Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Simon Wood Completely Bonkers?

HANK: Okay, so listen to this.

Let's say you wanted to write a crime fiction novel. What would you do? Short version: You'd get a computer, or a pad of paper, think of a story, write it down somehow, and hope a publisher buys it.

But not our Simon.

He has an idea---and he: writes a book, called LOWLIFES. So far, so typical. But then with a collaborator, he also does a short film. And a blog. And a whole bunch of other stuff. And then readers/viewers are supopsed to read/view all of it in whatever order, getting different secrets and insights and viewpoints from different parts. Put it all together, and...

Okay, my head is hurting. But it's brilliant. And trust me, Reds, this is the future. And it's called Transmedia. Simon Wood is here to explain it all!

HANK: Whoa. Tell us about your new project. Most authors just..write a book…

SIMON WOOD: LOWLIFES is a collaboration between filmmaker, Robert Pratten, and me, where we tell a story from different character points of view using various media. The book tells the story from point of view of the protagonist, a San Francisco Police Inspector.

The short film gives the viewpoint of a PI investigating the cop.

The fictional blog catalogs the thoughts and feelings of the cop’s estranged wife.

In the print edition, there's a secret short story told from the point of a view of a street preacher which can be accessed QR codes and the story emailed to your cell phone. The trendy term for this new kind of storytelling is transmedia.

HANK: Like I said. Whoa. (What's a QR code? Anyone? Anyone? Am I incredibly OLD? Oh--quick response. Yay for research. ) Sounds like 3-d chess. How did you guys work all this out? Were you and Robert Pratten pals? How did it evolve?

SIMON: I met Robert in Phoenix in 2003 at a conference when he was screening his first film and we stayed in touch ever since. Robert approached me about a year ago with the idea for multimedia story set in San Francisco’s tenderloin district. He gave me brief character profiles for the principal characters and the initial scenario of a cop investigating himself and his possible involvement in the death of a homeless man.

HANK: . Which came first? Or did you build each part as it went along and finish all at the same time?

SIMON: I am one of those people who tries to do everything at once, but I wrote the book first, the movie script second and the blog third. However, I did outline all three storylines before I wrote anything so that I knew how all three stories would intersect. As I completed each part, I handed them off to Robert for comment and edit. So there were a few changes made and gave Robert free reign to interpret my movie script any way he wanted when it came to imagery and filming locations.

HANK: . Yikes. I mean, yikes. Does each part make sense without the other part? Do you read and see them serially, or all at the same time?

SIMON: Robert’s main instruction was that each individual piece could be read as a standalone piece, but when read/watched in conjunction, the combined pieces would give a much fuller telling of the story. Our primary aim was to avoid filming scenes directly lifted from the book or blog and vice versa.

HANK: Transmedia. I'm thinking about this. Did working this way change the way your brain works? (It's making my head hurt...)

SIMON: Yes, it changed how my brain worked. I’m used to writing multiple points of view in my novels, so having differing perspectives to tell a story wasn’t a problem. The brain stretching came when to telling the story for different media. This was the first time I’d written a script and I hadn’t appreciated telling a story visually. Even the dialog had to be written in a way that would inspire or assist Robert with the filming. The blog was different again because it’s written in a very conversation style and at the same time, there's a confessional quality to it. At times, it did make my head hurt. To make all the individual pieces work took a lot of planning.

HANK: Forgive me, do people buy this? Talk a little about marketing and promotion.

SIMON: is a dedicated website where people can experience the various facets of the story. Right now, we’re releasing it as a serial for free. Each day, a chapter from the book, a movie episode and/or entry from the blog will come available. People can sign up to receive the excerpts. If people don’t want to wait, they can buy the book, the DVD or download the book from Amazon, etc. There are links on the website.

HANK: What's been the reaction?

SIMON: It’s early days, but good so far. A couple of publishers interested to see how the concept develops. Someone else expressed interest in putting Lowlifes out as a complete interactive book. Readers are just getting to grips with it. Robert and I hope people respond well to "the Lowlifes" because we have a bunch of storylines we’d like to explore featuring these characters.

HANK:'s a question with an answer I know I'll understand. Whats the basic story?

SIMON: Lowlifes centers on Larry Hayes, a San Francisco Police Detective. He's lost his family to divorce and he's clinging to his career by a thread. All this stems from a painkiller addiction he can’t kick that he picked up from an on-the-job injury. He thinks his life has already hit rock bottom, but there's another level for Hayes to fall as he finds out when he wakes up in an alley after a bad trip with no memory of the last four hours.

He thinks this is the wakeup call he needs to turn his life around, his problems intensify when he receives a call from a homicide inspector. Hayes' informant, a homeless man named Noble Jon, lies dead two blocks away, beaten and stabbed. The eerie pang of guilt seeps into Hayes. During his lost four hours, he's been in a fight. His knuckles are bruised and there's blood under his fingernails.

Is he Jon's killer? The mounting evidence says so. To add insult to injury, his wife has employed a PI to dig up dirt on him to ensure she gets sole custody of their daughter. Hayes mounts an off-the-books investigation and disappears amongst the city’s homeless community to stay one step ahead of a murder charge.

HANK: SO. A blog, a book and a movie. Amazing. And there's also an interactive Game! Click HERE to play....and remember. You heard it here first.


  1. That sounds AMAZING Simon, but you are always on the cutting edge! The last time I had a contract memo written, there was a line about multi-media--I didn't even know what it meant!

    The story by itself sounds fascinating too, even without the film, the blog, and all. Keep us posted on what happens okay!

  2. Here's the link to Episode 1

    But you can watch more here:

    Or on YouTube here:

  3. I've thought about this so much since Simon and I talked--yes, Roberta, he is amazing and his brain goes about a million miles an hour.

    It does make you think again about contracts. But I must say, as I sit at my computer trying desperately to come up with the next line of the book, I can't imagine trying to come up with the video and the puzzle and the game and the blog at the same time.

    Yup. Amazing.

  4. Wow.

    Simon, this is brilliant. I'm copying the interview and sending it to my friend, the film-maker.

    We did a short film for my last book, which was really just a trailer and from the same point of view. How much more fun to do it your way!

  5. I feel like my brain is exploding.

    Simon, did you really KNOW all the stories when you started, or did you have to keep going back into the different threads and tweaking to get it all to line up. Please, tell me you did.

  6. Simon, I have to agree with Hank. Your brain is amazing and what an intriguing way to approach the story. To say you are thinking outside the box is an understatement! Much success with this endeavor. (And yes, I'll be checking out all the venues!)

  7. Ow, ow, I'm doing revisions and my head was already hurting! What a fun concept, though. And the story sounds fascinating. I already hope the protagonist figures it out.

  8. Well, thanks. I hope people like the experience. Yes, I always knows what all the characters are going to do before it happens. I can hold a lot of junk in my head from different POVs before I write it. I'm usually mulling stories way before I write them. It's a talent and the short road to mental breakdown but it works for me.

  9. To answer the title of the post ... yes, of course, he's completely bonkers! But we enjoy him and his work so much that way....

  10. Hank: my wife does think of me as an idiot savant, with strong tendencies towards the idiot.

  11. Very interesting. I'm in the process of putting together an enhanced eBook version of my latest manuscript. Besides the standard manuscript, my agent wants to see my concept for enhancing the first 50 pages. Since it's a Civil War historical fiction I have links to a lot of photographs, maps of battles and even a song here and there where appropriate. I'm going to be interested to see what the reaction of editors to this will be. I believe the future of publishing belongs to the innovative.

  12. This is truly awesome!

    I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone and have slipped into the future. Its mindboggling.

  13. Oh, Hank, what a great interview. It was very informative and the first I've heard of transmedia. Sounds interesting and something we all as writers need to know more of. Cudos to Simon for taking marketing to a new level.

  14. Hey, Bob! Wonderful to see you! Yes, I think we're at such a time of transition--and authors like Simon are leading the way. Maybe we'll have to think of a new word to describe him--"author" doesn't seem like enough.

  15. Hank: Some people think calling me author is more than enough. :-/

    I don't know if I'm leading the charge. It would be nice. But this could be the Betamax of developments, but you have to give everything a go to find what works and what doesn't.

  16. SImon, so funny! But I don't think you're Betamax. (I'm the one, however, who told the CNN guy in 1980 that the 24-hour news thing would never work.)

    So keep us posted, okay? Love to hear what wonderful tihgs happen...

  17. Will do. A TV company talked to us yesterday about our methods and something we'd done could be tied into a documentry film making projects.