Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior was published by Faber and Faber on July 5th, and I have a great guest post from author Andy Briggs as part of the blog tour. I think we can all agree that Andy has one of the coolest playlists ever. Hope you enjoy!
BEYOND THE DOOR...
This is the door to my office. My Fortress of Solitude, and that’s as far as you’re getting. Even my own family has to be biometrically scanned before they can deliver coffee. Behind there I write comics, books, TV shows and movies. That’s where my brain lives.
Creation is a messy process. It’s also very loud. In between writing this blog, I am writing my next Tarzan book just as TARZAN: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR hits the shelves and I am looking around my office trying to think what my writing process actually is - how does anybody go about creating a wondrous read?
I’m a plotter. Every aspect of the story has to be bolted down before I start writing. I create a plan that outlines the key points of every story beat and details the characters’ arcs. I think this comes from the screenwriting side of my life which demands very finely tuned story structures - every page of a script is a minute on-screen and since movies are generally 90-120 minutes long, you don’t have much room for waffle. Books, on the other hand, offer an endless canvass to tell the tale, and given half the chance I know I would just write-and-write-and-write, probably never finishing a manuscript.
With my story’s skeleton pinned to the wall I start to type away. Not an easy task considering my office is surrounded by toys and other paraphernalia designed to distract, although it is really there for inspiration. I usually buy an action figure or model, something fun, to represent the story I am writing. Only recently have a realized that this old habit allows me to project the characters onto the figure, it helps me visualize their movements and reactions - and many times have I been caught hanging my figures off the bookshelf, making gun noises and lion roars as I coordinate an action sequence. It’s not play, it’s work!
It’s all too easy to get distracted. To ping your emails, check Facebook just in case you are missing out on a new trend, or just idly surf the web. I try not to, instead I stare out of the window, at the trees beyond... then I may spot something. A bird I haven’t seen before... so I will Google it, and so the sorry mess of distraction begins all over again. Oh, and I drink coffee. Lots of coffee. By the end of the day there are often a dozen cups (washing the same cup out takes up too much creative time) and plates of crumbs everywhere. Books have been pulled off shelves for a quick burst of inspiration, research papers re-read and then cast to the floor - all creating a terrible mess... which needs to be tidied, which is a convenient excuse to stop writing...
However, I have found a tool to help focus my attention on the story (other than a haranguing email from my editor wondering where the manuscript is!), and that is music. I have a large collection of movie soundtracks that I play at full blast when I write. I find music helps me get to grips with character emotions and the pacing of a scene. If it’s a sad part of a story, sad music will wail from the speakers. An action-packed sequence will have energetic music flowing, and my fingers will be scrambling across the keyboard in an effort to keep up with pace. Before I begin a project I create a playlist so I know exactly what music will inspire me. For Tarzan, I have the following soundtracks lined up:
Congo - Jerry Goldsmith
Avatar - James Horner
Mighty Joe Young - James Horner
King Kong - James Newton Howard
Jurassic Park 2 - John Williams
Jurassic Park 3 - James Newton Howard
Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - John Williams
The 13th Warrior - Graeme Ravell’s rejected score
Casino Royal - David Arnold
Blood Diamond - James Newton Howard
Rise of Planet of the Apes - Patrick Doyle
I know which tracks to jump to depending on the scene I am writing and the mood I am trying to convey. So, from beyond the door, if you are listening, you will only get the most general idea of what it is I am writing - and that’s before the music stops and the action figures are broken out for another round of “rehearsals”...
TARZAN: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR is out now, published by Faber.