Jonathan Maberry is a household name. Who you ask? When it comes to writing, Jonathan is a Proteus whom you may never have heard of. He is an award-winning prolific author of hundreds of articles, short stories, non-fiction books, comics and novels. Horror readers know his zombie works and the first book in his Joe Ledger Thriller Series, Patient Zero, also involves zombies. It crossed genres and has thrust him to the forefront of an elite group of current writers who have every book anxiously anticipated by rabid horror and thriller fans alike. He is capable of seamlessly changing subjects, styles and genres with the flick of a pen. But he is just beginning to see his due when it comes to film entertainment.
Why after all these years and writings is he finally being recognized by the entertainment establishment? How does it feel when you finally get your shot at the big payoff? What he really has to share is his upbeat attitude and optimistic outlook, which is admittedly easier to maintain when you embody so much talent.
"The option (for Patient Zero) grew out of the growing interest in zombies for TV," Maberry said. "Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead had just been optioned by Gale Anne Hurd and Frank Darabont. The second book in the series, The Dragon Factory, wasn't out yet, and they didn't know that there were no zombies in the rest of the series."
Although Jonathan feels like an old soul to the horror reader due to his magnificent outpouring of written works, the truth is his tenure in the fiction field is relatively young.
"I'm still relatively new in the game. Although I was a magazine feature writer for over twenty-five years I broke onto the fiction scene in 2006. And I'm in genres where there is a lot of very talented competition. I look at guys who have been around for decades and see that sometimes they've never been optioned, or if they have been optioned, it hasn't always resulted in a film or show. I don't consider myself to be so fantastic that Hollywood should drop everything and focus only on me. That said, we've had a fair amount of interest in various projects. Quite a few times we've turned down option offers from producers who we felt weren't right for the material. My literary agent, Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. and my film agent Matt Snyder of CAA, are looking for the right deal – not just any deal. So, that takes a bit of time. Right now we have very, very strong interest in the Rot & Ruin books and we're highly optimistic about them being optioned soon."
His first taste of option has happened, and the roller coaster of anticipation began and then ultimately died. What didn't die was Jonathan's drive. More product is coming out and more chances to grab at the golden ring.
"There are always highs and lows in the process, no matter how much you know about the realities. It's like Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. You hear about something new - a new player in the mix, a script being commissioned, the appearance of your show on a development short-list, and you're suddenly ten feet tall and the world's your oyster. Then something happens to cut you down to size. The thing with me is, my natural bent is toward optimism. I'll probably always keep charging at that football, hoping that this time Lucy will let me kick it.
"I'm a film nut and I grew up on comics, so all of my stuff tends to be visual. I storyboard my novels the way films are laid out. My new book, Dead of Night, was entirely storyboarded and even plotted out as a movie. I wrote the book based on my own film treatment. It helps me to visualize the characters, block the scenes, and get inside the pyrotechnics of the action if I can see it on the movie screen in my head. Writing comic books has helped this process considerably."
He already had a cinematic writing style but still, getting that shot at the option has to have an effect on a person's approach to their ink-slinging.
"In 2010, I made it onto the New York Times bestseller list for the first time. That changes one's career path quite a bit. It puts you squarely on the radar of producers and other folks. I've also significantly increased my social media footprint and that's useful, too. Plus I was on a massive book tour this year (somehow he missed Dark Delicacies) and while on the road I've made some new friends who are well-connected in Hollywood. We'll see if any of that does the trick.
"I want to have a movie or TV show based on my stuff, but it isn't why I write. I love writing novels and short stories, and I love interacting with readers. However, at heart I'm a storyteller, so film/TV opens another creative door for me, and that's always exciting."
So at this point in the game, what has been the most surprising aspect of the Hollywood game?
"I've been warned by so many people that the whole Hollywood crowd is vain, shallow and stand-offish. But...so far that hasn't been my experience at all. I've met a number of folks – actors, screenwriters, directors – and they're pretty cool folks: well-read, smart, insightful and creative. So far, that's my picture of Hollywood."
As usual we like to end the column with words of advice. Can you add anything to help us through this mad world of optioning?
"The most important thing for any writer flying near the Hollywood flame to know is this: be patient. Don't expect it all to happen right away, don't bet the farm on anything. Not until you see your name on the screen."
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. He's the author of many novels including Assassin's Code, Dead of Night, Patient Zero and Flesh & Bone. His nonfiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to zombie pop-culture. Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, and textbooks. He founded the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founded The Liars Club; and is a frequent keynote speaker and guest of honor at major writers and genre conferences. Jonathan lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sara and their son, Sam. Visit him online at www.jonathanmaberry.com and on Twitter (@jonathanmaberry) and Facebook.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies "The Home of Horror" in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com. If you have any information on the optioning of horror books he would love to hear from you.