Today I’m happy to welcome another Iowa author, Adam J. Whitlatch, to In the Spotlight. Adam has two novels under his belt as well as one film novelization and just announced he has been tapped to do a novelization of Oceanus. Lots of excitement in Adam’s corner of Iowa right now.
In the Spotlight Adam J. Whitlatch
Welcome to Second Run Reviews, Adam! Thank you for being In the Spotlight. I appreciate you stopping by and answering a few questions. So let’s get things started
In a tweet (140 characters or less), tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an Iowa farm boy with a huge collection of books and 80s toys crammed into a basement room where I churn out the occasional novel.
Minnesota farm girl here. I wish my collection of books was larger, but I just don’t have the space! I’m a bit jealous of those that do.
You’ve had the unique opportunity to do a book adaptation of the movie War of the Worlds: Goliath and just signed to adapt Oceanus into a novel as well. What is the most challenging thing about writing for a world that has already visually been created? What is the easiest? What is the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing is that, when writing in someone else’s universe, you’re bound by their established rules. You have to reign yourself in a bit and keep a close eye on your boundaries. You also have to be careful not to contradict what appears onscreen or have the characters say and do things out of character. Eric Wells (Goliath) wasn’t born in my head like Alex Walker (Birthright), so I had to get acquainted with him as I worked. But that’s a fun process. One I look forward to with Sam Jordan and Erin Kendall in Oceanus.
Since the story has already been written, most (not all) of the hard work has already been done for me by the screenwriter. It’s my job to fill in the blanks and flesh out the characters in ways that either don’t translate well into film or there’s simply not enough time for. That’s the easy part.
For me, the most rewarding thing is expanding the director’s vision in ways technology or budget constraints won’t allow. When I wrote the Goliath novelization, I was able to restore the film’s original opening sequence. It just wasn’t in the budget to animate one thousand charging Cossacks on horseback, but I was able to crank that scene out in a weekend, and it really helped give some added depth to a central character. I know it meant a lot to Joe Pearson to have that scene included.
As a bookworm and movie fanatic, I never thought about how creating a novel after the movie is made could inject more into the story. You have me intrigued about reading novelizations now.
What was the most difficult thing about getting published? What was the easiest? If you had to go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your stories or getting published that you’d change?
Rejection can be absolutely soul crushing. I sent an earlier draft of Birthright to over 150 literary agents and publishers before I finally stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it for a little over a year. I think that manuscript went through nine major revisions before it became the story it is today.
You have to learn how to use rejection to your advantage. Instead of getting angry, analyze the rejections. Is your query letter getting rejected? Strengthen your pitch. Your sample chapters? Work on your opening so it hooks the reader. Even a form letter can be helpful if you’re patient enough to read between the lines.
The easiest part of getting published for me was the Weller deal. I never expected to write a novel about Matt Freeborn, but when I sold the original Weller short story “Land of Plenty” to KHP Publishers for their line of digital shorts, the editor insisted I stop wasting my time with short stories and give him a novel.
If I could do it again, I’d probably let The Weller sit in a drawer for a few more months and give it another revision. I probably could have spent more time on Sam’s time in Mongolia in Birthright also, but it’s not healthy to dwell on things like that. David Fincher said, “Movies aren’t finished. They’re abandoned.” I think the same applies to books.
Interesting take on rejection letters. I attended a reading where the author handed out her rejection letters for everyone to read. It seems frightening, but I agree that it is a chance to grown, learn and make the story better.
I know that you have attended ICON and attended CONvergence recently. What’s your favorite thing about attending author events and conventions? What advice do you have for authors and fans when they attend these types of events?
You know, I’ve always been a very shy and private person. So when I started attending ICON in 2008, I stayed to myself and didn’t really get a lot out of the con. But then a few years later when I started doing panels to promote my writing, it forced me to come out of my shell, and I found I enjoyed the con a lot more. Conventions have given me so many new friends, and I can’t imagine life without them now. So one of my favorite things about going to cons is meeting friends, both old and new. If you see me at a con, please come say hello. Don’t let my “resting grump face” scare you.
I’d urge all authors to reach out to their local conventions and get involved. Everybody is an expert on something, so get with the programming coordinators and share your knowledge with others. Most importantly, though, keep your ears open. Always listen; always learn. And network. Talk to editors, publishers, and other authors. Some of my strongest partners in publishing are folks I met at cons.
But my all-time favorite thing about cons? Cosplay. I love seeing the costumes, and this year I got to see the first Weller cosplay. Seeing a fan dressed as Matt, carrying an accurate Well Digger… that definitely makes my top ten list of coolest things ever.
I just started getting into a bit of cosplay. I’m trying to keep it simple, but my dream costume would be Yuna from Final Fantasy X. My husband just purchased the PS4 version for me so I could play the game again. And they say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. HA!
What type(s) of books to you enjoy reading most and what three books to you find yourself recommending to your fans over and over?
I find myself reading a lot of YA; I’m a Harry Potter junkie. But usually my tastes tend to lean toward classic science fiction, like the Robert A. Heinlein juveniles, and I have my dad to thank for that obsession. I keep a collection of Robert Sheckley short stories on my night stand. I also have more The Shadow pulp novels than I could possibly read in my lifetime.
Huge fan of Traveler here (Can’t wait for Prisoner)! And I haven’t read Old Man’s War, but I did read Redshirts by John Scalzi and loved it. When it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, I tend to stick with YA. I was a secondary education major and was student teaching at the height of Harry Potter so I have a soft spot for it.
What’s your current obsession? Any secret obsessions you want to share?
I recently fell in love with Meatball Fulton’s Ruby, Galactic Gumshoe radio serials. I just finished the fourth, and I’m itching to get into the fifth, but I’m trying to space them out. If you like detective stories or humorous sci-fi, I highly recommend them. I think I see a Professor T.J. Teru cosplay in my future.
Good luck holding off and binging on your latest obsession. When I discover Doctor I consumed the entire new series in about 2 months. My husband lost track of which Doctor was which because I watched them so quickly!
Any last thoughts or wise words you want to pass along?
Aspiring writers shouldn’t be afraid to take risks. I keep getting asked how I landed the Goliath and Oceanus jobs. Easy. I asked.
Opportunities rarely fall into your lap. Be bold, hold your head up high, and go after the opportunities you want. John Waters recently said, “Remember, a ‘no’ is free. Ask for the world, and pay no mind if you’re initially turned down.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Excellent advice. It gives me courage to continue to reach out to authors and ask them to be featured here In the Spotlight.
Thank you, Adam, for stopping by. I hope to see you at ICON later this fall. Good luck with Oceanus and any other exciting things you might be working on.
author interview adam whitlatch