An Interview in 'Dreams & Shadows' with Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill (Part 2)


In part two of our interview with writer C. Robert Cargill and Sinister writer/director Scott Derrickson (you can read part one here), we pick up with the publication of Cargill's recent novel Dreams & Shadows.



FEARnet: What's the status of the film option on Dreams & Shadows?

C. ROBERT CARGILL: Nothing as of yet. It wasn't on a lot of folks' radar because I'm still a debut writer. I think there's also that assumption, since I'm a screenwriter who has something out that was successful, that the option to it is long since taken. So people are thinking that we probably already have that in development with someone somewhere. At this point nobody's done anything with it.
It is cinematic in terms of its setup?
SCOTT DERRICKSON: No question. There's definitely a movie in it... there's a movie in it, there's a TV series in it. The conversation I remembered having with Cargill after reading the first full manuscript of it, because the first thing I read was just the first three chapters, and that was when I said "This could be made. This could be very special." But I remember calling him after reading all of it and saying, "What I have been waiting for is for a fantasy writer who can write in the way that somebody like Neil Gaiman can write, but with tighter narrative, with a tighter structure and more complex narrative." That's what this is. Too often for me fantasy writing gets lost in the description; it becomes too padded and too dispersed in the way that it feels. Some people love that; some people read fantasy because they love all of that. 
I get tired of all fantasy stories being three fat books long. Why can't the author just write a nice tight novel?
DERRICKSON: In this case it's not just a novel, but even as a novel regardless of genre, it's unusually tight. It's unusually streamlined.
Do you think a lot of that came from writing the screenplay, which forces one to tighten up?
DERRICKSON: No, because he did this first. 
But it wasn't finished.
CARGILL: No, where that came from was from being a film critic for ten years and having watched so many films. I'm a voracious reader, but I'm also a voracious film-watcher. I'm always either reading something or watching something. It was essentially me fusing my love of writing and my love of literature with my love of a good tight narrative.
Is it plot-driven, or character-driven?
CARGILL: A little bit of both. It's very much the characters that drive the plot, which I believe is what any good story is. The plot shouldn't drive the characters. The characters should drive the plot; that's what that is. Essentially there are these characters who make their choices and then the choices come back to haunt them. It's them dealing with those choices as a result. It's six-to-one or half dozen of the other in that respect. 
So along with Neil Gaiman's book, which you brought up, is this kind of like playing in Clive Barker's playground?
CARGILL: You're actually the first person who has asked about that... Barker influenced me a lot as a child. 
The very first book I read, I was eight years old, I read Firestarter. I had a huge crush on Drew Barrymore and I really wanted to see the new movie she was coming out in. We're the exact same age. My parents wouldn't let me see it. My aunt bought me a copy of Firestarter. I fell in love with it, so I tore through it. Then what happened was that over the next four or five years I tore through all of Stephen King. So all through elementary school and junior high I was reading Stephen King. 
Then once I caught up on all the Stephen King, I needed to know what else there was to read. Well, King seemed to like this Clive Barker guy. So I tore through all of Clive Barker. Cabal was a big influential work for me; Cabal influences this a lot. I've actually unfortunately missed the touring restored version of Nightbreed. I really wanted to see it, because I'm a big fan of that stuff. But there is very much some Barker fantasy in here as well. 
DERRICKSON: I would argue that this is the imaginative fantastical sensibility of Clive Barker with Stephen King's storytelling prowess. Stephen King's language and his use of prose, the literary qualities of the reading are fine, but they're nothing special; it's great storytelling always, and the opposite is true with Barker. He's like our modern Edgar Allan Poe. The language itself is the art. 
And Gaiman is kind of in-between there.
DERRICKSON: Right. To me this has the piercing storytelling of somebody like Stephen King, but with the bigger imagination and fantastical fresh quality of somebody like Clive Barker.
CARGILL: Could we find another titan to compare me to? Because I don't think I've been over-inflated enough. 
You're standing on some large shoulders. Now, you guys are doing other screenplays, other projects together?
DERRICKSON: I'm not doing the remake of Poltergeist or The Birds. If anybody knows how to get those off of my IMDB page, please do. It's like the leading question on every interview I do: "So what's up with Poltergeist?
So what project is closest to fruition that the two of you are working on?
CARGILL: Deus Ex. It's the adaptation of the videogame. As we keep telling everybody we're not making a video game movie, we're making a cyberpunk movie. Deus Ex is just really, really amazing cyberpunk. It's a rocket on rails; everybody's into it, everybody's digging it, everybody wants to move forward, everybody involved loves the property and works really well together. So that looks like it's coming. Then Scott's got something coming up as well.
DERRICKSON: I can't talk about it, but it is something that was written a while ago.
CARGILL: He's got a couple of, as we like to refer to them, children from a previous marriage, where there were a lot of things that were very close to his heart that he was working on before we started working on Sinister. When we sat down and talked, I didn't want him to kill those so that it could just be us working together. He needed to go off and do those things and get that out and do that. Then when he's done, he comes back and we work on other stuff together. So he's kind of clearing out that slate of really great stuff that he's got built up from beforehand.
DERRICKSON: We're just both so supportive of each other. I have nothing to do with this book except for...
CARGILL: ...Helping me find my voice.
DERRICKSON: ...for the story that we just told here. I'm the biggest champion of it that there is. I want him to keep writing, he should keep writing novels. I think because that's how we both feel about each other; I feel that way about him as a novelist and he feels that way about me as a director, and for that reason I think we are going to work together indefinitely.
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