Sunday, 30 August 2015

From Young Adult Fiction to iZombie: Rob Thomas Reveals All

By Sonia Esposito

Clementine Ford, a huge fan of Rob Thomas – creator of TV cult classics, Veronica Mars, Party Down and iZombie began the conversation with the big question: What was your evolution, when did it all start?

‘I got my start writing young adult fiction.’

Thomas really wanted to be Elvis Costello and was interested in writing lyrics. He played bass in a rock band until the age of 27. He was also a high school teacher in his early 20s. The year he quit the band, (because they weren’t very good), he found a huge creative void in his life and started to write his first novel. He secured an agent, won a book deal and landed his first TV job on Dawson’s Creek from writing young adult fiction. As a sideline gig, he also wrote three novelisations of X-Files episodes (written by Vince Gilligan) for a Harper Collins series.

While on Dawson’s Creek, he was asked to develop a romantic TV comedy idea called Cupid. At the time, Thomas’ only knowledge of pitching was what they showed in episodes of Seinfeld and the movie, The Player. Not really expecting to sell the show, he sold it. He went from writing young adult novels in Texas to having a mild show on the ABC in about ten months.

Ford asks, Did you experience any kind of fear?

‘Yes. Unbelievable fear. They hand you 2.5 million dollars every ten days to make a new episode of television. It moves very fast. I would come home at night unable to sleep.’

Thomas’ beginnings in TV were a sink-or-swim proposition, but over time his confidence flourished.

He didn’t become a mystery-crime-detective writer until Veronica Mars. And even after years of experience, he still doesn’t feel writing mystery comes naturally.

Veronica Mars (the protagonist) dedicates her life to solving the toughest mysteries and fighting the darkest crimes. The storylines explore some heavy topics including sexual assault, child abuse, class issues and yet the script’s tone often gravitates towards the humourous.

‘I like existing in a world where there are real dramatic states, where the show can make you cry, make you angry, want retribution for the hero. I never felt geared to write a very sombre procedural show or write the rhythm of sitcom. But I want to be funny; I want some levity to counter-balance what are some heavy topics in the show.’

The last season of Veronica Mars was cut to 20 episodes. So, with a few to weeks spare, Thomas reunited with Party Down co-creator, Paul Rudd and shot a pilot. Originally the idea was to sell Party Down to HBO – Steve Carell was going to play the role of Ron Donald – it was going to be huge! But HBO turned it down. The then show got moved to FX networks where they had a great development experience but it still never made it to air. Party Down eventually got picked up by STARZ network. The comedy series follows a group of actors that move to LA to make it big, but end up working as caterers.

In 2014, Veronica Mars made the leap from TV to the big screen (and now novels) – kick started by the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever.

Veronica Mars was the perfect kickstarter project but I don’t know if it’s going to
revolutionise the TV industry in any way…it had a devoted audience who cared very much about the show.’

If fans want a third book of Veronica Mars they will need to ‘root very hard for the cancelation of iZombie.’

Thomas completed the second Veronica Mars book while creating the new TV series iZombie and it nearly ‘killed’ him and since has vowed not to put himself in the same position again.

Like Veronica Mars, iZombie pivots around a crime-fighting heroine. Warner Bros wanted the next Buffy, the next Veronica Mars! Loosely based on the comic book series, iZombie follows a crime-fighting zombie girl who assists the police.

Thomas loves young adult fiction but admits it would be difficult to go back to writing novels. He likes writing ‘dialogue and plot’ which suit a screenwriter very well.

Does Rob Thomas have a favourite character?

Veronica Mars I think.’

Edited by Angela Hryc

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