Sunday, February 13, 2011


Stephen Carpenter's resume is impressive.  He's a graduate of the UCLA Film School and has written and directed several films, including "Soul Survivors" with Luke Wilson and Casey Affleck. He's also written screenplays for "The Man" starring Samuel Jackson and Eugene Levy and oh yeah, the screenplay for Ocean's 11, starring everyone in Hollywood.  Now you can add bestselling author to the list.  At the time of this post, his first novel "Killer" is #35 on Amazon's Kindle Bestseller list.  It's #1 in Occult, Police Procedurals, and Hard-Boiled. Impressed?  I am. What's this experience been like? He explains below:

1- How does it feel to have an actor like George Cloony reciting your words on the big screen? Do you mostly cringe or smile?

All smiles. It's one of the best things about screenwriting, especially after working on a script for months and only hearing the dialogue in your head. With Clooney it was always better than I had imagined. All actors
are different--some improvise more, etc. But with actors like Clooney and Sam Jackson, they tend to stick to the script, more or less. And whenever they do stray from the written words, they make it their own, and that makes it better. Actors of that caliber can take my worst stuff and make it sound good.

2- The plot for Killer is unique. Crime novelist Jack Rhodes discovers a series of murders which mirror the plots of his novels. Only the murders take place before he'd even written the books, making him suspect numero uno. Nice twist. Was that technically hard to pull off?

Very hard. The book changed a lot as I was writing it. The hardest part was making the judgment call about how much to give away and how much to hold back from the reader. I wanted to lead them in a certain direction without making it seem like I was cheating when the final twist was revealed. It was one of the hardest things about writing the book--that and the change of tenses and point-of-view.

3- Are you surprised by the success of Killer?

I'm stunned. Especially since it is my first novel. I was satisfied with the final version of the book, but not at all sure that readers would respond. When the numbers from Amazon started coming in it was like opening night--I didn't sleep much. As the weeks have passed I have just been in a kind of state of shock at the response. I really credit Amazon for their internal promotion process, in the way they target readers who might like the book.

4- Which do you enjoy more, directing a story you've written, or writing the story itself?

Each job has its challenges. Writing can be very isolating, as you know, and sometimes the problem-solving gets a little overwhelming to take on by yourself. Directing is a completely different ballgame. It's physically demanding, the hours are brutal, and you have to answer to the studio about cast, budgets, everything imaginable. Directing is not something I'd like to do all of the time, although it can be very rewarding. I'm much more suited to the writing process. It's nice to only have to worry about the story and the characters. I prefer it to getting up at 5 every morning and worrying about schedules and studio notes and constant rewrites and working 18 to 20 hour days for months on end.

5- What's your take on this entire digital publishing revolution? Freeing, or frightening?

I think it's an incredible step forward for authors and readers alike. I read a columnist the other day who likened the development of the e-reader to the Gutenberg press, in terms of progressing the written word. That's obviously an overstatement, but I think it's great that so many people have access to so many books inexpensively--and that so many authors can publish without going through traditional channels. I still buy paper books, and I always will. I just bought Keith Richards' autobiography and I chose the hardcover edition for the quality of the photographs, among other things. But I read a lot, and when I get on a plane I'd much rather take my Kindle than lug around ten pounds of books, I can promise you.

Here's the link to Stephen's novel on Amazon. Download it. I just did.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I'm now a new fan of Stephen Carpenter for a number of reasons, the smallest of which is that I LOVE Oceans 11.

    But the main reason is that I just love it when Hollywood people come over and write novels. It's usually the novel people thinking about their work making it into Hollywood, not the other way around.

    I just bought the book and it is 'on' the tbr pile now, and I'm sure it is great, but I suspect one of the reasons for the cool Amazon promotion is that Stephen makes an awesome, glittering star addition to the indie publisher movement.

    We all love the Amanda Hocking/rags to riches stories but Stephen's decision to self publish shows that it's a sound business decision rather than a desperate attempt to get one's book out as fast as possible--the underlying assumption being that Stephen is already successful and so doesn't 'need' to self publish the way a lot of us do.

    And I don't think the Gutenberg press analogy is that off. Anecdotally, most of the ereader owners I know (inc myself) read MORE than before. A lot more. Getting more people to read more often is a pretty big thing, imo.

    Cool interview. I look forward to reading the book.

    Kendall Swan
    NAKED Cheerleader and Other Stories