Robin Furth is one of the more interesting people I have met.
I mean, how could she not be having once been Stephen King’s personal assistant!
I bet she has stories galore!
Being an expert on all things King-related, Robin has been tapped to fulfill some of King’s creative endeavors. She has plotted four Dark Tower comic book series, bridging the time period between Wizard & Glass with The Gunslinger. She has also been hired by Del Rey Books to write the comic book adaptation to the Stephen King and Peter Straub novel The Talisman, which I am really excited about since that is one of my favorite books!
I sent Robin a short interview a few weeks ago, just to get her initial thoughts on the new project and how it was going.
M-O-O-N! That spells interview!
Unbound Worlds: Where are you at in The Talisman project?
Robin Furth: So far I’ve written a prequel, which we call Issue 0, a detailed overview of Talisman Graphic Novel Volume I (that’s issues 1-6 of the comics, and Parts I and II of the novel), as well as the panel by panel breakdown and the script for the first issue. I’m working on the script for the second issue now. I’m really enjoying this adaptation, though I must say I bite my fingernails every time I hand in a script. In some ways Issue 0 was the scariest. As you can imagine, it isn’t every day you’re asked to write the backstory for a novel that you love! And to make the whole thing even scarier, I wrote the script and then–after the editors had gone over it and given their very helpful feedback–it was sent directly to Steve King and Peter Straub to get their approval. They gave it the thumbs up, and I think I nearly passed out with relief. I won’t tell you what happens in Issue 0, except that it takes place while Jack’s dad is still alive. Since in the actual novel Phil Sawyer’s memory is a big influence on Jack, I thought it was really important for new readers to learn a little bit more about him. It was also a great way to bring in all the flashbacks that we’re told about in the book but which we would have a very difficult time fitting into the comic books.
My overview for the first six issues took a LONG time. I think I had the editors a little scared! I can work quickly when I have to (and in comics, your back is often up against the wall since deadlines are all-important) but sometimes I really feel that to do the story justice I have to take my time and think things through. Since in comics the old adage show, don’t tell really holds true, I had to spend a lot of time deciding which scenes were crucial, and then how I could get additional information into those scenes, so that readers of the comics would get the ambiance of the original novel. Then, as the editor Betsy Mitchell can attest, after the dialogue was written, we had to go back through and chop half of it away, since I had the characters talking so much that the letterer would have had a heart attack!
UW: What have you liked so far about adapting Steve’s and Peter’s book?
RF: Wow, so many things. Where do I begin . . . ?
First of all, I love the book. I’m one of those people who spent my childhood (and much of my adult life too!) living in magical, alternative worlds a lot like the Territories. So, “flipping” into the Territories with Jack feels completely natural — like coming home. I love the character of Jack, and I love Lily since she’s such a tough lady, you know? She has cancer and she’s dying and she is so afraid, and yet she is willing to fight Morgan Sloat until the very end. Speedy is very magical, and I love the way he opens Jack up to his own past, and to his vivid memories of living in another world. If I have to choose one character who is absolutely guaranteed to make me smile whenever I think of him, it’s WOLF, RIGHT HERE AND NOW!
I love the fact that the novel is so lively, and so full of beautiful writing. Sometimes I just want to pull out phrases and use them as captions, since the words are so evocative. (Alas, given the adaptation process, I can’t put them all on the page. But the good news is that I hand them over to Tony and he uses them to create his wonderful images.) I love the fact that in the Territories, it is MAGIC that works, not technology, and I love the medieval feel of that other world. I also really like the fact that Steve and Peter aren’t afraid to be critical of hypocrisy. For example, Sunlight Gardiner is supposed to be a religious man, but in actuality he is a power-hungry, sadistic maniac.
I also think that the central theme of the novel–that of a young boy going on a quest to save his dying mother–is extremely powerful. How many times over the course of a life do we wish we could do the same thing for a loved one? Since the original novel is dedicated to Steve King and Peter Straub’s mothers, I can’t help but think a LOT of love went into the writing of this book.
Finally, I really like the fact that Peter and Steve have been so involved and so supportive. They look at every script and every image, and they give feedback. Most amazing of all, they put THE TALISMAN on high priority. When we turn in pages, they have feedback within two days. That’s REALLY amazing when you consider how busy they both are!
UW: Is it different adapting a book (The Talisman) than adapting ideas (Dark Tower) from the King of Horror?
RF: In many ways, adapting THE TALISMAN reminds me of adapting WIZARD AND GLASS. Although the books are VERY different, to do a faithful adaptation means coming to terms with similar challenges. For example, in order to get the flavor of the book onto the illustrated page, you have to depend a lot more on image and less on words, and you have to do a LOT of condensing. Hence, it often requires that you take TWO scenes from the book (or occasionally more) and somehow fit all the vital information into one scene. Without giving away too much, I’ll give one example from THE TALISMAN. In one of the key scenes between Speedy and Jack, I had to decide where to set their conversation. Although almost all of the dialogue I used was from a scene in Speedy’s office, I didn’t want to lose the setting of another scene–one where Jack and Speedy talk near a magical carousel. Since the image of the carousel horses becomes important later in the novel, and since it is one of the most evocative of the our-world images of the book, I had to adapt the office scene so that it could take place in the carousel building. Luckily Steve and Peter liked it!
What I’m doing at the moment with DARK TOWER–namely expanding on Steve King’s backstory in order to tell the tale of Roland’s journey from Gilead to Jericho Hill–is a lot more like what I did in Issue 0 of TALISMAN. Both processes–adapting the actual book and spinning new corners of the tale–are really enjoyable as well as incredibly challenging. The scariest, I suppose, is spinning a new story based on hints in the original tale. My nightmare is always the same–what if I create something that the original author hates?!? I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky in this area though. Stephen King and Peter Straub have been very supportive.
UW: Who is your favorite character in The Talisman?
RF: Wow! As I said earlier, I love them all. I love Jack because I really identify with him, and he’s such an imaginative kid, and so resourceful. I love Speedy, because he lives between two worlds. I love Lily because she’s tough and smart. I love Wolf because he’s . . . well . . . he’s WOLF! Do I love Morgan Sloat? No, but he’s one of those characters that we all love to hate!
UW: Are you pleased with the artwork Tony Shasteen has turned in so far?
RF: Yes, I’m very pleased. I first saw Tony’s work in OCCULT CRIMES TASK FORCE and I thought it was great! Hence, I was really pleased that he was chosen as the artist for TALISMAN. One of the images from OCCULT CRIMES TASK FORCE always sticks with me. It’s of an ordinary man suddenly growing wings and white eyes–essentially becoming this giant, angel-like being. It’s fantastic!
What is very special about Tony’s work is the way he mixes a very realistic depiction of characters and places with incredibly vivid magic. By doing this he literally brings our world, which is ruled by the laws of physics, and the world of the Territories, which is ruled by magic, together. It’s exactly what we need in TALISMAN!
More to come soon!