Interview: 10 Questions with Alan Dean Foster

As many people know, I love novelizations and who better to talk to then the king of novelizations himself, Alan Dean Foster. I contacted Mr. Foster a few days ago, when I wrote my Alien review and he was kind enough to check it out and thank me for the positive review, so I thought why not send along some questions. I chose 10 questions, nothing fancy and sure enough he provided what you see below. I’m hoping to provide some more interviews in the future, but for now, please enjoy From the Mind of Tatlock’s first interview, with author Alan Dean Foster.

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Why did you start writing novelizations?

adf: Ballantine Books editor Judy-Lynn del Rey asked me if I would try it.  It worked.

You wrote the first three Alien novelizations, but not Alien: Resurrection. What’s the reasoning behind not writing the fourth novel?

adf: I had added a great deal to A3: character motivations, fixed scientific errors, resolved plot problems, etc.  The producers ordered me to take it all out and follow their script exactly.  So I had to throw out much of what I had fixed.  Said frustration led me to turn down AR.

After all your work in the Alien novelizations, who was your favourite character to write about?

adf: Jones.  Needed more scenes.

You’ve wrote three novels in the Star Wars universe, one being the novelization for A New Hope, a tie in novel to Attack of the Clones, titled The Approaching Storm and finally Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which is considered the first expanded universe novel. How did you feel about the Splinter of the Mind’s Eye after Empire Strikes Back came out and that some of the story lines you created were contradicted, especially the relationship of Leia and Luke Skywalker?

adf: I was as surprised as anyone.  But not upset.  They are not my characters and it is not my universe.

Most of the time novelizations can be quite different from the finished film, is that because when writing a novelization for a movie, do you usually work on an early screenplay? Or write before filming?

adf: Novelizations are usually written while the movie is actually being shot.  As changes are made to the film, both publishers and the filmmakers request/hope that the writer can accommodate them in the finished book mss.

I have to point out, you wrote the novelization for John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I didn’t know until recently and now I must seek out this hard to find book. My question is, did you get to meet or talk to John Carpenter when writing the novel? If so, what was that like?

adf: If you think the book is hard to find, try to find a copy of the hardcover book club edition.
       No, I did not get to talk to John while writing the novel.  He was, of course, busy with the film.  But I did get to talk to John about DARK STAR, which I also novelized and which was his first film.  He had more hair then and fewer wrinkles: both consequences of working in Hollywood.

As people may not know, you’re pretty heavy into weightlifting and have won some titles for bench pressing in your age class. What got you into weight lifting?

adf: About 35 years ago I realized that I needed to engage in some regulary exercise, and that I wasn’t going to be able to play pick-up basketball forever.  I wanted to find something I could do until I dropped dead.  It came down to golf (no exercise, really), swimming (no ocean in Prescott, Arizona) and powerlifting.  I settled on the latter, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever devoted time to.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on now? Any new novelizations in the pipeline?

adf: For the French software company Byook, I’ve written in interactive Lovecraftian app for phones, tablets, etc., called THE MOANING WORDS.  It’s out in Beta now, with the final release due soon.  Several new short stories will appear this year in various anthologies.  I’ve just finished a novelette, VALENTIN SHARFFEN AND THE CODE OF DOOM, which awaits a publisher.  No novelizations at the moment.  Several novels awaiting publishers (three fantasy, one sf).

If given a chance, what would be your ideal project to work on?

adf: I have a number of books under option: I’d like to do the screenplays.

What is one recommendation you would give to an aspiring writer?

adf: Write something, anything, every single day.

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I want to thank Alan Dean Foster to taking some time to answer my questions. It was great getting some insight into the process of writing novelizations and what goes on behind the scenes. If you’re interested in checking out more of Foster’s work, you can visit his website and as always, purchase his books on Amazon.

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