PAPERBACK EDITION OF 'ARE SNAKES NECESSARY?' STREETS JULY 13
With the paperback edition of Are Snakes Necessary? coming July 13th, Hard Case Crime set up an interview with co-authors Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman for the Light The Fuse podcast. Part one of that interview was posted Friday (YouTube version embedded below). The original discussion about Are Snakes Necessary? included spoilers, but at the request of Lehman, podcast hosts Charles Hood and Drew Taylor cut out the spoiler portions. Here's a partial transcript of the episode's discussion around the novel:
Drew: Well, I was going to ask if this was ever conceived as a movie, but it sounds like it was always a book.
De Palma: Well, you write a lot of scripts that never get done. Then you've got a lot of ideas that are sitting on a shelf somewhere, or in a computer. And you say, well, this movie never got made, but maybe we can use this idea in a book. And that's sort of how it evolved.
Drew: Okay. And what was the collaborative process like?
Lehman: A lot of fun.
Drew [laughter from Charles]: Really? Okay.
De Palma: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. I would basically write some stuff and send it off to Susan, and she would rewrite it and then send it back to me.
Lehman: Brian, as you can imagine, has a very visual imagination and a great eye for story structure. And so he put down the tent poles, and then we sent it back-and-forth. And we kind of played a game, which was send it back-and-forth and see if you can amuse the other person more than you were amused.
Charles: Did you have an ending from the start?
Lehman: No, we were a couple of pages short, so... [she laughs]
[some other laughter]
De Palma: What do you mean a couple of pages short?
Lehman: As I recall, [we were at this some time?]...
De Palma: And?
Lehman: I think there was a whole section that we just decided to add on after we'd sort of mapped everything out.
De Palma: Sounds good to me.
Charles: Was it the whole Paris section or something? Or was it one of the characters that you were following?
De Palma: Well, we had some broad ideas...
Lehman: It's that kind of attention to detail that makes Brian remiss.
De Palma: You know, we had the political story, and then when we got the deCarlo character involved, then we got into her doing the column.
Lehman: And I think the final revenge, I think we took the revenge up a notch there at the end.
Charles: What was the biggest challenge of writing together? Or I guess, in writing your first novel, in general?
De Palma: Well, as you can imagine, we had a lot of time together, and it sort of fills out the day. Because, I sort of wake up very early in the morning, I have all kinds of ideas, and I sort of go to the computer and write them down, and then I sort of confer with Susan, and... sometimes I'm either developing a screenplay, but then, I have all these other ideas from the other screenplays, and it's a kind of unique collaboration, because Susan kind of fits it to the things I don't have. You know, I'm a visual storyteller, and blah-di-blah-di-blah. And she's able to get the characters' meat on the bone. You know, in movies, you just say, "He...", "She...", "The reporter...", you know, and you're very... sketching things in, because when the actors come in, they give the body to the character. But Susan did a lot of this, filling in the characters and their backstories.
Drew: The book came out a year ago, and we're nearing the paperback release. Is there going to be a followup? Are there going to be more of these books?
Lehman: Many many more.
De Palma: Yes. We, in our confinement, came up with another idea for a book, and we've been working on that for quite a while. So...
Lehman: It's finished.
De Palma: Yes, it's finished.
Charles: That's great!
De Palma: When our public calls out to us, we will release it.
Charles: Well, we'd love to see this, for sure, I hope that happens.
Drew: Yeah, we're calling out for it.
Charles: I'm interested to know: the book feels so much like a Brian De Palma movie, but also has more... it feels like a lot of your movies are so laser-focused on the narrative of a singular character or a couple of characters. This is much more of an ensemble. It's almost like a Brian De Palma movie by way of, like, Robert Altman, almost, with all these different characters. Was that always...
Lehman: Who gets to be the Robert Altman character in this portrayal?
Charles: Was that always the idea? Or did it start... I know a lot of your movies are like sequences that you start from and then build around. Was it more like that? Or how did the whole thing begin?
De Palma: What happens when you can't answer these questions?
Lehman: You ask me for help.
De Palma: Okay.
Lehman: So Brian had a number of ideas. The book is built around set pieces that are easily recognizable as trademark De Palma moments. The Eiffel Tower is one, and there are others. And so, I think... Brian plots things... he's a really good plotter. Like, he knows exactly how things are going to be structured, and how different scenes are going to speak to other ones. So I think we started with his basic idea. Structural idea. And then we played around with it a lot. Is that accurate?
De Palma: Yeah. You have to explain "played around."
Lehman: Well, we made up new characters, and we complicated their stories, and we, you know, twisted...
De Palma: Washed them out...
Lehman: Twisted their pathways to one another.
De Palma: And had many laughs doing it.
Drew: Susan, would you agree with the laughs part?
Lehman: Yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. I mean, writing with somebody is, especially if the somebody is Brian, takes all the loneliness of writing alone, and removes that, and replaces it with, you know, a sense of mischief and play.
Lehman: I really recommend it.
De Palma: If you have the right partner.
Drew: Were any of these set pieces left over from projects that you either couldn't fit into projects that were already completed, or, you know, from abandoned projects as well?
De Palma: Well, that's hard to answer-- I'm trying to think...
Lehman: I think Brian operates with a ragtag bag of tricks and ideas. I mean, he's always working. He has a million ideas, a treasure trove of unproduced scripts, and some are filled with good ideas, and some probably are filled with less-good ideas.
De Palma: They're all filled with great ideas. [Susan laughs, then the others laugh, too]