Talking to Gary Whitta about faith, fantasy and his new novel “ABOMINATION”

Gary Whitta is no stranger to the realms of fantasy. The acclaimed screenwriter first made a name for himself by penning the script to “The Book of Eli”, a post-apocalyptic tale that starred Denzel Washington. He has written for acclaimed game-maker Telltale Games“The Walking Dead” series; and recently made a splash when he was tapped to write the screenplay to “Star Wars: Rogue One”, one of the Star Wars Anthology films that is currently in production. (He has since written a script for the animated television series Star Wars: REBELS.) Whitta has now transitioned into the realm of prose, having just released his first novel titled “ABOMINATION.”

Whitta_ABOMINATION-CV“ABOMINATION” tells the story of Wulfric, a knight from England’s Dark Ages, who after fighting a war against his country’s enemies, finds himself battling the forces of darkness. It’s a story where the reader travels to some very dark places that Whitta has created, with elements of horror, action and (thankfully) humor that keeps you turning pages until you get to the last one.

After having a copy of ABOMINATION sent to me by his publisher, Inkshares, Whitta and I corresponded via e-mail to discuss the book; where the idea came from; how he explores themes of faith and fear; how Whitta would cast the ABOMINATION movie; and his involvement with Star Wars: Rogue One:

Continue reading after the jump!

Geek To Me: Can you tell us a little about how ABOMINATION came to be, specifically the idea for the story and why you decided to seek support via crowdfunding?

Gary Whitta: I always wanted to do my version of a good-old fashioned monster story like Frankenstein or Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, something really dark and sinister with a horrifying beast at the center of it. I think those “monster within” stories are always a great way to talk about the struggle with our inner demons. So it kind of grew from that basic idea. Plus purely on a popcorn level it was a fun opportunity to explore some really gory, horrific territory that I’ve never really tried before.

In terms of the crowfunding aspect, I’ve been really inspired by authors who have circumvented the traditional publishing methods and found success on their own terms, like Hugh Howey and Andy Weir. I came close to self-publishing Abomination as they have with their books, but Inkshares came along and presented a really interesting opportunity, basically a lot of the freedom of self-publishing combined with the resources that a traditional publisher can bring to bear and which often are difficult for self-published authors to handle alone.

G2M: The characters spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on how God judges their actions. How much of ABOMINATION is informed by your own faith?

GW: My own faith? None at all. I’m an atheist. It’s funny because I wrote The Book of Eli, which has very heavy religious themes and so many people who saw that movie assumed I was a Christian. Not at all. In my view that movie tries to take a kind of neutral view on religion, speaking to both the positive and destructive forces it’s capable of creating. But regardless of my own beliefs I’ve always found spiritual and religious motivations in others fascinating, and since “Abomination” is set during the Dark Ages, it made sense to me that some of our principal characters would be driven by those beliefs. It’s largely a story about redemption, so it plays well into those ideas.

"Abomination" Author Gary Whitta
“Abomination” Author Gary Whitta

G2M : A running theme in the book is about how people think themselves evil (or good) yet as the reader, we may not agree with the characters’ self-assessment. For instance, Wulfric thinks himself a monster of sorts, a killing machine, and yet as a reader I felt more sympathetic to him. Were there times when you thought you couldn’t make him sympathetic?

GW: Yeah, making sure Wulfric comes across as sympathetic was key, and an interesting way to accomplish that was to give him a totally unsympathetic view of himself. Any impartial observer would look at Wulfric and see that he’s a good man, but he doesn’t hold that opinion of himself. He’s such a pacifist at heart he kind of hates himself for all the people he killed during the Viking wars. I think holding yourself to account for the things you’ve done is a very sympathetic trait, and even moreso in the case of Wulfric, where he’s become so blinded by his own guilt he can no longer see himself for the good man that he really is. Finding a path for the character where he’s able to see past that and allow himself to be forgiven is really the core of his character arc and, hopefully, his redemption.

G2M: Wulfric also spends a considerable amount of time with your female protagonist, Indra. She’s headstrong and kick-ass, so I wondered where the inspiration for her came from?

GW: I think Indra is as much the protagonist as Wulfric, even though she technically doesn’t even show up until a third of the way through the story. She’s kind of a foil for Wulfric and really the catalyst for him being able to see himself for who he really is, not the monster he’s convinced himself he’s become. I think the key to Indra was her bein more than just the cliched “strong female character” who kicks ass, we’ve seen that a million times and I don’t think the key to a “strong” female character is to just give her a bunch of masculine traits like being good at fighting. I think what makes her interesting is that she’s really messed up in a lot of ways. She had a terrible childhood and now she’s all mixed up and driven by this anger that she doesn’t know how to resolve. I found that the more flaws I weighed her down with, the stronger she became, because her journey is really about succeeding in spite of those flaws.

G2M: I found it fascinating that the idea of fear being used to control a populace was also present in the book. Were you trying to give a commentary on the current climate in the United States or the world abroad?

GW: Not particularly but only because I think that’s more of a universal theme. It’s always been that way. Maybe it’s even more pronounced these days but it’s nothing really new, using fear, particularly fear of the different and unkown, to motivate people has been around forever.

G2M: There are some truly horrifying moments in the book, where you really feel for the victims. Do you find scenes like that difficult to write?

GW: It’s weird because they are the most difficult to write and also the most fun at the same time. During the creature transformations and attacks I wanted to just go all-out and come up with the most hideous, horrifying stuff I could put into words. HP Lovecraft and John Carpenter’s The Thing were big inspirations in that regard, monsters that are so unspeakably horrendous that they just offend our sense of everything that’s good and right about the natural world. So those bits were a lot of fun to write, but in retrospect it maybe concerns me a little bit that I did have so much fun writing them! I think if nothing else the book has succeeded on that level because I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers on how grossed out those parts of the book made them feel. Success!

G2M: Okay, you must have given some thought to how the book would translate into a film, so what would be your dream cast for the ABOMINATION movie?

GW: I never allow myself to get that far ahead. If someone wants to turn Abomination into a movie I think that would be pretty awesome, but for now I’m just happy that I got to tell the story the way I wanted to tell it, and that readers seem to be really responding to it. Anything else beyond that is gravy.

But having said all that… Chris Hemsworth or Channing Tatum.

G2M: Any plans for a sequel? I have this feeling that Aethlered’s fate wasn’t quite as it was portrayed…

GW: There’s lots of ways the door is left open for a sequel at the end, but that wasn’t presumptive on my part. It just felt like the proper and natural end to this particular story to leave the characters the way it does. I think there’s the potential for more stories in this universe, sure, but I don’t really get to make that decision, the readers do. If enough people buy the book that makes a sequel viable. If they don’t… onto the next idea!

G2M: Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you at least one question about Star Wars – Rogue One: what was it like being able to type out the title page to that script? To see your name under the words “Star Wars.”

GW: It was pretty awesome. And that’s literally all I can say!

G2M: Thanks for your time! 

You can purchase your copy of ABOMINATION on!

Follow Gary Whitta on TWITTER!

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