Meeting Steve Worland

Last night, we held another wonderful online conversation at TBYL, this time having a chat with the author of the explosive novel Combustion (Penguin) Steve Worland…

In case you weren’t able to tune in on the night, here’s a transcript of our chat with Steve…

Steve WorlandTBYL: My first question for Steve tonight is this… you’ve created a really interesting cast of characters in your novels. Do you have a personal favourite?

Steve: I love them all of course, but Corey and his cattle dog Spike would be my favourites. They’re funny and uniquely Australian, though I do love Severson, the out-for-himself-at-all-costs NASA executive, and Lola, the tough as nails Hollywood agent. I think they add interesting variations to the mix of characters. And that’s what you’re always looking for, an appealing mix that will give you conflict (even when the characters really like each other), lots of humour, insight into the human condition and that little something that feels genuinely unique and unexpected. Basically, I want the readers to love spending time with the characters, but to understand that they’re both heroic and flawed, often at the same time.

TBYL: Do you think there would be one particular character that readers would like most?

Steve: I think Corey and Spike give my stories an element that is humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian so they tend to be crowd favourites, certainly in Oz!

TBYL: I would think Corey would be very popular, wonderfully recognisable! I really liked Rhonda too!

Steve: Yeah, she’s great value. I kind of based her on my wife.

TBYL: Oh wow, that’s great! Can your wife fly a plane?

Steve: No, she’s an actress so she can pretend to do it!

TBYL: Perfect! Are the other characters based on real people too?

Steve: Well, the astronauts are all based on elements of real people. There’s a bit of Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, in Judd, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, in Rhonda. Lola, the Hollywood agent, is a little bit like my agent. So, you use parts of people you know and read about, then make up the rest!

TBYL: Steve, there’s an element of the bizarre in Combustion, adding to the fun. I’m talking especially in regards to Corey and his dog Spike. Why did you decide to add these elements to the story, rather than take a straight action/adventure path? 

Steve: I wanted to create a point of difference that was both humorous, heartfelt and genuinely Australian, and I think Corey and Spike give my stories that element. Interestingly, the idea for the duo comes from a very real place. I have many friends and family in country NSW and when you see the almost telepathic communication between the guys who work the land and their cattle dogs, it’s not a huge fictional jump to reach the relationship Corey and Spike have. Then to take that relationship and throw them into a big action-adventure story is a lot of fun.

TBYL: Did you spend time in rural Australia and LA to get a sense for how this duo would translate from one to the other?

Steve: Well I’ve spent a bit of time in country NSW because of family, but never more than about a week at a time. I lived in LA for a year at the start of my screenwriting career, which was an interesting experience.

TBYL: I would imagine so! How did you find LA, especially as a resident?

Steve: It was all work really. Not a lot of time for fun. Just working at Lightstorm (James Cameron’s company) or writing. It’s a real company town that way and it can consume you.

TBYL: A bit like a really long business trip?

Steve: Yes, the film business doesn’t sleep so you do need to be on the ball.

TBYL: I always find it interesting when someone moves from one type of writing to another, and so I was wondering… what made you decide to make the shift from script and screen to novel? How have you found the transition?

Steve: Making the shift was pretty easy. I had been working as a screenwriter for almost twenty years and felt that I needed to write something for myself rather than for a director, producer or studio. Screenwriting is really about creating a blueprint for someone else’s work of art, which is fine for a while, but I just reached that point where I needed a little more autonomy. Having said that, a movie I co-wrote (with the Director) is in production at the moment in WA so that is exciting.

TBYL: Ooh, can you say any more?

Steve: Sure, it’s a kid’s adventure movie that Sam Worthington is starring in called ‘Paper Planes’. It’ll be released in 3D in January ’15.

TBYL: I’ll have to take a look at ‘Paper Planes’, sounds interesting.

Steve: It’s a little way away but the idea is to make an Australian kid’s movie.

CombustionTBYL: Hypothetically speaking, if your book were to be made into a film, who would you have play Judd, Corey, Rhonda and Lola?

Steve: Well there are so many choices! In a perfect world: Chris Pine or Bradley Cooper as Judd, Hugh Jackman or Sam Worthington as Corey, Jennifer Lawrence or Rachel McAdams as Rhonda, Greg Kinnear or Jeff Goldblum as Severson and Eva Mendes or Mila Kunis as Lola.

TBYL: Oh wow, the book has just taken on a whole new dimension! I’m so glad I asked that question! Would you like to see it on screen?

Steve: Absolutely! I just have to convince someone to spend the money!

TBYL: Not too harder sell I wouldn’t think Steve, especially with that many explosions! Next question – Steve, do you love watches?

Steve: I do indeed! I’m old school, I’d prefer to look at my wrist than my phone to tell the time! I think watches are pretty much the only jewellery men can get away with so I find it interesting what guys wear. That’s why I often mention the watches people are wearing in my books. It’s a personal choice that says a lot.

TBYL: I wish I knew more about what makes for a good watch, it’d probably help me shop for my husband for Christmas!

Steve: Just ask me. I can send you in the right direction.

TBYL: I might just do that! Okay, I’ve one last question for Steve tonight… Can you tell us anything about the third instalment in the series?

Steve: Well the Judd and Corey will finally make it in to space but not in a way you would imagine. It will tie up a number of story strands set up in the first two books and will be, hopefully, a rollicking, humourous adventure along the way. It’s due Father’s Day 2015. Next year I have different action adventure novel coming out that is set in the world of Formula One. It’s has a new cast of characters and some huge action sequences so I’m really looking forward to getting out into the world. I’m in the middle of writing it now!

TBYL: That sounds really interesting – lots of fast and furious car facts? Are you enjoying taking a break from the series?

Steve: Yes, lots of big car action, and a lot more beside. I think it’s good to give the Judd & Corey series a short rest. I want it to be fresh and hopefully, by the time Book 3 comes out, more readers will have found it!

TBYL: I’m sure they will have!

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If you’d like to find out more about Steve’s books, visit the Penguin site here. You might also enjoy his personal website which is here…