"I think writing is most exciting when trapped in a corner." - Max Booth III
We Need To Do Something is being adapted to the big screen, and I got the opportunity to chat with author Max Booth III about the process!
Nikki Noir: It was unique seeing a book with only one location—the bathroom—featured. What advantages did this give you in storytelling? Were there obstacles due to the limited setting?
Booth: I think writing is most exciting when trapped in a corner. Sometimes I find myself suffocating with too many options. Freedom isn’t always a good thing, especially when it comes to finishing a book. I like going into a short story or novel with a set of rules pre-established. In the case of WNTDS, the primary “rule” was that under zero circumstances would the family be allowed to escape the bathroom (except for possibly the end, which I am not going to spoil here). Knowing they would be stuck in this room for the entire book, I then started forming questions that I would have to answer on the page: How are they going to survive? How are they going to pass the time? What will they do for food and water? How will the family eventually start behaving after being trapped in the same room for such a long period of time? What really is going on outside this bathroom, and how will the family receive clues/information without physically being able to leave? Questions along those lines, and the answers became the story’s blueprint of how it would unfold.
Noir: What can you tell us about the inception of We Need to Do Something? Were you scrolling through occult subreddits or did it start as a ‘trapped family’ story idea?
Booth: Definitely started with the “trapped family” concept. I live in Central Texas, where tornadoes are not exactly common, and even when we do get one it doesn’t cause much damage (at least in my experience). But, still, we live with two children, so when our phones start blasting a warning and advising local residents to take shelter, we play it safe and hang out in the bathroom for an hour or so, until the local weather announces it’s okay to resume our regular lives. It was during one of these warnings that I started trying to spook my family, asking them questions like, “What would happen if we got stuck in here?” and “How long do you think it’d take anybody to realize we were trapped?” They…did not like these questions, and told me to stop immediately. The scared reaction pretty much told me all I needed to know: this was an idea worth exploring in fiction.
The occult stuff came much later. I actually no longer remember what formed the idea to bring in those sorts of elements. I always find the occult fascinating whenever I encounter it in fiction, so I guess I wanted to try dabbling in it a little. It’s exciting!
Noir: What’s your take on magic in real life?
Booth: I am a lame person who doesn’t actually believe in anything like that. I think it’s cool to write and read about, but in real life I am very boring. It’s kinda like ghosts. I don’t believe in them, but I sure as hell would love to.
Noir: We Need to Do Something is being turned into a film. What was the process like and how did you get the book into the director’s hands?
Booth: This is where a film & TV manager comes in handy. My manager, Ryan Lewis, is responsible for getting the screenplay (which I also wrote) in front of Atlas Industries, who co-produced the movie with Spin a Black Yarn and Hantz Motion Pictures. The director, Sean King O’Grady, is the co-founder of Atlas, and we just sort of lucked out that he was hungry to direct his first narrative feature, and WNTDS happened to be very COVID-friendly, considering how small the cast is and the fact that the majority of it could be filmed in one room.
The process was great and very fun. In addition to writing the screenplay I’m also an executive producer on the picture, so I was involved in a lot of the early decision making, and was also on set for most of the shoot. I can’t wait to do it again.
Noir: The movie isn’t out yet, but are you pleased with how the material was handled? I often hear stories of authors who are unhappy with changes to the manuscript. How much say did you have in the final product? Was there anything you compromised on?
Booth: I am very pleased, yeah. I’ve heard the horror stories about book adaptations, same, but it was a little different here since I also wrote the screenplay, plus I was an exec. producer, so I had some say on how the production was handled. Of course, there were lots of compromises we all had to make, but in the end they were smart decisions to make the movie the best it could be.
Noir: Of all the characters you've created over the years, do you have a favorite and why?
Booth: Probably Isaac, from my novel The Nightly Disease. He’s the closest I’ve come to an autobiographical character. In the book, he works the night shift at a hotel and hates everything about life. When I wrote the book, I was also working the same job, and I honestly believe having the opportunity to air out my work-related stresses into fiction really saved my sanity during those long, endless nights.
Noir: What's something you want readers to know about you?
Booth: I don’t know how to whistle or blow bubbles. Please stop asking me to do these things whenever you see me on the street. I won’t be able to do it and you’ll just be disappointed.
Noir: What's your next project and where can we stalk you?
Booth: On the writing side of things, nothing in the near future. I recently quit my hotel job (after 8 years) and am doing writing/editing/publishing full-time, so hopefully I’ll have some more books written soon. I also co-run Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, which I hope to really start kicking ass with now that I have more time to focus on it. We just released Antioch, the debut novel from Jessica Leonard, and I’m really excited for people to check that out. Next up with PMMP will be Jurassichrist from Michael Allen Rose, which we’ll release on Easter of 2021. Lots of other fun things coming next year, which you can keep track of by visiting www.PerpetualPublishing.com. My personal website is www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. I hope to start updating the blog section a little bit more going into the new year. I’m also on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth.