Silverwood: The Door – An Interview with Richard Chizmar

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.

Richard Chizmar is a New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Amazon, and Publishers Weekly bestselling author. He is the co-author (with Stephen King) of the bestselling novella, Gwendy’s Button Box. He has edited more than 35 anthologies and his fiction has appeared in dozens of publications, including multiple editions of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He’s also an accomplished screenwriter and the founder/guiding force behind Cemetery Dance. Recently, he took on another project: answering these questions about his work on Silverwood: The Door.

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: How did you become involved with Silverwood: The Door?

RICHARD CHIZMAR: Brian Keene emailed and asked me. I’ve known Brian a long time and respect his work and how he approaches business, so I listened closely to the pitch and discussed it with my agent, Kristin Nelson. She loved the idea, as did I, so we went for it.

You’re a busy man — writing books with Stephen King, making movies with your son, running Cemetery Dance — so I imagine a project has to be pretty special to get a “yes” from you these days. What was it about Silverwood: The Door that was worth making time in your schedule for?

Brian acting as showrunner was a huge attraction for me. I knew the project was in good hands. That certainly helped! Once I sat down and watched a few episodes of Silverwood on YouTube, I was sold. It was wonderfully done, and I love small town stories with far-reaching implications.

It’s one thing to collaborate with one writer, but on Silverwood you were working with four others. What are the challenges involved in getting that many people to come up with something that works as one vision and voice? What are the advantages to having that many contributors on a project?

I’d collaborated with a number of writers over the years — both in prose and film — but never more than one at the same time. I had never done a writer’s room type of project. The closest I had come was a few film projects where producers got involved with the creative process…and those were not positive experiences. So, I admit I was a little wary about the set-up initially.

How does working on a project like this — something that will be presented in a serial format — differ from writing stories, novels and screenplays? 

Of course, there are specific continuity and pacing issues that come into play. Each segment is part of an overall storyline, but you still need to make sure each individual episode advances the story in sensible ways and adds to the sense of approaching doom. Some episodes might be more character-driven, others focusing more on plot, but if you want to keep the reader’s attention, you need to make sure there are no slow-downs or roadblocks and everything works seamlessly. In the end, it’s all about story.

What impact did this project, and these particular collaborators, have on you as a writer?

I loved working with Brian, Lydia (our boss at Serial Box), Tony (Silverwood’s original creator), Stephen Kozeniewski, and the sisters, Michelle and Melissa. I learned a lot and found myself feeling reenergized about my own writing in ways that were difficult to put my finger on. There was a lot of good energy in the room and absolutely no egos. Just really fertile ground for creating, and that’s something for which I was really grateful.

What do you feel was your biggest contribution to the project?

Tough question and probably better suited for the others to answer. I guess I would say maybe creating some decent characterization in the midst of some horrific, action-packed events. I tried to make sure the reader believed in and cared about the characters, so the terror and danger would feel all the more real.  

What can you tell us about the episode(s) you wrote?

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to talk about yet, so I’ll just say this: I got to write about kids and creatures and wonky technology and serial killers, all favorite topics of mine. My two episodes ranged from sweet and nostalgic to suspenseful and downright gory — I had a blast!

Brian Keene is no stranger to Cemetery Dance, but I’m guessing this was an entirely new way of working with him. What was it like having him as a showrunner?

It was a cool experience. Brian is a talented guy and a natural leader. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind (ahem!), but he’s also very open to outside thoughts and ideas, even when they might differ with his own. He made it clear from Day One that he was all about getting the best possible story out of the group, and I really respect that.

What else do you have in the works that you can tell us about?

Let’s see, I have a new short story collection, The Long Way Home, coming out soon in hardcover from PS Publishing. I’m about to turn in a novella to Subterranean Press for publication sometime in 2019. A bunch of new short stories appearing in various anthologies. I’m working on a novel for my agent, and looking forward to seeing final cuts of Murder House, Trapped, and Widow’s Point, three films I was involved with this year.

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

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