On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, author Julian Stone talks about his creative writing process and his new book about Junior Laemmle and Universal Studios in the 1930’s, It’s Alive!
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Julian Stone about his life and career, being inspired by the Monster Movies of the 1930’s, and the work that went into his new release about the forgotten life of Junior Laemmle, It’s Alive!
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I was born in New York City, but from the age of 4, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18 to go to film school and after graduation starting writing screenplays as a way into the film business.
I was fortunate that it worked and I spent the next 15 years making films and writing screenplays for various studios and independent producers. Then I transitioned to writing books with my latest one, It’s Alive!, coming out on May 17th.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
It was after about 10 years into my screenwriting career, and I was beginning to burn out on having my work rewritten by others – something that is a standard part of the way movies are written. Since have your work rewritten by others is not really a part of book writing, I started to give it serious thought. I am glad I did.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As I mentioned above, shortly after I began to be disenchanted with screenwriting, I started my first novel.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The first novel I wrote, I actually still haven’t released. I learned a lot about writing in the process of writing it, but it needs work before it can be released. I plan to go back to it at some point, the story is solid – and I’m a much better writer now. I moved on to another novel entitled, The Strange Birth, Short Life and Sudden Death of Justice Girl which took about 3 years from idea to release.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
My current novel, It’s Alive, was completed over an 8 year span. This is much longer than I usually spend on a book, but I spent a fair amount of time on research, plus other projects kept getting in the way, including other books.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write It’s Alive!?
I grew-up loving the horror films of the 1930s, but once in my teens, my interested waned. Then as an adult, I saw them again and discovered so much more in them. I became obsessed all over again and began to read about their production and what was going on in Hollywood at the time.
When I eventually uncovered the story of Junior Laemmle, and how he was just in his early 20’s when he was running Universal Studios and launched the incredible cycle of the Universal Monster films, I knew there was a great story there – especially when I was able to combine it with what was happening in the lives of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and how they were both considered for the role of Monster in the original 1931 Frankenstein.
What were your biggest challenges with writing It’s Alive!?
Deciding when to stop researching and getting to the actual writing! The subject was so fertile and period so fascinating, I had to force myself to stop researching!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Just reading the accounts of who Junior Laemmle was and reading interviews with him in the newspapers and magazines from the time. He was so fascinating, a real product of the Jazz age, running a major movie studio in his early twenties! As a writer, you can’t ask for much more than that!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
Antagonist is, in some ways, too strong of a word for who Junior’s main opposition to achieving his goal was, as it was his father – Carl Laemmle. They had a complicated relationship, as do most people with their parents.
What is the inciting incident of It’s Alive!?
Junior’s father, Carl Laemmle, is returning to the studio for the first time in quite a while and Junior is determined to prove to him that everything is running smoothly. This causes him to have to quickly tie off any loose ends, including one very large one that has to do with the casting of the original 1931 Frankenstein – and this, naturally, unleashes a cascade of unexpected complications.
What is the main conflict of It’s Alive!?
The relationship between Junior and his Father. They both want what is best for the studio and ultimately each other – they just have very different ideas of what that is.
Did you plot It’s Alive! in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I plot everything out. I think this comes from my screenwriter background, where everything is built with scene cards. I do the same when writing novels. Though, I do enjoy the flexibility – and often taken advantage of it – that novel writing allows versus screenwriting. You aren’t required to cram everything into a set number of pages, and I find this very freeing.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did It’s Alive! need?
Yes, I work with someone who hacks through my first draft – while they do give me some notes on story, most of the work is technical and involves punctuation, formatting, etc. as I tend to be quite sloppy when I am first trying to get through a first draft and get the story down on paper.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Go for it! One the greatest things about writing is, anyone can do it. It costs nothing! Very few other artistic endeavors can claim that – you don’t need a crew, or stage or even other actors. You can do it yourself, on your own schedule!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Besides my uncompleted first novel that I mentioned above, I have another novel about half written – about the Space Race in the 1960s – that I would like to be my next book.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes – and I am particularly happy with the response the book has gotten thus far. As every writer knows, you spend a lot of time working on your novel with no idea of how your work will be received when it’s done and I am very gratified that thus far, people are really enjoying the book.
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