DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI is the author of several crime thrillers, including the Edgar-nominated and Anthony Award-winning EXPIRATION DATE, as well the Charlie Hardie series (FUN & GAMES, HELL & GONE, POINT & SHOOT), which has been nominated for Anthony, Shamus, Macavity and Barry awards and optioned for TV. He currently writes Birds of Prey for DC Comics, Godzilla and the forthcoming Judge Dredd for IDW Comics, Bloodshot for Valiant Comics, and has written about the Punisher, Cable, the Immortal Iron Fist, Werewolf By Night, Black Widow and Deadpool for Marvel Comics. His newest books BREAKNECK and BLOODSHOT DEFINITIVE EDITION have just been released by Valiant Entertainment. We spoke recently about the writers that inspired him growing up, how his creative process starts, and a cinematic moment from over thirty years ago that remains etched in our minds if you've seen it any time. You can say “yo” to him at www.secretdead.com or twitter.com/swierczy.
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Dave Watson: Congratulations on Breakneck ten years in the making according to your announcement. What led to it?
Duane Swierczynski: I just checked my notes file for Breakneck and as it turns out… Christ on a cracker, I first had this idea back in February 2004, which makes it more like fifteen years in the making. To be fair, though, the original notion started out as something quite different, more of a traditional race-the-clock thriller that was inspired by the movie Vanishing Point, the music of Primal Scream, and Trevanian’s two Jonathan Hemlock novels, The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction. But that’s how ideas work sometimes. There have been certain ideas knocking around my skull for twenty-five, thirty years now.
DW: You blend action with character development even-handedly. Is there one you think of first?
DS: Character always comes first for me. Once I know the character, I try to think up ways to seriously mess with him/her, and that’s where the action comes from.
DW: What’s your process? Do you write as you go? Use a beat sheet?
DS: I’ve done both. For some novels I’ve just winged it, while others are plotted out in great detail, with index cards and everything. For comics, I always write a beat sheet. Usually, it ends up being around a thousand words or, detailing what happens on every page, maybe with bits of dialogue here and there. That’s just for me to get the story straight. Then when it comes time to script, I’m able to focus on the visuals, and how to take this story and tell it in twenty-two pages, with anywhere from one to nine boxes per page.
DW: Who are some of the writers you admired growing up, or inspired you?
DS: Stephen King’s IT was my first “adult” novel, and his work was a gateway into other horror writers such as Clive Barker, David J. Schow, John Skipp and Craig Spector and Joe R. Lansdale. And then Lansdale’s work was sort of my gateway into crime fiction, which sent me back to the earlier masters like Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Patricia Highsmith and Fredric Brown.
DW: Who are writers today that you admire?
DS: This question is tough, because I’m lucky to count many writers as friends, and I don’t want to leave anybody out. But I tend to admire writers who take risks, and don’t settle into the familiar with every book or comic. I’d rather a glorious and weird failure than something that feels by-the-numbers.
DW: Which of your books would make a great series or feature film?
DS: Why, all of them, of course! Several are in development right now, with one in particular very close to happening. I wish I could share more, but mum’s the word for now.
DW: Some of your stories such as Fun & Games, Expiration Date, and Severance Package center predominantly around one place. Why?
DS: Well, Fun & Games is set in L.A., while the other two are in Philadelphia. I tend to write about places I know. They often inspire action sequences.
DW: What’s next?
DW: Yeah, there’s so much I can’t talk about at the moment. I’m currently writing an action movie and developing two different TV shows, one based on a novel of mine, the other an original idea. And working on a new novel. And a nonfiction project that I’ve been chipping away at for years. And a new comic mini-series that will launch in October…Sorry to be so vague. I wish I could spill about everything, because I’m super-excited about it all.
DW: No worries. Finally, what is your favorite cinematic moment?
DS: "Just a Glitch."
Dave Watson, founder and editor of Movies Matter, is a writer and educator in Madison, WI.