Interview: Howard Gordon

Interview: Howard Gordon

Howard Gordon has worked on The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, 24, and more. The man knows TV, but does he know novels? With his first novel, Gideon’s War, being published, Howard Gordon is betting that he does. According to our review, Howard’s a safe bet.

I got a chance to interview Gordon, and after a question about 24 and a couple of questions about Buffy the Vampire Slayer submitted by a couple of friends, we got to the questions about his new effort, Gideon’s War.

CHRIS: Regarding 24, what happened to Tony? He was arrested in Day 7, but nothing was mentioned in Day 8 about where he was.

HOWARD: I think the only reason he wasn’t mentioned is that there wasn’t an organic point to reference it. We considered it, but felt it would be kind of a hangnail. We had told his story, and he was in custody and was done. In the context of Season 8, there was no natural way to include him.

CHRIS: Do you have any new shows coming up that will be similar to Buffy/Angel?

HOWARD: An NBC pilot I’m producing called REM, by Lone Star creator Kyle Killen, which is about a police detective who is in a car accident with his wife and 17 year-old son. His son is killed and his wife survived. After the accident, he finds himself able to enter a vivid dream state in which he has an entire alternate reality in which his son survived and his wife was killed. The series looks at the two very different lives he leads due to that one major divergence. People are describing it as Inception-like, but I don’t feel that’s entirely accurate.

CHRIS: How do you feel about the Buffy moving being made without Joss Whedon? Many fans are saying that it’s not Buffy without Joss.

HOWARD: I think that’s absolutely true. When I scanned the article and saw that Joss wasn’t involved, I became much less interested in it.

CHRIS: On to Gideon’s War.

CHRIS: Why did you decide to step into novel-writing?

HOWARD: My college life was spent thinking I was going to become a novelist, so this is more of a deferred aspiration than a new one. I wrote a short novel as my senior thesis, and I always wanted to become a novelist. I tried my luck at television, and wound up getting lucky, working consistently in TV since then (about 24 years ago). So it’s not really a new dream, but more of a fulfillment of an old one. It was during the writer’s strike, actually, that I found the time to act on it.

CHRIS: When writing Gideon’s War, did you draw from any of your experience as a producer, writer, and show-runner for 24 to help craft your character and the story?

HOWARD: Inevitably every part of my life, since I spent the last decade working on that show, has been influenced by the series. I was, however, very conscious of the story not being a 24 story, and the character not being Jack Bauer, so he is very much a different person than Jack. It’s kind of the same type of story told from a very different perspective.

CHRIS: Looking back, are there things about Gideon’s War that you would change? Were there any “rookie” mistakes as a novelist?

HOWARD: I wouldn’t call them mistakes, but I would say that it was a learning experience, and this was very much a rookie effort. I hope in my work on the second novel…it’s a little less action-heavy and a little more character-heavy. I think the nature of this story had a very pulpy aspect, in that it had a short time frame and a lot of action, culminating in the siege on the oil rig. It had story with velocity. If anything, I’d say the book is more action-heavy than I may have liked it to be.

CHRIS: Having published your first novel, is there anything you’ve learned from the writing, editing, and publishing processes that you can apply to your next project?

HOWARD: Weaning myself from the television mindset and understanding the unique requirements of a novel, which is very different. A novel is a much more intimate experience. The reader brings a lot more of his or her imagination to bear on the telling of the story. Gideon’s War is a bit more cinematic, or direct, in that way. I would have liked to create some deeper dynamics for the reader to sink his or her teeth into. I made a lot of mistakes that were corrected in subsequent drafts, and I learned quite a bit.

CHRIS: This has already been answered, but I’ll ask anyway. Do you see yourself publishing more novels?

HOWARD: I’m actually working on a sequel to Gideon’s War, called Designated Survivor. It continues the story of Gideon and Tillman from where Gideon’s War left off. The story is really about brothers, which is an area that’s always been interesting to me. I’m the oldest of three brothers, and I’ve always been fascinated with stories about brothers, from Cain and Abel to the Godfather.

CHRIS: You mentioned you’re writing a sequel for Gideon’s War. Do you plan on making Gideon Davis the star of a series of novels, in the way Clive Cussler did with his Dirk Pitt character, and Ian Fleming with James Bond, or will the Gideon Davis story be wrapping up in the second novel?

HOWARD: Yes, hopefully. Certainly it will be a series of a sort, as a second novel is coming out next year. Depending on the appetite of the publisher and audience, hopefully it will become a longer series.

CHRIS: If Gideon Davis will be the main character in a run of novels, do you have any plans or hopes to have him translated into a TV series?

HOWARD: That would be great if it happens, but the books are the priority. Developing a readership that makes the publisher happy is the primary goal. If it became a movie/TV series, it would be great. There are feelers out right now, so people know it’s there.

CHRIS: Is there anything you’d like to say about the book? Anything you’d like to get out there?

HOWARD: I’m not gunning for a Pulitzer with Gideon’s War. I’m definitely trying to create an entertaining book. I’m grateful to the publisher for giving me a chance to write the novel. I had a great experience. Hopefully fans of 24 who miss the show will be able to fill in the Jack gap with Gideon.

I’d like to thank the publisher and Howard for the time and opportunity. I’ve enjoyed the book, and enjoyed speaking with Howard. Check out the review of Gideon’s War and, if you’re a fan of the genre, consider picking up a copy for yourself. There are worse things to spend your money on.

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