Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with Ryne Douglas Pearson

Ryne Douglas Pearson advertises himself as a “Novelist, Screenwriter, Bacon Aficionado” and that works for me.  You don’t have to love bacon to be my friend but it helps. It’s either that or Taffy Apples.  I never met a person I really liked who wouldn’t eat at least one of the two.

I don’t know how accomplished he really is in the bacon aficionado department (I suspect I could trump him there in a heartbeat) but I know he’s a very talented and successful novelist and screenwriter (notice I don’t think “talent” and “success” are always tied at the hip; in an ideal world they are but we all know how “ideal” is our world… suffice to say in Ryne’s case it’s wonderful to know he’s partnered his enormous talent with proven success).

Ryne has authored several novels, including Cloudburst, October’s Ghost, Capitol Punishment, Simple Simon, Top Ten, The Donzerly Light, All For One, and Confessions. He is also the author of the short story collection, Dark and Darker. His novel Simple Simon was made into the film Mercury Rising. As a screenwriter he has worked on numerous movies. The film Knowing, based on his original script, was released in 2009 and opened #1 at the box office.

Knowing earned Four Stars from Roger Ebert, who claimed it was ”among the best science-fiction films” he’d ever seen and that’s pretty much high praise from Caesar in the film business. Knowing earned a ginormous amount of money worldwide.  Ryne’s website (the source of my hugely plagiarized post here) states he’s also “done uncredited work on films such as the remakes of The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Eye, and is a member of International Thriller Writers.”

I like Ryne’s writing style and the fact that his books aren’t all rehashes of the same-old/same-old. I wrote in my review of Confessions that I thought he managed to write a work that merged commercial fiction with literary fiction and I think that’s exciting stuff and represents a very mature talent.  I’m reading Top Ten now and, as he warned me, it is very different from Confessions.  Believe me, that’s very true.  Nonetheless, it is as compelling as Confessions.

Top Ten was published over a decade ago and Ryne wasn’t happy with the changes his publisher insisted he make to the manuscript. He recently republished it himself (after the rights reverted back to him) as it was originally written which is the book I’m enjoying now.  I can’t speak to that earlier book, the one the agent or publisher meddled with, but I noticed Amazon still has all of the old reviews, good and bad, dating back to when it was first published.  (Good God; when the nuns warned us about the “permanent record” and how it would follow us for life I had no idea they already knew about I wonder how different those reviews might have been had Ryne been able to fully control his book’s earlier publication.

I submitted the following question to Ryne and here are his responses:

MG: You obviously worked with agents for years and you’ve also worked collaboratively on screenplays so surely you’re open to a give and take about what might best work in your stories. At what point do you determine you have to shut off the other voices and go with what you know is correct? Also, do you want to speak to the harm the publisher did to Top Ten?

RDP: Screenplays and novels are completely different animals, both in the mechanics of writing and the input process. Speaking of novels, I take no suggestions on the story as I’m writing, mostly because I share almost nothing of what’s there until it’s done. As for when it’s done…I just know. Actually I know where that ending signpost is somewhere around halfway through the manuscript, and I aim for it. Writing the second half of a novel is an exercise in speed for me. It’s also the most fun part to write.

As for how Top Ten was damaged, that’s not a unique event. It happens to other authors. In this case, though, the publisher had a gritty, dark thriller, with a very disturbed antagonist, and the cuts they insisted upon left this uber killer with less texture to his back story—which was horrifying in itself. The cuts they wanted also removed a bit of descriptive gore from what he visited upon his victims, leaving some scenes feeling rushed and less horrific.

Another issue with how they handled Top Ten was its release. It had a HUGE sale of film rights, was being advertised on radio, and I’d go into bookstores and they wouldn’t have any copies. And they’d say they weren’t expecting any. Disheartening to say the least.

MG: “Disheartening” puts it mildly.  That’s exactly the kind of issue that’s not often discussed when authors argue the alleged merits of traditional publishing.  I just blogged a little bit about how established authors arrive on the indie scene with certain obvious advantages. I think that’s a given but perhaps there are issues you experienced that people like me don’t know about or can’t appreciate.  Did you experience any surprises?

RDP: The biggest surprise is just how easy it is to do. With some research as to the physical requirements to prep an eBook, it took all of a week to get Top Ten up and available across most online retailers.

MG: Was there a proverbial straw that broke your back; did something happen that was dramatic and caused you to go indie or was it a gradual awareness about how going indie was a viable option?  If you had to prioritize the benefits of self-publishing your work what would you honestly put at the top of the list?

RDP: I just decided to do it when it became clear that traditional publishing was no longer going to be interested in my novels in any level that made economic sense for me. There’s little point in letting them keep 80% of the money my novels earn, and then do nothing to see that they actually sell. Plus, publishers are dying. I fully expect in the next five years to see brand name authors begin to take control and publish themselves.

And for me, that’s the key—control. I can release what I want, when I want it, at what price I want. I’m responsible for my own success/failure now as a novelist.

MG: You’re already well established so I can’t see how this could be the case but I want to ask it anyway — do you think self-publishing has hurt or will hurt your career? Has it robbed you of credibility? Do you even think new authors should worry about stigma; does it even exist?

RDP: I don’t care about stigma. Stigma is an excuse to justify your fear of flying without a net. If I write good stories and people buy them and enjoy, that’s what matters. Indie film makers went through this whole issue decades ago until audiences decided that the product was actually good.

MG: Ryne, I’d just like to leave it open for you to share whatever you’d like with us at Author’s Lounge.  Go for it, babe!

RDP: The bottom line is this—if you write garbage, people won’t buy it. Readers are in control now with eReaders and online reviewing at places such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Word of mouth matters most now, especially with social networking. Give readers what they want, or what surprises them in exciting ways, and success will find you.

My thanks to Ryne for sharing!

You can learn more about Ryne at his website & follow his blog by going to:

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