Exclusive Interview: Author, Brian Donnelly (Wyatt Earp: Hollywoodland)
Tell us a little bit about your new book, Wyatt Earp: Hollywoodland?
Absolutely. It is our newest graphic novel coming in at about 95 pages. It was written and created by yours truly, with interiors drawn by J.C. Grande and awesome covers by Max Bertolini. The Tagline is:
HOLLYWOOD: 1929. PROHIBITION. BOOZE, DRUGS, SEX, ZOMBIES… It will take a legend with a tarnished badge to save Tinseltown.
The synopsis is that on the eve of a new decade, at the height of the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition, a failing movie studio’s actors begin to die under unnatural circumstances. To find out why, a desperate movie producer engages an even more desperate legend, whose own past is haunted. Wyatt Earp, the aging legend from the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is in Hollywood, desperate to sell his story. As each day passes, Earp finds himself facing the deadliest gunslingers from the Old West who should be long dead. But they are back, are just as deadly, and even harder to kill. Because they have all become zombies and have a taste for a lawman who has fallen from grace. Wyatt Earp will have a week to find out why the zombies are now hunting him. But he may not like what he finds. If he is going to survive the zombies, he will first have to bury all of his ghosts…
You’re launching a Kickstarter campaign for Wyatt Earp: Hollywoodland, what are you cool perks that horror fans can get excited about?
The absolute coolest thing about this Kickstarter is the Movie Poster perk. At virtually every pledge level we are offering a personalized life-size movie poster. It is a 28 by 40 poster and depending on your pledge level you can be named as a star, the director, the producer even Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday! Everybody gets a copy of all of our previous award-winning books as well. As with all of our campaigns, the book is already complete and published. We just need to know how many to print.
You describe the book as “LA Confidential meets Tombstone…with zombies”, so how did this mesh-up happen?
I have always been a fan of both movies; the nuanced pacing of LA Confidential and the layers it goes through in Hollywood at that time. Tombstone’s lines and actors with the non-stop action were just unforgettable. So, what would happen if we took the legends of the Old West and put them back in Hollywood in a Chinatown/La Confidential situation where Wyatt Earp has a week to figure out what is going on before they kill him. It makes for tense pacing with a lot of action and a lot of memorable scenes and a double killer ending!
Why did you choose to tell a story about Wyatt Earp at the end of his life?
There is an actual historicity, that Earp did spend the last week of his life in Los Angeles. So, it got me thinking about that period, what was happening at the time, and how we could introduce a film noir detective element to let him go out with a bang. He is a complicated and flawed figure, and this book explores the nature of his past, America’ past, who we look to for our heroes, and why.
How much research on the subject matter do you usually do before you start writing?
I have been an attorney for almost 25 years, and I write historical fiction, so I do a LOT of research. Because of my background though, I can research, read and digest information pretty quickly. The background of Wyatt Earp: Hollywoodland is very historically accurate once you get past the zombies
LOL. I would say it’s very important for new creators not to get too bogged down in research to the point you are not writing. You have to write too or the research will take over the writing and you the Muses will flee.
Do you have an ending in mind when you write a story or does the journey take you there?
That is a great question. Every book I have ever created has won an award. My advice to creators is I NEVER, start writing a story unless the end is known. The end is where I begin. It is the first thing I write. Then, bits and pieces will form, key scenes and dialogue and then the muses take over and they lead you to your ending. The beginning and middle may change, but the end stays the same. If you know the end you will care about your work because it will have meaning and drive you to get there.
Any writing bad habits or good habits you would like to share with other writers?
Stick to The Basics: 1. Basically, you have to write; 2. Basically you have to care deeply about what you write and 3. Basically you have to sell what you care deeply about.
Tell us some of your favorite horror literature and/or movies?
Although his actual writing can be a bit stiff, the sheer scale and vision of Lovecraft’s mythos is hard to beat. He is the J.R.R. Tolkien of horror. For quality of the actual writing, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and It and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are probably my favorite pieces of Horror writing. John Carpenter’s The Thing would by my favorite Horror Film.
What inspires your creativity?
J.R.R. Tolkien spoke of the compost heap of the mind and that certainly applies to me. I was born in 1976 and am a child of the 80s, which was a pretty awesome time. We had a fusion of movies and games and pop culture that was just incredible. Yet we were not overtaken by computers, or AI or machine learning. We would watch Saturday morning cartoons, or rush home to watch He-Man or GI Joe or Transformers, and then play with the figures and make little stories of our own. And since CGI did not really exist for movie much less television, Comic Books and fantasy were a huge medium. We devoured comic books and watched Lucas and Spielberg. We read King and Straub and all of the fantasy books that came out of Tor, and TSR and Dungeons and Dragons. We had to use our imagination constantly, whether it was table top gaming, or playing with actions figures, or even Atari, because we did not have computers to do that work for us. This massive reservoir of fantasy and horror and comic pulp and years of using my imagination as a fan of those mediums is my own personal compost heap that I draw from.
What does the future hold for Brian Donnelly?
Well, I am a brain tumor survivor, so hopefully good health. From a graphic novel perspective, I have two more ideas that I would like to get out, both of which involve vampires and without question I have to finish my first anthology Tir Na Fuil. I was fortunate that TIR, which was my very first attempt as a creator, won the Bronze Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards behind works created by Stand Lee and William Shatner. I feel like I owe it to the fans and to myself, and kind of to Stan and Captain Kirk to complete that story arc.