Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: Tied In - The Business, History, and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing Edited by Lee Goldberg

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fascinating look at how tie-in novels come to be
Cons: A couple of chapters don't live up to their potential, but are still interesting
The Bottom Line:
Tales behind tie-ins
Give a sense of the hard work
And fun of the job

Get Clued In to the World of Tie-ins

I tend to obsess over TV shows and movies I love, so I have spent my fair share of time reading tie-in novels.  So when I was offered a chance to get a review copy of Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing, I couldn't pass it up.  This book is a collection of essays by various tie-in writers who use their experiences to show us, their faithful reader, how the world of the tie-in works.  And I found it fascinating.

The book features 19 chapters.  There is one interview and one e-mail discussion, but most of these are authors talking about how their experiences with writing tie-ins has been.  Since these are personal stories, we get some repetition, like the talk of short deadlines (often weeks instead of months) and coming up with stories that please the creator of the show as well as their book editor.

Quite a few varieties of novels are covered by the title of tie-in.  The first thing I think of are novels based on TV shows.  Those are covered by the likes of Tod Goldberg, William Rabkin, and Donald Bain.  Donald provides an interesting look at his work writing the extremely popular Murder, She Wrote books.  While I disagree with William Rabkin's take on pop culture is supposed to be, I enjoyed listening to how he uses his take on it to write the pop culture heavy Psych novels.  And Tod talks about how a serious author found himself writing the Burn Notice books and enjoying it.

But tie-ins go far beyond TV shows.  There are movie novelizations.  Max Allen Collins talks about some of his more memorable problems with controlling movie houses who are a bit too controlling, even wanting him to not reveal the ending in one case.  Burl Barer discusses how he tried to cover up plot holes when novelizing Stealth.  And there are also books based on movies, but set before or after the movie itself.

In other surprises I learned from this book, it turns out that canceled soap operas Another World and Guiding Light have continued on line?  There's a chapter from the author who is responsible for both of those and how she juggles the new media with the expectations and interactions of the fans.

There are tie-ins based on video games and comic books and strips.  We get to hear from those authors as well.

There are also some chapters on the business side, like one where multiple authors talk about their experiences overall with the process.

And in the history side of things, there's an interview with Raymond Benson who wrote some of the licensed James Bond novels in the 90's.  One chapter delves into the TV tie-in market of the 1950's through the 70's.  This essay was the most scholarly in tone with lots of names mentioned.  Honestly, I felt like there was enough material for an entire book just on this subject.  However, it also made me want to hunt down some of the novels talked about, even though I've never seen the TV shows in question.

The only chapter that truly disappointed me was the chapter on Star Trek novels.  Considering those are probably the first thing most people think of when they hear about tie-ins, I was looking forward to the discussion here.  That essay was written by Jeff Ayers who has written a companion guide to all the novels (500 as of when he finished his guide).  But his chapter is more about how his guide was written then about the books themselves.  It was interesting, but it wasn't what I was looking to read.

That chapter was really the only disappointment of Tied In.  If you enjoy reading about the further adventures of your favorite large, small, or computer screen characters, you owe it to yourself to find out about the talented people who write the books you enjoy.

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