Warren Ellis: GUN MACHINE

by on April 11th, 2011
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Loyal minions! ‘Tis me, your Overlady.

So earlier today, Reuters broke the news that Warren Ellis would be writing a new novel.

Warren is one of my favorite writers- his imagery is captivating, nuanced, and full of biting social commentary and razor-sharp satire. Supergod, Anna Mercury, and his work on Astonishing X-Men are what I consider to be must-haves for any comic book geek, and Gravel is one of my favorite series ever.  Curious about the new book, I asked him a series of questions about the fledgling project and he was kind enough to answer. What follows is a pure, un-edited transcription of our conversation. Enjoy.

1) What prompted you to switch gears and write novels?

Firstly, I really enjoyed the experience of writing CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, and wanted to return to novels when time allowed. Secondly, I’ve been working to weekly if not daily deadlines in comics for nearly twenty years. And I am totally done with that. I’m knackered, and I want to spend more time crafting my pages rather than trying (and failing) to beat the clock.

2) what are the books about? Is there a message or a theme that you’re trying to convey to your audience?

Well, right now we’re only talking about the first book, GUN MACHINE. Which is about an NYPD detective discovering a sealed apartment filled with guns, and CSU discovering that, apparently, every single gun in there is associated with a single unsolved homicide. Going back at least twenty years. But what the novel is really about is money, information, perception, history, exhaustion and, to an extent, the role of the policeman in society.

3) Your work is known for its no-holds barred biting social commentary, and you embrace this beautiful, sometimes dark, sometimes controversial imagery. Will we be seeing a lot of classic Ellis in this novel or did you switch gears for this project?

It’s set largely in the 1st Precinct, which contains Manhattan’s financial district: so, yeah, you can’t avoid talking about social themes in a setting like that. And, you know, this is me: there’s a very ugly killing right at the start of the book, and things don’t get much nicer after that.

4) How was it going from your usual style of work to books without pictures? What are the particular challenges you faced in changing mediums? What did you like best?

The big change, as I found with CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, is that you go from describing pictures to suggesting pictures. A comics script is basically one big letter to an artist, and a novel is a letter to a reader, but in the latter the images have to be evoked, rather than blueprinted. The struggle was to pull back enough that the images could live in the reader’s mind, rather than baldly stated in enough detail to draw. It’s tricky (for me).

Also, being able to have pieces of dialogue more than thirty words long is nice.

5) A lot of comic book fanboys are going to be panicking at this news, worrying that you’ve abandoned comics. Are you still going to be writing comics, or is this a permanent career shift for you?

Honestly, I don’t think I have any “fanboys” left, if indeed they were ever there. I don’t think too many people will notice me slide out the side door of comics. In any case, I do still have a few short comics projects in the pipeline, at Marvel, Avatar and Image. And an old friend and I have been talking about a graphic novel for the last couple of months. I don’t yet envision a time where I’m not working in comics in some form. But it’s not going to be the focus of my days for the next couple of years. I’ll be even further in the background of the medium. Which is fine.

To keep tabs on the book progress, or hear more from Warren, follow him on Twitter at @warrenellis, and follow his blog.


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