Talking Transformers Movie Novels with Alan Dean Foster
Alan Dean Foster has written countless novels, short stories, essays, and reviews. Fans may know Mr. Foster best for his Star Wars books. Now Alan Dean Foster has written two novels for the Transformers Movie. He was kind enough to talk to Hotrod about his recent endeavor.
The Transformers Movie will be released this July. Along with the release of the movie are two novels related to the film. The first one is the novelized version of the Transformers Movie. The second is the Transformers Movie Prequel novel, Ghosts of Yesterday. The author of both novel is none other than Alan Dean Foster.
Hotrod: Mr. Foster, I would like to start off by first thanking you for taking the time to do this interview.
Alan Dean Foster: You're welcome.
Hotrod: My first question for you is when did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Alan Dean Foster: It was never a question of wanting to be a writer so much as realizing that I could be a writer. That occurred my senior year at UCLA (1968) when I took several film and TV writing courses and found that it was both easy for me, when others in the courses appeared to be struggling, and that...I enjoyed it.
Hotrod: How did you go about becoming an author?
Alan Dean Foster: While churning out assignments for the courses, I decided to try some straight prose. As a graduate student in the film department, I sold a couple of short stories. I then decided to try writing a novel, more than anything else just to see if I could write it to completion. When it sold, on third submission, was when it struck me that I just might possibly be able to write seriously, with an eye toward making it a career, or a partial career.
Hotrod: Some fans including myself are familiar with your work with the Star Wars brand, but not much else. What are some of the other projects you have worked on?
Alan Dean Foster: Well, let's see...there are about 75 original novels, seven short story collections, the novelizations of many other films (the first three Alien films, for example), the story for the first Star Trek movie, scripts for radio plays, film reviews, science and travel articles...have a look around.
Hotrod: Many have credited you with technically creating the Star Wars Expanded Universe, how do you feel about being chosen to start one for an entirely new franchise like the Transformers?
Alan Dean Foster: Such credit is misplaced. I believe it was always in George Lucas's mind to develop an expanded SW universe. I think if he could have cloned himself he would have been quite happy to write such stories himself. The fact that I was asked to write the first "expanded" story doesn't mean I actually created it. The impetus was always there with George. An architect can envision an entire building from the start, but doesn't have the physical means to bring it all to fruition.
Hotrod: How were you chosen to work on the novelized version of the Transformers Movie?
Alan Dean Foster: Del Rey asked if I would be interested in doing it. I have something a reputation for such work.
Hotrod: What was your first reaction?
Alan Dean Foster: Do I really want to write a novel based on a bunch of children's toys? The screenplay is probably crap. Then I took it as a personal challenge. You cannot imagine my relief when I finally was able to read the screenplay and discovered that it was a lot of fun.
Hotrod: How familiar were you with the Transformers prior to working on the novel?
Alan Dean Foster: I regret to say that I was only familiar with them as advertised children's toys. I never owned any, or played with any, as a kid. On the other hand, I brought no preconceived notions or baggage to the project. Sometimes ignorance is, if not exactly bliss, useful in that it offers up a clean slate on which to work.
Hotrod: The script writers of the movie said that they based movie characters on their cartoon counterparts. How did you approach the characters? Based on your perception of the old 80's cartoon, the characters as the will be in the movie, or something else entirely?
Alan Dean Foster: Since I have no perception of "the old 80's cartoon", never having watched it, I was able to deal with the characters in the script just as they were written. I tried to visualize both the robotic and human characters as just that...characters. Bearing in mind that the Transformers are intelligent machines, I felt it important never to lose sight of the fact that they are both aliens and individuals. I tried very hard to emphasize their characteristics as individuals, their personalities, just as I would with human characters. All of which is based, of course, on the screenwriters' conceptions of them.
Hotrod: How closely will the novel follow the film? Will there be any differences? If there are can you explain them or will be have to wait to find out?
Alan Dean Foster: All my novelizations follow the film as closely as possible. What I get to do is expand, not just the action but especially the thoughts and feelings of the characters and their interactions. A reader should get a much deeper feeling for the characters and their motivations from a book than they can take away from a two-hour film. I do also have the opportunity to correct small scientific errors here and there, and other little things. There is the Director's Cut, and then there is the Novelist's Cut.
Hotrod: How would you compare writing this novel to your previous work?
Alan Dean Foster: I've been doing this for 35 years. It's all of a part.
Hotrod: How would you like the fan base of the existing Transformers mythology to view your book?
Alan Dean Foster: As a chance to really get inside the characters in a way no film or TV show has a chance to allow. It's easy to look at a giant robot. It's quite another thing to try and get inside its head.
Hotrod: Are there any changes to the existing core mythology of Transformers that you feel fans need to know about? Or might need further explaining?
Alan Dean Foster: Even if I was familiar enough with the core mythology, I would be constrained from detailing such changes prior to the release of the film.
Hotrod: What type of reaction do you expect from the fans?
Alan Dean Foster: I hope my descriptions and details meet their expectations. I think they'll be quite pleased, though everyone has their own interpretation of favored memories. It's like seeing a newspaper cartoon strip animated: the voices never sound quite like what you've always imagined in your own head.
Hotrod: Now letâ€™s shift gears a bit and talk about the second novel you worked on in association to the upcoming Transformers Movie, The Movie Prequel novel, Ghosts of Yesterday. Originally David Cain was to write the novel, now you are. How do you feel about that?
Alan Dean Foster: I was given a 62,000 word manuscript by another writer and asked to give it a fairly substantial rewrite. That's what I did.
Hotrod: What are your feelings on how things were handled with David Cain?
Alan Dean Foster: I'm not privy to the details. Somebody paints a house, you're hired to to paint over the first job, you do it. It's not the painter's job to question the homeowner's motivation.
Hotrod: Have you had a chance to read IDWâ€™s comic adaptation of the movie prequel and if so is it similar to the novel version or completely different?
Alan Dean Foster: I have not, so I can't comment.
Hotrod: If fans do not read the Prequel Novel will they be lost a bit in the Movie novel or do they do a good job of standing alone?
Alan Dean Foster: I think they do a good job of standing alone...but there's a lot of fun stuff in the prequel, and it does indeed set up what happens in the film.
Hotrod: After working on both books, would you like to continue working in Transformers novel in the future? Why or why not?
Alan Dean Foster: As long as I'm allowed some flexibility, particularly with characters, I have no problem working in other folks' universes.
Hotrod: Do you have any plans that you would like to share about any of you future project related or not related to Transformers?
Alan Dean Foster: My next short story collection, EXCEPTIONS TO REALITY, will be released by Del Rey this year. In August the novel PATRIMONY will appear from Del Rey. I am currently working on a big novel to follow it entitled FLINX TRANSCENDENT.
Hotrod: On last question, which character in both novels is you favorite and why?
Alan Dean Foster: I'd have to say Optimus Prime. He strikes me as the kind of leader who'd just as soon sit and contemplate the universe instead of having to always be in charge. If he was human, he'd always be heaving a deep, reluctant sigh before having to charge off and save somebody.
Hotrod: Well once again thank you for doing this interview. I look forward to reading both novels based on the Transformers Movie.
Alan Dean Foster: Again, you are most welcome.