08/01/2008. Contributed by Del Rey Team
Aury Wallington, the author of the new Heroes novel, Saving Charlie, talks about how the set-up of the story stays true to the Heroes TV show, why Aury adores Hiro, and keeping all the time-travel paradoxes straight in her head.
Question: You’re both a novelist and a TV writer. Which of these modes of writing is most fulfilling for you, and why?
Aury Wallington: Both types of writing are fun and fulfilling, albeit in completely different ways. I love the camaraderie and collaboration of a TV writers room, while novel writing can feel really solitary–just you, alone, at your kitchen table, day after day, for hundreds of pages. But there are freedoms that come with writing fiction that you don’t have in TV–novels have fewer rules about page count and structure, so there’s more room to explore, to really dig into the story and the characters’ pasts, to go off on side tangents, etc. I’ve been really lucky so far, in that I’ve been able to switch back and forth between TV and novels–it’s really the best of both worlds!
Q: Then writing the first novel based on a breakout TV hit that’s still growing in popularity must have really been a dream job for you.
AW: I’d been a gigantic fan of Heroes from the beginning, and am lucky enough to be friends with one of the show’s writers, Aron Eli Coleite. Aron had read and loved my novel POP!, so when the show decided to do a novelization, he suggested me for the job. It was definitely a labor of love; they had a pretty tight deadline for when they needed the book to be done, so I basically spent six weeks immersed in the story 24 hours a day. I’d wake up in the mornings already thinking about it, spend fourteen hours every day at my computer writing, then go to bed and dream about Hiro and Charlie all night. I usually have a million projects going at once, so it was amazing to set everything else aside for a month and focus exclusively and wholly on Charlie and Hiro’s story.
Q: Is Saving Charlie a straight novelization of the three episodes from the TV show that featured Hiro’s relationship with Charlie, or does it break new ground?
AW: The set-up of the story stays true to the show–Hiro meets Charlie, goes back in time six months, has his first kiss with her, then accidentally teleports away–but from there the story takes off running through completely new ground. The book shows what really happened during those six months, follows all of Hiro’s adventures going backward and forward through time as he attempts to save Charlie, and really delves into Hiro and Charlie’s growing relationship (both the emotional and physical sides!). It also explores in depth Hiro’s own past, his childhood and relationship with his father, and his time-bending superpowers. There are a ton of surprises, and lots of cool, funny, sometimes-tragic secrets get revealed–not just about Hiro and Charlie’s time together, but about Hiro himself.
Q: You’re clearly the author of Saving Charlie, but the title page lists many collaborators, including Jeph Loeb, who is co-executive producer on the show. Did the two of you collaborate, or did you work from an outline he provided?
AW: When I got the assignment, I sat down with Jeph Loeb and producers Michael Green, Aron Coleite, and Mark Warshaw, for a few hours and talked through the story. They answered the million or so questions I had about Hiro and his powers and the world of the show, and also told me specific things they did or did not want to see in the book. Jeph had created the wonderful character of Robogirl, who is featured prominently in the novel, and he and I also discussed how Robogirl could affect Hiro’s story. Then I went home and wrote an outline for the book, which led to another discussion, and from those notes, I started to write. As I wrote Saving Charlie, Jeph and the other writers were an amazing resource to run ideas and questions past (“How exactly does the space-time continuum work?”), and I consulted a lot with them and the show’s script coordinator, Ollie Grigsby, to make sure all of the specific details in the book stayed true to the world of the show.
Q: It sounds like you had a lot of freedom.
AW: I had lots of freedom inside the basic framework of the story. I was able to move around those six months (and also a couple hundred years in the past, and a couple decades into the future) as much as I liked, as long as it stayed true to the tone and world of the show and didn’t contradict something that would happen in a later episode. Like, I couldn’t have Sylar accidentally get run over by a car and die in the book, because obviously he is still alive on the show. But within the confines of the story we saw on TV, I was pretty much able to do what I wanted (after checking the major points with the producers, of course!) . I had the most fun and the most freedom writing the chapters about Hiro’s childhood. Scenes from his awkward adolescence are sprinkled through the book–him asking a girl out for the first time (and getting turned down!), having crushes and trying to figure out what girls want and having his heart broken–all the funny, sad parts of Hiro’s romantic past that made him who he is, and made Charlie his perfect first love. I loved writing those chapters.
Q: Is Hiro your favorite character in Heroes? What do you think it is about this comic-book-loving geek, so wonderfully portrayed by the actor Masi Oka, that has captured the hearts of so many fans?
AW: I completely adore Hiro. Masi Oka brings such sweetness and vulnerability to the character (and is such a hottie!)–I just want to hug him forever! I think what makes the character of Hiro so popular is he’s really relatable. He’s occasionally awkward and clueless–aren’t we all?!–but he also has such hope, both for himself and for the world. And of all the Heroes, I think Hiro takes the most delight in his powers–he doesn’t second-guess them for a minute. Hiro knows that having superpowers makes him a hero, and he is going to use them to be a force for good. I think he captures the way we’d all like to think we’d behave if we woke up one morning with superpowers. Nobody dreams about slicing people’s heads open and taking their brains like Sylar–no way! We all want to be Hiros.
Q: Keeping all the time-travel paradoxes straight in your head while writing this novel must have been challenging!
AW: “Challenging” is a good word for it! There are places in the book when Hiro has to worry about running not just into his past self, but also his future self and a couple different versions of his present self! It helped to keep in mind the three big dates in the book–Charlie’s birthday, the night of their first kiss, and the date of her murder at the Burnt Toast Diner–and then figure out, each time Hiro jumped through time and space, where he was in relation to those three events. I also needed to make sure that Hiro in the book stayed true to where he was at on the show during the Charlie episodes–he hadn’t gained control of his powers, gotten Kensei’s sword, or learned he could bring another person along with him through time yet, so I couldn’t have him teleport Charlie away with him. Luckily, the wonderful editors at Random House had a good eye for that sort of thing, and were a huge help in keeping my timelines straight.
Q: You obviously had a lot of information on which to base your characterization of Hiro, since his role on the TV show is so central. But Charlie’s character was much more of an open book, so to speak. How did you flesh her out?
AW: The show’s writers had set up such a wonderful character in Charlie, and because she isn’t recurring on the show, I had a lot more freedom to invent the details of her life and past without worrying about how those details would affect later episodes of the show. All the questions Charlie’s character had raised in my mind–how did she get the blood clot in her brain, when did she discover her memory power, why was she so obsessed with taking a trip around the world, what was it about Hiro that let her fall in love for the very first time–I got to come up with the answers to those questions that I liked best. I hope they’re answers that will satisfy the readers too!
Q: Will you be doing more tie-in or original work with Heroes?
AW: I hope so!
Q: As a Los Angeles—based writer, what are you doing to keep busy during the writers’ strike?
AW: I’m trying to appreciate the silver-lining of being on strike: the picket line workout! After being locked away at my computer for a couple months writing this book, it’s good to get some exercise, and marching in a circle for four hours a day has got to have some health benefits, right?!
Q: Er, yeah. Right!
The following material is being reprinted from the Del Rey Internet Newsletter. To subscribe to this free, monthly e-newsletter, visit www.delreybooks.com
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