By James Whittington, Sunday 18th September 2011
Guy Adams is one of the most original writers around. His books The World House and its sequel Restoration gained huge acclaim upon their release. He also penned bestselling humour titles based on TV show Life On Mars and original Torchwood novels.
More recently Guy has written one of the first titles to be released under the Hammer banner, Kronos. Guy took time out of his busy schedule to chat with us and if you fancy trying to win a copy of Kronos as well as two other Hammer titles click here. (Guy Adams photo by Peter Coleborn)
HC: How did you get your first big writing break?
GA: I've always written fiction for pleasure but about six years ago I was involved in a small publishing outfit and I approached the production company Kudos Film & Television trying to pitch them books about their shows. At that point they had just started screening Life On Mars but they were already successful with shows like Hustle and Spooks. Trying to remember why I decided to approach them is beyond me now, something had put the idea in my head but God knows what... probably wine. Anyway, I tried to convince them that books about TV shows didn't have to be predictable and boring and that if they were interested in doing something a bit different then they should let me know. Cocky git. Upshot was, I was invited to a meeting with the head of the company (alongside my good friend, the brilliant designer Lee Thompson) to discuss just that. We left an hour later having agreed to produce a proposal that would be presented to publishers. Now, most proposals are a few sheets of A4, a word document outlining the intentions, but we produced a crazy, beautiful thing, fully-designed, packed full of samples and illustrations, the most ridiculously OTT proposal you ever saw. A book in itself. It sold, and Lee and I ended up producing two volumes about Life On Mars for Simon & Schuster. The writing of the first coincided with my moving out here to Spain and my poor partner, Debra, ended up handling everything while I concentrated on trying to get this... my first ever professional book... written. Somehow I got away with it and having found there was no other work on offer over here I kept going. I've now written about twenty books, everything from biographies to my own novels. Fiction will always be my first love but I'm lucky that I've been able to turn my hand to lots of different things, it's helped to keep the roof on.
HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?
GA: Absolutely, I was a child of the eighties and that was a boom period for horror so, always a bookworm, I swamped myself in Stephen King, James Herbert, Graham Masterton, Dean Koontz... That love of the dark stuff never faded away, just developed over the years. Ramsey Campbell was discovered and through him the classics, M.R. James, Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood... Horror literature is still incredibly strong today. Campbell has never stopped getting better, his work of the last few years has been simply staggering, The Grin of the Dark in particular being one of the finest books you'll ever read. Writers like Mark Morris, Tim Lebbon, Conrad Williams, Sarah Pinborough, Adam Nevill... Ah, never get stuck into lists, you'll miss people out and only curse yourself later! But seriously, horror -- and its dark offshoots -- has never been healthier or more creative. The movies were also a big influence of course and I've been a Hammer nut since my teens. My love for British horror of the fifties, sixties and seventies borders on the unhealthy and Hammer will always be the backbone of that period. So, when I got the chance to have a stake, however tiny, in the work of that period then obviously I jumped at it. I would have said yes to any movie from Hammer’s catalogue, hell, I would have even done It’s Your Funeral!... but when I was given the option of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter I couldn’t believe my luck.
HC: Writing the novelisation of what has become a cult classic must have been a bit of a daunting task. How did you approach it?
GA: It was daunting, yes. It was clear from the off that Hammer wanted me to be extremely respectful of the original and not make any major changes. Which was fine of course, and the attitude I would have had anyway given the tightness of my anorak on the subject. I had met writer and director Brian Clemens a few times, and had the awkward task of dropping a line promising not to break his original idea. He was very supportive and was kind enough to say lovely things about it in his foreword to the book. As I got into it though I realised that I needed to be a bit braver than I had originally intended, a book is such a different beast from a film. A good movie doesn't necessarily make a good book.
For example: the movie never specifies where it is set or when. That's fine on screen but when you're delving deeper into the characters and trying to build-up a sense of place on the page you have to bring more detail in. Kronos and his old friend Dr. Marcus had fought together in "the war" so I decided that would be Oliver Cromwell's troops in Ireland, a particularly bloody period. Having decided on that, another character's backstory was enlivened by the inclusion of Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General simply because it fit perfectly into that era and added an extra dimension. Then you have to flesh out the other people -- particularly the incidental characters. In a vampire movie you tend to have a long list of interchangeable pretty females who end up dead. Clemens managed to bring a few character touches into the movie but at the end of the day, for reasons of pace if nothing else, you have to keep the camera's focus elsewhere. So I fleshed out the bit parts a great deal. One in fact -- because having built him up I had to run with it -- now plays a major part in the climax of the story. Actually the climax was always going to have to change a bit, sword fights are not as interesting in a book as they are on screen. I also managed to include a few elements that Brian planned to feature in the original movie but ended up cutting, Kronos’ method of transport for example. The aim is to tell the story again but in a way that makes it fresh and worthwhile for those who know it well. Hopefully I've managed that.
HC: Did you use the original script or view the movie lots of times or did you write from memory?
GA: I'd already viewed the movie lots of times! Hammer asked if I needed a DVD for research but that was before they realised what a fan they had on their hands. I re-watched it though of course, because you have a different perspective on a movie when you know you’re going to have to novelise it. I made lots of notes then put the film away, it was important that the book stood up as its own thing.
HC: Were you given a tight deadline?
GA: Ridiculously tight. Once it had been agreed that I was going to work on the Hammer Books line, Kronos was mentioned but with the caveat that it would have to be written extremely quickly. Even more so as I already had a lot of work on and had to finish two other books before I could even start it! Still.. It was Kronos.. can you imagine saying "No, that’s OK, I'll wait until the next movie becomes available."? I said yes and then got very, very stressed.
HC: How many drafts did the book go through?
GA: For the reasons outlined above, not many! I tend to go back over stuff as I work so I rarely complete whole drafts independent of one another anyway. Still, it was a case of typing "The End" and submitting it straight away. It was then proofed, edited and returned to me so that I could have one more pass and make any final changes I wanted to make. To be honest though I'm used to writing quickly, the books I tend to work on have neither the schedule nor payment structure that allow for months of quiet plodding. I tend to burn through periods of working twelve-fourteen hour days, seven days a week, just to get the words down. Then, between books, I have a week or so when I take things much easier.
HC: Do you want to do more Hammer tie-ins and if so (and you had the choice) which movies would you choose?
GA: I'm contracted for three so you haven't seen the last of me! The next -- and I'm working on it now -- will be The Hands of the Ripper, another favourite. This time the book will be quite a lot different to the film, not because there's anything wrong with the movie (I think it's one of Hammer's best) but just because there's a way of doing it on the page that I think will be better for that medium. The biggest change is that it will no longer be a period story! Which opens up a massive can of worms, I know, but honestly... it will still very much be The Hands of the Ripper, just a remake rather than a straight novelisation. I'm immensely pleased with it so far and can't wait for it to be finished, published and shared. After that, who knows? Kiss of the Vampire would make a great novel, as would Satanic Rites of Dracula... It all depends on what rights Hammer can arrange. As fans know, the Hammer catalogue is part-owned by many different studios so negotiating the rights for which films we can work on is lengthy and difficult. Perhaps I'll end up with On the Buses!
HC: So what projects do you have lined up?
GA: The first of two original Sherlock Holmes novels I’m writing has just been published by Titan Books. It's called The Breath of God and it's steeped in classic supernatural fiction. Aleister Crowley features in it alongside Thomas Carnacki, Dr. Silence and Julian Karswell from M.R. James' Casting the Runes. Once I've finished with Hands of the Ripper I move on to the second Holmes book whose title tells you all you need to know really: The Army of Dr. Moreau! After that, who knows...? I have lots of possible projects out there but couldn’t say how many of them will come to fruition.
HC: Guy Adams, thank you very much.
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