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Interview: Shayne Leighton

April 22nd, 2013 (07:00 am)
mischievous

Current Mood: mischievous
Current Song: Black Roses Red by Alana Grace

Shayne Leighton writes novels, screenplays, and songs. "I just LOVE storytelling because it is the easiest way to experience magic and escape reality," she explains. "I think we all need that escape now and again." She's currently preparing for the release of her next novel and the recording of her debut album. Now it's time to learn more about this young writer:

How old were you when you wrote your first story?

I was in the second grade when I wrote the first short story that I actually liked. It was a story about what it would be like to live inside of a bubble and was originally prompted to the class by our teacher. She told me, after reading it, to never stop writing, and so I think the rest is history!

I began writing seriously when I was about sixteen, tinkering around with different story ideas, until I eventually landed on Of Light and Darkness, an I idea that I loved.

What about your first song?

I wrote my first song when I was fourteen, but it was absolutely terrible, and I wouldn't actually call it a SONG. Ha ha.

You shot your first feature-length film, The Incubus, right after high school. How long did it take to write, and how long to shoot?

When I wrote the screenplay for The Incubus, I didn't have much of a plan about where it was all going to go. I started writing the story early on in my senior year of high school. In the winter, I met Marcie Gorman, the woman who would become the film's executive producer and director. From that point on, I didn't realize how absolutely LUCKY I was going to become. Marcie worked tirelessly alongside myself and the rest of the team for about two and a half years. Production spanned a long time, because we were trying to get the film to be as close to amazing as possible. For a lot of us, it was our first time out on a project that was so huge and such a massive undertaking. But after that nearly three-year time span from production to finish, I'd say we accomplished what we set out to do. We created a good story. We created a family. We brought in thousands of fans online who learned to love it as much as we did, and we had a damn good time doing it. I wouldn't exchange that experience for anything in the world.

Did you write it with the intention to also direct and act in it, or did that occur to you during the casting and pre-production process?

To clarify, when I initially wrote the screenplay, I hadn't the slightest inclination that it was even going to be produced. I stumbled upon Marcie Gorman purely by kismet. When I was sixteen, I wrote, directed, and starred in another independent feature that never saw the light of day. Because of that, something I considered a failure, I always dreamed of the chance to try my hand at directing again. I have been acting since I was very small, so if my screenplay was going to be produced, I sort of figured that was a give-in. Especially at an independent level when we small people can still have our opinions be heard! So, when I found out The Incubus was going to be produced, it was established early on that Marcie and I would helm the project together and that I would act as "Marnie" in the film. As the project evolved, however, I soon came to find that directing was really not my forte, especially while trying to act at the same time) and Marcie took over directing from there. I love to write and act, but directing I think I'll leave for the big guys from now on.

Like Incubus, your YA book series Of Light and Darkness has a paranormal flavor. Have you always liked the fantasy genre?

[I've] always loved fantasy. Ever since I can remember, my mother was reading me fairy tales. When I was fifteen, I fell in love with Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire specifically. I think I will almost always write and create within the fantasy genre. Because reality leaves a lot to the imagination!

What are some of your favorite fantasy books or movies?

My all-time favorite is Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I am also a HUGE Potterhead. I think the Harry Potter series is superior and I bow down to Ms. Rowling because I think she was able to speak to so many of us through her books. Readers of all ages. She not only told a good story, but she told a cathartic story that we could all relate to, something we all want to experience: magic in our lives. I only hope to do the same thing she did someday with my stories - have them speak to people just as effectively.

Whose storytelling has influenced your own? Authors, screenwriters, directors, actors...

I think there are three people on the list who have effectively changed the way I write and make films. Those are Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, and Guillermo del Toro for his film Pan's Labyrinth. They each have a way of creating a story that is both utterly imaginary and impossible; at the same time, the story is poetic and it actually has substance and means something. I can't stand novels and movies that are just a good story but do not contain the sort of poetry and substance that we see in day to day life. Without it, the story falls flat and your magic is suddenly something that nobody can relate to, nor can they believe.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced when adapting Of Light and Darkness from the original novel form to a screenplay?

For this project, I have opted not to transpose the story myself. It is far too difficult for an author to try and squeeze her 90k word novel into a 90 page screenplay. I think I would find myself crying miserably as I hacked away chunks of my story as I tried to push all of the remaining detail into a script. So we found somebody else to transpose it, and as it is, I think the screenplay came out really great. It is exciting and well-paced at the same time it holds true to the story. The current status is that the film is in development, which means it hasn't been given the "green light" yet. But our plans are to make a series of feature films.

How many books are planned in the series?

Right now, there are seven books planned for the series. However, as I continue to write, my cogs continue turning with ideas of spin-off novels and additions and things - so we'll see what happens!

Congratulations on your record deal with Spectra Records!

Thank you! I am really, really excited about the deal. I think Spectra (already a fabulous label) is really going to be on its way up this year. They have just signed a deal with the UK's talent show Live & Unsigned, and they are working on a few other top-secret but exciting things. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. They've got some great talent on their roster, so I am just honored to be a part of the whole thing. We are beginning writing and production now.

Do you approach songwriting and novel writing in a similar fashion, coming from the story and the words first, or does the melody line come to you before the lyrics?

Songwriting and novel writing are two totally different approaches for me. I don't relate the two much at all. With writing songs, it's almost always different. Sometimes it's the lyrics first and sometimes it's the melody. When I write novels, I hardly ever plot beforehand. I just kind of let the characters take me where they want to take me.

Share a random fact about yourself.

I have a strange obsession for stationery of all kind. Notebooks, pens, paper, journals. It's the best gift anyone could get me. My favorite foods are mushrooms and olives (but not together), and I can speak some conversational Czech: Dejuki a naschledanou! (Thank you and goodbye!)

Visit Shayne's website.