Interview by C.J. Bunce
Earlier this week I reviewed British author Tim Lebbon’s latest exciting novel, Alien: Out of the Shadows, (see the review here) the first in a trilogy of new novels in the Alien universe, which takes us on a perilous mission with none other than sci-fi/horror icon Ellen Ripley. This week we caught up with the Bram Stoker Award winning author and asked him about this latest project. You might know Tim from any of his several novels, including Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi–Into the Void, novelizations of 30 Days of Night (a New York Times Bestseller), and The Cabin in the Woods, or his Hellboy novels.
CB: It’s not every day someone asks an author to tell a story in what is being marketed as canon for a major sci-fi and horror franchise. It sounds like an exciting opportunity. How did you approach the project?
TL: It’s very exciting! I’ve been an Alien fan since I saw the first film in my teens, and Aliens is probably my favourite film. I’d wanted to write an Alien novel for a long time, and when this opportunity arose I agreed in about three seconds. It was a slightly unusual project in that Fox came up with the very basic outline for the three new books — about a page per novel — and asked the three of us (me, James A. Moore and Christopher Golden) to construct our own ideas around their concept. It was an interesting process, and once I had my proposal approved by Fox it was pretty much plain sailing. They made a couple of suggestions about the finished novel — good ones! — and I’m thrilled with the final product.
CB: Bridging these two films allows you only a very specific opening to create a new story. Ellen Ripley is in stasis at the end of the original Alien and the beginning of its sequel, Aliens. Where did the idea come from to locate Out of the Shadows at this point in time?
TL: That concept came from Fox to fit in with a grander plan they had for this new trilogy. It obviously gave me some challenges to overcome in writing my proposal, but I like a challenge. And the idea of writing a Ripley story was just so exciting. She’s such a strong character, and so loved by fans.
CB: What constraints did you have to work with in creating this new adventure? Was there much coordination of concepts between you and the other writers in the trilogy, James A. Moore and Christopher Golden?
TL: Jim, Chris and I are good friends, so yes, there was quite a bit of discussion initially. There were no real constraints, other than working within the parameters of the proposals. Out of the Shadows is my own story with new characters, settings and action, and Ripley. And one or two other characters readers might also recognise.
CB: Was there any previously existing source material beyond the movies you were able to pull story elements from and amplify in your novel?
TL: I pretty much kept to the movies. It was no great hardship watching them again!
CB: The environment and teamwork on the Marion will be familiar to fans of science fiction works taking place among the long corridors and dank corners of a far away space cruiser, like the Serenity or the Millennium Falcon. And the Xenomorph aliens appear in more subtle ways throughout the novel, like the surprise visits from the shark in Jaws. Did you take any inspiration for scenes from other sci-fi worlds?
TL: Not really, other than awareness of the landscapes of Alien and Aliens. I wanted to write something of a siege story but with a very definite ticking clock scenario. I also like stories about survival against the odds (I’ve written several post-apocalyptic novels and novellas), as I think that sense of desperation is great fun to explore in my characters. Poor Ripley … nothing seems to go well for her, but she faces each new challenge face-first.
CB: Are there other franchises you haven’t written for yet that you’d like to write about?
TL: As for franchises, I’ve written Hellboy, Star Wars, and Alien, as well as others. I feel very lucky to have had these opportunities. Perhaps a Breaking Bad novel? That could be interesting, and a whole new challenge.
CB: Breaking Bad fans would love that! So what’s in the works for you next?
TL: My next project is a new novel for Titan called The Silence. I’ll be delivering that soon, and it’ll be out early next year.
CB: Tim, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with us today!
Learn more about Tim and his books at www.timlebbon.net.