Welcome to my second stop on the Scan blog tour. I’m so happy that I had the chance to interview one of the authors of Scan, Walter Jury. Scan is co-authored by Sarah Fine, who you may know as the author of Of Metal and Wishes and Sanctum, to name just a couple of her books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and you can read my review here. What you may not know is that “Walter Jury” is the pen name for Pouya Shahbazian, one of the producers of the highly successful movie Divergent! Yes, that Divergent. But because we’re here to mostly talk about Scan, I’m calling him Walter for this blog post:-)
BB&B: Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy! Your first novel Scan, co-authored with Sarah Fine, just came out. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about the story?
WJ: At the core, this is the story about a boy coming of age and using the skills that his domineering father drilled into him. I would add that the macro-pitch is a story of aliens arriving on Earth before the advent of modern technology and how that mythology comes to light as a result of a rebellious act by a teenage boy in a grounded present-day setting.
How did you and Sarah decide to write a book together?
Our agents introduced Sarah and I to one another, and we quickly learned we gel and work together seamlessly.
You are one of the producers for the highly popular film Divergent, which just came out. How does it feel to be involved with such a high profile book series?
What’s exciting for me is to work with amazing authors and try to be an asset in adapting their work into new mediums. It’s a real challenge to take a novel and work with literally thousands of talented craftsmen, actors, crew members, studio executives, screenwriters, filmmakers, etc. to help capture the essence of one brilliantly written story, like Divergent, and bring it to whole new audiences who haven’t read the book. Obviously, Divergent is a massive worldwide phenomenon and it’s fun to see ads, as well as fan bases, expressing their love for the book/movie in different languages around the world.
After your experience with Divergent, are you hoping to produce more book-to-screen projects? And do you currently have anything in the works that you can tell us about?
Yes, I’m working on a number of projects that are exciting in different ways. For example, Runner by Patrick Lee is a Warner Bros project and the director attached (Justin Lin) previously worked on of some of my favorite action movies from the Fast & Furious series. As I tell all of the authors I work with, you never know when a movie will be made until it actually gets to the finish line and begins filming. But it is exciting just to be working with such a great group of talented filmmakers and authors as I get to do on a daily basis.
Was your decision to write Scan based on your experience working on Divergent?
Scan was inspired by an article I read on Grantland.com and years before Divergent was the sensation it is today. It was a recap on the disappointing performance of Cowboys & Aliens. As I read, I thought to myself about how I would tell a story of aliens landing on Earth prior to the advent of modern technology. I want to add that it is fantastic that Bill Simmons, a guy who couldn’t get a job at a standard newspaper after he graduated college, not only built his own writing career but has also built a forum for writers of all ilks to create fascinating articles and news reports on Grantland. The creative bones in my body are usually fulfilled by working with talented writers and filmmakers as a producer and representative of authors–but Scan came from a different place of inspiration and I loved collaborating with a brilliant co-author in Sarah Fine.
Which do you enjoy more, writing or producing?
They are both fulfilling in their own ways. Writing is fantastic as a creative medium where you put words on a page that readers will hopefully enjoy. Producing is a wonderful exercise of both your creative brain function and your problem-solving skills. There is also such a vibrant and exciting, but sometimes frustrating, film community within which producers earn a living. I would tend to favor the larger community projects, which is probably why I see myself producing more than writing for the time being. But I’ll quote Colin Cowherd, the great ESPN radio host, who always says (to paraphrase), “Write your plans with a pencil.”
It would seem like a logical step for you to make Scan into a movie. Do you foresee that happening?
There have been some inquiries, but I think the worst thing you can do is to rush an adaptation. A big part of my day job is to really study the best way to get films and television shows off the ground with the highest quality possible for the development and production while keeping in mind how to best serve the source material to a larger audience.
And now for a question I ask all my guests: Please tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found on your website.
—First Blood, the book by David Morrell & the film by director Ted Kotcheff, is one of my all-time favorite popcorn movies. I loved that movie from an early age–it is so much fun to watch and is one of my favorite films in a genre of films (“Man on the run”) that I can never get enough of.
–I LOVE roller coasters. At some point in my life I want to do a roller coaster tour-style vacation. I want to hit the biggest and best coasters in the world. So cool what engineers come up with these days!
–I admire Elon Musk greatly. He not only founded the company Tesla, but he has a civilian space travel company called SpaceX. How much fun would it be to travel to outer space? It seems that because of visionaries like Elon Musk, future generations will be able to achieve the dream of visiting other planets. And hey, maybe the themes and tropes in Scan will become something to be seriously considered!
After reading Scan, I can certainly imagine myself traveling to another planet! Thank you for a very enlightening interview, Walter! You guys are in for such a treat, this book has everything: action, danger, romance and well-developed characters.
By Walter Jury and Sarah Fine
Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons
May 1, 2014
Penguin Group (USA) LLC is one of the leading U.S. adult and children’s trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Viking, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books, Gotham Books, Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne, among others. The Penguin Group (www.penguin.com) is a Penguin Random House company.
Tate and his father don’t exactly get along. As Tate sees it, his father has unreasonably high expectations for Tate to be the best—at everything. Tate finally learns what he’s being prepared for when he steals one of his dad’s odd tech inventions and mercenaries ambush the school, killing his father in the process and sending Tate on the run from aliens who look just like humans.
All Tate knows–like how to make weapons out of oranges and lighter fluid–may not be enough to save him as he’s plunged into a secret inter-species conflict that’s been going on for centuries. Aided only by his girlfriend and his estranged mother, with powerful enemies closing in on all sides, Tate races to puzzle out the secret behind his father’s invention and why so many are willing to kill for it. A riveting, fast-paced adventure, Scan is a clever alien thriller with muscle and heart.
About the authors:
Walter Jury was born in London, has a background in the film industry, is a big fan of the New York Giants, and enthusiast of Jamba Juice’s Protein Berry Workout smoothie only with soy, never whey. Scan is his first book for teens. Oh, and under his real name, he’s a producer of one of 2014’s biggest blockbusters. Let’s just say he “diverges” in his career from film to literature quite well.
Sarah Fine was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is the author of several young adult books, and when she’s not writing, she’s working as a child psychologist. No, she is not psychoanalyzing you right now.
Biography of Pouya Shahbazian, who writes as Walter Jury:
Named to The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen Class of 35 top executives 35 and under, Pouya Shahbazian marks his major motion picture feature producerial debut with the highly anticipated book-to-film adaptation of the sci-fi adventure story Divergent. He has launched some of the world’s hottest literary bestsellers while representing more than 100 international authors as head of the Manhattan-based New Leaf Literary & Media’s film & television division. In addition, Shahbazian represents screenwriters and playwrights as they develop and produce countless film, television and literary projects. After working as an attorney in Los Angeles, Shahbazian entered the entertainment industry at Warner Brothers and later joined The Broder-Webb-Chervin-Silbermann Agency’s motion picture literary department. He co-founded ManDown Pictures & Management in 2007, where he developed and produced the Independent Film Channel (IFC)’s travel series “Young, Broke & Beautiful” that The New York Times described as a travel show that takes viewers to “places that would give those Frommer’s guys the willies.”
Shahbazian’s current film projects being developed by high-level producers and directors across the major Hollywood studios include: New York Times bestselling author Patrick Lee’s upcoming series Runner at Warner Bros with Justin Lin attached to direct and Michael De Luca producing; internationally acclaimed writer/director Andrea Arnold’s Mag Crews set up at Focus Features, inspired by a news article; Evan Mandery’s Q: A Novel at Sony Pictures with Matt Tolmach producing and David Gordon Green attached to write and direct; young adult series Arclight with Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures; Leigh Bardugo’s New York Times best-selling Shadow & Bone at Dreamworks with Harry Potter producer Heyday Films; Dan Krokos’ Planet Thieves at Warner Bros with Heyday Films and Benderspink producing; and recent mega-sale Red Queen at Universal Pictures.
Under the pen name Walter Jury, Shahbazian debuts as an author himself with two young adult sci-fi novels – Scan on May 1, 2014 and its sequel Burn in 2015 – with Putnam Young Readers of Penguin Random House. He resides in Manhattan with his wife and young son.