MARK WHEATON: FIELDS OF WRATH STARTED LIFE AS A COMIC BOOK PITCH
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Mark Wheaton has big experience in writing. He was freelance reporter and later became screenwriter and producer. Under his belt are projects like Friday the 13th, The Messengers, and the forthcoming Voice from the Stone.
The talent of our next guest showed on the radar of Amazon’s Thomas& Mercer. The house showed support in publishing the first part of Father Luis Chavez’s series Fields of Wrath. The novel is part of Kindle first program and is set for official premiere on February 1. The story already gathered huge interest, received positive feedback and found a place at Kindle Amazon Top 3.
Land of Books got a chance to chat with Mark Wheaton about his books, past and current projects and working in movie industry.
– Mark, what is your book Fields of Wrath about?
– A number of years ago, I read that in the Los Angeles undocumented immigrant community, a number of people had begun to take their problems to the church rather than the police. Fields of Wrath is about a young priest named Luis Chavez, only six months past ordination, who has a crime involving a missing Oaxacan girl fall into his lap. Deciding that God put it in front of him as a test, he goes about trying to get to solve the case.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– An early version of it actually started life as a comic book pitch in 2008 under the title “Chavez Ravine,” but it got less than no traction. After the Amazon Kindle came out, I self-published a few horror stories on it for fun and enjoyed the process. From then on, I just started thinking more in terms of book ideas for serialized projects than comic ideas and that brought me back to the Luis Chavez story.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Definitely the later drafts. My initial drafts are always just fun – chasing every idea, extrapolating every action, building characters. Chopping that down into something readable is where the work comes in.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Father Luis Chavez and Michael Story? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Father Luis Chavez grew up heading down a path leading to the life of a criminal. A tragedy brought him to the church and he soon found himself drawn to the priest’s vocation. Deputy District Attorney Michael Story was once a true believer in justice, but his ambition to rise in the political realm has corrupted his early values and he’s become more and more compromised over time. Together, the two see each other as necessary evils – Story needs Chavez’s help to build and prosecute tough cases to make him look good while Chavez needs Story to make right that which he uncovers. And though they’re not directly related to someone from my real life, a number of their characteristics and actions are compiled from people I’ve known over the years.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– As I work as a screenwriter, the process on “Wrath” was start-stop over the course of about eight months. When it was finished, a friend recommended their agent to me whom I met with in New York on Dec. 29, 2014. On Dec. 30, 2015, we met again and she handed me the first copy of “Wrath” that I’d seen even as I wait to get the edits on its sequel, City of Strangers.
– What the readers would find in your book Flood Plains?
– Flood Plains was one of those early, “Hey, I can publish whatever I want!”-horror stories I self-published on the Amazon Kindle. Literally written in between notes and reading periods while screenwriting, it’s a mad monster story about a hurricane launching a gigantic ghost-controlled tentacle-creature on Houston and the folks who try to stop it. It was fun to right and I’m glad some people found things to enjoy about it. In hindsight, it feels like that “early practice stuff” you’re meant to show no one.
– Who are you?
– I’m a Texas transplant who lives in Los Angeles, works in film, has a real passion for theater and dance, and writes every day. Not very exciting, but hey.
– What are your writing habits?
– My only real writing habit is that I type every day. Probably the longest I’ve gone without typing in the past twenty years or so is three or four days. I don’t think that’s all that uncommon with writers, though. You either have to do it or you should find another line as there are easier ways to make a buck.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– I am thrilled – beyond thrilled – that people are reading Fields of Wrath and pre-ordering City of Strangers. The feedback’s been great thus far and I just hope people dig it and stick around as the characters’ journeys continue.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Getting out of Amazon’s way. They know what they’re doing, I don’t, so I’m just watching and learning.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– The next Luis Chavez novel – City of Strangers – hits September 20 from Thomas & Mercer. It’s about, well, a plague that hits Los Angeles, involves organized crime in the San Gabriel Valley, and furthers the various character plotlines begun in “Wrath.”
– You are working in movie business. Share your opinion on when a good book has the potential to become a successful film?
– I think it’s all about the people involved. We’ve all seen wonderful books reduced to garbage films and iffy books turned into classics (looking at you, “Jaws”). I think what makes a worthy adaptation is the same as any great film – a creative team that has that great entry point/POV to a story and the know-how to execute it on screen. Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball” is a great book if you’re a baseball fan with all kinds of interesting behind-the-scenes details and numbers. Screenwriters Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin, however, turned it into a compelling script that uses the book as a launching pad and finds the great cinematic story within. It’s not so dissimilar to what happened with Lewis’s “The Big Short” this year. The book is fascinating, but it’s not as obviously cinematic or ready made for a Friday night movie audience as a “Harry Potter” or “Mystic River.” But then screenwriters Charles Randolph and Adam McKay came along, found a brilliant way in, and adapted it into one of my favorite movies of the year.
– Which is easy for you – to write a screenplay or a novel?
– Both have their easy points – the early, pure story moments whether you’re banging out a treatment that glosses over the details for a movie or that first rough draft of a book where you’re just watching where everything leads. But to write a good screenplay or a good novel, well, A). it’s work and B). I’ll tell you when/if I get there.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be? (Don’t forget to answer)
– Q). Is this a religious book? A). One of the most rewarding parts of this process is learning that each reader has a different answer to that question.
To stay in touch with Mark Wheaton follow him on Twitter