After launching the Five Minutes With… series with a spotlight on Green Arrow artist Patrick Zircher last month, I’m thrilled to introduce yet another pop culture industry interview, this time with novelist, screenwriter and comic book scribe Jason Starr, whose new novel Savage Lane goes on sale in October.
Jason published his first crime novel in 1997, and has since penned a further nine thrillers which would go on to become international best sellers. His books have received critical acclaim and garnered him numerous awards, and they have been translated into several languages.
On the film and TV front, several of Jason’s novels have been optioned for adaptations on the big and small screens, and he has written screenplays for numerous studios and production companies, including Fox Searchlight.
With regards to his comics work, Jason has authored scripts for DC Comics, Vertigo, Marvel and Boom Studios, featuring well known characters such as Batman, Wolverine and The Punisher. He also recently wrote a novel starring Marvel’s Ant-Man, released to tie in with the hit film of the same name.
Aspiring writers and general fiction fans alike follow Jason on Twitter, where he regularly tweets observations about the writing craft, as well as updates on his upcoming projects. Jason also reaches out to his fans via his email newsletter, which you can subscribe to from his website.
I’d like to say a big “thank you” to Jason for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take part in this interview, and encourage you all to check out Savage Lane.
You’ve written novels, screenplays and comic book scripts – how does your writing process differ across these three different storytelling mediums?
I actually started out writing plays. I have a Masters in playwriting, and for several years in my twenties, I worked with a few Off-Off Broadway theatre companies in Manhattan. I think writing plays has affected all of my writing, as far as learning how to move a story forward with dialogue, and having strong conflict.
There are big differences, of course. When I’m writing a novel, space isn’t as important as it is with comic script writing and screenwriting. For comics, in particular, space is crucial. Most comics are about 20-22 pages, and the book has to end exactly at that point. So writing for comics requires a lot of planning.
Also with comics, the images are more important than the words, as far as moving stories forward, so it’s important to think visually. With screenwriting, the structure is extremely important, and the dialogue is too of course.
Novels, screenplays/films and comic books all have different strengths and weaknesses. What’s your favourite thing about each medium?
With novels, I can get deeper into the psychology of the characters, and tell longer, bigger stories. Writing for comics is pure pleasure, and I enjoy the collaboration with artists and editors. Screenwriting might be the most labour intensive, because you need to do so many drafts to get a script in perfect shape. It’s potentially the most exciting, though, because it’s amazing, and a little surreal, to see your stories come to life with actors.
As the author of several acclaimed crime novels, what’s the secret to writing a good noir tale?
A lot of novels—especially my earlier ones—naturally head toward noir. I think it’s a combination of a way I see the world, combined with writing the type of stories I love to read. I don’t think there’s a secret it; I just try to write what comes natural to me, what feels true.
My new novel, Savage Lane, has a noir vibe, but it’s set in a suburb of New York, and it’s really a dark domestic thriller. There is also probably more satire in this novel than in any of my previous books.
You mostly write about characters you’ve created yourself, however you’ve also plotted stories about characters owned by DC and Marvel. What are the pros and cons of working with characters you don’t own?
It’s certainly been incredibly exciting to work with such iconic characters—so that’s the biggest pro, the pure fun of it.
I think it’s been good for me to get some instant recognition as well, in the sense that if somebody is discovering my writing for the first time, they may not have heard of me, but they’ve heard of Wolverine or Ant-Man. So it’s been a great way for me to branch out and reach a new audience.
Creatively, though, it’s exciting for me to write my own characters and have the control to do whatever I want with the storylines. This is why up to this point I’ve done a combination, and would love to continue working in this way going forward.
What’s your advice for an aspiring author trying to get their work published?
The most important thing, by far, is to get into the habit of writing every day. Getting published is the goal, obviously, but I think a lot of aspiring writers make the mistake of having their one book that they’ve been trying to sell for years. I think it would be very hard to break in that way.
The writers I know who are successful are always coming up with new ideas, working on—and finishing—new projects. You’re not just writing a book—you’re starting a small business.
If you are dedicated to writing, and are producing good work, and utilise the same persistent attitude when you start approaching agents and editors, I guarantee you’ll have success.