Yesterday, we brought you a review of Gary K. Wolf’s newest entry in the Roger Rabbit book series, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? Today, Gary speaks with us about the book and shares some of his favorite classics.
This is the first Roger Rabbit novel in more than twenty years. What precipitated your return to Roger’s world?
I started writing Wacked in 1991. My agent at the time suggested that I wait until the second movie came out before shopping it to publishers. He said I would get more money if I did it that way. Well, we all know how that second movie turned out. I’m still waiting for it.
I went on to many other projects. I honestly forgot about Wacked. My current publisher, MUSA, and I were talking about things I could put on my website to attract visitors. I looked through my files and rediscovered the Wacked manuscript. I suggested running it free in installments. MUSA had a much better idea. They said, “Let’s publish it!”
I did have to do quite a bit of work to bring it into line with my two previous Roger books. That took almost a year. That was a fun process. Like collaborating with my younger self. Now it’s done. I’m quite proud of it. Wacked will stand up well with my best Roger writing.
Out of all of the Hollywood stars from the period, why did you choose Gary Cooper to be one of the main characters? How difficult was it to capture Coop’s voice and persona in the book?
I’ve always been a Gary Cooper fan. In fact I was named after him. I loved his movies, especially Pride of the Yankees (1942), Sergeant York (1941), and, most of all, High Noon (1952). He had the laconic, soft-spoken, straight-shooting persona I wanted for the movie star in the book. From biographies I’ve read of him, in real life he was nothing like I’ve portrayed him in the book. I guess that’s why they call this fiction. My hardest task with the Cooper character was to keep his dialogue to two-word responses. That’s very hard to do, especially for a guy like me who tends toward the verbose.
In your view, how have the characters of Eddie and Roger evolved over the years from the first two books to where they are now?
I based Eddie on a number of hard-boiled private eyes. Mike Hammer primarily, but also Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. Tough guys with a soft heart. Eddie started out as an eight-minute hard-boiled detective. In the second book, he was a little softer-boiled, maybe a seven-minute P.I. Here, he goes to eleven.
I wanted Roger to have the morality of a Disney character like Mickey Mouse, who will do exactly what he tells you he’s going to do, and the mischievousness of a Warner Bros. character like Bugs Bunny, who will tell you he’s going to do something and then stuff a stick of dynamite down your pants. Readers and audiences seem to respond well to the blending of naughty and nice. Roger, of course, has softened through the series. I think most of my fans know by now that he was the villain in the first novel and died at the end. Because he became so beloved to my fans, I wanted to bring him back. I’m glad I did. My world would be a much less goofy place without that rabbit around to keep me laughing.
Your creation of a Toon “language” using speech balloons is fascinating. Do you share Professor Wordhollow’s interest in linguistics?
I majored in Psycholinguistics in college. So you could say I know whereof I speak!
Are there any talks of turning Wacked into a film? Would you have any interest in doing so after your experience of having Who Censored Roger Rabbit? turned into a film (the 1988 blockbuster Who Framed Roger Rabbit)?
Too early to tell if Disney will buy this one. They did buy the film rights to my second novel, Who P-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit? I had a wonderful experience turning Who Censored Roger Rabbit? into a movie. I’m probably one of the few writers who can say that I’m happy with what Hollywood did to my book. They took what I considered to be an unfilmable novel and made it into a classic combination of live-action and animation. I honestly don’t see how the movie could have been done any better. At times, I would find myself in a room with thirty-five of the most creative people I’ve ever met and they were all tossing out ideas as to how to make my book funnier. I kept thinking to myself that if I’d had these people sitting around my kitchen table with me when I wrote the book, I would have won a Pulitzer Prize.
In addition to Coop, you reference many classic film stars in this story. As we are a classic film blog, we have to know: who are some of your favorite classic actors? What are some of your favorite films?
A question I’ve never been asked before! And one I’m very happy to answer. I’m a big Humphrey Bogart fan. The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Casablanca (1942), and The African Queen (1951). Gary Cooper, of course. Jimmy Stewart in Harvey (1950), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and his Anthony Mann Westerns. Cary Grant in just about anything. Same with Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Grace Kelly. My all-time favorite movie, my go-to movie for a lift whenever I’m feeling blue, the movie I would take with me to a desert island, is Singin’ In The Rain (1952).
You are obviously a big fan of classic animation. What are some of your favorite classic cartoons?
I love any of the Disney Donald Duck cartoons. Also any of the Warner Bros. cartoons. But I especially adore anything by Tex Avery. I based Jessica Rabbit on Avery’s red-headed ha-cha-cha character Red Hot Riding Hood.
Do you have plans to continue Roger’s adventures in future books?
When I rediscovered my long-ago novel Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?, I also found another Roger novel that I started and almost finished. If Wacked does well, if my fans still adore the rabbit and want to see more of him, then yes, I’ve got another great rabbit story waiting.
True Classics thanks Gary K. Wolf for taking the time to speak with us. Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is now available for pre-order and will be released on multiple e-book platforms on November 29, 2013.
*Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? for yourself! You can find details at the end of our review of the novel.*