and better each month. More important, I’m confident the film is going to be great. A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to get to talk to Richard Taylor in New Zealand and the team that’s been assembled to make the film. For those of you who don’t know, Richard founded the special effects house “Weta” and is the genius behind the looks of The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, The Hobbit — dozens of visually stunning films. Feeling the enthusiasm of all the great minds the producers have put together has rekindled my faith in the project.
For that reason I’m exploring having The Sixth Door and The Listeners made into a TV series. I know none of you have read The Sixth Door yet but I’m still often asked about The Listeners.
I wrote The Cold One and The Listeners one after another, with no break in-between. Tor needed both in a hurry, if I remember right. The Cold One was published in hardcover, The Listeners in paperback. The Cold One was supposed to be the bigger book and I did work on it far longer. Yet in both books I was trying to do the same thing — create a monster that no writer had ever thought of before.
In that respect I think The Listeners had a more interesting concept. The idea that an intelligent race existed on earth before us, and that it still lay dormant inside us, at the core of our brains, excited me.
Approaching the novel, though, I wanted to come up with a special way of awakening the monster. I had always been fascinated by Robert Temple’s “The Sirius Mystery,” which dealt with a primitive tribe in Mali, in West Africa, “The Dogon,” who seemed to possess knowledge of the galaxy that on the surface appeared impossible. I strongly encourage all of you to read the book, if you don’t mind a very detailed scholarly real-life mystery. I just looked it up on Wikipedia and I also urge you to ignore their remarks about the book. The brilliant sci-fi writer, Arthur C. Clarke, a hero of mine, was well acquainted with Temple and considered “The Sirius Mystery” to present perhaps the greatest riddle in mankind’s history.
I chose the Dogon, and their connection to ancient Egypt, to give the novel a historic template. How could the Dogon know so much about the star system Sirius? I played around with the question in my mind. Temple believed they had been contacted by an alien race. But one day lightening struck and I took it a step further and wondered what would happen if the WE were the aliens; or rather, that our great-great ancestors were.
The idea led me to the exploration of mutual hypnosis, a subject that quickly began to fascinate me. In mutual hypnosis people hypnotize each other, and their shared trance allows them to probe extremely deep levels of the subconscious. Reading about people’s experience with the technique, I stumbled across a small note written by a psychologist who had witnessed what happened when identical twins tried it. He couldn’t be a hundred percent sure but believed they had awakened past life memories of when they were reptiles — huge reptiles, like in dinosaurs!
How could I resist an idea like that!
I still needed a hero and David Conner came to my rescue. I say that because he came so fully formed. I KNEW him, I felt he was real; I felt his history, his pain. His love for Lucy, how intense it was, and how he felt she could save him; and how hard he fought to save her. The same day he came to me, I got Lucy and the ending of the book. It felt it was inevitable — it had to end the way it did.
Because the plot came so fast, I wrote it fast, in four weeks. I know, a complete adult novel written in one month. Ridiculous. I’d worked on The Cold One six months. But I didn’t feel the crazy pace of The Listeners hurt the novel. It came out like a frantic nightmare, one I had almost no control over, and when it was done I felt I should let it be. I did almost no editing to the original draft. I just sent it into Tor and they thought it was great.
I don’t advise that anyone write a novel this way.
How will I make it into a TV series? We’re in the preliminary stages but a long expanding arc of the tale seems to be coming as fast as the book did, so I’m not worried. The central idea still haunts me. I occasionally wonder if there is some truth to it.
Thank you all for listening to my rambling… PIKE
PIKE here: I forgot to mention in my last post that Simon & Schuster and I have arrived at an agreement that will allow the original Spooksville books to republished. It’s been some time since any of us saw them on the shelves and I know S&S is already busy coming up with exciting new covers. I suspect the artwork will be tied into the show’s but am not positive. In either case, it will be fun to have the books back in the stores and available on Amazon. Not all the titles are masterpieces but quite a few have clever plots, or central ideas — in my humble opinion. Ha! The writers for the show have expanded on my ideas and have given the town and its occupants a richer history. I’m not clear on all the changes but know Cindy and the town witch, Ann Templeton, have been combined into a single character. I have seen the audition tapes of the main actors and they are all excellent. It should be on the air this Fall. Best, PIKE