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Keith R. A. DeCandido talks "Serenity" novelization - Serenitystuff.com Interview

Thursday 31 August 2006, by Webmaster

Interview: Serenity novelization writer Keith R. A. DeCandido

serenity_novel.jpgOne year ago today, more or less, the Serenity novelization hit the shelves. Some of us avoided it like the plague, not wanting to know anything before we were in the theater and the lights went down. Some of us - and I’m not admitting anything - went driving through several cities trying to find a copy because Amazon takes a whole two days to deliver.

Here’s what I posted when it came out:

Like the best novelizations, DeCandido’s Serenity includes all the dialogue and action from the movie and then slides in the mustard; now we get to get inside the characters, see the motivations and histories, find out what River really thinks and what Jayne muses about when there’s no one needs shootin’ right off. Not that you’ll find out all you’d like to, but there are a few more questions answered and some apparent inconsistencies smoothly explained. DeCandido clearly loves these characters and wears their voices well, and in this work he does exactly what Serenity fans want him to do: he makes the movie even better. And that’s no small feat.

Serenity went back for a second printing within a week. Made it up to 117 in Amazon’s rankings, made Palm eBooks’ “Best of 2005″ list, and fans brought them by the armload to DeCandido (Dee-CAN-dih-doh) for autographs. I talked to him briefly for an anniversary recap:

When did you first discover Firefly?

The very first time “The Train Job” aired on FOX.

First impressions?

Thought it was an awkward pilot (didn’t know at the time that it wasn’t actually the pilot) and didn’t do a good job of creating the world, but had great characters, snappy dialogue, and good acting. I was willing to keep with it because I trusted the writers.

How do you think it compares with other Whedony works?

I don’t think it’s really a legitimate comparison. It’s a 14-episode TV show, plus a movie. I don’t see how you can compare that to a seven-season show, a five-season show, a couple of movies, and a comic book series. *laughs*

After the cancellation, did you get involved with the various Browncoat movements?

Not directly, simply because I don’t have that kind of time for what I figured at the time to be a futile gesture. Little did I know....

You wrote the novelization. How did that come about?

Same way any novelization comes about - a publisher obtained the rights, and they hired me. Conveniently for me, the publisher who did get the rights was Pocket Books, and I’ve done a ton of work for them (including three prior novelizations) and they knew of my heavy fandom for FIREFLY, so it was a natural fit.

You did a wonderful job getting into the heads of the BDHs. Which one was the toughest to write? Which one was the easiest? Which one was your favorite?

Thank you. Toughest was probably River, just ’cause she’s, y’know, nuts. The easiest and my favorite were both Jayne.

Did you get a rush from knowing the plot of the movie before (most) everyone else?

Not really. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been privy to privileged information before the general public, and it wasn’t the last. It’s part of the job.

How do you go about fleshing out a screenplay? How much interaction do you have with the writer/director?

Movies are told in a certain shorthand. Scenes often begin in the middle and end quickly to maintain pacing. What you do to flesh things out is add the beginnings and endings of some scenes.

Also the one thing a movie can’t do that prose excels at is getting inside the heads of the characters, as you pointed out two questions ago, so part of how you flesh it out is doing internal POV.

As for interaction with the writer/director, there was no direct interaction. There’s a chain of command: I dealt with my editor, she dealt with Universal’s licensing person, Universal’s licensing person dealt with Joss’s assistant, and Joss’s assistant dealt with Joss.

Was there anything you wrote or suggested that was turned down?

I wrote out a memo with a few questions before we started, and to some of them, the answer was “no.”

What inspired you to fill in Mr. Universe’s backstory?

Er, well, the need to make a two-hour movie into a novel. That’s another of the things you do to flesh out a screenplay, you provide backstory on some of the characters. The only person who didn’t really have much of one was Mr. Universe, since he wasn’t from the series.

What is it like, sitting in a theater and watching a movie you’ve adapted?

Kinda fun. You get a picture in your head when you read the screenplay, so it’s fun to see how much of the final product matches what you envisioned.

How has the book been doing?

Sales were excellent. The book went back to press before it was officially available, and it was on the USA TODAY bestseller list for two weeks. Fan reaction has been generally good, though there are plenty who were disappointed, which is part of life.

What happened with the two original Serenity books that were due to be put out by Pocket Books? Any new developments?

Talk to Joss. A dozen proposals were sent to him in June 2005. Unless and until he responds to them, there will be no books. And the longer it takes, the less likely it is that said books will be commercially viable, sadly.

Without giving away your suggested plot, what direction would you like to see Serenity go in now?

Well, the next obvious step would be to explore the consequences of Mal’s revelation about the Reavers to the general public - if any, and if there’s none, that’s a story, too. In a less “meta” sense, there’s the new Kaylee-Simon dynamic to explore now that Simon has gotten a clue, there’s the ongoing Mal-Inara mishegos, there’s Zoe dealing with Wash’s loss, and River dealing with being sane. Simon also would have to deal with the fact that, for the first time in a long time, his life =doesn’t= revolve around keeping River safe.

Your most recent book is also from the Whedonverse: “Blackout,” about Spike and the 70’s Slayer. What’s coming next?

Another BUFFY book, called THE DEATHLESS, will be out in the spring. This is a third-season story that crosses BUFFY with Russian folklore - among the characters in the book are Baba Yaga, Bulat the Brave, and Koschei the Deathless. I have some other possible BUFFY books in the hopper, as well.

I’ve got two TREK pieces out in 2007, including the VOYAGER part of the MIRROR UNIVERSE event, called THE MIRROR-SCALED SERPENT, due out in March as part of a larger volume called OBSIDIAN ALLIANCES, and one of the novels celebrating the 20th anniversary of THE NEXT GENERATION, a book called Q&A that will be the ultimate Q story. That’ll be out in October, one of four post-NEMESIS novels that will carry the story of the Enterprise-E forward.

Coming much sooner is my STARCRAFT novel NOVA, based on the Blizzard Game, which will be out in November.

Serenity is still available wherever fine books are sold. Pocket Star, 272 pages.