For thirty years, Michael Jan Friedman has written SF, Fantasy, paranormal, media tie-in, biographies, and comic books for both DC and Marvel. He is one of most prolific authors out there. We are honored to have him join us for the 2015 Write Stuff conference. So, let’s get talkin’ to Michael Jan Friedman!
You co-wrote a season two episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Resistance”. How did that opportunity come about? What else have you written for television and/or radio?
Actually, my partner and I pitched to the various Star Trek shows several times before we struck gold and sold a story. The Trek programs were pretty much the only shows around that took pitches from pretty much anybody. Each time my partner and I sat down with the producers, they listened, smiled, and told us that they had our ideas in production already. That was discouraging and encouraging at the same time. Finally, we sold a pitch that was basically “Janeway plays Dulcinea to a Kazon Don Quixote.” Jeri Taylor, the show runner on Voyager, loved it and bought it almost on the spot. The next day, she called us and said she had gotten substantially the same pitch from someone else. Had we spoken to her a day later, she would have had to accept the other pitch rather than ours.
On the television side, I’ve also written on-air promos for Nick at Nite. The one that sticks out in my mind is “The Gunther Toody School of Public Speaking.” Toody and Fred Gwynn’s character, Muldoon, were the two lead cops on Car 54. Toody was known for saying “Ooh, ohh,” when he got excited, so all he said in the promo as a model of public speaking was “Ooh, ooh.”
In radio, I wrote a series of spots for restaurant critic Bob Lape advertising Freixenet sparkling wine. Each spot talked about how Freixenet went with one cuisine or another. They were interesting, actually. If you were into cooking, you could actually learn something from them.
You are currently in the process of re-releasing your first original fantasy trilogy, The Vidar Saga. Can you tell us a bit about the story? What made you decide to re-issue the series this year and with all new cover art?
The Vidar Saga is a heroic fantasy. Vidar, a bastard son of Odin, is often said to be one of the survivors of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Norse Gods. I took him and plunked him down in the 20th century, and then pulled him back into a resurgence of the old conflicts that destroyed Odin’s Asgard.
I’m re-releasing the series (The Hammer and The Horn, the first book, is already available as either a hard copy or an e-book through Amazon and BN.com) as part of our push at Crazy 8 Press to get our founding members’ older works back in print.
You co-founded Crazy 8 Press in 2011 with fellow veteran writers Peter David, Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman, and Howard Weinstein. Since then, Russ Colchamiro and Paul Kupperberg have been brought on board. Talk about a powerhouse of talent! What was the catalyst for forming your own small press?
There were what I call “push” and “pull” factors. On the push side, traditional publishing was on the decline. Borders had gone out of business already and other chains were in trouble. The problem started for them with people reading less because of competitive media. Publishers were taking fewer and fewer chances and, frankly, paying smaller advances. It was clear to me that if we writers were going to maintain our relationship with our readers, we were going to have to take the initiative.
Fortunately, the pull factors were there as well. Traditional publishers once had a monopoly on the means of production and the means of distribution but that’s no longer the case. Now anybody can produce and distribute. The only advantage traditional publishers continue to enjoy is the ability to fund advances and marketing efforts. Well, their advances aren’t as good as they used to be, and marketing is what they’re worst at.
Hence, Crazy 8 Press, an indie operation that doesn’t have to sell a million copies to earn a decent paycheck for its authors. Through Crazy 8 Press, we can take chances that traditional publishers can’t afford to take. We can bring our readers stories that are outside the box—sometimes way outside the box.
In addition to your original fiction, you have earned recognition as a media tie-in writer beginning with your first Star Trek novel in 1988 called Double, Double. Since then, you’ve written or co-written nearly forty Star Trek novels. To what do you attribute your enduring relationship with Trek and Pocket Books?
At first, I thought I’d be writing only one Trek novel for Pocket. It was going to be a fun project, an opportunity to put words into the mouths of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. But it went so well that then-editor Dave Stern and I started talking about a second book, and then a third, and it just went on from there. After a while, I grew to depend on Trek books as a big part of my freelance workload but I never took them for granted. I knew the ride might end at any time. I was like Westley in The Princess Bride, waiting for The Dread Pirate Roberts to kill him in the morning. Well, Pocket never killed me.
In 2007, you collaborated with Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson (from SyFy’s Ghost Hunters) to produce the book, Ghost Hunting. That was followed by Seeking Spirits in 2009. How did you become involved with these projects?
I got them through my agent, John Silbersack of Trident Media. He knew I was on the lookout for more non-fiction work after I’d co-written Hulk Hogan’s autobiography and enjoyed doing so. Jason and Grant were great to work with, and good people in general. I’d do another book with them in a heartbeat.
For the Write Stuff conference, can you please provide a summary of what you will cover in your Saturday presentations, “The Genesis of a Science Fiction Story” and “Eight Tips for Writing Biz Magazine Articles”?
In “The Genesis of a Science Fiction Story,” I and the audience will come up with a science fiction concept from the unlikeliest of beginnings—because where you start doesn’t matter nearly as much as where you wind up. In “Eight Tips for Writing Biz Magazine Articles,” I’ll be drawing on seven years of experience as a writer and editor of trade publications to give the audience a realistic picture of what it can expect, both good and bad, if it ventures into that kind of work.
What have you published recently and what can readers expect from you next?
My most recent book is titled I Am The Salamander (available from both Amazon and BN.com as both a trade paperback and an e-book). This one is about a young cancer survivor who finds his body betraying him yet again. But this time he’s not suffering from a deadly disease. He’s undergoing a transformation into something weird and wonderful and unexpected but also kind of…well, disgusting. Think Kafka meets Spider-Man.
Currently, I’m working on a book called Lost Days. If you’re a huge fan of the Gregorian Calendar, if you’ve been waiting your whole life for a novel about it…then this one’s for you, baby. If not, Lost Days is a fantasy about monsters and magic and heroism and romance and the end of the world, set against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy. It’ll be out in late summer if it doesn’t kill me first.