Danie Ware is the publicist and event organiser for cult entertainment retailer Forbidden Planet. She has been immersed in the science-fiction and fantasy community for the past decade. An early adopter of blogging, social media and a familiar face at conventions, she appears on panels as an expert on genre marketing and retailing.
Danie’s debut novel, Ecko: Rising follows a savage, gleefully cynical anti-hero immersed in his own fantasy world. Ecko joins a misfit cast of characters and strives to conquer his deepest fears and save the world.
GSFN: Tell us how Ecko Rising came about.
Danie: From a starry-eyed youth of writing ‘what if’ fiction – fun fic rather than fan fic!
In 2008, I went to EasterCon for the first time in 15 years and found myself back in the industry. It gave me the confidence to start writing again, to pick up those old threads and weave them properly – I put the first few chapters on Googlepages and the response from my Twitter friends was huge. It was also picked up by an author who promised to show them to his publisher – and it all snowballed from there.
GSFN: The main character, Ecko is quite the anti-hero – an antagonistic protagonist if you will. Did his character make it more challenging to write the book?
Danie: I think he made it easier – his dark, biting humour and sharp insight give the story an energy that carries it forwards. Sometimes, I’d write when I was angry, and Ecko would give me an outlet for that anger; sometimes, his sardonic views of classic fantasy situations and archetypes just wrote themselves. He could be quite unpredictable, though, and there were times he’d ignore the chapter plan completely and just do his own thing!
GSFN: You’ve taken two genres, sci-fi and fantasy and have created a subtle cohesive story. What do think of the more ‘in your face’ mash ups such as historical characters fighting vampires and zombies? Julian May is a very popular author who achieved an exciting blend of sci-fi and fantasy, do you make any contrasts to your own work or does it not compare?
Danie: Julian May’s ‘Exiles’ saga is one of my absolute favourite reads – she did past and future, SF and fantasy, anthropology and politics, all woven expertly in the same story. It’s astounding writing; I’ve never come across anything else like it. Her story is subtle, intricate, flawlessly crafted – a complete antithesis to the current trend for ‘Everything Vs Zombies’ mash-ups.
Being honest here, I’ve not actually read one of the latter – though I do like the fact that genre boundaries are being confronted, and are coming down, now more than ever. Julian May is one of my inspirations. As for Jane Austen thumping the undead with a spade – well, good on you girl, let’s hope you pave the way for some more freethinking!
GSFN: How did it feel to see Ecko Rising in book form for the time?
Overwhelming – the first time my editor showed me the cover art, it had me in tears (no kidding)! With each stage of the book’s production – acceptance, editorial, art, proof copy, reviews, final product – there’s been a new rush of nervousness and wonder. Seeing something that’s been in my head slowly conjured to life has been a magical thing.
On occasion, I’ve been lucky enough to be present when an author has seen their finished book for the first time – and it’s made me realise that the wonder never palls. And that’s perhaps the best thing of all.
GSFN: You have a dream fangirls’/boys’ job, working for one of the well-known comic book stores in the UK. How has this day job environment influenced your writing?
Danie: If anything, it’s raised the bar! When you’re surrounded by the industry – not only its creators, but its critics and fans and retailers and shoppers and marketeers, you have an insight into the whole process that’s pretty scary. Add to that the sheer heavyweight of talent that regularly comes through FP, and it’s a heck of thing to try and live up to!
It’s also made it surreal – things like seeing my own name on company schedules and setting up my own signings have been very bizarre!
GSFN: Your job involves organising signing events with authors. Have you asked for advice from these guest authors when it came to writing professionally? If so, what was the most profound or useful piece of advice given to you?
Danie: In a word: no. There’s nothing more annoying than the badgering wannabe! Some people knew I was writing and would enquire – but that’s all. In fairness through, I’ve friends through my job who’re authors, and they have been incredibly supportive in helping me make sense of the wheels of the professional process.
GSFN: Ecko Rising is a superb debut novel, and it was a pleasure to read. What can we next expect from you Danie?
Thank you very much! I’ve just handed in the first draft of Ecko II, and I have another novel, urban fantasy-ish, with my agent. After that, we will have to see!
Danie Ware will be reading from and signing, Ecko Rising (Titan Books) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore on Thursday 20th September from 6 – 7pm.
Ecko Rising by Danie Ware, available from 21st September, Titan Books, £7.99. You can pre-order your copy from Forbidden Planet.
We’ve managed to bag ourselves an exclusive Q&A with film director and Predators producer Robert Rodriguez. Known best for films such as From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City and the Spy Kids franchise, Robert Rodriguez certainly has a few hit films under his belt, including the latest offering from the Predator universe.
How did you get Adrien Brody for the film?
I was trying to hire him for another role, but he read the script to Predators and said, “No, I think I can do this role.” I said “Really?” and he sent me a photo from a film he had just done, a prison movie, and he was all buffed out. And I was like, “Damn! That’s cool!” I knew it would be interesting because I was trying to find somebody different for the role. The other role isn’t even in the movie now. It was early on when we were coming up with stuff. But for Royce, we saw other actors, and they had just done it so many times. It’s the same people. And one actor in particular was playing the same exact role but in another movie! It was very much like when I did From Dusk Till Dawn. I was trying to find someone to play the part that George Clooney played. And it was the same thing. You’d see the same actors who do that kind of role all the time. I was looking for someone fresh and new and I hired George who hadn’t done that kind of part up to that point. Antonio Banderas had never done an action movie until Desperado. I felt this was the same type of thing. We wanted someone really interesting and just a terrific actor. He wanted to do it and when you have an Oscar-winning actor wanting to be in a Predator movie, you say, “OK! That’s the way we’re going to go.” Can’t get any better than that.
Talk to us about the fascination with the Predator series.
There’s a hunter quality to it and there’s something about the original Predator character that is enduring. I think it’s because he’s humanoid, so he feels like a human character. People like villains and getting to see a villainous human character is something that you can identify with, the dark side of a person. The more adventurous, hard hitting side of a person. That’s one of the reasons we pushed to do it live action and not make it a CGI Predator.
Any Lost influence on this? Seems like a few elements could have been taken from it.
Yeah. The falling out of the sky, shooting in Hawaii. I know what you mean. But no, it wasn’t intentional. Plus I wrote the original script fifteen years before Lost came out.
Can you go over the history of the project? It had a long gestation period.
This was the only time I wrote a film that I didn’t plan on directing. I didn’t do it after that because it was a weird experience. I thought it would be fun. It was fun. But then you give the movie away and you think, “God! I like some of those ideas and I don’t get to even make them now.” So it was great to come full circle and actually finish the project instead of having it sitting in a drawer somewhere. It was just because I was between projects. I had finished Mariachi and hadn’t yet started Desperado and so I did a writing assignment to get some extra work. I thought it would be easy, but then it ended up being tough, because you’re liking what you’re writing but then you don’t get to see it happen. The assignment was over at Fox and I thought it would be fun so I went over and wrote it. I knew they were trying to get Arnold back to the series and I knew he loved the jungle aspect of it, so I set it on another planet but made it in a jungle on another planet so it would be different. And that was the idea. But then they ended up doing the Alien vs. Predator series and Arnold decided he didn’t want to do any more Predator movies. So they did those other ones. But just last year they brought me back the script and told me they still wanted to try and do it.
How close is this to your original script?
Oh, I had to change a lot, because that first one was tailor made for Arnold. I brought in some other writers to take the idea of the planet and the different tribes of Predators and the hunting aspect and the crucified Predator and all that, which was in the original script, and put different characters in there. It was a group before, but it was a different group, bringing Arnold to this planet.
There’s a scene in the movie where a creature chases Topher Grace’s character and then gets shot. What was that creature?
That was one of the things from the cages. Remember when they go to the cages and they see insects crawling out? That was one of the other things that was dropped there. There’s a bit, I could see how you missed it because I think they’re running when they say it, but they say “That was one of the things from the cages” and Royce says “He must have thought we were the ones who dropped them here.” It wasn’t trying to be aggressive, it was just defending itself. It was in the same situation as they were: Dropped into the middle of nowhere and not knowing what’s going on.
How is it different directing a movie versus producing?
They asked me first if I would direct it. I couldn’t because I was already directing something and they needed it out for this summer. But they asked if I could at least produce it. I said, “Sure! That would be fun.” Because that way I could keep it at home base and watch it get made. I could be part of making it and designing it.
How much influence did you have on it versus other movies you’ve produced?
I’ve never produced before, so I don’t know. Some producers find a property and they hire the people and then sit back and let the other guys carry on, but I was more hands on than that. But I wasn’t directing. Nimrod would direct. I would help with the script, help design the movie, worked closely with music, effects, and editing in post.
Would you direct a sequel?
I don’t know. I’d have to see what else I was doing and if there’s a script I like. That’s the cool thing about producing, is I could look through scripts and say “Hey, yeah, I want to direct that.” I could find scripts that I want to develop more.
You’ve done a lot with your film making. Is there still something you’d like to do that you haven’t tried?
I like doing effects-type movies. Even in my non-effects movie, my Once Upon A Time In Mexico or Machete movies that look very natural, they have hundreds of effects in them. They’re just very invisible effects. But going full-bore with an effects film, I’d like that.
Did you consider going 3D for this movie?
No, there wasn’t enough time. Not even to convert it. It wasn’t thought of in 3D. You have to think of a project in 3D for it to work. A lot of my own movies you could convert to 3D, because there’s a lot of stuff coming to the camera. My stuff would lend itself well to that.
Well, you did a 3D movie. Two, in fact.
Yeah, I started this trend. Actually, I don’t know if it’s a trend. I did my first one seven years ago and it’s still around. You could say I started it. It was the biggest of the Spy Kids movies.
You seem to have a lot of fun with the violence and gore in your movies.
Yeah. In this one they wanted it to be R-rated. Because the last few were PG-13. And I made the script really R crazy. Then they called and said on the DVDs people really like uncut versions, so if we wanted to put more blood in it, they could add it to the DVD. We couldn’t even come up with anything bloodier. It’s fun because it’s that type of a movie. It’s fun for the audience to have something that they can put their hands over their eyes. And really, you don’t even have to show very much. If you show a little bit early on, then people will be afraid of what more they’ll see for the rest of the movie. You get by on what people think you’ll do as opposed to what you actually have to do.
There’s the spine-ripping bit.
Well, that’s been in all the movies. That’s not even new. We had to have that. That was what freaked people out about the first one, the spines getting ripped out. You have to do that, otherwise it’s like having the shark not eat somebody in a Jaws movie. You gotta have that. That’s required. Then on top of that you have to come up with some clever things aside from that.
Was there anything you avoided repeating from the other movies?
It was a different tone. The first film is more of an action/adventure movie. This one has more of a horror feel. Being stuck in a jungle and being chased by some unknown force.
In regards to your comments about unrated DVDs, do you think the studios are now trying to funnel the creative process through ancillary markets?
These genre pictures live and breathe in the ancillary market. You can’t say that for every movie, but for these in particular, they see more success that way. Ancillary markets have gone down so much that it’s this stuff that keeps it alive. So anything that’s new or different or alternate is good. It’s not just about being bloody. It’s if you have a director’s cut or an uncut version, the studios encourage that instead of discourage that. And with the discs getting so big, they can hold so much information that it’s fine to add alternate versions. It’s not a money issue like it used to be, where they’d have to do double discs and stuff like that.
Has the “torture porn” genre taken away the fun of seeing blood and gore and shocking the audience?
I don’t think it’s like that. It still has its power if you like the characters and you care about what happens to them. They can get a paper cut and you’d be like, “NOOOOOOO!!!” It’s not really about trying to top things. If that’s all you’re doing, if it’s all blood and no character and no story, then yeah you might as well get crazy with it. But if you’ve got good characters and a good story then it doesn’t really matter what happens. You’ll care about them no matter how bad or not bad it is.
The female character, played by Alice Braga, is not your typical action movie female. She’s not a damsel in distress, but she’s still afforded her female heart.
Yeah, she’s the heart of the movie. It was important to get that character right. For me in particular it’s a hard character to do, because it’s not done successfully much in these movies. And people were scared and were asking if we should even attempt it. But I think if you get it right, you get Sarah Conner in Terminator or Ripley in Alien, and you get a classic character. So it’s worth trying to write it as best you can and try to get a great character.
What was it like having all those great actors together on the same set?
It was fantastic. When Laurence showed up, everybody was so quiet and listening to his every word. He’s like that character. He’s been through it all in the acting world. It wasn’t hard for the other actors to believe that he was the coolest person on the planet. He just had that gravitas. It was amazing to watch him act and talk to him about movies. In the movie they’d be saying “How did you kill a Predator?” and offscreen we’d be asking “How did you do this movie role?” It was great to talk to him and to see the level of professionalism.
Did you have any trouble shooting in the jungle?
Well, the jungle is never easy. It’s a very dangerous place to work. It’s muddy, there’s a lot of roots on the ground and with every step you could break your ankle. It’s not that it’s deadly; it’s just a pain in the ass. I was really afraid there would be injuries. Really dumb ones like someone slipping on a rock they didn’t notice that wasn’t anyone’s fault. It’s a dangerous terrain to just walk in, let alone carry around heavy equipment. But luckily no one was injured.
What did you do to differentiate Brody’s character from Arnold’s in the original film?
We knew that we were going for something different. We still felt that physically he needed to be as imposing as he could. I didn’t want him to look like a professional body builder because as a soldier he wouldn’t have time for that. He needed to look believable like he was truly a man of action and could hold his own in a fight. And even with all the muscles, that doesn’t mean you’ll win. Arnold didn’t win in the original film. The Predator blew himself up. So it wasn’t like that was going to save him. It had to be about intelligence and other kinds of ways of fighting.
How did you balance the humor and the tension?
We didn’t go for “joke” jokes. It was just the humor coming out of the situation and every day walking the line and seeing where it could be funny and where it couldn’t.
Did you feel you had to be careful not to make a parody?
Oh, yeah yeah. All the time. We tried to put in as many safety nets as we could so we’re covered either way.
Why did you choose to kill Danny Trejo so quickly?
Because you wouldn’t expect it! You know if Danny’s the first to go, then they’re all screwed. They don’t stand a chance now!
Robert Rodriguez’ Predators arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on 1st November 2010.
While being interviewed in the US by Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling stated that she “could definitely write an 8th, 9th 10th… I could easily”. JK Rowling went on to say how much she loved writing the books.
I for one would love to see some more of the magical world that JK Rowling has created and not necessarily the characters from the existing books. It’d be interesting to see if she does continue and how.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I is released 19th November 2010.