Even though he’s deep in the Clockwork Storybook 30 Day Writing Challenge, Mark Finn took a moment to talk about the contest, Conan, and Daryl Gregory.
Mark Finn is an award-winning author, playwright and essayist who is active in Robert E Howard studies. His biography, Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E Howard was nominated for a World Fantasy award, and will be re-released in an updated second printing later this month. His comic books SCOUTS! Premeires in March from Ape Entertainment.
MAJOR SPOILERS: It’s been just over a week since the Clockwork Storybook 30 Day Writing Challenge has launched, and on the surface (meaning, things posted on the Major Spoilers site), it looks like you have a huge lead over everyone else. Behind the scenes, there’s probably a lot going on. Can you give a behind the scenes look at how the contest is going? Who’s falling behind? Who’s way ahead?
MARK FINN: As I suspected, this is harder than it used to be. Back before we all got married and had kids and lives and stuff, it was easy to sit around in our underwear, eating Doritos and downing quarts of coffee until the wee small hours of the morning. In week two, what’s really happened is the phase of the contest known as “The Hunkering.” Phase one is “The Presenting.” This is when we wave chickens around and beat our swords against our shields, metaphorically speaking. That’s the beginning, where even if we don’t KNOW where we’re going, we know how to start so that it looks as if we do. Phase Two, “The Hunkering,” is where everyone looks at what they’ve written and says, “Oh, shit. I’ve got twenty-eight more installments of this. Now what?” and we all bend our backs to the work of not only writing a chunk of prose a day, but also plotting madly ahead, correcting on the fly if a better idea strikes us. That’s when it gets kinda quiet and terse.
In case you’re wondering, the next phase is “The Lightning,” wherein suddenly everything clicks, or you get that final idea, or that linchpin, that puts everything into place. The final phase is “The Sprinting,” as you try to tear your way to the finish line, hopefully before the stroke of midnight.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Besides your own wonderful work, is there any author who is doing a stellar job that has blown your mind?
FINN: I really don’t want to single anyone out yet, because of two reasons: the first one is that we’re all doing such different things, the story requirements and plot points and beats and turns are literally different for each project. Matt’s project isn’t Daryl’s project, isn’t Marc’s project. So it’s not fair to judge anyone based on how much or how little they’ve done right now. The other thing is this: everything is raw. Real first draft stuff. Now, I will say that some of the guy’s first draft stuff is better than a lot of other people’s final polish, but I still don’t want to single anyone out yet. Hopefully, Bill and Bill and the other guys will get enough ahead that they can publish an excerpt or two and show you what the story looks like in the next few days.
MAJOR SPOILERS: When you originally teased your project, you said you were going to use vintage Clockwork Storybook stuff, which got me really excited, as my first thought was another Sam Bowen adventure. Why didn’t you go back to the character that spawned the great story Year of the Hare?
FINN: If I tell you this, you’ve got to promise not to get too excited. I have a return of Sam Bowen novel that has been sitting for a while. And as much as I like that character, when I wrote his ending, it was an intentional thing. Do a character that, at the end of it all (SPOILER ALERT!) has been telling you tales from his place in Hell. Well, as cool as that story was to write, I no sooner finished it that Willingham didn’t suggest a possible resurrection for him. And so, I’ve been kinda waiting for the right time to do it. Right now, I think re-introducing Bowen would confuse a lot of Harry Dresden fans out there, and so I’m kinda waiting for the dust to clear on that before I go back to Bowen.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Have you considered going the Kickstarter route to get a book published? Are there pros and cons to that model of publishing/creating?
FINN: I really like that business model, and I think it’s something we’re going to see a lot more of in the grass-roots end of the field. It’s pretty genius. Pay it forward, get a book. Nice. That said, I’ve not considered doing a novel like that–but I have looked at the possibility of a graphic novel or a role-playing game. It’s all just a question of when I’ve got time, and who all I’m doing it with.
MAJOR SPOILERS: I notice Year of the Hare is sold out and out of print on Amazon. Can readers pick the book up anywhere?
MAJOR SPOILERS: You’ve pretty much given us all of your chapters for One in a Million, and we hope to see all of them on the site by the end of the month, do you have plans to release a formal version of the book for fans of the Con Dorks to purchase?
FINN: Well, you will for sure see up to a certain point in the story. If your fans like where it’s going and want to see more, I will certainly consider it. And yes, I’m looking for someone currently who can do the three Con-Dorks books as a uniform set. This will be a small press endeavor, but hey, I think that would benefit greatly from seeing them as stand-alone books.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Is there any behind the scenes talk of doing something big with the world of Clockwork Storybook after this contest is over?
FINN: Nothing I can speak openly about at this time.
MAJOR SPOILERS: You’ve made quite a name for yourself as the Robert E. Howard biographer. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the most recent Conan movie, and what Howard would have thought of the film.
FINN: Well, it was a mixed bag. The positive is that Momoa nailed the part of Conan. Really got the savagery, the intensity, and the kind of mocking mirth at times. Also, he was physically much more in line with what we’ve come to think of as Conan. Muscular, but also lithe and agile. Fast. That’s Howard’s Conan, right there. Part of what made him so dangerous was his speed. That said, the movie was, well, pretty much a retooled version of the first movie. When you start a plot summary with “Conan sets off on a quest to find the wizard who killed his father and destroyed his village,” then you have moved neatly away from Robert E. Howard and into “generic sword and sorcery movie screenplay” handbook, page 1.
It’s a shame, too, because I would love to see Momoa as Conan again. And especially in something that utilized more of Howard’s work. But unless the DVD sales and foreign sales double or triple the American box office, there just won’t be any economic incentive to make another one.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Do you think you could be that person to tap into the blood and thunder of Howard and write a Conan movie that would blow audiences away?
FINN: Well, I am not necessarily the only person to do it–but I know that I could do it, if they wanted me to. I offered and volunteered myself during the pre-production phase of the movie, but it all fell on deaf ears. This is the thing: people in Hollywood do not have any respect for anyone else in any other creative field. But I digress. I floated an idea of how to take the original material and strip mine it for the set pieces needed to make an “Intro to Conan” movie. All of the fans loved it, but again, who in Hollywood is going to look at it? “Mark Who? What movies has he done? None? Written any scripts? Oh, he just ‘knows a lot about Robert E. Howard,’ whoever that is. Tell me why I have to listen to him when he should be fetching me a mocha latte?” Naw. The Paradox guys know where I am. I’ve met most, if not all of them. They have my email and my phone numbers, and we’ve exchanged mail, broken bread together, and all of that. If they need me, or want to talk to me, I’m available. But I won’t go begging in Hollywood. I’d rather chew off my own leg and beat myself to death with it first.
MAJOR SPOILERS: Finally, what’s the deal with Daryl Gregory?
FINN: Let me tell you about Gregory. He’s without a doubt one of the most talented, thoughtful and original writers I’ve had the privilege of knowing. And I hate that I can’t hate him because he’s also one of the nicest guys in the business. I can’t even be jealous that he gets to write Planet of the Apes comics. That’s how much of a mensch he is. But here’s the thing most people don’t know about Daryl: he can’t write unless he’s wearing women’s high heel shoes. And not those clog-heels, either. I’m talking about stilettos. It really took us aback, when we first workshopped with him; then again, Sturges doesn’t type a line of text until he dumps a cup of Lamb’s blood on his head every morning. But after a while, it was, well, I guess pretty normal. We all just shrugged and said, “ya gotta respect the process,” even if it takes you to dark and strange places. I just wish Daryl wouldn’t start singing “I Feel Pretty” whenever he’s stuck for a line of dialogue.
Find out more about the Clockwork Storybook 30 Day Writing Challenge here.