Silverwood: The Door – An Interview with Brian Keene

Silverwood: The Door is the follow-up to Silverwood, an original video series from Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV (episodes are available on YouTube). Brian Keene acts as showrunner for a writers room featuring Richard ChizmarStephen Kozeniewski, and the Sisters of Slaughter – Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason. The result is a 10-episode series, released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats beginning in October.  The team promises a mix of horror styles encompassing slashers, splatterpunk, psychological, Lovecraftian, and more.

Brian Keene writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, mostly in the horror, crime, and dark fantasy genres. Keene also hosts the popular podcast The Horror Show with Brian Keene, which airs weekly on iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and elsewhere via the Project Entertainment Network. His Cemetery Dance column “Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction,” in which he follows the art form of telling spooky stories from its cave-bound roots up through the present day, will be returning from hiatus soon. In the meantime, Keene took the time to answer a few questions about his work on Silverwood: The Door.

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: Tell us how you got involved with Silverwood: The Door.

BRIAN KEENE: Lydia Shamah at Serial Box reached out to me about being the showrunner. That was the first thing that intrigued me — they’re producing novel-length serialized fiction and audio dramas, but the creative process is modeled after the production of a television series, rather than a novel. And also like television, the pay is much better than that of a novel. (laughs)

Anyway, she mentioned Silverwood. I’d heard of the series, but I’d never watched it, mostly because I’m middle-aged and tired and behind on everything. I knew that my oldest son was a fan, and a lot of viewers his age were fans, so after talking to Lydia, I binge-watched the entire first season, and the Silverwood: Final Recordings follow-up (which acts as a second season), and then read the graphic novel. And then I called Lydia back and said, “Hell yes, let’s do this.”

As showrunner, how much of the overall concept came from you? How much did it change with the input of Silverwood creator Tony Valenzuela and the other writers involved?

Once I got the gig, I re-watched everything and re-read the graphic novel, and then came up with an idea. One thing that struck me is that, within the framework Tony created, there’s an opportunity to tell any type of story you want. This also applies to the horror’s various sub-genres. Supernatural horror, quiet horror, cosmic horror, extreme horror, thriller, serial killer… Tony had done a little of each, throughout various episodes. One episode would feature demonic possession. The next would feature backwoods cannibals. So, I thought it might be neat if we tried to combine all of those aspects in one story.

I was told to approach this as a continuation of Silverwood — specifically picking up after the finale of Silverwood: Final Recordings. So I wanted something that would be familiar and recognizable to fans of the series.

But at the same time, I needed to be mindful that a lot of readers who would be coming into this — particularly fans of mine or Richard Chizmar’s or Stephen Kozeniewski’s or the Sisters of Slaughter — would have no frame of reference. It was vitally important to craft a story that they could come into with no previous frame of reference.

Basically, if you were a fan of Silverwood, you’ll be more than satisfied with this lovingly rendered story. But if you’ve never seen an episode of Silverwood, you won’t need to worry. You can start here with zero knowledge of what has come before.

So I came up with a pitch that addressed these points and stated these goals, and both Serial Box and Tony approved it. And off we went!

In a nutshell, the Silverwood mythology is all Tony’s. Based on that existing mythos, I came up with the skeletal structure and musculature of the plot, story, and new characters. And then the rest of the team fleshed those things out, and added their own ideas.

And that’s how you make a baby.

What exactly were your duties as showrunner?

My first task was writing the series bible — another television thing that Serial Box has adapted for their purposes. The bible is a massive document that recaps the complete history of Silverwood — detailing all of the mythology that Tony imbued those first two seasons and the graphic novel with. Then it outlines the new story, making sure its accessible for new readers. There’s also a complete bio for each and every character, and a summary of each and every episode. In truth, writing the bible is, in many ways, harder than writing a novel.

Once that had been approved by Tony and Serial Box, we then selected the team. Lydia and I put our heads together on that. Once we had the team, we had a writer’s retreat. Originally it was supposed to be in New York City, but the Sisters of Slaughter are both young mothers, and we didn’t want them to be away from their kids for a whole week, so we were able to do it in their home state again.

Probably the most amazing part of that was we got Richard to leave home for a week. I mean, the guy is one of my oldest friends in this business. He lives forty minutes from me. But he never goes anywhere, other than the Cemetery Dance offices! (laughs)

We spent a week in Arizona, sequestered together in a bed and breakfast. Rich, Lydia and Tony slept there at night. The Sisters of Slaughter slept at home with their families. Stephen and I bunked with Paul Goblirsch, the CEO of Thunderstorm Books. By day, we all met up at the B&B and referenced the story bible and plotted out each episode — who would write it, what would happen in it, the story beats, how it connected to and impacted the other episodes. At night, we’d go out to eat, and then to sleep and then do it all over again the next day. It was intense, but it was also a lot of fun. That sense of creative camaraderie is hard to come by outside of a unique setting like that.

That retreat was back in February of this year, and I still think of it fondly. It was a great time.

What do you consider your biggest contribution to the project?

Definitely bringing in the Sisters of Slaughter and Stephen. And I was so proud of them. There are so many talented writers in this new generation, and I very much try to give all of them a chance or a break when and where I can. And the Sisters and Stephen absolutely kicked ass. They took the opportunity and just completely blew everyone out of the water. It was really cute. All three were so nervous the first day — especially about meeting Richard in person. I overheard one of them whispering “Oh my God, Richard Chizmar!” But within a few hours they’d relaxed. You could tell they felt they belonged. And they did. They earned that seat at the table, and like I said, they wildly exceeded anyone’s expectations.

Richard and I have collaborated before, so I was used to working with him. We write very well together. We have a rhythm, you know? But by the second day, I think all four of us were in total sync with one another — a single unified hive mind speaking with one voice. It was pretty incredible. And having been in these sort of writer’s rooms before, it’s rare that happens.

The Sisters write violence like nobody else. Richard’s great at atmosphere and examining the dark underbelly of human nature. Stephen is fantastic at working in dark humor and surrealistic elements. And to have all of that come together into a cohesive package that combines all of horror’s various forms?

We created something magic, here. I can’t wait for people to experience it.

You’re not known as a writer who works on one project at a time, so…what else should be people be looking forward to from Brian Keene?

Well, my accident back in June has slowed me down considerably. I’m still recovering from that. Physically I’m okay. That synthetic skin was frigging amazing. But I’m in pain much of the time. And chronic pain is not conducive to writing 2,000 words a day. There’s also the mental and emotional toll something like that takes on you. But I’ll get there. I claw my way back a little more each day.

But…before the end of the year, End of the Road should be out in hardcover from Cemetery Dance and White Fire should be out in paperback and ebook from Deadite Press. Crossroads Press continues to release my considerable backlist as audiobooks. Next year will see the releases of Hole in the World in paperback and ebook (the hardcover came out this year), and Invisible Monsters, Suburban Gothic, Dissonant Harmonies (with Bev Vincent), and Curse of the Bastards (with Steven L. Shrewsbury).

Currently, I’m working on collaborations with Bryan Smith and Wrath James White, a novella called Dead Air, and The Fall, which is the final book in The Rising series. And after some of that is cleared out of the way, I’ve got collaborations on deck with Edward Lee and Keith Lansdale.

So, unless I die…I reckon I’ll stay pretty busy for the foreseeable future.

Silverwood: The Door is now available for preorderPreorder the ebook/audio bundle and use code “SILVERWOODBK” to get 15% off!

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