Walter Jury was born in London, has a background in the film industry, is a big fan of the New York Giants, and enthusiast of Jamba Juice’s Protein Berry Workout smoothie only with soy, never whey. “Scan” is his first book for teens. Oh, and under his real name, he’s a producer of one of 2014’s biggest blockbusters. Let’s just say he “diverges” in his career from film to literature quite well.
Q&A with Walter Jury and co-author Sarah Fine
Walter, how does working as a manager and producer for the big screen translate to your work as an author?
Walter: During my day job as a manager/producer, I spend a great deal of time developing and giving feedback on screenplays and manuscripts. As a result, it felt very organic for me to go from giving creative feedback to developing my own ideas, and collaborating with a superb co-author to get those ideas down on the page. Brainstorming creatively like this is something that many film/TV producers and executives do. I hope to continue in that tradition, while also complementing the process by developing from those ideas, new, original IP that can serve to boost the prospects of a project's life in the Hollywood studio and network system.
Sarah, what was it like for you, as a female author, to write from the viewpoint of a male lead character?
Sarah: This was the first time I had written a full-length novel from a male perspective, and I’m certainly glad I had a male co-author to provide input. I found writing from Tate’s point of view pretty all-encompassing, though, given the unusual depth and breadth of knowledge, his incredible ability to create mayhem, and the intensely emotional consequences of his decisions. In the end, I stopped worrying whether I was writing a good opposite-sex character and was more concerned with writing Tate well. Not to mention: writing a character who can improvise fruit-based weaponry is always fun.
How did you two meet and become writing partners for this project, and how did the idea for “Scan” evolve?
Walter: I was reading a recap on the disappointing performance of COWBOYS & ALIENS on Grantland.com while waiting for the subway in Manhattan. As I read, I thought to myself about how I would tell a story of aliens landing on Earth prior to the advent of modern technology. From there came the idea of Tate and his father’s gadget that he takes to school, which is a sign of how our current world was as it currently exists, but that aliens had visited us many generations ago and only a handful of people worldwide knew of it. Our agents introduced Sarah and I to one another, and we quickly learned we gel and work together seamlessly.
With female leads like Katniss in The Hunger Games and as you well know Divergent’s Tris making such a strong splash in YA books and movies, why did you choose to lead with a male?
Walter: At the core, this is the story about a boy coming of age and using the skills that his domineering father drilled into him. The idea of Tate’s journey and him being thrust into this surreal but very serious situation all helped guide how we would tell the story.
What kind of research did you have to do for the MacGyver antics – are they all really possible?
Sarah: First and foremost, these tricks add color to Tate’s story but are not something we want our readers to try at home. I consulted with a chemistry professor regarding many of the explosive chemical reactions in the book, and with one exception where I used major creative license, they’re totally possible. But also, the Internet is a writer’s friend. Look on Youtube for “Super Soaker flamethrower” or “nitrogen triiodide detonation” and there is a wealth of terrifying-yet-inspiring source material! And let me reiterate--DO NOT try that stuff at home PLEASE.
MTV’s Hollywood Crush says your series has “Hollywood franchise written all over it.” Are there plans to bring “Scan” and “Burn” to the silver screen?
Walter: There have been some inquiries, but I think the worst thing you can do is to rush an adaptation. A big part of my day job is to really study the best way to get films and television shows off the ground with the highest quality possible for the development and production while keeping in mind how to best serve the source material to a larger audience.
How is SCAN different from other alien thrillers?
Walter: SCAN is truly breakneck in its pace and we really tried to take YA to its limit as a thriller. Not only do we push the boundaries of action in one book, but I believe our mythology is unique to the genre as everything is grounded—this story could be happening in our world today. That was an important touchstone for us as part of the mythology: keeping the world grounded and using no gimmicks.
Any sneak peak you can give “Scan” fans about the sequel “Burn” set for a 2015 release?
Walter: Without giving away any spoilers for SCAN or BURN, I would say that BURN is another incredible thrill ride, where we as readers, watch and learn along with Tate, all of the vast mythology behind the arrival and sharing of our planet with other extra-terrestrial and nearly identical lifeforms. The action never lets up as enemies come in from unexpected angles while leading to surprise alliances and rivalries. While we don’t give away much here, we can tell you to put your seatbelt on and enjoy the ride!