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BAD-ASS INSIGHT: Jason Franks and Steve Mangold


 This week’s Insight is from one of our writing duo’s, Jason Franks and Steve Mangold. Not only did they pull off a bad-ass story for us, but they did it with each of them on opposite sides of the world. Leave them a comment and you could win a free ecopy of Shadowcutting. (Next Week’s Insight: Ruth Lampi)

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 JF: When my friend Carlen Lavigne showed me the guidelines for Bad-Ass Faeries 2 and suggested that the book might be up my alley, I looked them over, had a think about it, and decided that I just didn't have a loose idea that would fit. I had this in-progress novel that was many drafts in called FAERIE APOCALYPSE, but that was all the Faerie I had in me at the time. I shrugged it off and forgot about it...

 ... except I didn't. A story started percolating up, one that would hang off the novel but which would function independently, and suddenly I wanted to write it. Problem was, there was only one week til the deadline and there was no way I could pull off a finished piece in that time. So I enlisted Steve Mangold to help out.

 Steve had read a draft of the novel, so he knew context of 'Shadowcutting' even though the story was located well away from the main action of the book. I knew from his commentary that he would get where I was going without me having to fill him in, and I know that he had the same taste for bloody magic and butchered little people that I did.

 SM: I had wanted to co-write something with Jason for awhile. So when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. Like Jason said, I read FAERIE APOCALYPSE already, so I knew the context and ground rules of the world we’d be dealing with. I liked the concept and basic outline Jason had come up with for “Shadowcutting” It seemed like a unique way to approach the “Bad Ass Faerie” theme.

 The only question in my mind was if co-writing prose was going to work. I hadn’t co-written much prose in the past and Jason had not done so at all. To me, the most exciting part of writing the story was seeing if we could create a cohesive story with consistent tone.

JF: I had a skeleton outline of the way things would unfold, but we more or less worked it out scene-to-scene. In the end, we decided to tag team it over email. I wrote the first scene. Steve did an editing pass over what I had written and my scene and went away and wrote the next piece. I did the next one, Steve did the one after that. Occasionally one of us would write a couple of scenes back-to-back, and we did divided up the larger scenes, but that was pretty much the way it happened. Steve lives in Florida and I’m in Australia, so the time difference for once was helpful; letting us work on the story around the clock.

 Once we had a complete, but very raw draft we were somewhere near 11,000 words, if I remember correctly. We passed it back and forth, each doing a complete draft, cutting it down and cleaning it up as we went. I think that in the end this resulted in a fairly uniform prose style and once you get down to the actual prose, I’m no longer sure what was Steve’s work and what was my own.

 SM: I’m not sure either. It kind of blends together in my recollection. There are scenes and characters you say I came up with, but I swear you created. DB and Doc in particular.

 You got the first crack at writing DB. I liked DB, he is the closest we have to the “traditional faerie” that people might conjure in their heads. He was really fun to work on. I liked that there is almost a hint of desperation to DB that his cleverness hides.

 I did the first draft of the Leprechaun hunt. They seemed like a deceptively easy type of Faerie to hunt. That was the most fun for me. Action scenes are my least favorite to write, but the Leprechauns shenanigans pretty much wrote themselves.

 I don’t remember there being an excessive amount of editing needed to make the prose style uniform. A lot of it was editing the dialect, I specifically remember “pavement” being changed to bitumen. I must admit, I did not know what bitumen meant beforehand.

 JF: The demontrice and the vamps were mine, and so was Keneally, but DB and the Doc were definitely yours. I might have said “Ok, in the next scene, Theo goes to get patched up by an occult doctor”, but you were the first to sink your keyboard into him. Likewise, DB--I think I wrote the second part of that scene, where Theo checks out the mystical weapons, but you were the first to write and name the weapons dealer. What does DB stand for, anyway? You never did tell me.

 The leprechaun massacre is still the incident in the story I refer to when I describe it to someone. I’m pretty sure we hold the record for dead leprechauns. We should apply to the Guinness Book of Records.

 I think we divided the assault on the campus into fourths, roughly, and I wrote the concluding passage.

 You’re right, we didn’t spend a lot of effort trying to make the prose style seem uniform--I think, because we had to cut so much material, that it just sort of worked out. I don’t recall arguing with you about any particular plot points or prose, which still surprises me.

 SM: I don’t recall any arguing either. I don’t remember any scuffling over edits either. That only proves what nice guys we are when writing about decapitations.

 I don’t remember how he got the name DB. I listen to a lot of radio shows from the 40’s and 50’s, that name sounds pretty old time radio show to me. I know I didn’t want a predictable faerie name for him.

 I remember the writing of the campus scene going like that too. Theo’s disintegration was fun. He’s not the most unpleasant character I’ve ever worked on, but he was one of the most fun to see fall apart.

 JF: Which, I guess, brings us to the actual premise of the story. There has been some kind of an apocalyptic event in the Faerie world, and many of its refugees have headed for the mortal world. These refugees are preyed upon by bounty hunters like Theo, who make a quasi-legal living from eliminating the more dangerous of them. Theo’s an Old Skool warrior; descended from a long line monster hunters who believe that killing ‘godless frips’ is their Christian duty... but the old ways aren’t so effective against the newer kinds of monsters and he’s losing business to his more current rivals, like the sorcerer Keneally.

 Grudgingly, Theo realizes that he needs to upgrade his arsenal, so he trades in his heirloom glaive for a fancy new Shadowcutting blade, exported from the disintegrating Realms by the black market weapons dealer DB. The new weapon makes a big difference to Theo’s effectiveness as a monster hunter, but ownership of the blade has some side-effects that DB has neglected to mention.

 SM: Faerie always manage to omit precious details when they make a deal don’t they?

 The world in the story has some reflection on what occurred in the Post Soviet Eastern Bloc. First, in the flood of weapons into the black market, along with those willing to take sell said weapons. Secondly, in the idea of refugees fleeing their homeland. Theo is a bigot and a xenophobe, and the influx of Faerie into “his world” just gives him something to focus his hate upon.

 I’m glad the Bad-Ass Faerie opportunity came along. I had a lot of fun writing this with you. It was surprisingly natural to co-write the prose together. Going back over it definitely is giving me the drive to collaborate on something again.

 JF: It was a blast, Steve!

 SM: I’m sure our next collaboration will be full of arguing, backstabbing, allegations of misdeeds, and a general bloodletting.

 JF: I look forward to it.

 ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Steven Mangold co-runs the small press comics imprint Blue Rose Studios. He has published various mini-comics including; NEIGHBOR RELATIONS, NATURE'S CALL, and ANOTHER DAY. His prose and comics work has been published in ROBOTS ARE PEOPLE, TOO; ONE MORE BULLET; and the upcoming Sketch South compilation. He currently resides in central Florida with his wife, two cats, and a dying robot dog. http://www.bluerosestudios.net/

 Jason Franks is the author of the graphic novels McBLACK and THE SIXSMITHS. His fiction, in comics and prose, has appeared in a variety of places, including ASSASSIN'S CANON, DEATHLINGS, TANGO and, of course, BAD-ASS FAERIES. Franks is also the editor of the KAGEMONO horror anthology series. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. http://www.jasonfranks.com


Tags: jason franks, steve mangold
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