CBS series “Moonlight” won a People’s Choice award in 2008 so it was obviously popular. Hopefully all those voters will check out the book on which it was based, Angel of Vengeance. While the adventures of Mick St. John provided pretty decent television, it was quite a bit more enjoyable following Mick Angel around the dirty Hollywood streets.
After reading Angel of Vengeance (review here), I had a chance to ask author Trevor Munson some questions about Mick Angel/St. John, past, present and future…
Mr. Dark: Tell us a bit about how you went from the novel, Angel of Vengeance, to creating a TV show based on the story instead of publishing the novel?
Trevor Munson: After working in Hollywood for a while, I decided to take some time away to try my hand at writing novels. Having gone down a promising, but ultimately dead-end road with a previous unpublished crime novel, I decided the best route to publication for Angel of Vengeance was to return to my Hollywood roots by adapting the finished manuscript into a feature screenplay and work backwards to publishing the novel. The result was that I signed with a new agency in May, and by August I was paired with Ron Koslow (“Beauty and the Beast”) to create a CBS pilot based on my book for the 2006 development season.
The idea was always to get the novel published, but as anyone who’s done it will tell you, creating, writing, and producing a new network television show is a demanding job with long hours. Once the show began, there wasn’t a lot of time to devote to shopping the novel. It really wasn’t until it ended that I started to get serious again about finding a publisher, so the process turned out to be a much longer one than I expected.
MD: There’s a number of major differences between Mick’s world in the novel and the world of the TV series. You speak to many of them in the afterword of the novel, but the one that interests me most is the dramatic shift in tone. The book is very solidly a noir tale complete with the lingo, the femme fatale, the gumshoe, but the series had a completely different, modern detective show style. How was that change decided since it’s probably the most prominent unique element of the book?
TM: I knew going in that things would have to change in order to create something palatable enough to air on CBS. From the start, they loved the main character and the vampire world, but they wanted the show to feel more contemporary and elegant as well as have a strong romantic angle. What Ron and I came up with was, in many ways, a lighter, more romantic version of the dark, noir Los Angeles underbelly I had created in the book, but I was okay with that because I knew no matter what happened or what changed in the course of development and production, I would always be able to refer back to the original vision I created in my novel.
MD: Despite having a strong fan base and even winning a People’s Choice award, the series was canceled after one season. How hard was that for you, and has that changed your mind about submitting your creations to Hollywood instead of sticking to literature?
TM: Not gonna lie. It was hard. Hollywood is a tough business, and every triumph seems to come with its share of pain and hardship. However, I’d learned all about that during my first stint in Tinseltown. The first time around I made the mistake of tying my general daily happiness to whether or not I was having a good day in Hollywood. To date, I can count my good days in Hollywood on two hands, so that should indicate about how happy that worldview made me. In large part that’s why I left to take time away and try my hand at writing novels.
When the show came about and I made the decision to come back, I decided it was only worth doing if I had a thicker skin and better perspective on things time around. True to form, Hollywood didn’t disappoint. The year that followed brought some really great experiences and some really unpleasant ones, all culminating in the cancellation of the series.
It wasn’t easy. However, despite all of that, I find that I’m still very interested in keeping my feet firmly planted in both Hollywood and the literary world. I love writing writing scripts and watching my characters come to life on screen. As a result, I’m currently developing a new pilot for Sony television along with my co-creator and friend Scott Satenspiel. At present we don’t have a title, but the show is best described as a paranormal “Criminal Minds”. (Editor’s Note: WOOT!)
MD: Between the show and, now, the book, you’ve created a solid mythos and universe for further adventures. Do you have any thoughts of continuing the Angel of Darkness/”Moonlight” universe in print?
TM: Absolutely. From the start I wanted to write two or three novels in the series. Unfortunately, I only retained the rights to my initial novel so I’m currently in the process of seeking permission from the powers-that-be to continue the series. If all goes well, I’d like to get started on a follow-up to Angel of Vengeance sometime in the next year.
MD: If you were to write further adventures for Mick, how do you think you’d balance the world of the show with the world of the book? Would you keep the literary adventures as different as Angel of Vengeance, or could we see a sort of merging of the TV world and the novel world?
TM: Mostly, I want to keep to the world created in the novel. However, that said, the genesis for the Mick/Beth romance in the show originated from an idea I had for a second novel (Guardian Angel) in which Mick watches over the little girl he saved from Coraline and ultimately finds himself engaged in a romance with her as an adult. Since that was the plan all along, I’d potentially like to explore that relationship in the context of the novel’s darker, grittier, edgier world.
MD: You’ve written features, a TV show, and now a novel. Which direction do you prefer, and why?
TM: I like all three for different reasons. Writing a novel feels like the truest form of writing. It’s just you and the page, and what you do or don’t do there creates the entire experience for the reader. At times I very much enjoy the experience of being the sole creator and writing exactly what I want without the filter of anyone else between me and my audience.
Writing a movie is more like writing a blueprint for the final story that is only realized when it is filmed. It’s an incredibly collaborative medium, and the success or failure of a film depends on the choices made by everyone involved. It’s a lot of fun to be part of a creative team that gets to go off and tell a story in a given number of days and weeks. There’s really nothing like it, and when it works, the end result is magical.
Television is a much more structured world and generally just more of a daily grind. When you’re a writer on a staff, it’s kind of like being part of a creative factory, but if you can handle the long hours at the office, the television writer has greater involvement and control over his or her work. Further, writing can be a lonely business, and in television you get to work and interact with a staff of other smart, talented writers. I also very much like that in television a writer gets to see his or her work come to life in a matter of weeks versus the months or years it often takes with features.
All in all, I have to say I like working in all three forms and enjoy the creative flexibility that comes with moving back-and-forth between them as each new project dictates. The variety helps keep things interesting.
MD: What’s next for you? Do you hope to return to the horror genre other than Mick’s world, or have you had enough fangs?
TM: I’m not sure about that. I’d definitely like to write more novels, but whether that will happen by continuing Mick’s story or by creating a different type of supernatural horror story remains to be seen. Regardless, if I don’t write a sequel, I’ll probably steer clear of vampires for a while for fear of repeating myself.
MD: Traditional last question: What’s your favorite horror movie?
TM: That honor would have to go to Angel Heart. I saw it as a teenager for the first time, and it was the first movie that ever struck fear into me beyond the duration of its running time. I remember being really scared as the final credits rolled and the main character takes the elevator downward. The feeling stayed with me for weeks afterward when I thought back on the movie. I loved the final twist and the protagonist’s horrific realization. In fact, anyone who’s seen the movie will probably not have to look far to notice some distinct similarities to certain aspects of the story that unfolds in my novel. (P.S. It’s no accident that my character’s first name is Mick, or his last name Angel…)
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