If you haven’t heard of my new project, the On Fire anthology over at Transmundane Press, this mini-interview and excerpt series will showcase the amazing authors I get to work with and their writing. Meet Daniel M. Kimmel.
What motivates you to write?
It’s innate. I can’t imagine not writing. Of course I’m looking to communicate and get a reaction of some sort (usually laughs for my fiction), as opposed to those who write strictly for themselves and don’t care about their audience.
What audience are your stories intended for?
Fans of science fiction with some shading over into horror and fantasy. What the stories have in common is humor. So one story is about a vampire who reacts to a spice other than garlic, and the next one might be about an alien invasion who no one on Earth really cares. If I can make you laugh out loud, I’ve done my job.
Who is your favorite character in your current story and why?
While I tend towards likeable or, at least, somewhat sympathetic protagonists, I often find the secondary characters just as interesting if not more so. In my recent novel Time on My Hands, I came to like Cort, a guide to time travellers to the far future because of his childlike enthusiasm. When he meets the narrator, the inventor of time travel, he blurts out that he once played him in a school pageant. He was only supposed to be in one scene but I liked him so much I brought him back for an encore later in the story.
From “The Burning of Atlanta” by Daniel M. Kimmel
This movie was going to be his claim to fame. Frank O’Leary was no Scorsese or Tarantino, no Spielberg or Nolan. He wasn’t exactly a hack. His films got good reviews as often as not, and while he hadn’t won any Oscars, he had several nominations to show for it as well as nominations for the Golden Globes, the Director’s Guild, and the People’s Choice Awards. His mantelpiece might be bare, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
His problem was that he had no personal vision. He would be brought into projects developed by a studio or some actor’s production company, and they knew he would turn out a solid film on time and on budget. Several of his films had been big hits, although it had been a while since the last one. Audiences didn’t have a clue who he was, and the announcement that he was attached to a project wouldn’t go beyond the trades. Who cared about “A Film by Frank O’Leary?” Even the film buffs would be hard pressed to name his last big hit, even though it had topped $200,000,000 worldwide. Unfortunately, most of that came from overseas as the film had tanked in its U.S. release. It was his bad luck to have it released the weekend the President of the United States was removed from the White House in a straitjacket. He couldn’t blame the public. Even he was glued to his television set. It was the biggest spectacle since O. J. Simpson went for a spin on the highway.
Still, you’re only as good as your last picture, and his last picture had been a box office disaster domestically. The young pups running the studios understood what the problem was and didn’t blame him for the film’s failure. The fact that it had more than earned back its production costs overseas didn’t hurt. He now had the chance to get back on track.
Firebug was a thriller that would mark the film debut of Jon Petroni, a pop star whose last three albums had gone platinum and had a fan base in the millions. He was the so-called bad boy of the tweens and teens, which meant he did the same insipid love songs that popular singers had done for generations, but he had a few tats and a ring through a pierced nipple that got prominently displayed in every video he did. Fourteen-year-old girls thought he was hot, and those of both sexes over the age of eighteen had more elaborate fantasies of what they would do if they had some alone time with him.
He had an exclusive recording deal with Galaxy Entertainment, and their film division looked for a project that would take him to the next level. In Firebug, he played a disturbed young man who sets fires, leading to a massive manhunt for the arsonist. However, the script made him a sympathetic figure in that it showed his actions were due to his being abused as a child and that he tried to avoid anyone being hurt: his goal to destroy property, not people. As far as O’Leary was concerned, it was all claptrap. If he had developed the script, Dante, the character Petroni played, would be a psychopath, and the hero would be the investigator who brought him to justice. There would be a fiery climax all right. It would be Dante burning in the electric chair.
However, when they brought O’Leary onto film, the script had already been developed. Dante turns himself in after setting a fire of such force that it shocks him into the realization that what he’s been doing is wrong. O’Leary never heard of such a thing. Arsonists did not suddenly have dramatic changes of heart. But it would let Petroni not only repent but sing the title song over the closing credits. Galaxy execs thought it had a real possibility for an Oscar…for best song. No one thought that O’Leary would do anything other than his usual competent job.
And that’s where he fooled them. He may not have had a great personal vision, but he did have an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies, and he knew all the great movie fires and how they were created. Before filming began, he called his production team together and told them he wanted to go beyond anything that had ever been done.
“I don’t simply want to see a building in flames. I want to see a conflagration. I want the audience to feel the heat of the fire coming off the screen. I want to create an inferno so destructive that they’ll have nightmares for weeks and months to come. Remember the way people freaked out over demonic possession when The Exorcist came out? That’s what I want for us. A fiery furnace so intense that people will jump at the lighting of a match.”
One thing to ask for it. Another thing to get it.
Daniel M. Kimmel is the author of Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and other observations about science fiction movies, Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide, and Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel.