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Interview With an Author: Simon R. Green

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Selected novels by Simon R. Green
Selected novels by Simon R. Green

Simon R. Green is the New York Times best-selling author of more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and mystery novels. Simon sold his first book in 1988 and the very next year was commissioned to write the best-selling novelization of the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. From there he went on to write many more series of books including Deathstalker, Nightside, Secret History, Forest Kingdom, and the Ishmael Jones mysteries among others. His books have sold over 3.8 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over a dozen different languages. His latest novel is Jekyll & Hyde, Inc. and he recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Jekyll & Hyde, Inc.?

I started thinking; what happened to all the old monsters? I grew up watching the old Universal monster movies on television, and though I went on to enjoy the more recent monsters, Freddy and Jason and Pinhead et all, I still had a fondness for the monsters of my youth. And it occurred to me that at one time, people took these monsters very seriously. They believed in vampires and werewolves etc. But with the birth of the Twentieth Century, that all changed, and they all disappeared. Where did they go? And then I thought, what if the only way to stop them was set something even worse against them; Edward Hyde… And I was off and running.

Are Daniel, Tina, or any of the other characters (beyond those referenced in earlier fictional works) in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

I always say of any of my characters, I take a little here and a little there. In this case, I was taken with; what kind of person would take the Hyde Elixir by choice? And would it automatically make them evil? There’s no doubt there’s some of me in Daniel because there’s always something of me in all my leads. And Tina… I did know someone a lot like her, a long time ago, a wild child with no restrictions. And I thought, if there ever was a Hyde Elixir, she’d take it!

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

Pretty much everything I thought of ended up in the book. A late addition was the rat. Because we always test our new drugs on animals first, don’t we? So what if you gave the Elixir to a rat? That one was fun. And as always, there was one character who was supposed to have just a walk-on part, and she just wouldn’t get off the stage. The old Armoury lady and ex-girlfriend of Edward… The hardest scene to write was the sex scene between Daniel and Tina. I don’t normally do those because they get in the way of the story, but this time it was important. It’s very realistic; it doesn’t last long. Because I kept working away at the scene, cutting and cutting, to get it to do the job but not foul up the pacing.

You have written several series; Deathstalker, The Nightside, The Forest Kingdom, as well as standalone titles; Shadows Fall, Drinking Midnight Wine. Is Jekyll & Hyde, Inc. the beginning of a new series or a standalone novel? If readers are going to get more adventures with Daniel and Tina in the future, what are your plans for the series?

It depends on whether Tony at Baen wants another one; which will probably depend on how this one sells. I would love to do more, because I love the characters so much; and I do have a great idea for a followup.

Do you have a favorite classic monster (Frankenstein’s Monster, Vampire, Mummy, Werewolf, something else)?

My favorite of the Universal movies has to be Bride of Frankenstein, with Karloff as the monster and Elsa Lanchester as the Bride. But if push comes to shove, the best monster of all time is King Kong; from the original 1933 film. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched that.

Do you have a favorite version/retelling of your favorite monster (novels, film, or television)? A least favorite? One that is so bad it is fun?

None of the remakes of King Kong have worked all that well because they keep making him sympathetic. In the original, there was no love between King and Anne Darrow. Kong was her stalker. He killed innocent people and destroyed lives. Yes, we’re sympathetic at the end; but he's a Monster! Worst ever version; Queen Kong from the 70s. Has to be seen to be disbelieved. But I can still hum the theme song; "Liberated Lady".

Do you have an idea or theory regarding why/how these classic monsters continue to be a source of inspiration to artists centuries after they were first written down?

The monsters are ourselves, written large. Frankenstein is about children and parents. Vampires are about appetite. Werewolves are about the changes our bodies go through as teenagers. Stephen King talked a lot of good sense about this, in his marvelous book Dance Macabre.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I’m reading Jack Cady’s McDowell’s Ghost. Cady was the best American writer of ghost stories ever. The best British writer was of course M. R. James .

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Stephen King, Avram Davidson, Howard Waldrop, Leslie Charteris; the Saint books, and Thorne Smith; a writer of humorous fantasies who seems largely forgotten these days. But there’s no-one funnier. But… My all time favorite book is John Bellairs; The Face In The Frost. Funny, scary, wildly imaginative.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Pretty much anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My dad had a whole bunch, and he got me started. I read them all; Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, the Venus, Pellucidar, Land That Time Forgot books… Marvelous.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Again, a writer who’s now forgotten; Adam Diment. In the Seventies he wrote three books about The Dolly Dolly Spy; and they were sex drugs and rock & roll, written large and written loud. I loved them. Still do.

Is there a book you've faked reading?

Okay; I love parts of this book; House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. It’s a book within a book within a book. The central story, about a modern-day house that turns out to be much bigger on the inside than the outside, is simply one of the scariest things I’ve ever read. But the surrounding material… I just can’t get into it. And I have an MA in Modern English and American Literature. (I wrote my dissertation on the Gormenghast books.)

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

I love Frazetta’s art. And there used to be two artists, Tim Kirk and George Barr, who produced amazing cover art. But the cover that grabbed me was for the original paperback of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Black, no art, no title or author’s name, just a bas relief of a woman’s face, with a single drop of blood at the mouth. How can you not buy that?

Is there a book that changed your life?

Salem’s Lot. I just read it and thought; this is how you do horror.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

San Diego Lightfoot Sue by Tom Reamy. The best-written fantasy and horror stories ever.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Got to be Face In The Frost; the sheer joy of reading it and thinking… where the hell is he going with this?

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

A film called Don’t Blink in the US and Last Stop in the UK. An absolutely stunning film, with amazing performances, a great script, tons of atmosphere, and what has to be the most unexpected ending ever.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

Got to be a convention, with all my friends and favorite authors, where the bar never closes.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

Question; All the weird stuff you cram into your books, is any of it real? Answer; More than you’d think. I’ve always been quite open about the fact that my Nightside books were inspired by the time I spent in London’s Soho in the Seventies. The legendary Soho of the Sixties was over, but there was still a lot of trouble to get into. And I did.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just handed in my latest Ishmael Jones mystery to Baen. These are Agatha Christie style murder mysteries, with SF&F elements. Which are sometimes true and sometimes not. I’m currently working on my latest Gideon Sable mystery for my UK publisher. These are stories about a thief who steals the kind of things no one else can; like a ghost’s clothes, or a photo of a city that never existed, or a radio that lets you listen in on what the dead are saying. He puts together a crew with their own special talents, to go after really impossible targets. A sort of supernatural Ocean’s 11.

Book cover for Jekyll & Hyde Inc.
Jekyll & Hyde Inc.
Green, Simon R.