Friday, October 3, 2008

Interview with Hoss Wuerslin: Creator of The DeadBooks

I really just wanted to add something quick here because I hope a lot of you check this out. It's projects like this that are what indie, underground horror is all about and, not only that, I think what Wuerslin's done here is really quite groundbreaking. Anyhow, on to Brad...

Hoss Wuerslin's, website: is one of the coolest things I've seen in quite some time. It's basically an internet novel combined with multimedia elements. Here's how it's described on the site: is a massive, Hyper-Serialization of Hasso Wuerslin's SF-Horror series, The DeadBooks.

Spanning 150 chapters, involving 100 actors, and the cutting-edge sounds of musical artists worldwide, is a revolutionary mash-up of story-telling techniques.

The first ten-hour season is available now.

In a recent email, Hoss added, "There is meant to be a blair-witchy quality to this site. This isn’t an 80 million dollar Hollywood production. This is underground content, meant to be rough around the edges and damn cool at the same time - Blair-witchy."

I've got to tell you. I had a blast checking out all the features on the site and I think Hoss is onto something very unique and groundbreaking here. It is definitely worth your time to check this out. Congrats on all the hard work, Hoss! We here at Dead Harvey look forward to what DeadBooks has in store for us in the future!

DH: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from and what's your background?

HW: Pretty much a Vermonter since two, and like most Vermonters that grow up here, I eventually went AWOL out of the state, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. A number of years ago, I was camped out in Hollywood, trying to break into acting and screenplay writing. In my spare time which I had a lot of - I started writing the Deadbooks which at the time were individual novels, not yet a series.

Death brought me back to Vermont, where I continued trying to make it. I actually had better success in VT then in CA, but that success wasn't leading me anywhere. There's not a lot of work in the entertainment field out in these woods. So I switched completely back to novels and continued writing, eventually linking the four novels together into one long series: the Deadbooks Project, in the hope of increasing its attractiveness to publishers.

The end result was that I was just as ignored by the big publishing houses, as I had been by Hollywood. The consistency was very nice, but something had to give.

DH: Talk about the origins of the, "Deadbooks" project.

HW: Back in 1999, I was working on my 4th novel and getting real pissed because nothing was happening. I was going nowhere, I had a crappy mind-sucking job, my agent couldn't do a thing, the damn hallway ceiling was falling in… on and on. It's at times like these when you throw everything on the table, ignore all the rules, start thinking out of the box, because basically you've got nothing to lose.

So in 99 I began to think of ways to get my books noticed. That led to the idea of Book Trailers you can see my Hollywood training coming in. This was when books-on-demand was coming on strong. A huge amount of content was flooding the Net, and I knew I had to try something different to make my books stand out. Thus I created a website and a book trailer for one of my books, Mirror The Dead. The book trailer idea was pretty much ignored by everyone except The Hollywood Reporter, they got it. But it wasn't enough to make the project successful, so back to square one.

That's when I turned to Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Pigs.

Quick back track, just in case your readers haven't watched the demo yet at

Deadbooks tells the story a mining scout ship, led by the gifted Shallen, who discovers an Earth void of human life... except for the memories of a long dead, Will Lant. Memories so powerful that they posses Shallen, revealing to him Lant's final days. Days in which Lant was forced to live the lives of three alternate beings in a desperate attempt to rectify a terrible mistake. Now, like the spider, the ghost of Lant traps all passerby, in the hopes that one can achieve what he could not bring himself to do.

LRRH and the Three Little Pigs was a children's book I had growing up. It had a cool feature. Inside the front cover, was a colorful map of the town where LRRH, the Three Pigs, the wolf, and grandma all lived. Their streets, houses, the woods where the wolf hid, etc. It created this little world in which the book lived.

Why not do something like that on the Net? (I bet Stephen King would have done this to his Castle Rock setting, if he were just starting out). Why not bring the Town of Landsgate Vermont the series' overall setting - to the Net. Lift the ghost character of Will Lant (who inhabits all of the books), out of the wood and make him a purely Net character.

Once I start thinking along these lines, ideas snowballed. I began to ask why not bring ALL the characters from the first life Will Lant must live the book, Mirror The Dead - to the net as well? Then the Spaceman Shallen emerged from my mind as the overlord and the story just expanded like a super nova.

Remember, I had nothing to lose. And as I've said, when you're in that place, you don't mind breaking rules; thinking out of the box.

DH: How long has it taken to develop and what challenges have you run into during the process?

HW: Once I had decided to destroy my dream of being published in the traditional way, I then had to face the new challenge, what was going to replace it. What would my book look like/act like? One thing I kept saying was there were no rules, but there did have to be a consistency in over all design. People don't mind you creating a new form of entertainment, but they do mind you reinventing the wheel at every turn.

I did know this: that I wanted to breed film and book together. The power of the novel is that you can spend so much time within the character's heads. The power of film was its use of image and sound. Both devastating forms of entertainment in their effect upon us, but both up until the arrival of the net, unable to truly coexist within the same story.

But the net has no such rules. It doesn't care how you tell a story. The story is - someone ate my dog and I think it was my wife. Want to read about it online… go ahead. Want to listen to it as a song online, go ahead. Want to watch a movie about it online, go ahead. Same story, choose your method; the Net doesn't care.

Or… you can do what I did, dump it in a blender.

I decided that the book would be the base. Words would be the rock. Film would be the water, flowing in and round the words. A dance.

I ripped out every page of the first book and stuck it up on the screen. Each page became a canvass. What was happening within those words that would be more exciting to show then tell? When was the word more powerful? When should both speak at the same time?

Another story idea rose up we love being read too. Goes back to our childhood. Let's have a narrator, but not for everything, because there's something about reading inside our heads that connects us to a book, just as watching and listening connects us to movies. So I made sure that you and the narrator share many of the pages.

Then came the music. Talented musicians from around the world were able to connect with me through the power of the Net. Forty musicians from almost as many countries joined up.
Hundreds and hundreds of shots followed; of settings, of actors. And then hundreds more as I digitally painted the world of Landsgate Vermont. Hours of Vos were recorded; many more hours of SFXs created. Around 140 tracks of music were laid down next to the words. Over 300 flash movies were made. Don't look at the clock, don't look at the calendar. The learning curve felt at times like being trapped on a roller coaster.

8 loooong years would pass. Actors would move on to other parts of the country. Bands would break up, removing their music. Children would be born and parents would die. Friends, what few new about the DeadBooks project, slowly stopped asking how close was I to finishing it.
And the man that started, was definitely different from the man that ended it.

DH: What's been the general reaction from the public been so far?

HW: You know I don't know. In truth, very few people know it's even out there yet. I know it catches people, stops them. It's not for everyone, but then what is? I hope that fans of SF/Horror will support it, cause I can't make a season 2 without that support. I figure 12.95 for ten hours is pretty cheap.

But that's why the 8 years isn't over yet! Now I have to get the word out. Now I have to teach myself to become a PR guy, another damn learning curve hat! You see if dies, I want it to die because it sucked, not because I couldn't get the word out to enough people that would have supported it.

DH: Describe your vision for the, "Deadbooks" project?

HW: I'd like to do to the novel what video did to the song. Music videos didn't kill the song, they just showed another powerful way of experiencing it. That's what I want this Hyper-serialization to do. Maybe I read the book on the beach or maybe I check out the Hyper-Serialization of it.
But I think it's the books turn to evolve. It's been stuck in its wooden coffin for too long. Let's put the concept of the book into play and then lets have fun playing with it.

DH: What are your plans with "Deadbooks" for the future?

HW: As indicated above, I'd like to start making season 2, but I have family responsibilities that must be honored. So I need this project to sell or I cannot recoup savings spent to justify another season.

DH: What are the pros and cons behind keeping, "Deadbooks" independently owned and operated?

HW: 1) Well, I can break the rules. 2) Nobody can tell me what to do. 3) I live and die by my hand as ignorant at times as it can be.

That's why many people like me eventually start doing things themselves, starting their projects, striking out on their own, they've become tired of waiting for big media, agents, publishers, etc, to give them permission to do it.

Underground content, in my humble opinion, is the wave of the future.

That said, I would rather this site be advertising supported. I would rather give this site away for free. It's all so much easier, than asking for support.

DH: Talk about all the great talent you have involved in this project. How were you able to coordinate such an involved undertaking on an independent level?

HW: Touched on this a bit above. I've had a full time job these last 8 years and have been raising a family as well… but I also had time. I had about 3 hours every day to move the project forward. Inch by inch. Unlike a movie set, I was dealing with images. So for instance, all I needed was one day with an actor to shoot the hours of images needed. I had an excellent photographer in my wife, Kitt - and then another day to record Vos. A fast shoot.

And all the actors I used, I knew. From watching them in real life, on the job, at dinner parties, etc. Many of them are what are called natural actors. With the proper coaching, they have a natural ability to act. Hollywood teems with them. Some times I would find myself saying, Listen I know you're not an A***** in real life, but for this scene that's how you have to come across.

The other big piece of the talent process was the music. I had decided, because of 911, that I wanted a world thing, music from around the world, many different countries, all coming together to help. And they did willingly. It also, once again, amazed me at how much fantastic, unknown talent resides in this world. The music of the Deadbooks is right up there with the best of them. Again, the power of underground content; the net unleashing all this talent for the world to find!

DH: Where can people find out more about, the "Deadbooks" project for themselves?

HW: and from people like you that have stepped forward and offered to help get the word out.

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