Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick Takes ABC's Castle - and Nathan Fillion - To Comic Books

Richard Castle has been solving mysteries on TV for the past few seasons, in the geek-friendly form of Nathan Fillion. But this Fall – right before the new season launches – he’ll be hitting the four color funnies for the first time, as Marvel releases a brand new story in Graphic Novel form, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Lan Medina. Except, it won’t actually be starring Richard Castle… It’s an “adaptation” of a Richard Castle novel, that Marvel made “with” Richard Castle. How’s that for meta?

To cut through the layers, we talked to DeConnick about moving the story from TV to panels, what it’s like working with Bendis, and her secret history with ABC:

MTV Geek: First, off the bat, are you a fan of Castle?

Kelly Sue DeConnick: Yes. Since before I got the gig--since before BRIAN got the gig--yes. I have DVR'd the show from its onset.

I want some kind of badge for that, dammit.

Geek: The cover of the novel “premiered” on the show – was that a thrill at all, to see your book on TV? I’d imagine you weren’t totally bummed out about it.

KSD: How uncool would it be for me to confess that I emailed the HULU link to my folks?

I think I'm supposed to pretend that it's just another day at the office, but just between you, me and this here fence post? My office is not generally this exciting. I have been known to tweet about my dogs' gastrointestinal distress, you know? Those are not the tweets of a woman associated with a sexy prime time cop show like CASTLE. Stana Katic does not tweet about dog farts.

Geek: The book you’re working on is a Derrick Storm “adaptation,” which if I know my Castle, was written before he started tackling mysteries every week on TV. Is there any difference in how you approach something like that - something that is pre- his experiences on the show - versus the other Castle novels that have been published (Heat Wave, Naked Heat)?

KSD: Well, the NOVEL was written before Castle was imbedded (har har) with the NYPD, but the ADAPTATION was not. Follow? We've allowed for aspects of his current associations to color the adaptation, so Clara Stryker is influenced by Kate Beckett. The idea is that Beckett is the embodiment of the muse that Castle was always pursuing, even before they met.

Geek: That said, I don’t think Deadly Storm is a book that’s been mentioned on the show. Is this a wholly original work?

KSD: I'm lost in levels of meta. How am I supposed to answer this?

Geek: Ha, okay. What’s it like channeling Richard Castle’s voice?

KSD: It's fun. It's like writing for Nathan Fillion.

Geek: Let’s talk about Derrick Storm a bit… Who is he? What makes the character unique?

KSD: Derrick's not the smartest, the strongest or the bravest PI-turned-operative that you'll ever meet, but he's the most tenacious. He has, if you'll forgive me the sentimentality, the most heart. And that's what makes him the best.

Geek: This book--his origin story, if you will--is where he comes to believe that tenaciousness of his is a talent, it's a thing of value in and of itself. This is where he puts on the big boy pants.

KSD: For influences on the character, I think of Jim Rockford, Bud White--Richard Castle himself! Broad-shouldered men who can take a punch.

Geek: The cover at least, makes the book look more actiony than, say, a drawing room mystery. What can you tell us, if anything, about the plot?

KSD: What begins for Derrick as a simple missing person/marital infidelity case, ends in a high stakes stand off in the jungles of South America as it falls to Storm to help the CIA save one of their own from the repercussions of some of the CIA's uglier history.

"In a world where it always rains, enter the STORM."

I don't know. I'm riffing here.

Did I actually answer your question?

Geek: Maybe? I kind of forgot what I was asking. Anyway! There’s a lot of winkiness back and forth between the show, and the real world, like the novels, the Twitter account, and more. Are we going to see any nods to the show in the book? Or is that impossible to do, as it’s about Derrick Storm, not Richard Castle?

KSD: We're trying to write a good book here, a fun book, but a good comic book thriller first, right? So, yeah, there are absolutely nods to the show throughout, but I don't think--God, I hope--we don't cross into some kind of nudge-fest.

I would like to think the comic stands alone and would be a good read for someone wholly unfamiliar with Richard Castle.

Geek: This is coming out right before the start of the next season… Are we going to see anything from here tying into next season of the show?

KSD: That one is above my pay grade.

Geek: You’ve known Brian Bendis, who you’re writing this with, for a long time, but this is your first time collaborating right? What’s it like working together on this? What's the process?

KSD: Brian wrote the first 30 pages before I was brought on. I picked up from there, scripting from his plans for the book. I write a draft, then it goes to him for approval/tweaks, then to Lan [Medina, the artist]. There's then a final lettering pass to make sure we've got a cohesive voice.

Yes, we have known each other for years and this is our first collaboration and likely our last as it's been hell on earth. No--it's been great! Are you kidding? Are you familiar with I used to write reviews for artbomb. Our policy was to only cover books we loved and recommended. Look up Brian Michael Bendis--I think I wrote every one of those pieces. I'm a huge fan! The first gift my husband ever gave me was a pack of index cards. I'm pretty sure the second was a POWERS scriptbook. This was well before either of us worked for Marvel.

Look, Brian is made HORRIBLY uncomfortable by praise, so I'm going to go on about this for at least another paragraph. If you have any follow ups, you might focus them here. You don't have to, but if you enjoy watching a grown man squirm, you might well consider it. Just a thought.

So Marvel is run by some very smart people and they seem to pride themselves on the fact that they don't just find talent, they groom talent. They run workshops where they bring artists in to learn from the masters (hello, HOWARD CHAYKIN) and they encourage their top-tier writers to mentor up-and-comers. Brian's been generous with his time and tutelage but he gets all weird about using the word "mentor." Yes, I am a grown woman and there are very few years between us. And yes, I have been a professional writer for close to a decade. I'm proud of my resume, but I wrote my first Marvel book just over one year ago. For all practical purposes, I am brand new. And the best-selling author in the industry want to give me some tips?

Well... okay. Twist my arm.

It's like the old craft guilds--I just got bumped up to journeyman.

Geek: And is Matt Fraction constantly just hanging around in the background, waiting for you to ask him to, you know, “just give it a look over”?


Can you say "sticky wicket?"

In all seriousness, Fraction and I talk story and he most certainly gives me advice--and I him--but he can't be the public booster of my work that I think he'd like to be, for obvious reasons.

Geek: Okay, more seriously, Axel Alonso said in the press release that this is another way of bringing people to comics – but for comics fans who may not watch Castle, do you think this is an entry-way to the show?

KSD: I think it could be. See above where I said first and foremost we want to put out a good book.

Geek: And to look at it the other way, Castle fans who read this and love it, what would you recommend of yours they check out next?

KSD: From Brian--Jinx, Powers, Torso... Scarlet! From me, probably Osborn. And keep eyes peeled, I've got some creator-owned stuff in the works that I'm very excited about.

Geek: Now that this project is underway, would you want to come back to the world of Derrick Storm again?

KSD: Absolutely!

Geek: And if you could pick any other ABC show (or side property in that show) to tackle, which one would it be?

KSD: Modern Family! Although there are at least 2 other writers I know who'd wrestle me for the privilege.

Or All My Children. Little known fact: I was actually on that show for, like, 2 days in 1997? 1998? Something like that. I "played" Miles Christopher's secretary. I think my name was Helga? Hilda? Something like that. By "played" I mean I sat at a desk and pretended to type. I was--how you say?--not good. I spent an hour or so sitting there waiting for Miles and company to walk by my desk and my mind wandered. By the time they actually did walk by I was somehow not expecting them. Acting, ladies and gentlemen! I think they even got another actress to VO my buzzing him in his office--which was curious as I recall noticing that I didn't actually have a phone on my desk. Wah wah. Amazing that they didn't ask me back, isn't it?

Anyway, everyone on set was very sweet to me. So there's your amusing little anecdote for the day.

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