The Horror Tree Presents an Interview with Tim Lebbon
Ruschelle: The Horror Tree is thrilled to have you perched here on one of its twisted branches. This imagery is the perfect backdrop for your new novel Eden in which a new world is created from the old. Can we hear a little about to how Eden came to fruition?
Tim: It came about from something I love, and something that frightens me––I love endurance sports such as trail running and triathlons, and the looming climate crisis frightens me. I’m a big lover of nature, too, so combining these three aspects into an action adventure story was a little bit of ‘writing what I know’. The story always came first, but confronting my fears over the environment made it a tougher, more personal novel to write.
Ruschelle: Eden is described as a “horror eco-thriller.” With global warming, and the Novel Coronavirus how real does Eden feel?
Tim: I like that tag, my publisher came up with that. As I say above, the increasing concern over global warming was a big inspiration for writing this novel. As for Covid-19, a pandemic was bound to happen in our lifetimes, so many scientists have been sounding warnings.
Ruschelle: Knowing what you do now with the Coronavirus going global, how would you twist Eden if you were writing it NOW…or wouldn’t you?
Tim: I’m not sure I would, the story is pretty contained within Eden itself, which as readers will find is almost apart from our world, whatever its problems. Maybe I’d drop hints about a pandemic outside Eden, but it wouldn’t really affect the story I tell.
Ruschelle: You have had two of your stories produced into film, The Silence and Pay the Ghost. That’s an author’s dream. How did words you scrawled on paper become film?
Tim: Every single journey from page to screen is different. I’ve had a dozen options or more, and each of them has moved along different development paths before fading away. These two just happened to find their way through!
Pay The Ghost started with an independent producer from New York. He commissioned a script and tried to get it made, but it all went quiet. Then a couple of years later he teamed up with bigger producers, and through various routes I didn’t know much about, Nicolas Cage came on board and the film was made.
The Silence happened very differently, with producers, writers, and film company all coming together over a very short period. It was a dream process from start to finish, and one of the highlights of my career.
Ruschelle: When adapting your book to film, most authors would be a bit nervous of the movie not being true to their original vision, and worse- Hollywood not developing your work into a good, solid film. Did you have your own doubts when they gave your books the Hollywood treatment?
Tim: There are always doubts, but I’m also comfortable with the fact that it’s always going to be something different from my novel or story. And even if I’m not happy with the result, my story always remains in book form. Saying that, I’ve been pleased with both films, especially The Silence, which I thought was a terrific adaptation of my novel. And having it air on Netflix meant that a mind-boggling number of people actually got to watch it.
Ruschelle: Did you assist in any of the script development or was it purely their interpretation?
Tim: I had some involvement with The Silence. That adaptation was a pleasure from beginning to end, and I’m still friends with the director, producers, writers, and film company now. I wasn’t officially part of the creative team, but I did see script pages and offer input, and helped talk through a few problems as and when they arose.
Ruschelle: Is there a story you’ve written that begs to be made into a film but you don’t feel will transfer into celluloid?
Tim: I’d love to see Coldbrook made into a really big budget TV series, I think it would be fantastic.
Ruschelle: Okay, I promise not to tell anyone, but were you happy with the choice of actors who portrayed your characters? Were there any that you would have preferred to see in the role instead? Again…this is just between you and me….and a few hundred Horror Tree readers?
Tim: Yes, I was really happy. Nicolas Cage is sometimes divisive, but I think he did a great job in Pay The Ghost. And the cast of The Silence was just wonderful, and I honestly couldn’t have wished for better actors. I mean … Stanley Tucci! Kiernan Shipka! Incredible. Oh, and I was in it too, of course, although I didn’t get an award nominations (Best Bloodied Corpse)
Ruschelle: You were a corpse in the movie? You lucky bugger. Now I need to rewatch it.
From your Facebook page and website, you have a love of running? You imagine yourself being chased by some creature, don’t you? Lol. Do story plots pop into your head while running or are you simply in “the zone?”
Tim: Ninety percent of the time the exercise I undertake serves to blow away the cobwebs and clear my head ready for work. Sometimes — just occasionally — an idea occurs to me, and I have to duck into cover on top of a mountain and dictate some notes into my phone. A writer is always working really, but mostly my exercising is a form of therapy in that it allows me to focus, lets my mind wander at random, and sometimes that’s sorely needed. I’ve never been one of those writers who can sit still for eight hours crunching out words. Even if I’m not exercising, I’m rarely at my desk for more than half an hour before getting up to walk around, make coffee, eat cake.
Ruschelle: Question-Of all the monsters out there…which one or ones do you believe have what it takes to crush it in a triathlon?
Tim: Maybe my favourite monster of all time, the xenomorph (Alien). We’ve seen from Alien 3 that it’s able to swim, it runs quickly, and … well, I’ve never seen one on a bike (yet), but with those long, strong limbs I’d imagine its power output through the pedals would be significant! Also, if it got close to the finish and someone was ahead of it, it would just eat their face off.
Ruschelle: The Alien! The finish line never looked better- or bloodier. Lol. What do you think is tougher, writing a novel or running in a triathlon? My opinion is both-but I’m lazy…in writing and moving. I’m part sloth.
Tim: Very different things … although curiously, there are similarities. A novel takes me maybe 6 months from beginning to end. And for an Ironman I’ll train 6 months or more before the actual race. And to break it down even more … an Ironman swim (2.4 miles) is like the first act of a novel, you’re putting in the groundwork, settling in for a long haul, planning and plotting ahead. You’re glad to finish the swim (the first few chapters) because it gets you onto the 112 mile bike, which is the real meat of the race. You’ll have some doubts halfway through (the dreaded ‘middle of the book this is shit’ moment), but then you’re into the marathon, and the long road to the end of the book. I’d like to say I make a sprint finish in both, but truth is by the time I get to the end I’m a gibbering knackered mess, and all I want is a plate of chips and a beer. When I reach the end of an Ironman, too 🙂 So yes, that’s a long answer to come to the conclusion –– they’re both really really hard.
Ruschelle: You have written novelizations of many popular films, 30 Days of Night, Alien, Hellboy and the ultimate, Star Wars! Tell us about how you weave your tellings into the beloved worlds of such iconic franchizes.
Tim: Each of these projects is different, with various rules and restrictions about what I can and can’t do (“You can’t destroy that planet, we need it for a future comic”). I enjoy tie-in projects, and I try to make them mine as much as I can. So especially with the original projects as opposed to the novelisations, I treat them as much as one of my original novels as I can with planning, plotting etc. Sometimes the characters are already in place for me (such as with my forthcoming Firefly novel), sometimes I get to create them as well (my Star Wars novel). From a pure business perspective, I’m a working writer and these books are a different strand to my novel writing, and they get my name in front of people who’ve never heard of me before. But I also take on these jobs because they’re fun, and I’ve never written for a franchise that doesn’t excite me.
Ruschelle: What do you feel, is the best piece you’ve ever written?
Tim: That’s a really tough question! I could be glib and say, ‘The book I’m working on now’. (Actually I do think it’s turning out to be one of my best, but I can’t talk about it just yet). But I can throw a few out there. The Silence, Fallen, The Reach of Children, White, The Map of Moments (with Chris Golden), Echo City, Relics. And honestly, Eden is definitely one of my best novels. I can’t wait to see it on the shelves (or in current situation, on virtual shelves). Reaction has been fantastic so far, both from reviewers, and peers.
Ruschelle: There are many writers that can work on several books at once, and there are others that focus on one story from beginning to completion before they begin another. Which category do you fall into?
Tim: I’m always working on several projects at once. Different things excite me, and I love progressing several projects all at the same time (although some slow down or even fall by the wayside). My main projects at the moment are a new novel and a TV series pitch with a friend in the US, but other projects at various stages of completion include another spec TV pilot and proposal, notes on a feature script, a novella with a great artist friend, another collaborative novella that’s just been started, skirting about another TV project with another friend… I like to keep busy.
Ruschelle: Was there a specific book or story you read that made you think- yeah, I can do this?
Tim: Not that I remember. I was a prolific reader when I was a kid and teen, reading a book each day. So I guess I can influenced by loads of stuff. I did read The Rats by James Herbert when I was about 10 years old (my mother gave it to me to read), so that was definitely my bridge between children’s books and adult novels. But I was writing stories even before then.
Ruschelle: You are delving into the role of becoming a musician, kudos! No one is ever never too old to learn something new. What is your ‘guitar goal?’ To play out, for yourself? Rhythm or leads? I ask this question to all beginners.
Tim: No idea! I just fancied trying something new, and I’ve always wanted to learn guitar. Turning 50 made me keener than ever to start, and encouragement from family and guitar-playing friends helps. I’m really not very good yet, and I’m learning from the ground up. But with Covid-19 restrictions, I’ve got the time.
Ruschelle: Do you write to music? Does each scene you pen have its own soundtrack?
Tim: It depends on what I’m writing, and what mood I’m in. At the moment with my wife, son and daughter all home and working in different parts of our house, I do tend to have music on the try and isolate myself from external hustle and bustle. It’s usually music I know really well so that lyrics tend not to interrupt, or sometimes classical or movie soundtracks. There’s no hard and fast rule.
Ruschelle: Thank you so much for chatting with us here at the Horror Tree and making new fans! We’re excited for Eden to invade our brain space. So could you let your newfound fans learn how discover your projects and follow you on the www?
Tim: Thanks so much! It’s been fun, and I hope everyone enjoys Eden. I have a website at www.timlebbon.net, and I’m on Twitter (@timlebbon) and Facebook. I also run a newsletter, there’s a signup form on the front page of my website.