Welcome to the blog! You and I are both represented by Chris Richman, so I've been hearing about your debut novel Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation for some time. I also had the immense pleasure to read an early copy.
You're going to get asked this question a lot, but where did the idea come from?
With Jack Blank, I wanted to showcase the comic book world that fired my imagination as a kid, and introduce it to an audience that hasn’t seen it before.
In the movies, it’s always just one super hero versus one villain, and the hero is usually the only super hero in the world. It’s not like that in the comic books. In the comics, Iron-Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men… they’re all running around the same city fighting an endless supply of bad guys. It’s normal for people there to see heroes fighting villains in the middle of the street on a random Tuesday. That fully-developed super hero world really doesn’t exist outside of comic books.
In this novel, I wanted to create my own super hero world, and show people who might otherwise never pick up a comic book how much fun it could be. That became the Imagine Nation. For me, the best way to introduce readers to it was through the eyes of a child going there for the first time.
Well you did a great job of bringing the comic book sensibility to a novel format. Did you or do you read a lot of comic books? Which are your favorites?
I was a huge comic book fan growing up. I still am. I love the classic super hero books like Batman, Spider Man, The X-Men, The Avengers… but I also like gritty crime books like 100 Bullets, Scalped, and Criminal. And then there are just out-there concepts like Fables, The Unwritten, and Planetary. I strongly recommend checking some of these out. There’s so many great writers and artists working in comics right now, and the medium really never gets old because these guys keep digging deeper and turning concepts on their heads.
I agree fully. Watchmen was the first comic book I really read and it blew my mind. I see you're an artist too (and I'm quite jealous since I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler). Is there a Jack Blank comic in our future?
That would be amazing, but nothing is planned right now. I don’t know that I could draw it either. I never taught myself to draw sequential art that tells a story, which is why I never became a comic book penciller (my first career choice). I love the idea though. It could make for a great comic adaptation or ongoing series. Maybe someday…
I hope someday is code for soon. Let's talk about the character of Jack Blank. He's a pretty modern, rad main character. What did you set out to accomplish when you wrote him?
Thanks! With Jack, the main goal was to create a character that readers would care about and root for. Everything in the story is filtered through Jack’s perspective, so I knew that for people to really buy into this thing, they had to want to go to the Imagine Nation and explore it with Jack. Any road trip you can take is only as good as the people you’re travelling with. Jack has a real courageous underdog quality to him that I think people can’t help but like. All Jack’s life, people have been telling him “no you can’t,” but he hasn’t let that beat him down.
After that, I just tried to keep Jack honest. I wanted everything he said and did to feel genuine and believable. Jack is an orphan with no idea where he comes from. He doesn’t even know his real last name, so the overall question of “who he is,” drives a lot of what he does in the story. As it turns out, the answer might be more than he bargained for.
So I hear there's going to be a sequel. How many Jack Blank adventures can we look forward to?
This is the first book in a trilogy. I’m hard at work revising Book Two right now and I have a lot big plans for Jack’s future. Can’t wait to share them with everybody.
Neither can I. I'm trying to figure out what I can bribe Chris with for a copy of book 2. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
I have a 20-month old son with a limitless supply of energy, so I would want the power to stop time… so I could sleep. Oh, how I miss sleep.
Ha ha! You and every parent on the planet. Tell me, what are some of your favorite books?
The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite book of all time. I also really liked the following (in no particular order): The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Green Mile by Stephen King, Company by Max Barry, and Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
On the comic book side, the list is too long to get into here, but I think the best graphic novel ever created is The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.
Great picks. Who influenced you as a writer?
I think my biggest influences were writers who did big, epic tales and created rich, fully realized fictional worlds. George Lucas’s Star Wars galaxy, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world top the list. They’re all so incredibly well thought out. There’s an infinite amount of stories that can be told from any one of those places, with or without the main characters from the original works. I was absolutely inspired by those creations, as well as all the comic books I’ve read over the years.
What are some upcoming books that you're excited to read?
Very interested to know what J.K. Rowling has been working on since the Harry Potter series finished. Whatever it is, I’m in. Also, there is a great writer by the name of Michael Harvey who does these pitch-perfect, hard-nosed detective stories that I love. I’m excited to see whatever comes next for his Michael Kelly character. He is one to watch.
Oh to be a fly on the wall in J.K. Rowling's writing room. Okay, so you have 24 hours to live. Give me the rated PG version of what you'd do.
My dreams have already come true, so I could die happy right now. If I had 24 hours to go, I’d spend it with my family. Doesn’t even matter what we’re doing. If my wife and son are there, and we’re all laughing (and we would be, because I am very, very funny), I’m going out on a high note.
Awesome answer! Okay, now for some fast questions:
Coffee or tea?
X-Men or Batman?
My editor is going to kill me, but I gotta go with the X-Men.
Favorite band is Pearl Jam, but if you want my favorite music, I’m all about Sinatra.
Who wins in a fight: Chuck Norris or Betty White?
Betty White, hands down. She fights like an unhinged woman. I have the scars to prove it. (Long story).
Smurfs or Thundercats?
Definitely Thundercats. While we are on the subject, how is a Smurf movie getting made before a Thundercats movie? What’s happening here?
I don't know. I think live-action Thundercats are way creepier than live-action Smurfs. Which cast member of Glee do you think is Chris Richman's favorite?
These days, the only TV I get to watch is Sesame Street and the Yankees, so I am going to have to say Chris’s favorite is either Grover or Alex Rodriguez. Actually, I know his favorite baseball player is A-Rod, so I’m going to go with that here too.
You heard it here, people. Chris Richman thinks A-Rod is awesome. Prospective clients should be sure to mention that in any and all queries.
You may be looking for a new agent after that answer! Thanks for being a good sport, Matt! If you're not
If you're not following Matt, here are some links. He's a great guy and an awesome writer and his new book JACK BLANK AND THE IMAGINE NATION is a classic in the making. Get it now.