In the first two segments of our interview, screenwriter and novelist Karl Alexander took us through the early success of his novel turned into a hit film Time After Time and the subsequent slow down and near stagnation of his writing career afterwards. He continued to struggle to revisit that earlier achievement and eventually went back to that same time travel well for another novel or two.
Had you always thought about revisiting the world of Time After Time?
It hadn't played in the back of my mind because the contract I signed said that I could not write a sequel for five years. So I just kind of forgot about it. Then five years passed and I thought do I want to write a sequel? I think my thinking was I don't want to write a sequel unless I can top the idea of the first book, which for me is pretty hard to do because the idea is pretty spectacular. Then I'm having lunch with somebody, I think this was in 2006, and he's talking about Time After Time. He says, "You know you ever thought about writing a sequel?" I said "Yeah, I have." He said, "What if Jack the Ripper came back as a woman?" I started working on it the next day. My old editor loved the idea and he gave me a contract for all three books - for Jaclyn the Ripper and for reprints of Time After Time and Papa and Fidel.
Up until that time or even up until now have you ever had a screenplay of your own produced?
I've had some television stuff done. I've done a couple of television pilots and I did some writing for Unsolved Mysteries because I knew the person who had thought up that idea. But that's pretty much it.
Now we come to your current novel Time-Crossed Lovers.
Back at the time when I started working on it was that I've got Time After Time, I've got Jaclyn, and if I have any kind of audience at all somebody's going to want me to do something about time travel. That's how it started. Then as I got into the book I enjoyed writing it. But it's not a sequel. It's not related to Time After Time. It's just another time travel adventure. That's about it. It's a good book.
Is it something that could be optioned and made into a film?
Actually, now that you mention it, yeah, there's a pretty famous music video director named Dale Resteghini, I think, who does all the music videos of big time rap artists [editor’s note: Dale Resteghini is also known as Rage]. He's been trying to put it together as a film for a year now. I wrote a screenplay for him. He keeps telling me that he loves it and he wants to do it. That's pretty much where it sits right now. I still own the rights. If somebody reads the book and they like it we can go from there.
I have found that in most cases if you really scrutinize time travel stories they just don't add up. You must have made a really concerted effort to make sure that Time After Time worked correctly.
You have to do that and it's time consuming. Now that there's an internet I can go online, hit the print button and get calendars of all the years and months and dates and put them there in front of me and say "This happened here. This happened there. Don't screw it up." It's not easy. I'll go through a book three or four times and see inconsistencies and have to go back and change it and make sure that everything works.
I was doing a reading at San Diego State and there was this dude in the audience. He looked totally uninterested and completely uninvolved in the whole thing. I'm wondering what is this guy doing here? Time came for questions and he looks at me and he says, "You made a mistake." I said, "What do you mean?" He says "There is no Porsche 944." He was right. There wasn't at the time but there was a couple of years later.
In the time you've been involved with the publishing world you've probably seen the entire thing turned upside-down on its head.
I wouldn't recommend getting into publishing in any form for anybody unless you've got either a trust fund or a strong stomach. The web is great. The web revolutionized publishing. But it is also free. It means that you can go on Amazon where there are thousands of free books. Some of them are good. There are even more thousands of books for sale for 99 cents. Just a few years ago a hard copy would cost you $25. A paperback would cost you $7 or $8 and a trade would cost you $15 or $16. Say your royalty to that is anywhere from 7 to 15 percent. That's still money but it doesn't equate to a royalty for free. 15% of zero is zero. I've published maybe five or six articles online, some of them have been excerpts of books or something. I've not seen one dime for it. All it does, really, is keep your presence out there. Because people don't do this face-to-face anymore.
Everything now is about branding. Your name as an author is your brand.
I'm glad you brought that up. I was talking to my agent a few weeks ago about the books I was working on. She said, "You can't just write a good book and expect a publisher to publish it anymore. You have to have a category in mind. Editors are running scared. What is your book? Is it horror? Is it thriller? Is it young adult? Or is it this other category they call New Adult?"
New Adult was invented last summer by a couple of editors who were afraid that the audience for Young Adult books had grown up and they weren't going to buy any adult books anymore. So they said, "Well, let's make New Adult books." Now if you go to Barnes and Noble, I went to my Barnes and Noble last week, half of the top floor is what they call NA Fiction, New Adult fiction.
Does it lean towards fantasy like Young Adult does?
I think it is all of the above. I don't know. Obviously they are going to leave out the high school romance stories but everything else is probably in place.
Do you consider your "time" books fantasy?
Yeah, given the element of time travel. Although the stories and the characters I've tried to make as believable as possible within the realm of time travel. I think that's what attracts people to them. In some of the time travel stuff that I have read all of a sudden somebody is in year 30279 and I can't identify that. Whereas, I can identify with someone being in 1979 or 1985. It's not that that is limiting or anything but you have to consider the reader and the audience. Are they interested in an insect in a different universe? Well, some of them are but I'm not. So I can't write about that.
In Part Four we will wrap up our visit, in some space and time, with author Karl Alexander. (Find him on Facebook here.)