It’s my pleasure to welcome Michael Lent to my blog!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up on the mean streets of Stow, Massachusetts, population 6,502. Stow is a stone’s throw from Concord and Lexington, arguably the birthplace of the American Revolution. Legend has it that the area was first settled by Matthew Boon in the mid-17th century and that he traded the local native Americans a pocket knife for several hundred acres of land. In fairness, it was a cool pocket knife and had a spoon built-in. Apparently, the native Americans were satisfied with the deal until Boon decided that the area they had called “Pompocitticut” should be henceforth known as “Stow,” whereupon Boon was killed. That’s why it’s bad luck to give someone a
pocketknife on Pompocitticut Day.I write and produce in a variety of mediums and genres, the technical term being transmedia.
I write and produce in a variety of mediums and genres, the technical term being transmedia. My writing credits include the Prey series (Marvel), co-writer of Brimstone (Zenescope), writer of The Machine Stops (Alterna) and most recently the i, Holmes graphic novel, also for Alterna. I co-wrote four graphic bios of Keith Richards, JRR Tolkien, Steven King, and Stephen. The Steven King project also led to me adapting one of his short stories, The Reaper’s Image.
We just wrapped i, Holmes, a graphic novel that’s a gritty urban detective drama set in 2009. The story is about a brilliant loner, a streetwise 17-year old girl fresh out of juvenile detention now living in a rough group home who knows very little about her past except that someone wants to kill her and is willing to take out most of New York to accomplish their goal. Who she is, in fact, is pretty special, as is the identity of her would-be killer. About 300 panels of art for the graphic novel was drawn and colored by Marc Rene, who I most recently worked with on The Machine Stops series. Publisher is Peter Simeti at Alterna, which also published The Machine Stops.Recently, veteran TV producer David Rambo picked up
Recently, veteran TV producer David Rambo picked up i, Holmes to develop as a television series and has been instrumental in helping to shape the story. David has worked on EMPIRE, REVOLUTION and CSI, as well as the upcoming series on TNT, WILL based on the life of William Shakespeare. David is one of the most creative people I know.Outside of comics and graphic novels, I write and produce independent movies in Los Angeles.
Outside of comics and graphic novels, I write and produce independent movies in Los Angeles. I was executive producer on IF YOU’RE SERIOUS, shot in China in 2012. The film won several awards and was nominated for a sound design award by the National Academy of Sound Editors in 2014 and I was able to meet presenter George Lucas.In 2009/2010, I followed the Arctic ice road truckers made famous on the History Channel in
In 2009/2010, I followed the Arctic ice road truckers made famous on the History Channel in order to write the non-fiction book On Thin Ice for Disney Hyperion. The main staging area was out of Yellowknife, Canada and I experienced temperatures as cold as 45 below zero (F).
How long have you been writing for?
That would be since grade school when I used to enter essay contests. In high school, I cofounded a literary journal but I’m pretty sure I was a lousy writer until after college. After graduate school, I became a professional writer. My first project was writing a movie script about Muhammad Ali’s boxing coach Ben Becker. Unfortunately, the producer died and the story was never produced. At the time of his passing, we were concluding a contract to write the book, but for a time I was working with original documents and correspondence from Muhammad Ali.
What is your writing process like?
First, I’ll have an idea that’s only a sentence or two long, basically a premise or a startling image in my mind. I’ll try to figure why I’m drawn to this idea or image, as in “What is this really about?” That will usually give me my predominant themes. Next, I think of a charismatic but flawed character who is diametrically opposed to the theme I’ve just created. This protagonist doesn’t buy the theme and doesn’t live their lives by those values. This juxtaposition gives me both conflict and dynamic tension, as well as an arc for my main character since the theme and the hero are essentially locked in a death grip for the soul of the story. Once I have this basic structure down, I can structure the actual story beats while compiling material like research and images that I might find useful or inspirational. Sometimes I’ll make visual reference files but I don’t start the actual writing until I have the structure worked out.
I’m not the best at getting out a “quick & dirty” draft, but that’s my goal because so much of the writing process is in the structuring and later, the rewriting phases.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?
I have two routines: deadline and non-deadline. Deadline writing is all-consuming and starts as early as 4:30 in the morning. I roll out of bed and immediately start working. I might have coffee but usually I’m well underway by the time I stop for breakfast. During those days, I live as meagerly as possible, eating the same bland food and basically minimizing my existence. Sometimes I will do the cabin in the woods thing where all I do is write and sleep and maybe go for a walk to clear my head. Like a hermit or a cave troll. Besides grinding out pages, my goal is a sort of “method writing” whereby the world I’m writing feels more vivid and real than my own Spartan life. That immersion into a fictional realm is hard to pull off if in my real life I can stop to enjoy a nice lunch, see friends, go to the beach or whatever.Non-deadline writing is still every day but far less intense. I might start at 8 or 8:30 and wrap by
Non-deadline writing is still every day but far less intense. I might start at 8 or 8:30 and wrap by 4:00. I sometimes to write at night but we have three kids, so I’m usually exhausted by 9 or 10 o’clock, so mostly I use that time to read or see films mostly on Netflix. What motivates you to write?
What motivates you to write?
In the past, fear of personal failure motivated me – the sense that if I have a great idea for a story that never leaves my head was terrifying. It felt like a graveyard for lost potential that existed right behind my eyes. Nowadays, I get motivated knowing that my family is counting on me to finish what I started. Kids are a powerful, powerful motivation. They have tremendous needs that are balanced by their belief in you. Kids have brought me in balance. A little more, anyway.
What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?
I’ve written many books so if we’re talking about the very first book, the first thing I did was take a deep breath, exhale, and call my wife, Sonia. We are college sweethearts and she has been there every step of the way, so this was her moment as much as mine. My first book, Breakfast with Sharks, was published in 2004. My new agent sold the premise to Random House based on my proposal that included two sample chapters. Proposal and samples took three weeks to write. Later, I was told by many people that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen, but from that day on, I never worried about conventional wisdom. I think you have to be aware of the rules just enough so that you can break them.
Are you currently working on anything new?
We just spent more than two years finishing i, Holmes, the graphic novel. As I mentioned, the art is by Marc Rene, who I most recently worked with on The Machine Stops series, an adaptation of the classic E.M. Forster science fiction story. Marc is very, very talented and his style is ideal for this story. Our publisher is Peter Simeti at Alterna. Alterna also published The Machine Stops. I also have a few other writing projects in the works. One is a pre-Christian, pre-Viking Norse story that needs an artist. Another is a neo-noir graphic novel about a woman who witnesses a murder and seeks sanctuary in a church with the killers hot on her heels. We’re just beginning to draw this book. I’m also finishing a horror movie script about a boy who loses his family and must go to live with distant relatives who aren’t all that they seem. I also produce movies. MALEVOLENT is a horror film starring William Shatner, Marena Baccarin, Bill Mosely and Ray Wise, and TWIN CITIES is an ambitious independent drama coming out in festival.If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?
If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?
Fantasy career would be professional athlete. A few years ago, kids were part of a pre-game gymnastics exhibition at Dodgers Stadium here in Los Angeles. I came along as a helper. Walking out onto that hallowed field where the players we rewarming up, seeing images of my kids on the Jumbotron and thousands of people cheering, it was heaven. Realistic alternate universe career would be lawyer or full-time college professor. I teach parttime so that one wouldn’t be a stretch and previously, I was a paralegal. Neither involved thousands of people cheering so maybe I should rethink this.
What is the easiest part of writing for you? What is the hardest part?
Coming up with ideas is the easy part but grabbing enough hours in the day to execute and dothem justice is the challenging part. Time is always the hard for me.
What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?
Take chances because mediocre ideas are common and great ideas are as rare as diamonds in a stream. A legendary television writer once told me that good writers have a tough life in Hollywood because if you lose one on a show, either the others can pick up the slack, or there a dozen more good writers that can fill the space. Great writers, on the other hand, are indispensable because they are visionary and you can’t imagine the show without them. You only get to be a great writer by taking chances. It’s the difference between proficiency and vision.
What is your favorite book or genre? Is there a special book that made you realize you
wanted to write?
I love good fantasy and thought-provoking science fiction. Formative books for me would be the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and the The Road. Also Hamlet and A Tale of Two Cities. As a kid I tried my hand at Hobbit fan fiction because I wanted that world to continue on, so I guess that experience made me want to write.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read. A lot. Write. Every day. There’s a saying that good writing days can follow either good or bad days but they rarely come after days of not writing. Even the worst session can be cathartic and plant the seeds for a productive next day. Also, get your work out there any way you can. Take chances and be honest in your writing – own the “messes” of your life your message because people can relate… don’t judge the result, but keep getting your work out to readers. In between books and movies, I write on Quora.com where I am closing in on half a million reads. A friend of mine has 1.6 million and he isn’t even a professional writer. So the readers and the opportunities are out there waiting for you.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Honored as a ‘Google Author’ in 2007, Michael Lent’s transmedia writing/experience spans films, fiction and nonfiction books, biographies, graphic novels, animation, video games, and reality television. He got his start in On-Air Promotions at MTV. More recently, Lent wrote the graphic novel i, Holmes (Alterna) adapted into a graphic novel E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (Alterna) and Stephen King’s “The Reaper’s Image” for the Audio Theater for Our Troops radio. His credits include more than a dozen graphic novels and comics including Prey (Marvel), Brimstone (Zenescope), graphic novel bios for Orbit including Keith Richards, Stephen Hawking, Stephen King and JRR Tolkien. He has written eight books including On Thin Ice, published by Disney/Hyperion, based on the top-rated reality television series Ice Road Truckers. Research for this project entailed spending winter in the Arctic.
He was a writer on three video games including Vigilante 8: Arcade for Xbox 360 Live. Lent was a producer on five films including executive producer of IF YOU’RE SERIOUS, shot in Fenghuang, China and nominated in 2014 by the Academy of Sound Editors for the Verna Fields Golden Reel Award for Sound Editing. Lent has taught screenwriting at UCLA, University of Miami, Santa Barbara City College, as well as lectured at Chapman University. For 2 ½ years, Lent also taught creative writing at the Chino Mens’ Prison in the UCLA Extension/Artsreach Program. He has experienced a prison lockdown, which often comes in handy in a writers’ room.
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