When I was first trying to become a freelancer in comics, Jeff Mariotte was the first editor to respond to me in something more than a form letter. This was when he was managing editor over at IDW publishing. Now his focus is on writing and one of his latest works is part of an Evil Dead 2 anthology from Space Goat. I got a chance to chat with Jeff about working on a cult-classic horror franchise and the advantages of co-writting.
Bleeding Cool: I'm told that you and your writing partner Marsheila (Marcy) Rockwell have done a short story for Space Goat's upcoming anthology Evil Dead 2: Tales of the Ex Mortis. What can you tell us about the story and how it fits into the overall Evil Dead universe?
Jeff Mariotte: Our story is called "Scream Queen." It's about what happens when a beauty pageant contestant goes to a remote cabin in the woods with her handlers and coaches for some intensive pre-pageant preparation. When the Ex Mortis makes an appearance, things get ugly…
BC: How familiar were you with the Evil Dead franchise prior to getting this assignment? How much did you already know versus how much research did you need to do for the story?
JM: Marcy and I are both familiar with the existing movies. We rewatched Evil Dead 2, and we had to do some research on beauty pageants and who would be involved in the behind-the-scenes work with a contestant, but we didn't have to do a ton of research, because it's impossible to watch those movies and not remember them vividly.
BC: How did you get hooked up with Space Goat on this project? Did they come to you with an idea or did you pitch the concept to them?
JM: Shon Bury of Space Goat and I have a relationship that goes back to our WildStorm days. Neither of us wants to think about how old that makes us. We've tried a few times over the years to get a project going together, but it's never happened, for various reasons. So when he came to me and asked if I'd write an Evil Dead 2 story, I couldn't turn him down–not just because it was Shon, but because it's Evil Dead 2!
BC: You are known for both your novels and your comic work. How does your approach to a prose story differ from working on a comic script?
JM: Because I'm not an artist, every comic book I write is a collaboration with at least one other person, and I never really know what the final result will be until I see it on the page. At it's best, what ends up on the page is far cooler than how I saw it in my mind's eye, because of the artist's craftsmanship and creative vision. With prose, I never get to see how the reader will see it in his or her mind's eye, but I'm in control (or we're in control, in the case of a collaboration) of all the elements that will create the reader's mental picture. That doesn't mean describing every single detail in every single scene, it means a constant quest for the right, telling details that bring a scene to life. The basic process–visualizing the story and writing down what I "see" is similar, but the mechanics of it are very different, mainly because of that difference in how the story is "shown" to the reader.
BC: How does the collaboration process between you and Marcy work? Do you brainstorm ideas together then take turns on the writing? Do you trade back and forth during the story or does one of you do a complete pass then the other does another draft?
JM: I like collaborating, in comics and prose. Writing can be a lonely job, and it can be hard when you're working alone to see when you've screwed up, because you know what you were trying to say, so if you didn't quite pull it off, you might not notice. Collaborating with Marcy is the best it's ever been, because we're very much on the same wavelength about a lot of things, but at the same time we have very different life experiences, so we can bring different knowledge and strengths to the table. We typically start out by discussing a basic story idea. When we have that hammered into shape, one of us will take first crack at creating a written outline that we'll both be able to refer to. We usually go back and forth on that a few times–or for a longer work, lots of times–until we're happy with that. Then somebody starts in at the beginning, and we trade off until the end. Each time one of us gets a draft, that one goes back over what the other person wrote last, makes comments, asks questions, etc., and that process helps ease us back into the story. I write faster than Marcy, but that's because she's also a poet, and she crafts beautiful prose that needs very little work. My first draft is quicker, but it needs a lot more revision.
BC: What else are you working on solo and with Marcy?
JM: We've had a couple of short works published in different anthologies, and we've sold several others, so there'll be fiction appearing periodically throughout the year. The big thing we're working on now is a novel–we call it a science/horror/thriller–called 7 Sykos, which will be published in January 2016 by HarperCollins. Separately, she has a novel trilogy coming out sometime–hopefully soon–based on the Neil Gaiman's Lady Justice comics, and our agent will soon be shopping an urban fantasy series for her. I have a horror/western/steampunk novel (what's the point of mixing genres if you can't mix at least three of them?) coming in fall 2016 from Tor, based on the Deadlands RPG. I'm also kinda sorta toying with ideas for a follow-up to this year's dark thriller, Empty Rooms. Comics-wise, I have a short coming out in an Airwolf anthology from Lion Forge, and a series called Slate coming from Visionary Comics, which I'm writing with my son David, with art by Sean Lee. So Marcy and I are both very busy, obviously. We're looking forward to writing more comics together, as well as more prose fiction.
You can pre-order the first issue of Evil Dead 2: Tales of the Ex-Mortis here.