Niles & Mariotte talk "30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead"

Reprinted by permission. Copyright © 2006 by Steve Niles, Ben Templesmith, and Idea + Design Works, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

There is no arguing the tremendous impact "30 Days of Night" had on comics when it debuted four years ago. The book by writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith was an instant sensation, catching most everyone in the industry by surprise. This little book about vampires showing up in an Alaskan town just as the sun was to set for 30 days jump started the horror genre in comics in a serious way. The original series spawned numerous spin-offs and follow-up comics, as well as a series of original paperback novels, the first of which was released at the end of last month. "30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead" is the first of three novels released by Pocket Books. Jeff Mariotte joins Niles as his collaborator on the novels, which is only fitting seeing as how Mariote was the original editor of the "30 Days of Night" comics back when he served as Editor in Chief of IDW Publishing.

With the novel now on stands, we caught up with Niles and Mariotte to learn more about the book, on what it was like collaborating on a prose piece together for the first time and what the future holds for "30 Days of Night" in comics. In addition, Pocket Books has provided CBR News with the first chapter of the book, which you can read in its entirety by clicking the link on the left.

Steve, originally you were set to write this novel alone. How did Jeff get involved with "Rumors of the Undead?"

Steve Niles: Basically, what it boiled down to was I had too much work on my plate. [My editor] Ed Schlesinger at Pocket Books suggested I try working with another writer and Jeff Mariotte was the perfect candidate. Not only was he a friend, but he was the original editor of the "30 Days of Night" stuff, so he really knows the material.

Jeff Mariotte: And I had worked with [Pocket Books] and Ed Schlesinger before on the "Boogeyman" novelization, a wonderfully unforgettable film. I guess Ed suggested me to Steve and was thrilled with that idea and he called me up. I came on board, but I was added after the fact and Pocket Books went and redid the contract so that there was one for me and one for Steve.

Jeff, looking at your previously published work, you've done a lot of collaborations over the years and have spent a lot of time in the genre fiction realm. This is your first time writing with Steve, though. Has this been a strange role for you to step into?

JM: It's a little different because I had always been Steve's editor in the past, which means that I spent much of my time rattling his cage to get pages out of him, whereas in this case it's much more of a partnership. We have a perfectly fine, casual relationship, so there weren't any tensions going in. It wasn't like, "You used to be my editor and now we're partners, so now I'm going to fuck you!" [laughs]

What was the working style with you and Steve? Was it the same as you have had with previous collaborators?

JM: Every collaboration is different and this one was a little more different than the rest. Essentially what happened was Steve, in working with Ed, came up with a really solid, comprehensive outline for the book. In the novel there are sections that are excerpts from the book that Stella writes, which is called "30 Days of Night" and appears in the comics, and so we kind of laid out where those were going in the outline. Then, I took the outline and did the first draft of everything except the Stella sections. Meanwhile, Steve was working on the Stella sections and was writing the book from her point of view and her experiences up in barrow. Those sections kind of retell the story from the original "30 Days of Night" mini-series. The rest of the novel takes place after the Norris MIA story that appeared in the "30 Days of Night Annual." It mostly follows FBI Agent Andy Gray on his search for Paul Norris. So, I did the first draft on the major section, while Steve did the Stella excerpts. I sent everything to Steve, he put it all together, did another pass over the draft and sent it off the Pocket Books.

So, Steve, you really left Jeff to his own devices on this book.

SN: Yeah. Writing with Jeff was a pleasure. We just passed the manuscript back and forth until we had this book. I knew what I wanted to have happen, who it happened to and when it had to happen, but I wanted to let Jeff play around. I wanted it to be a true collaboration, not just hiring someone to do my work for me. He was the perfect guy and the way the book turned out, so far I think people agree.

Steve, you've collaborated with a number of different writers in comics, both up and coming talent and established creators. How did your collaboration with Jeff compare?

SN: It was totally different since this was prose. When you're doing comics, well, they're shorter for starters! And in comics, even if you're collaborating with another writer, you still have that final third collaborator with the artist. Really, the art winds up defining what you end up with. So, it really was different just because it was prose. It was a lot more in-depth. I was in there working with Jeff's stuff and he was working with mine. It was really cool.

Obviously Stella plays a role in this book and she's a character from the comics. So are Paul Norris and Andy Gray. Do any other other characters make appearances?

JM: Well, it's mainly Andy Gray and Paul Norris and we learn more about their families and their lives and careers. Norris, in the comics, became a vampire and at one point Stella's ghost just about does a good job of tearing him into little pieces, but not quite well enough. He continues to haunt the universe. Beyond those guys, all the characters who appear in the original mini-series are in there either in the current storyline or else in the Stella flashbacks.

I want to find out what some of your favorite moments are from the book. Let's start with Jeff. What's a moment you think you really nailed?

JM: There are a couple. Andy has a kind of a relationship, not a romantic one, but a relationship with a University professor. I don't want to give away too much that happens with that relationship, but the way that comes to a head is, I think, a pretty powerful bit. His first encounter with a vampire is a pretty scary bit that I had a good time writing. It took place in an abandoned nightclub in Hollywood.

Of course vampires aren't unusual at night clubs in Hollywood.

JM: No, they're a given! [laughs] And the book kind of travels all over the place. It doesn't stay in Barrow very much at all. It ends in Barrow in a kind of big, climactic confrontation there, but it takes place in Los Angeles, Madison, WI and various points in between because Andy is kind of on the run for a while, laying low and moving about the country, so I got to do a lot of research about different places and spots, which was fun.

Steve, what about you? Got a favorite moment from the book?

SN: I do. Actually, I have two, but my favorite would have to be the fact that Andy is in the house the entire time when his family is being murdered. It's a really intense scene that was built up well. That was one of those things where it's one thing to describe it in a treatment, but seeing it in prose, well, Jeff just did a brilliant job.

Steve, the release date according to the original press release was to see "Rumors of the Undead" released in August of 2005, but it didn't come out until the end of February, 2006. Why the delay?

SN: I believe there may have been some problems with IDW and things like that or it was me! [Laughs] I don't know! Clearly, I can't remember, so maybe that's the problem! [Laughs] I can't remember my freaking deadlines.

What's the status of the next novel in the series?

SN: I'm working on the outline right now, then I'll get to the treatment and hopefully I'll start that next week in my hot, new bachelor pad! [laughs]

Sounds like a good way to christen the new digs. And you'll be doing this with Jeff as well?

SN: What?

No, not the two of you living in the bachelor pad together. No, the next novel! [laughs]

SN: [laughs] Right, that I'll be doing with Jeff, not living in a bachelor pad. [laughs]

Right, right. OK, let's begin bringing this to a close. Jeff, what's next for you?

JM: Well, in comics I'm talking with IDW about some stuff. It's probably too early to say what it is at this point. So, right now in comics I've got nothing.

In comic related stuff, or at least somewhat related, I have a trilogy coming out right now - the second book of which came out on the 28th - set in the world of Conan the Barbarian called "Age of Conan: Marauders." It's a series that expands on Conan's world, trying to give more details about places that Robert E. Howard in his stories kind of passed over because Conan didn't stay long or whatever. So, a couple of different writers were hired to play around in that wonderful sand box. That's been really cool. And I just finished a novel for DC Comics that'll be out next year that throws Superman, Phantom Stranger and the Demon in with Jonah Hex, El Diablo, Scalp Hunter and Batlash. That was loads of fun to do.

So, you're taking the Superman characters and throwing them into the West? Sounds intriguing.

As for the future of "30 Days of Night" in comics, Steve, what's the story there?

SN: There are all sorts of plans. The plans are, well, I guess this will be a premature sneak of sorts, but Kelly Sue DeConnick and I are doing a six-issue series simply called "Eben and Stella." It will start one page after "Dark Days" and end at the beginning of "Return to Barrow." It's a story that documents what happened to them from the end of Dark Days on. I'm really excited about that.

Also, since we got a really good response to Dan Wickline and my "Dead Space," I'm actually going to… well, I'm saying this like a father letting his daughter out on a date, but Dan's going to write a solo "30 Days of Night" series. He's shown me a couple of pitches, we've talked up some ideas and it should be really interesting.

Any idea when these new series will be coming out?

SN: IDW will be making an announcement soon. With the movie ramping up we want to sync up as closely as we can with the release. We're talking at least two more comic series, plus two more novels, so I think there will be plenty of "30 Days" stuff out there for the fans.

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