Greg Rucka had a substantial line this year, which was really heartwarming -- it's great to see such a fanbase for a writer. I wonder if the lack of artists at the DC table today helped prevent people being siphoned away from him, or if his increased involvement in mainstream DC this past year is to blame.
I respect Greg a great deal as a writer, and I was particularly impressed with the way he integrated his background research into his latest novel, Private Wars. I asked him a number of questions about his writing process.
Q. When you're brought in on a DC title -- for example, the upcoming Supergirl run -- how much do you typically know about the title? Is there a briefing?
A. They definitely don't require prior knowledge of the character in question. "If you hired people based on their in-depth knowledge of the Batman mythos, you'd get really crappy stories." When he was brought in on Batman, he knew the animated series, Year One and Dark Knight.
"Editors are part facilitators..." When you know what kind of character you need, but don't know one by name, you go ask your editor. The editors know the backstory and the world, and will help you avoid mistakes as well as providing you with instances to fit some class you're trying to fill.
Q. Your work -- for example, Private Wars -- represents a huge body of research. How much time did Private Wars represent?
A. "I can't quantify it in man hours." But a lot. His research process typically involves a lot of internet research, a lot of books and online article resource. He also ends up asking a lot of people questions.
Q. How do you organize the research to make it accessible?
A. He uses maps a lot (and there will be inaccuracies -- "Someone from Tashkent is going to come to me and say, 'You can't do that'"). Plot-central research has been done during the plotting phase, but the other research is done as needed along the way. For example, if there's a dinner with a bunch of DPMs, you think, "Where would that happen?" Parkfront property is likely to be the expensive stuff, then you read about the park and learn that "a huge earthquake leveled Tashkent!" Then you incorporate that into the story -- it will be added into the story at other places in less detail, and discussed in more detail during the walk through the park.
Q. How does this work with your writing flow? Do you always break for the research, or do you sometimes "tag" things and fill them in later?
A. If he hits something like that, he'll do a quick internet search and look at his books, but if it requires more extensive research, he'll pass it and move on, going back to it later. "I literally type XXXXX at the end of the sentence and just keep writing."
While I was speaking with him, people came up to have DC and Queen and Country material signed. When I told him that I thought Private Wars was good, he said, "Kinda bleak, hunh?" I replied, "I guess Smoker isn't bleak," and he insisted his stuff isn't all depressing.