It was interesting to me just how much the affable Mark Frost and I have in common. Well-known as a writer for the television series Hill Street Blues he is probably best known as the co-creator of Twin Peaks with David Lynch. I am not. But we were born the same year, both love tales of the fantastic and on this particular afternoon we found ourselves together in the Dark Delicacies bookstore conducting an interview. That's actually as close as I'll get to similarities.
His newest novel, The Paladin Prophecy, is book one in a dark fantasy trilogy for young adults. It's big. The New York Times Book Review stated that "Frost's consummate skill with suspense means reluctant readers should have no trouble breezing through its 547 pages." The film rights have been sold and a movie should not be long behind.
Why a trilogy?
If there is popular demand we'll keep going. The response so far has been fantastic. All those bloggers are loving it.
How did you start?
My first gig was writing for The Six Million-Dollar Man when I was nineteen. So I've been at this a long time. The Mark of Seven was my first book.
At the time you wrote that did you decide to blow off television?
Kind of. I mean my plan was I wanted to write books and I wanted to get movies made of the books. I thought that was a nice business to be in. So of the nine books, I think I've sold six of them to the movies and we've made one.
Why did you decide to write a young adult book?
We have a nine year old. A boy. Great, bright, really wonderful kid who loves stories. So he said, "Dad, why don't you write a story for me and my friends." I started thinking about that and I started thinking about my own childhood. I suddenly realized that I had tapped into a pretty rich vein of things I'd never written about.
I wrote it on spec, which I've only done once before. That's how strongly I felt about it. I have a great literary agent but he doesn't handle YA. But he has a partner who does. He's really good at it. So when she read it, she loved it. We had an auction with about six publishing houses bidding on it. Random House picked it up. I've had the best luck with them. It's a great company. They get it. I had been at a smaller house for the last ten years at Hyperion which is a nice company but smaller. They're a good publisher. But I'm really excited about Random House. I sent in a huge unwieldy manuscript. I thought I had really cut it to the bone.
Was that only for book one?
Just for book one. I sent an outline for books two and three. The guy who ran the division basically said, "I want to edit this. I love this book." He helped me. I cut ... it was over 200,000 words the first draft. So we got it down to about 125,000. Still a thick book. He helped a little bit with writing from the fourteen year old perspective. I had done a lot of research with my two nephews who are in that age range. The publisher aimed it at twelve and up. I'm actually reading it now to my nine year old and he is totally getting it. He'd rather be read to than read at this point.
Did you contemplate doing it as an illustrated book?
I thought about wanting to do a graphic novel. But part of the deal is that Random House owns the rights. For them, adapted graphic novels are not moneymakers. It's expensive to produce. Unless it is following the tail of some big thing so we'll see if that happens. I wrote my first novel at the age of eleven. I was kind of a weird kid that way. I'd written three by the time I was fifteen.
Is novel writing the world you want to play in now?
I think so. I mean I still like keeping my hand in that other world (electronic media) if it's with people I like and if it's a project I really like. But otherwise it's not worth the hassle. It's bad out there.
Did you want to write the script?
Yes. I always make that a provision when I sell books. The rights were bought by Reliance the big film company that owns half of Dreamworks. It's an Indian company. They may have the most money of anybody making movies these days. They're looking to get into making movies on their own instead of just other people's. So they saw this as, maybe, a franchise that could really take off. They jumped in and made a pre-emptive offer.
So they bought the three book story arc?
Yes. I've got to write the second book before I write the script. I'll have a better idea of what's in the first movie.
Is there a time frame?
Well, we want to see if the book really takes off and becomes a bestseller. That will be a factor in their decision. Random House owns the rights internationally for all English speaking countries. We're really seeing it overseas as well. I think it's been bought by 14 or 15 other countries as well. Some of those translations take a while so it won't get into some of those markets for a year or two. Young adult is what's really driving the book market right now.
In Part 2 of the interview we'll talk about Twin Peaks and television.
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.