Review ~ The Writing Dead

This book was provided to me by University Press of Mississippi via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Writing Dead: Talking Terror with TV’s Top Horror Writers by Thomas Fahy

Cover via Goodreads

The Writing Dead features interviews with the writers of today’s most frightening and fascinating shows. They include some of television’s biggest names—Carlton Cuse (Lost and Bates Motel), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies), David Greenwalt (Angel and Grimm), Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, The Terminator series, Aliens, and The Abyss), Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica), Brian McGreevy (Hemlock Grove), Alexander Woo (True Blood), James Wong (The X-Files, Millennium, American Horror Story, and Final Destination), Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files and Millennium), Richard Hatem (Supernatural, The Dead Zone, and The Mothman Prophecies), Scott Buck (Dexter), Anna Fricke (Being Human), and Jim Dunn (Haven).

The Writing Dead features thought-provoking, never-before-published interviews with these top writers and gives the creators an opportunity to delve more deeply into television horror than anything found online. In addition to revealing behind-the-scene glimpses, these writers discuss favorite characters and story lines and talk about what they find most frightening. They offer insights into the writing process reflecting on the scary works that influenced their careers. And they reveal their own personal fascinations with the genre.  (via Goodreads)

This book of interviews has a great pedigree. If you’ve watched any “horror” television in the last 15 years, you’ve seen these writers at work. Unfortunately, the last 10 years has been hard on some of the periodicals, like Starlog and Fangoria, that often provided fans with this sort of longer form interviews. Thomas Fahy works from a certain set of questions (such as “What do you think are some of the biggest pitfalls in horror writing?” and “What is the best criticism that you’ve received as a writer?”) as well as asking more project- and writer-specific questions.

A few observations:

Many of these writers had very little “genre” experience before working on their horror show. Most rely on really good characters to carry them through. One of the exceptions is Brian Fuller (executive producer/writer of Hannibal and creator of Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me). Fuller’s interview was  the primary reason I requested this ARC. Fuller gives a lot of props to the horror literature and movie canon that has gone before him, something I was surprised to find lacking in many of the other interviews.

(Personally, I think Fuller is doing some of the best work in horror TV at the moment. I was also sad that his Mockingbird Lane didn’t get a mention.)

One thing that many of these TV projects have in common is that they are based on previously existing sources (examples Hannibal, True Blood, Dexter, Bates Motel). One of the great things Fahy asks each of these writers is how they deal with, as  Carlton Cuse puts it, “the long shadow” of the earlier work. Cuse, for example points out that Bates Motel removes itself from Psycho by setting what is technically a prequel in a modern setting, which is chronologically after the movie and its sequels.

I was amused by how many writers dodged the question of the best criticism they’ve gotten in their careers.

Publishing info, my copy: University Press of Mississippi, ARC, PDF copy. The Kindle version of this document contained wonky formatting. This book will be released on March 3, 2015.
Acquired: NetGalley
Genre: Non-fiction, television & film

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