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Winter Blog Blast Tour: Perry Moore, Part 2

November 5, 2007

(continued from Part 1)

You’re a successful movie producer. How did you get started as a producer? Are there any similarities between producing and writing?
I feel like with my producing career, I’m just lucky to have had the good taste and the great fortune to work with some of the most talented people in the movie business. They’re not all the stereotypes you hear about, some of the people in the business are truly inspired.

My career in movies took off when I joined a company called Walden Media. My time working for them helped solidify my belief in the power of young adult literature. The fact that Narnia had been largely ignored by Hollywood, or bastardized with attempts at modernized adaptations (e.g. Cheeseburgers instead of Turkish Delight!), should let you know how the much of the movie industry feels about important stories for young people. For a long time if Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts couldn’t star in it, then they just didn’t care. Then Walden Media, led by Cary Granat and financier Phil Anschutz, came along with this brilliant, revolutionary idea, and as a lover of literature I was very lucky to be even a small part of that special team. Why not stay faithful to the stories? Now look at what they’ve done: The Chronicles of Narnia, Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, to name a few. They are truly pioneers, dedicated to bringing good stories to the screen. And the industry really woke up when Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Narnia dominated the box office with no major box office stars whatsoever other than the titles of the story. People do in fact love good stories!

For me, that’s the similarity between working in movies and writing books. Always start with a great story.

Sure, there are still going to be giant movies that Hollywood loves to talk about that are based on toys and high concept pitches and the torture/dismemberment of teen actors, because these movies can still make loads of money, but I guess I’m a little bit classic and at the same time a little bit forward-thinking.

I believe we deserve the best stories!

Between producing the Chronicles of Narnia movies and writing a novel of your own, you must have strong opinions about movies adapted from books. In your view, what is the key to making a movie that satisfies both people who’ve never read the book and people who love the book?
That’s a great question, and I’m certainly no expert, but in the case of Narnia, we make movies that stay as faithful as possible to the books. I think that’s the best place to start when adapting a book into a movie.

Anything Walden Media makes will be good, for instance, because they stay so true to what makes the book special in the first place. If you want to satisfy both audiences, you must stay true to that great story.

According to Newsweek, there’s interest in turning Hero into a movie. Is there any news on that front? If there is a movie, would you be involved as a producer, or is the material too close to you?
Ideally, since I’m also a screenwriter and director, I’d love to do both for HERO, too. I now just need some talent and a studio who are as brave about telling the story as I am. Stars like George Clooney or Daniel Craig have the power to get this movie made. (And to win an Oscar for playing the dad—what a part!) I truly hope they notice the book, recognize its ability to change the world, and contact me about it.

You’ve said that your father was the inspiration for Thom’s father. Can you tell us more about this?
My father certainly is the inspiration for Thom’s father In HERO. I talked about this in length when I answered the first question, so I don’t want to run the risk of boring you. (Or annoying him.) Seriously, though, he and my mother have always been so incredibly supportive of me and love me unconditionally for who I am. I think I went through a lot of things Thom did in the book with regards to his father. Knowing how people felt about gay people back then, I was so terrified that I would disappoint him, that I would alienate him and my entire family. Turns out, that hasn’t been the case at all. But as a young boy, I had nowhere to turn with these worries. I always felt like I was just trying to stay one step ahead of this inevitable doom that I knew would one day come knocking on our door and ruin our lives.

I usually say it’s pretty hard for me to talk about this stuff with my dad, but I guess in exploring the relationship between Thom and his Dad in HERO, I worked through a lot of my own real-life feelings with my father. So it’s actually not difficult to discuss at all.

Secrets. Lots of secrets. I was aware from a very young age about how scarred he’d been by his Vietnam experience. But this was something that simply wasn’t talked about. Not in my house. Not in society at all, really. For years I longed to know my father better. He put up such a brave front, but I knew there was so much going on inside. These days you can’t turn on the news without someone doing a glorification piece on war veterans or on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Well, when I was growing up, things like this simply didn’t exist. But the scars still did.

And then one day I discovered a box in the attic…This is something I’ve never told the press before, but for some reason I feel compelled to tell it here first.

One day when I was an older teen I discovered a box of pictures. I leafed through the black and white pictures—this is the scene that inspired Thom’s leafing through his mother’s photo album—and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Dad’s camp was overrun one night. I have this distinct memory of seeing a shot of a man lying in a ditch, and about six feet away from him was a pile of…something.

My father discovered me going through the pictures. Instead of getting angry, his reactions surprised me. He sat down and explained the pictures to me. He’d taken pictures of the aftermath the morning after his camp was overrun. I asked him about the picture of the man lying in the ditch. I asked him what the pile was a few feet away. He told me those were the man’s brains.

That day was a seminal moment in our relationship. For the first time, my father shared some things he’d been carrying around with him his entire life. And I felt I knew him a little better. And it was at that moment that I decided I wanted him to know me better too, even if it would take years for me to come clean about everything.

And I believe this is something very universal about HERO: we all want to know our fathers. And we all long for them to know us for who we are.

I have a good friend from growing up, Kevin Lilly, who is a marine who fought in Iraq. The thought of anyone treating him like my father was treated upon his return from war makes my stomach turn. These veterans are all of our HEROES, and I wrote this book in large part to show that my own father is one of the biggest HEROES in my life. Always has been. Always will be.

Vietnam veterans are alive and still with us. Treat them with the respect they never received. If anyone merits an opinion worth listening to on the war overseas, it’s the veterans.

Another friend of mine from growing up, Bill Watkins, was one of the very first casualties in this war. I believe it was April of 2002 when his plane went down. He was so nice to me when I was young, he really believed in me, at a very tough time when I was an awkward teen. And here was this graduate from VMI who took the time to listen to me and to encourage me to express myself. I’d always wanted to tell him how much that meant to me. And then he died in Iraq.

If you take anything away from this book, please take away a great respect for all the veterans. It would mean a lot to me.

And how close is Thom to yourself?
He is by far his own character—he tells me what he’s going to do when we write. But you’re right, I draw on a lot of my own personal experiences when I write him. Still, his reactions to things I encountered can be very different.

Some of the incidents are the same, but he’s his own character. In that regard, he’s a lot like me. Try to tell him what to do, and he’ll run screaming In the other direction. Stridently Independent, although he’d be the last person to tell you that about himself. I know, since I have to write him, that he calls the shots In the stories, thinks for himself, makes all his own decisions, good and bad.

And I wish I had superpowers like he does. Think of all you could do. If you had to choose one, which would be your favorite superpower? Honestly, I want to know. It’s great research for the sequel and the rest of the books.

But overall, I think Thom in HERO is universal character that anyone can relate to. We’ve all crushes in school on people we were afraid to tell. We’ve all had obstacles. We’ve all felt alienated. We’ve all had secrets. But it’s when you learn that those very things that alienate you, that make you feel different, are also what make you exceptional…well, once you embrace those special things about you, it’s an entirely empowering experience. I am a firm believer: there is a HERO in every one of us!

In many ways, according to all the fan mail that’s starting to pour in, a lot of people the book strikes a chord with are teen and young women. This doesn’t really surprise me because the relationship between Thom and Goran is a true romance that appeals to these readers. They’re deeply meant for each other, and there is something very true about the way their relationship grows. In fact, I’d love to hear from more young women who’ve read the book about what they think of it and what they’d like to see more of in the sequels. I have some big things planned for Thom and Goran, and I really want to know what girls find special about their relationship and what they’d to see me explore more in the next books.

Why did you decide to base some of the heroes in the League on actual comic book superheroes? And how much fun was it to create your own heroes’ names and powers? (Typhoid Larry? I love that)
I love that you ask that question because you have very astutely picked up on something I did very deliberately in the book.

The older generation of superheroes (i.e. The League) are archetypes of familiar hero icons. They play into my theory about the older generation: they are more set in their ways. I had a lot of fun playing with our notions of those icons.

But the next wave of heroes… who we are, and who we want to be… well that’s entirely up to us! We can be anything we want to be. And if that means we have the power to make people sick, like Typhoid Larry, then so be it. He’s a hero too. Wait until you read the sequel. He really steps up to the plate.

So by design I had such a blast writing these original characters—Thom, Goran, Scarlett (based in part on my best friend since I was ten years old, Bretta Zimmer Lewis), Typhoid Larry, Golden Boy, and Ruth (what an absolute joy it’s been to create her)—who become Thom’s team, the next generation of superheroes. And the contrast between the new generation of heroes and the more established A-list Leaguers is dynamic. It’s pretty clear by the end of HERO that I turn the establishment on its ear. I hope I draw the contrast well, because it allows me to deal with and hopefully have a hand in inspiring the next generation of everyday heroes that will soon appear in real-life. That part of writing HERO excites me.

Who is your favorite superhero and why? Has this changed over the years?
Colossus in the X-Men. A wonderful big galoot with a body of superhard organic metal and a heart of pure gold. I placed Goran as a character from Eastern Europe, in part because Colossus hails from Russia. I drew some inspiration from how Colossus affected me as a young boy. How could you not fall for him? My love for the character has not changed after all these years. He’s every bit as alluring and pure-hearted to me today as he was way back when I first discovered him.

Others I love:

As a kid:

  • Princess Projectra/Sensor Girl
  • Star Boy
  • Mon-El
  • The whole Legion of Superheroes (read HERO and you’ll get it.)
  • The Teen Titans
  • Especially Wonder Girl (Donna Troy)
  • The X-Men
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Wonder Man
  • Magick from the New Mutants
  • Kitty Pryde

As an adult:

  • She-Hulk (if you haven’t read the Dan Slott series, you’re missing out. I’d love to make a movie or create a TV series about her. Wouldn’t Rebecca Romijn be perfect to play her?)
  • Captain America
  • Lucifer (I wish that book were still going)
  • Green Arrow
  • Black Panther Zatanna
  • Booster Gold
  • Blue Beetle (the one they killed off)
  • Wonder Woman
  • Rictor (until they made him straight)
  • Midnighter and Apollo from the Authority
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the Alan Moore series, not the movie)
  • Anyone Allan Heinberg writes (especially his run on Young Avengers.)
  • The Fantastic Four (especially in the stunning graphic novel “Unstable Molecules, by James Sturm)
  • And last but certainly not least, The Justice League (it is my dream to make the definitive Justice League movie! I hope some executives at Warner Bros. read HERO and give me a shot at it.)

As I’ve grown, my tastes have changed some. Normally the more independent minded, creator-driven books are the better ones. During most of the late eighties and nineties, you couldn’t make sense of old reliables like The X-Men. Teen Titans had been cancelled. And they kept re-booting The Legion of Superheroes so many times, I think it’s very difficult for anyone to follow them anymore.

That’s one reason I created my own world in HERO with my own characters and my own stories. No corporate continuity problems or rules or constraints. No Super-Battle-to-beyond-the-Secret-Infinity-Wars, or other such silliness.

When I was a boy, I used to buy books solely because I was loyal to the characters and the teams. Now I very much gravitate toward the writer or artist. I’ll go for any story – no matter who the character is — as long as it’s well told.

What are you working on now (books and movies)?
The sequel to HERO. Boy, I can’t wait for that one. Those characters wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes telling me what to do with them next. I wish they’d let me get a good night sleep. More with Thom and Goran, more with the rest of his team, and some MAJOR surprises in store for fans of the first book. (No spoilers here, sorry: you’ll have to wait and read it. Or you can try to pry some secrets out of me if you come visit me on book tour or your can write in to my website.)

We’re also working on our third Narnia movie, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which is such a moving, powerful story. Can’t wait to see that one myself. Prince Caspian is already in the post-production process.

And more movies that Hunter and I will make with our partner Allison Sarofim. Making LAKE CITY was such a special experience. I can’t wait to get back to them. Hopefully, someone in Hollywood will come to me now, knowing my passion for adapting stories well.

Oh yeah, and another book, for a little bit younger reader, that I’m just about finished writing for Hyperion. I’ll give you one hint about it: WEREWOLVES. It’s the start of a whole new series. Watch for that one. It’ll knock your socks off.

In HERO, I explored my relationship with my father. In our movie LAKE CITY, we explored our mothers, and in this next book, I explore the relationship between brothers and sisters. There is such power in family, so many stories to tell!

I hope I get the chance to write them all. If I’m lucky, I’ll be doing this forever!

Any last words?
There’s a HERO in every one of us. Believe!

Thanks! Jackie, of Interactive Reader, will be posting her interview with Perry tomorrow, so be sure to read that, too.

The rest of today’s interesting, intriguing, inspiring WBBT interviews are:
Nick Abadzis at Chasing Ray
Carrie Jones at Hip Writer Mama
Phyllis Root at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Amy Schlitz at A Fuse #8 Production (Part One, Part Two)
Kerry Madden at lectitans
Tom Sniegoski at Bildungsroman
Connie Willis at Finding Wonderland

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2007 6:00 am

    This is a fantastic interview…absolutely fantastic!
    I love why Perry writes for teens, the pivotal moment with his father, and how there is a hero in every one of us. This is great stuff. Thank you.

  2. November 6, 2007 12:36 pm

    Thanks!

  3. November 8, 2007 2:48 am

    Wow — you really kicked it out for this interview. I’m not only dying now to read this book, but I think I’d actually like to meet this guy. Wow!

  4. Jolene permalink*
    November 13, 2007 5:05 pm

    I just saw Perry Moore in People as one of the sexiest people of the week. He kinda looks like the bachelor from Hawaii.

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