I recently had the pleasure of interviewing our fabulous co-authors David S. Goyer (BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, BLADE, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) and Michael Cassutt (THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS) about their novels HEAVEN'S SHADOW (out now in paperback) and HEAVEN'S WAR (out now in hardback). Here is my five question interview . . .
1. First of all, how did you end up working together?
Goyer: Michael and I were introduced to one another over a decade ago by a science-fiction aficionado and mutual friend named Michael Engelberg (whom HEAVEN'S SHADOW is dedicated to). We stayed in touch over the years. I was noodling around with an idea that ultimately became HEAVEN'S SHADOW. I knew that I wanted it to be a near-future story and that it should be as grounded in real-world science as possible. I was particularly interested in painting a fairly accurate depiction of NASA and the astronaut culture. I knew that if I tackled the story on my own it would take me months - even years - to steep myself in that milieu. But I also knew that for Michael, that culture was second-hand nature. So I proposed a partnership. I would bring some of the big-screen "movie moments" to the story and he could help ground it and bang it into a more believable shape.
Cassutt: David and I met at one of ME’s SF salon type dinners held in Chinatown around 1994. (Other guests include PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, astronaut Deke Slayton, etc. You wanted to be there, too.) We had mutual friends and, as David says, stayed in touch. Around 2004, David read an SF script I wrote with Pierce Gardner (DAN IN REAL LIFE) based on the classic novel THE SURVIVORS by Tom Godwin.
THE SURVIVORS was in David’s head, I think, when he was noodling the concept that became HEAVEN’S SHADOW . . . that and my astronaut-themed non-fiction and thrillers. So he invited me to lunch at the Chateau Marmont and pitched the idea, and I said, when can we start.
(You’ll note that it’s Cassutt, the TV writer with one foot in the prose world, who does all the Hollywood name-dropping, not the acclaimed screenwriter of DARK CITY, BLADE, BATMAN BEGINS etc.)
2. HEAVEN'S WAR is your second novel together, following on from HEAVEN'S SHADOW. Is there anything you did differently, the second time round?
Goyer: Hmmm. Not really. The process remains more or less the same. Michael and I sit together for a series of brain-storming sessions. Not sure how many we did for Heaven's War. But at a certain point, once the ideas begin flowing, then we begin writing them down on index cards. We code different colored cards to different characters and we tack them to a series of cork boards. Then we rearrange them to in order to experiment with different structures. Once we find something we like, we start to flesh that out into a book treatment. Then the novel writing step comes in. We hand the manuscript back and forth from one another, over three or four drafts -- and eventually we cross the finish line. That's how the first two went and I imagine that's how HEAVEN'S FALL (the final book in the trilogy) will finally emerge. Usually, I'll suggest a bunch of really crazy plot twists - Michael will scold me for saying there's no way that would be scientifically feasible, I'll keep pushing - and then Michael will get a gleam in his eye and we will come up with something wild, but slightly plausible!
Cassutt: As David says, the process for HEAVEN’S WAR was the same we used for HEAVEN’S SHADOW and no different from our HEAVEN’S FALL process. We meet, we talk, we pitch ideas . . . fairly quickly ideas become note cards, note cards find their way to a board. The fifty or sixty cards on the board become a written outline . . . the written outline gets expanded to novel text, which we pass back and forth until we’re happy.
3. Who would you each cite as your SF influences? (Notice our very own Peter F. Hamilton in there . . .)
Goyer: The authors I adore the most are not authors that we have sought to emulate for the Heaven's Shadow series. For me, those would be Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe. Heaven's Shadow was influenced by Arthur C. Clarke, obviously. I think there are some Niven influences in Heaven's War. For more contemporary writers, probably McDevitt, Benford. I also like Adam Roberts.
Cassutt: Heinlein was the greatest influence on my SF sensibility – his voice and story-telling, obviously, but mostly his way of picturing an entire future . . . not just a technological change and how it might work, but the ways some new idea would affect mores, relationships, finances, advertising . . . . I read and enjoyed Asimov and Clarke; have been a huge fan of Clifford Simak and Jack McDevitt, Larry Niven and John Varley, Gregory Benford and Greg Bear, and also Connie Willis and Nancy Kress. More recently I’ve discovered Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds.
4. What other projects are you each working on at the moment?
Goyer: I'm still helping Zack Snyder here and there on the new Superman film, MAN OF STEEL, which I wrote and which comes out next year. I've also co-written the video game CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 2, which comes out in November. We're also still developing the HEAVEN'S SHADOW movie at Warner Brothers.
But the project which is consuming most of my time right now is Da Vinci's Demons, a new historical fantasy series I created, which will be premiering next Spring. I'm just finishing up directing the first two episodes of that and have co-written five of them. It's an alternate history, fantasy piece about Leonardo Da Vinci's life and "unwritten" adventures.
Cassutt: HEAVEN’S FALL, the third book in the series, is number one on my creative runway. I’ve also contributed a novella to LOWBALL, the latest book in George R. R. Martin’s WILD CARDS series. George and I are developing a TV project that you might be hearing about in a year or two. And I have a non-fiction book in the works titled MASTER OF SPACE.
5. And finally, if you travelled to the moon, what object, foodstuff and book would you each ensure you took with you?
Goyer: The book is an easy one. THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, by Gene Wolfe. My favorite book in any genre. I've read it three or four times now and am always rewarded by new discoveries. A true masterpiece.
In terms of foodstuff, probably chocolate Hobnobs. British, but even in America, I seek them out. I love the combo of oat biscuit and chocolate.
Object? Geez. That's a hard one. Probably a Swiss Army knife, for sheer survival possibilities.
Cassutt: OBJECT? An extra oxygen tank, because you never know.
FOODSTUFF? A six-pack of Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss beer, for the leisure hours.
BOOK? GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon, because I’ve been trying to finish it for thirty years and am only likely to do so when I have NOTHING ELSE TO READ. Or Heinlein’s MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, one of Heinlein’s best, still re-readable . . . and the best novel set on the Moon I know.
And if this interview has whetted your appetite, click here to read a free extract and synopsis for HEAVEN'S SHADOW and HEAVEN'S WAR.