Christopher Golden on Adapting
His Ben Walker Collection
By April Snellings
In the 25 years since the launch of his first novel, Christopher Golden has achieved success by almost every metric the publishing business can consider. He’s appeared on the New York Occasions bestseller record, gained the coveted Bram Stoker Award, earned glowing blurbs from Stephen King and George R. R. Martin, left his personal mark on beloved properties comparable to Star Wars, X-Men, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer by way of media tie-ins, and collaborated with the likes of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. But one milestone has eluded him thus far—regardless of multiple options and improvement offers, Golden has but to see considered one of his unique properties make it to the display.
It seems like that’s about to vary, because of Golden’s Ben Walker collection, which kicked off in 2017 with the horror-adventure hybrid Ararat and continues this month with THE PANDORA ROOM, out April 23 from St. Martin’s Press. (A third entry, Purple Arms, is slated for publication next yr.) The collection, a few Department of Protection operative who works beneath the auspices of the Nationwide Science Basis to research and include what he precisely describes as “weird shit,” is at present being developed for tv by the small-screen arm of AGC Studios.
Walker made his first look in Ararat, which gained 2017’s Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel. But the character’s genetic material dates again to Golden’s 2010 novel The Ocean Dark, written beneath the pseudonym Jack Rogan.
Christopher Golden (proper) and Pennywise at FanExpo Boston 2017.
“The organization that Walker works for is set up in The Ocean Dark,” says Golden. “Obviously, you didn’t have to read The Ocean Dark in order to read Ararat, but in my brain, it was sort of an unofficial book in that same world.”
Ararat was conceived and written as a standalone, but the character struck a chord with readers, and Golden started excited about a follow-up. Again, he mined his own bibliography for the sequel’s uncooked materials: a brief story referred to as “Fault Lines,” co-written with Tim Lebbon for the 2015 anthology The Library of the Lifeless.
“Tim and I were talking about what we were going to do for that book, and I said, ‘Well, I have this idea about Pandora’s Box that I’ve been toying with for a long time.’ And so we did a short story together using sort of the same conceit [as THE PANDORA ROOM], though obviously with a completely different plot. When I talked with my editor about doing a follow-up [to Ararat] with Walker and this organization, that was the obvious choice for me—to go back and spin out this idea into something much broader.”
THE PANDORA ROOM, which works equally properly as a standalone or a collection installment, follows a structure just like the one Golden utilized in Ararat: the reader is invested in a new group of characters long before Walker exhibits as much as help handle the drawback. On this case, the foremost character is Sophie Durand, an archaeologist whose workforce uncovers an historic jar that could be the inspiration for the Pandora’s Field fable. The issue is, legend tells of two jars—one that holds miraculous blessings, and one which holds unthinkable curses. Sophie and her group don’t know which jar they’ve discovered, however when word of the discovery gets out, jihadists and governments alike are decided to say the vessel and unleash no matter it’d hold. Enter Ben Walker, who’s tasked with defending the jar from enemy soldiers while additionally keeping off the nightmares spilling out of it.
Christopher Golden at the Bram Stoker Awards in 2018, where Ararat gained Superior Achievement in a Novel.
That structure is an intentional selection and one that may possible come to outline the complete Ben Walker collection. For Golden, it’s the important factor that makes the books function effective horror stories, somewhat than adventure tales that occur to incorporate supernatural parts—some extent that was underscored for him in a current film franchise.
“To me, The Conjuring is a very scary movie and The Conjuring 2 is not scary at all, other than the nun,” he explains. “I think the reason I reacted that way is, in The Conjuring, you meet the people in jeopardy first. You meet the people you are afraid for, that you identify with, and then you meet the people who are the potential problem-solvers, whom you know nothing is going to happen to. In The Conjuring 2, they did the opposite, and I think doing that means I’m not as connected to the people who are in actual jeopardy because they’re not my main characters. So when I went to write THE PANDORA ROOM, I tried to repeat the structure of Ararat, in the sense that you first meet the characters who are not Walker, and you get in their heads and get a sense of the peril that they’re in. I really feel like you can’t walk the line between adventure story and horror story, or between thriller and supernatural, as effectively if you don’t fear for the characters.”
By the time THE PANDORA ROOM was nicely underway, Ararat had already been underneath choice for a yr in what Golden describes as “an ill-fated deal.” Nothing was to return of it, however it stored rights tied up for months, whilst other production corporations have been expressing interest in adapting the bestselling and critically acclaimed novel. By means of Golden’s LA-based manager, Pete Donaldson, the e-book made its approach to improvement government Aghi Koh, who advisable it to AGC’s television division head, Lourdes Diaz, as soon as the previous choice expired.
“Lourdes read Ararat and loved it, and only then did we say, well, you know, the second book is coming, and it’s actually a series, and I’ve sold the third book and this is what’s happening,” Golden remembers. “It came together very quickly after that. I had one phone call with Lourdes, and we just went from there.”
Whereas novelists are sometimes shut out of the adaptation process earlier than the ink is dry on the choice, Golden says AGC immediately welcomed him on board as a author and government producer.
Christopher Golden and his spouse, Connie, at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, throughout the lodge’s 2019 Winter Author’s Retreat.
“What was great about them—and I think this is a testament to how the film and television world is changing—is that I have found, more often than not, that there’s an active disinterest in having the original writer work on the development of a film or TV adaptation,” says Golden, who will write each the collection bible and the pilot episode. “So it was great that they were so welcoming. Now, it’s entirely possible that we’ll get to a certain point in my developing of it, and they’ll decide they want to bring other writers in to take the next step or go in a different direction, and that’s fine.”
For now, although, Golden is relishing the opportunity to develop considered one of his properties with such enthusiastic studio help. It hasn’t all the time been that approach. Golden, a veteran screenwriter who most lately worked on Neil Marshall’s Hellboy revamp, has previously tailored his personal work for a string of studios, manufacturing corporations, and networks, together with New Regency, Fox, Constantin Films, and the CW. None of those tasks made it to the display, and a few of them become precisely the type of horror story that makes novelists so cautious of Hollywood. Golden recounts one case through which a screenwriter was paid $1 million to adapt certainly one of his collaborative properties, solely to doom the undertaking altogether by producing a totally unusable script.
“The first action scene in the entire script took place on page 87, and did not involve the main character,” Golden recollects, nonetheless incredulous that such a extremely paid screenwriter would write an “action” movie that consisted of almost 90 minutes of talking-head exposition. At that time, the studio had already sunk a lot money into an unsalvageable script that it declined to proceed with the undertaking at all.
“And that’s so frustrating,” Golden says. “Maybe I wouldn’t have done something that you wanted to shoot from, but I could’ve done a hell of a lot better than that, for a lot less money, and then maybe [the studio] would’ve invested in having somebody clean up what I did. So the thing with Ben Walker is, if it doesn’t work it’s because I didn’t do it right, not because someone got paid a million dollars to do something crappy.”
Regardless of these previous disappointments, Golden remains optimistic about adapting his work for the display. He’s fast to point out the many constructive experiences he’s had with the film and television business, and he’s excited to work with the teams who are committed to bringing his stories to a fair wider audience. (Golden has a number of other properties in improvement, including a function movie based mostly on his 2014 horror novel Snowblind, scripted by Black Listing function lab fellow Amber Alexander.)
Christopher Golden in Ogunquit, Maine, in fall 2017.
“I guess what I want to say about Hollywood as an industry is, it’s not nearly as bad as its stereotypical reputation,” Golden says. “There are wonderful people in that business. But you will absolutely not go very far before you bump into the people who make the stereotype. It’s an unfair stereotype in the sense that there are so many brilliant, creative, inventive, inspired people, and that includes executives. I can’t stress enough that I’ve been really fortunate to work with some great people. But my advice to writers who are maybe having their first encounters with the town and the industry, is this: the first time somebody says to you, ‘We want to be in the [insert your name here] business,’ run fast and far, because it’s the hollowest thing you’ll ever hear.”
Golden can also be fast to acknowledge what typically goes unstated in choice announcements and news stories about novelists who are brought on board to adapt their own work: there’s all the time a chance that the remaining product will bear little resemblance to his unique imaginative and prescient.
“Just to be realistic, we don’t know what will end up happening,” he says. “I have no idea if [the studio] will like what I’m doing, or if they’ll end up saying, ‘Okay, good job, but now we’re going to get this person to take it to the next step or do something different.’ And I’m fine with that. I want to be involved, and I want to have it be my vision as we go forward, but I’m also a realist. You have to come to this thing from a professional perspective. I just want it to be good, and I want it to make sense. But at the end of the day, I do feel really good about this. Even it doesn’t work out, I’ll know I did my best.”
And while retailers comparable to Deadline have reported that the television collection will begin by adapting Ararat, Golden stresses that the collection gained’t essentially be beholden to his novels’ precise story arcs. “I don’t want to get too deeply into it,” he says, “but our intention is to do a Ben Walker series—not necessarily a direct adaptation of Ararat or The Pandora Room, but a series about Ben Walker.”
Photograph credit score: Shivohn Kacy Fleming
That artistic path is according to Golden’s broader philosophy as a storyteller. There are many thematic and narrative threads that run via his work—for example, Golden has grow to be a key figure in the “mythic fiction” movement, which pulls closely on folklore, fantasy, and legend, and his work is usually grounded in historical past each recognized and hidden. But the actual, underlying theme that unites all of Golden’s work, no matter style or medium, is a dedication to character.
“My passion is for stories about people,” he says. “I really do believe that every single person has their own pain, their own situation, their own something, and all you need is one catalyst to turn it over and make people begin to make changes in their lives under duress. My fascination is how people respond in times like that—times of crisis or danger. As much as I love all of this other stuff that it’s about, to me, it’s about the people, and how they react to the situation they’re in.”
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