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Exclusive Q&A with Marc Guggenheim and Ben Sokolowski on "Arrow, Vol. 1"

"Arrow" was one of the breakout hits on television last year. Writers Marc Guggenheim and Ben Sokolowski talk about expanding on the Green Arrow world created in the TV show. Arrowv1

Q. The Arrow digital comic builds on the enormous success of the TV show, which the two of you also have a big hand in.  What was it about the comic book form that appealed to you to expand on the world of Arrow

Marc & Ben: Other than already loving the world of comics, the only restriction for doing Arrow on the page would be our imagination.  Unlike the television series,  there are no budget or production limitations to worry about, so we can tell stories that may be a little more difficult to film. As well, "expanding the world of Arrow " is really the key. These chapters allow us to explore backstories that we only hint at on screen, not to mention the moments in between episodes that help fill in the blanks for our viewers. In addition to money and production limitations, we're also limited as to time. These stories allow us to cover some of the story material and character dynamics that we can't fit into a 42-minute episode. For example, if you wondered how Diggle reacted to being put in the sleeper hold by Oliver in the Pilot, that's covered in one of the stories.

Q. With a general outline of Season 1 in hand, did you already have a plan of which stories you wanted to tell in the Arrow digital comic?

M&B: We guess the honest answer is... somewhat. We had some vague ideas, but they really crystalized over the course of the season as we realized what material was getting dropped from the series proper.

Q: What about the graphic novel do you think would appeal to those are not yet fans of the show?

M&B: Hopefully the graphic novel will serve as a gateway to the series for non-viewers. You never know, someone may be browsing their local comic shop and come across a certain green hooded vigilante on the shelf. The graphic novel has so many different entry points for a non-viewer to jump on board because while half of our chapters further develop the world of Arrow, the other half are stand alone stories where you don't need too much backstory to enjoy. 

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Exclusive Q&A with Kelly Sue DeConnick on the "Castle" graphic novels

Kelly Sue Deconnick is best known for her comic book work on titles just as "Captain Marvel" and "Avengers Assemble" for Marvel. Just in time for the season six premiere of "Castle", Kelly Sue talks about working on the Castle original graphic novel, "Castle: Richard Castle's Storm Season."Castle

So, you’re writing a comic series based off fictional novels, which are featured on a live-action T.V. show. Is that right? How is it seeing your comics featured on Castle? How has it been working on a project with as many “loops” as this one?

Kelly Sue Deconnick: I wrote a couple of graphic novels that were featured on a live-action TV show, yes. The conceit was that these were the comic book adaptations of the series of novels the titular author wrote before his current series. Follow that? It's complicated. I think we've got a visual aid on foam core sitting around here somewhere.

The entire experience was awesome.  From seeing the book on screen to being welcomed to the fold by the incredible community of Castle fans.

How is it different to write for the Marvel Universe, versus Castle’s fictional universe? Any preferences as a writer?

KSD: How it is different… Hm.  I'm not sure it is, really?  I mean, I suppose it's a different set of muscles -- writing science fiction versus detective fiction. But the process is the same.  For me, anyway.

What would you say defines Richard Castle as a writer? And, would you read his books?

KSD: He just radiates charm, doesn't he?  Everything about him.  Dead charming.  That includes his prose.  And yes, the year the first Heat novel came out I got it for Christmas.  I was a fan before I got the gig!

How familiar were you with the Castle series before you started writing Castle: Deadly Storm? And, based on fan reception, what would you say is the appeal of the show?

KSD: My co-writer, Brian M. Bendis, actually got the job before I did.  I was already a fan of the TV series.  I beat Brian about the head and shoulders with a shillelagh until he agreed to bring me on.

You work very closely with Andrew Marlowe, creator of Castle, and you collaborated with Brian Michael Bendis on both series. How do you guys influence each other as writers?

KSD: Marlowe is incredible to work with -- if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend it.  He's generous as well as inspirational. It's his voice Brian and I were trying to match in the writing.  And working with Brian?  Again, I was a fan before I got the job -- before I worked in comics at all, I was a Bendis fan.  I reviewed his stuff for Artbomb.net ages ago!  The POWERS script book was the second gift my husband ever gave me. So to have the opportunity to work with him directly was tremendous.  

Even if he did make me hang up my shillelagh. 

 

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Love, Hollywood-Style with Christopher Herz

HerzGuest blogger Christopher Herz is a graduate of the creative writing program at San Francisco State University and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, where he writes about art and culture. His third novel, Hollywood Forever, came out this week.

If the entire country is constantly connected through social media, what happens when we are face-to-face with the one we love and forced to be real? In my new book, Hollywood Forever, two lovers must find time to be alone away from the self-imposed spotlight that social media shines on everything.

When Harold Hall, a native of Hollywood who was born with the fame-seeking gene, meets Eliah Harper, perhaps the only person left without a Facebook page, they quickly find that they are soul mates. But when fame, success, and the allure of being "liked" by everyone come into play, love may not be enough.

In the middle of their love story, Harold is approached by a new production company that's looking for someone to play a role in a new web-based show that taps into the country's desire to break away from old traditions. To land the role, Harold must undergo reconstructive facial surgery to fit with an image that viewers will buy into. Eliah has already fallen in love with the person Harold is—but Harold wants to take the leap and become the person he believes he is destined to be.

I have been working on Hollywood Forever, my third published book, since the early 2000s, and the story has evolved along with our obsession with social media and the images we create of ourselves to show the rest of the world.

This book is also a love letter to Hollywood itself—not the city you see from tour buses or on postcards, but the one that exists through slow strolls and hidden gems that provide shelter away from the glow of neon and spotlights.

Christopher Herz

"Elimination Night" by Anonymous

AnonymousWe have answers to five questions readers are dying to ask Anonymous, the author of Elimination Night—a deliciously outrageous novel inspired by American Idol and other top TV talent competitions.

Q: In Elimination Night, the world's most-watched TV competition suffers a disastrous season premiere and begins to implode, starting with the judges—exactly what seems to be happening to American Idol. Are you some kind of clairvoyant?

Anonymous: It doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that this has been coming for a long time. Idol has been our generation's Ed Sullivan Show—pretty much owning prime-time ratings and making billions of dollars. But nothing lasts forever. And when an empire of that size starts to crumble, things are going to get ugly. At the same time, this is still a singing competition we're talking about, so the whole American Idol saga is kind of comical and absurd. That's what inspired Elimination Night. The title actually refers to the fate of the show itself, rather than that of the contestants.

Q: You worked for the show, right? And you're remaining anonymous to protect your career?

A: Let's just say I have very deep access to that world, including behind-the-scenes knowledge of a popular TV singing competition. I'm not Ryan Seacrest, though, as some journalists seem to think.

Q: The tabloids have speculated that the host in Elimination Night is such an over-the-top villain that it could be a double bluff, indicating who the real author might be. The judges are equally crazy, though. Is everyone in reality TV an unstable egomaniac?

A: Well, reality-show judges have their flaws. But the book is about understanding what makes them act the way they do. It might look easy to say "You're going to Hollywood," but the judges are under a thousand times more scrutiny and pressure than most of us. Also, I'd say 99% of the characters in the book have redeeming features. The rock-star judge, Joey Lovecraft, is a very lovable, funny guy. We're rooting for him in the end.

Q: The diva on the panel is Bibi Vasquez. Even when she has an on-air meltdown, it's premeditated. Is that usually the case, like when Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj feud?

A: I think it's often a mixture of things that viewers at home don't fully understand. With Bibi, she's genuinely upset about voting off one very tragic contestant, but she's also furious that she wasn't able to overrule the decision. So it's as much a tantrum as it is genuine sadness. That said, I don't think it's any big secret that some of these judges really do despise each other, or at least feel very threatened and jealous. When people say the meltdowns are all fake—honestly, they don't know what they're talking about. I wish they could spend just 10 seconds backstage.

Q: Are the judges really so petty that they fight over who gets more candy in the dressing rooms?

A: Trust me: They're obsessed with the tiniest details. For example, when the judges walk onstage at the beginning of the show, how is that presented? These things are hugely important from a branding point of view. Does the least important judge just walk on, while the most important one arrives on a giant mechanical arm? Does one get to endorse her product line? Does the other get to play his music video? Millions of dollars are at stake for the celebrities—they're not just doing this for fun. And when something goes wrong, usually the lowest-level producer ends up getting the blame. In Elimination Night, of course, that's me.

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Kirk Douglas's Memoir Recalls "Spartacus" and Breaking Hollywood's Blacklist

“Kirk Douglas is many things. A movie star. An actor. A producer. But he is, first and foremost, a man of extraordinary character... the kind we always look for at our darkest hour.”

    — George Clooney in the foreword to I Am Spartacus!

I Am Spartacus by Kirk DouglasCelebrated actor, director, and producer Kirk Douglas has one noble accomplishment that may be unknown to many: he broke the Hollywood blacklist.

In his new memoir, I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist, Douglas reveals the true story behind the making of the Academy Award–winning classic film, Spartacus, and the political implications of his decision to defy the Hollywood blacklist by publicly giving writing credit for the film to Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted screenwriter.

This gripping, candid book describes the drama, struggles, and triumphs of bringing Spartacus to the big screen. In his own words and from his own heart, Douglas tells a story that needs to be told, as only he could tell it.

I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist is available now for Kindle readers and features a foreword from George Clooney along with a collection of never-before-seen photos from on, and off, the set.

Watch Kirk Douglas, his wife Anne, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, and Jeff Pirtle, archive director for NBC Universal, talk about the movie that changed it all.

 

 

Q&A with Juan Williams, Author of "Muzzled"

Muzzled NPR fired you last fall because you said you get nervous when boarding a plane with passengers dressed in Muslim garb. Do you regret saying what you did?

Absolutely not! I honestly expressed my feelings. 

In the course of a real debate with Bill O’Reilly about the lingering antagonism toward Muslims after the 9/11 attacks, I told him about my misgivings. Millions of people who heard the conversation can tell you that I admitted to my feelings while making the argument that such feelings cannot be the basis for public policy. America celebrates individual rights and responsibility. We embrace religious diversity. We did not blame all of my fellow Christians for the actions of Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, we should not paint all Muslims with one damning color. This was all said at the time, so I have no regrets over what I said.

Is Muzzled just sour grapes? It seems like people are debating the issues all the time, and anything goes on the airwaves these days. Why then are you claiming that we’re muzzled?

No sour grapes; it is more like making lemonade out of lemons. As a result of the intense national attention to my firing, I heard from people all over who said they, too, feel muzzled. The real issue is that sincere, thoughtful people feel they will get in trouble for saying how they feel, expressing ideas that are not politically correct, and sometimes stating the obvious. This book is the start of a necessary discussion about the degraded state of debate in this country. We are all caught in an arbitrary web of political correctness, speech codes, and fear about what we can and cannot say. It is stifling our ability as a nation to deal with big issues--finding solutions to our problems. This is much bigger and separate from the issue of people making outrageous, stupid statements to bring attention to themselves on a radio or TV show.

Can you give examples of some public figures who deliberately try to shut down debate?

The billionaire George Soros putting big money into Media Matters is a good example. Media Matters, by its own admission, is engaged in a war on conservative news outlets. They take statements out of context in an effort to demonize strong conservative voices and shut down debate.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the group that took my comments out of context and launched an Internet campaign against me, including suggestions of bigotry. They don’t want anyone to talk about the obvious connections between Islam and the terrorist threat facing the world.

On the right, the National Rifle Association has shut down reasoned debate of gun policy in this country. Similarly, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, has a “no new taxes” pledge he forces Republican candidates to sign. That kind of litmus test for being a good Republican inhibits reasoned discussion of tax policy and again undercuts the power of debate--an open marketplace for all ideas and points of view that allows the best ideas to win. And, by the way, good ideas often include synthesis or compromise. That is the opposite of refusing to hear the other side because you are operating under a pledge that stops you from joining the debate and using your brain.

Isn’t the right more guilty of this than the left?

Both sides are guilty--it is just a matter of different strains of the same disease. The left gave us Political Correctness. The right gave us what Bill Maher calls “Patriotic Correctness,” where anyone who questions the war in Iraq is questioned about his or her patriotism. I’ve also seen the right use morality and religion to shut down debate on abortion and same-sex marriage. But this is all poison. It kills the vigorous debate that is essential to a healthy body politic.

You were known as a liberal, but you are now a regular on the Fox News Channel. What side of the political divide do you see yourself as being on?

I have worked for the Washington Post, CNN, Fox, and NPR. They all appreciated my ability to report and analyze the news from all points of view. On a personal level, I grew up as a Democrat and I am registered as a Democrat. But if you ask dyed-in-the-wool liberals about me, they will tell you I am a conservative. And if you ask doctrinaire conservatives about me, they will tell you I am a liberal.

From the liberal perspective, I can point out that I have written bestselling books on the Civil Rights movement and a biography of the first black man on the Supreme Court. From a conservative perspective, I’ve also written a bestselling critique of black leadership in the country. My goal is not to fit into any preordained box on the left or right but to report and analyze the news honestly and tell people what is going on.

What can we do to begin to fix this problem?

We can call out the special-interest groups, the politicians, and the provocateurs and hold them accountable for making it difficult to have a real conversation on the hot topics. There are too many people who benefit from the paralysis that comes from the lack of debate. They use the status quo of political polarization and demonization of opposing views to profit from the anger it generates among people. On the most basic level, we have to get back to talking with and listening to people who don’t simply affirm our preexisting bias. It is fun to think for yourself, to admit other people have good ideas, and to take pleasure in solving a problem with the best idea.

From Book to Screen: George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones"

A Song of Ice and Fire Season one of the HBO series, Game of Thrones, came to a dramatic close on June 19 and we're already anxiously waiting for more.  In the months leading up to the premier of season two in April of next year, we're going back and reading the books that began it all: George R.R. Martin's internationally-bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series--A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows--now available in a four-book bundle.  We recommend starting at the beginning.  Even if you've already watched the first season of Game of Thrones, the underlying plotlines and complex, multidimensional characters can only be fully absorbed by reading George R.R. Martin's epic prose hailed for transporting readers into a an otherworldly place of magic, mystery, and intrigue.

Coming Soon to Theaters: "Breaking Dawn"

Breaking Dawn Attention Twilight fans!  The exclusive online debut for the Breaking Dawn official trailer can be found exclusively on IMDB through midnight PDT on June 6th. Complete with breathtaking footage from Bella and Edwards long-awaited wedding, it's one sneak preview you don't want to miss. Make sure to check out the special spotlight page with photos, video, and news for the entire saga.

Yep, the Book Was Better: 2011 Oscar® Nominees

Oscars_2011 Ah, the Oscars®... Our favorite time of year to insist, once again, that indeed "the book was better." In fact, off the top of my head, the only deviant I can recall is Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, at best a mediocre book that David Fincher turned into a spectacularly hilarious film.

So to celebrate Hollywood's pinnacle night of ritz, glitz, and self-congratulation, we've hand-picked a selection of cinematic books for devoted Oscar® followers, armchair film buffs, and casual fans alike:

    * 2011 Best Picture Nominees: Books That Inspired (or Followed) the Films

    * Past Best Picture Winners

    * Coming Soon to Theaters

    * Biographies of and Memoirs by Past Best Actor and Actress Winners

    * More Books Made into Movies

    * More Recommended Reading for Film Buffs

And one last related recommendation: Claudia Lonow's How To Not Succeed in Show Business by Really Trying. In this new Kindle Single, the former Knots Landing star turned television writer and producer outs with a handful of personal stories that the less brave among us would be hard-pressed to expose publicly. Lonow is no literatus, but she does happen to be hilarious, and How To Not Succeed yielded my favorite sentence from this week's reading (so far): "I grew up in Greenwich Village in the '70s, back when the Village was artsy-fartsy plus robby-stabby." Me likey-likey.

Anyway, back to the point: Happy 83rd birthday, Oscar®!

     --Jason Kirk