Brad Meltzer on Working With Kevin Smith, His Novels and His History Channel Show
He speaks to The Hollywood Reporter.
Brad Meltzer is a multi-hyphenate juggler. He's the author of eight best-selling novels and one bestselling non-fiction book (Heroes For My Son), the writer of an Eisner award-winning comic book, the creator of the WB TV show Jack & Bobby, and the host of the new History Channel show Brad Meltzer's Decoded (the first season ended January 27). Inner Circle, his newest thriller debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times fiction bestseller list last month. He spoke with The Hollywood Reporter.
On his new novel Inner Circle:
This one was different because its launching a series—the first ever series I've done. I like trying what I don't know I'm going to succeed at. I know I have three [books in this series] My goal is to have far more but to me you never want to do more than three if you don't have more than three. It took me an extra six months to [create the main character] Beecher. I needed to make him have multiple facets in him to make sure there's so much more to do with him as a character. To me the best plot is good character.
On how he's changed as a novelist:
It took me seven books to figure out I was writing about the same thing: I believe ordinary people change the world. I don't care how much money you make [or] what your job is. I believe in regular people. That's how the world gets changed. It's the American mythology. Its all Clark Kent.
On how he sees himself in his characters:
My first novel Tenth Justice [the main character] Ben Addison is very much me but not on purpose. I didn't know how to do anything else. Its just pure instinct. Beecher is me in the Inner Circle but he's really me. He's scared, and he's weak and he's strong and he's brave and he's terrified. He's all these things and I'm not afraid to show that. I used to be terrified to show that. If I show that you're going to judge me for it. I don't want the sand kicked in my face. I read enough of those ads in the backs of comics but now I'm like that's what we all are.
On crossing over from novels to comics in 2002:
It was Kevin Smith and nobody. I was number two. The funny thing was everyone in publishing was "why are you slumming with those comic books?" Nobody cared about comics, nobody was writing them, and nobody did anything out of their field. You didn't go and do TV.
I know its only twelve years but that difference of what you can do now versus then. Nobody did anything out of their little wheelhouse. And then when I did the comics and the TV show it kinda opened up for me.
It makes no financial sense [to write comics]. I just did Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight (vol. 7) with Joss [Whedon] and it was for no other reason than Joss asked me and that was the fun experiment. You do it for love.
Even now if I got to just about any meeting [in Hollywood] the number one thing that anyone says is, "My gosh Identity Crisis" [Meltzer's hit comic murder mystery involving DC Comics' characters]. I could write 5000 more books, but this is a town that doesn't read novels it reads comics. It's a graphic medium. It's a visual art.
What other novelists said about the move:
I was like the first guy out of the closet. I was sitting with Walter Mosley and Janet Evanovich on a panel and they announced that day I was doing Green Arrow. Walter Mosley leans over, looks around [and whispers] "They still do Speedy?" And then Janet leans over, "I always wanted to do Wonder Woman." I was the first guy out of the closet. I was the ambassador. I would get all these emails from people: "Can you hook me up with Batman?" To this day at least once every 6-9 months [I get an email from] a novelist who says, "I want to go into comics. How do I do it?' I'm that drug dealer.
How all those comics shaped him as a writer:
This one guy who writes comics said, "I read Meltzer's novels and I totally get it. He writes his novels like comics. " I never thought about it. You do what you do. I was young and stupid. Its all instinct. But its like the Karate Kid. You paint the fence enough. You learn how to paint the fence; you learn karate. For me, you read forty thousand comic books that are 22 pages and cliffhanger and 22 pages and a cliffhanger. That's my Mr. Miyagi. Its built into my nature to write a short chapter and a cliffhanger. Its funny I never thought of it but I wonder if the comics did effect it.
On how his idea for a musical TV show lost out to Glee:
We sold one two years ago. Me, and Jeff Marx, one of the creators of Avenue Q, and Marco Pennette. It was called the Romeos. Its [about] this young band [who] are going to be the biggest stars in the world. They're going to be the Beatles. But right now they're just kids and we're going to see their lives. So basically it was going to be Jack and Bobby: The Musical. ABC bought it. It was a rough year. They said there was going to only room for one musical show. We were competing against Glee and to be fair they had the better show. I still love the idea. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love scripted television.
On the future of his new History Channel show Brad Meltzer's Decoded:
They haven't told us officially [about a second season] but obviously we've been thrilled by the ratings. They gave us their expectations and we nearly doubled them. I just thought I was the only history nerd who liked this stuff. To History's credit they've let the show find its own voice. We've merged a history show with a reality show. No one knew if it was going to work it. This is to me like Fantasy Island. There are so many good ideas.
On whether he'd write the screenplay adaption of one of his books:
When we sold Zero Game [producer] Kathleen Kennedy asked do you want to write the screenplay? I said no. I spend two years living it. I don't want to go back to that. I don't want to write my scripts [for my own books].
On the screenplay he'd like to write:
I would do a superhero movie in a heartbeat. Everyone is going to say Batman. Everyone is going to say the big ones. Anyone who reads Identity Crisis sees I love them all. You give me the smallest character those characters have lived with me since I was eight years old. I would do Green Arrow in a heartbeat.
On a Justice League of America movie:
What kind of nerd would I be not saying yes to that? [Later Meltzer added he dreams of doing the JLA-centered Identity Crisis as a live action movie.]
On his friendship with fellow comic book writer and Real World: San Francisco alum Judd Winnick:
[After graduating from the University of Michigan together, the two were roommates in Boston]. We found a railroad apartment where you had to walk through your buddy's bedroom to get to yours. Judd had the front bedroom. He got the better office. The offices were two closets. He had the big closet. I had the little closet. We took out all the clothes and that's what we wrote in.
On doing a project with Judd:
We do talk about it. We don't want to ruin [the friendship]. Its so much more fun to dream with your friends than to really do it with your friends. The dream is always so much more fun.
On how his mother's death changed him:
Especially in the last two years a lot of these projects came from my mom dying. When my mom died. A lot of these things were in me. When you lose that person who's the person in your life, everything you're worried about and scared about, about putting yourself out there. It doesn't matter anymore. I'd been working on [Heroes For My Son] for nine years but it wasn't until she died that I was like I don't care what any publisher thinks about me I want to put this book out. F you look at the three year period since my mom died we put out Heroes for My Son, did Decoded, did more TV shows. I don't think I'm a better writer. But I think I'm a more honest one. I'm comfortable in my skin. I'm like I don't care. I'm going to do what I love. You think I shouldn't be doing that? Don't buy it.