D.W. Smith is a screenwriter, novelist, and podcaster living in Orange County, California with his wife and two little girls. He co-wrote the movies Replicant (2001) and Assassin’s Code (2011) and would like to take this opportunity to apologize for both. Whiskey Tango: A Whole 'Nuther Kind of Spy Novel is his first book. His podcast, The Indispensable Thursday Show, can be heard weekly at an internet-connected device near you.
What's the origin and/or inspiration of 'Nuther?
It always bugged me in the back of my mind that Superman went out of his way not to kill really bad people who should be killed, He always tried to save their lives. So I wanted explore the notion of a Superman who was a little more willing to end a life or two, if that’s what was needed. Superman with piss and vinegar. And I never believed it when I would see guys being tortured in movies and still being a smart-ass to their torturers, with the one-liners that earns them more pain, which they hunker down and take. I don’t think that’s terribly realistic for most humans in that situation, even ones who are trained for it. It would be nice to be able to say anything you wanted to a bad guy with no fear whatsoever, so I wanted to find a character wherein I could explore that as well.
Was it always intended as a novel or did you consider it as a screenplay first? What went into the decision to make it a novel?
I’ve written enough screenplays (more than 20 I think) to know that it’s a long hard road to find that one single buyer. I mean Steve a Zaillian and Shane Black probably each have 30 unsold scripts sitting on shelves or taking up hard-drive space, and if they can’t sell those, then what am I doing writing more? So I always envisioned it as a short novel that would read like a movie. And with a novel you really have billions of potential buyers and if you got any attention with it, it could help lead to the ultimate goal of a screenplay deal anyway.
What were the greatest challenges for you as a screenwriter writing this story as a novel? Anything you like or dislike about the differences?
Friends might laugh when I say I’m really not long-winded, and I like to get in and out of a scene as fast as I can, and for screenwriting that is a necessity, but novel-readers might feel short-changed with that kind of treatment if they like what they are reading. So I tried to expand where I might normally condense. And hopefully I did it in more right places than wrong ones.
How long did it take? Did you work on other projects or just focus solely on the novel?
I’m very slow, and the beginning of work coincided with the birth of my first daughter, so it took a few years to actually finish it. During that time I did work on a spec script with writer/director Matt Orlando (A Resurrection). We have a romantic comedy out of that collaboration and will start sending it out next month.
Did you submit to publishers or go to straight to self-publishing? And what went into that decision?
I looked at it from the beginning as an adventure in self-publishing. I wanted to do it all myself and see what happened. There’s not much in it for a first-time author to go with a big publisher other than bragging rights and a little gravitas, which are not insignificant, but they generally will do nothing to push your book and your royalties deal is laughable. My Kindle Direct deal gets me 70% of sales.
Do you have any plans to return to the book's world?
I do and I recently scrapped a plotline that involved Wesley going to North Korea to rescue Dennis Rodman from a work camp, and kill Kim Jong Un, but recent news events forced me to just forget about it, again my snail’s pace kept me from capitalising on the flap with Sony Pictures and The Interview. It was to be the first in a series of shorter adventures akin to hour-long TV shows. I surely intend to revisit it though.
Here's an excerpt:
A fella who was acting an awful lot like a pimp was slapping some young girl around and questioning her about some money that he seemed to think she was keeping from him. Wesley just kept on walking and whistling with a spring in his step.
The pimp saw him coming and pushed the girl aside, she stumbled and fell against the window of the pawn shop that was closed for the night. Wesley simply walked toward her to help her up. The pimp stepped in front of her and pulled out a blade.
"Man, what the fuck do you think you're doing? Unless you want to party with her, you best keep walking."
Wesley stopped and said, in the most amiable voice he could muster, "Nope, what I'm gonna to do is make sure she's okay, and if you're still here when I’m done with that, I'm going make one of your arms bend the other way. All right?" His southern accent somehow made the threat sound like a kindly heads-up.
But, like the oaf at the liquor store, this pimp fellow was not accustomed to this kind of disrespect from a square like Wesley. It was as if a toad had jumped up onto his lap and asked him for a glass of buttermilk and an aspirin -- it just did not compute. Wesley took another step toward the girl and the nonplused pimp pulled a gun with his other hand and immediately pulled the trigger. The sound of the pop was more painful than the bullet as it bounced off his belly, it made a little metallic tinkle sound as it hit the sidewalk. Wesley could not believe this asshole had just shot him, just like that. The pimp was still waiting for him to fall down, he knew he'd hit dead center.
"Dude, what the hell did you shoot me for? I have a daught--" The last word was not audible because the pimp had raised the gun to point at Wesley's chest and fired again. Pop pop! Two this time. The girl on the ground had started sobbing. Wesley shook his head at the pimp and stepped forward and grabbed his gun arm. The guy then set to stabbing Wesley over and over again, but the blade was only bending, and threatened to break a couple times.
"Man, you just don't learn." Wesley ignored the stabbing and placed both hands on the guy's forearm and snapped it completely in half, the guy screamed and dropped the gun, then Wesley moved up to the bone above the elbow and snapped that one clean in half the same way. He remembered that bone was called the humerus, and he had a little chuckle as he heard it snap. It felt a lot like when he would snap a handful of pasta in half to put into a pot, and it was just about as easy too.
The pimp fell to his knees, and Wesley went to work snapping the other arm the same way while the guy screamed himself silent. He'd blown out his vocal chords. "I bet you're regretting some shit about now, aren't you, Superfly? I was only gonna break one arm, but the extra one is for the attempted murder."
Whiskey Tango: A Whole 'Nuther Kind of Spy Novel is available at Amazon.