This week, Yoda’s News’ very own Alex Rybak sat down to conduct an interview with Greg Weisman. Weisman is currently an executive producer on Star Wars: Rebels, coming this fall. While details about Rebels are under lock and key, Weisman was able to chat about his exciting, on-going book series, Rain of the Ghosts. Rain of the Ghosts is the first installment in Weisman’s series that follows the adventures of Rain Cacique. Rain is a young teen who lives in the Prospero Keys. She is forced to face many adventures once she learns she has the ability to see ghosts.

 

Rain of the Ghosts
Rain of the Ghosts

 

Alex Rybak: Mr. Weisman, first off, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with Yoda’s News about ‘Rain of the Ghosts.’ You released your first novel, which has been a personal project of your since the late 90’s, this past December. ‘Rain of the Ghosts,’ the first in a nine-part series, was met with overwhelmingly positive acceptance. What is like, to have finally seen this project come to fruition?

Greg Weisman: It’s incredibly gratifying, especially since the response has been so positive. Rain, her family, friends and even her enemies have grown quite close to my heart. It’s great to finally be able to share them with the world.

AR: The second installment of your series, ‘Spirits of Ash and Foam,’ was just released July 8th. Back in March of 2013 you said the following: “Anyway, as part of my process, I broke the entire book down on index cards: SIX HUNDRED NINETY-THREE index cards to be exact!!! They completely cover a huge six foot tall bulletin board, a decent-sized table and nearly an entire pool table. They’re multi-colored. I think they’re very pretty.” Can you elaborate on this statement at all? What is your writing process like? Can you touch on the journey you have taken during the production process of ‘Spirits of Ash and Foam?’

GW: I start by doing research. I spent two months (November and December of 2012) doing research on Spirits (and that’s on top of all the research done back in the nineties when the property was first created). Every tidbit I come across, every idea for a story beat, every character (major or minor) gets placed on a separate index card. I have different color cards for different kinds of beats. Then I begin the process of outlining the story by laying the cards out, adding more, subtracting some, moving them around until I have a story that works. This took an additional two months (i.e. January and February of 2013). Then I collected all those cards, in order, and compiled them into one document, which I euphemistically called my “Cheat Sheet,” despite the fact that it was 181 pages long. Then I started to actually write, still allowing for the opportunity to surprise myself. And in fact two minor characters were soon “telling me” that they needed larger roles – roles which I had not outlined them to have. So I made adjustments. From March through May of 2013, I was making steady progress until I was hired as one of the Executive Producers of the first season of Star Wars Rebels. That slowed things down considerably. But I still managed to finish my first draft by October 20th of 2013, which was my publishers drop dead date for delivery. (The whole process took me just under a year to complete.) Subsequent to that, minor changes have been made for the sake of clarity and proofreading. But the book I delivered last October is substantially the book that hit the stands this week.

AR: You mention how progress slowed, understandably so, when you began work on “Star Wars: Rebels.” “Rebels” and “Rain of the Ghosts” are undoubtedly huge projects. Do you have a hard time balancing between two, in-depth projects? It’s obvious you invest a lot of time to produce quality content. How do you keep those two worlds separate and not let one fall to the wayside?

GW: In many ways, it was a blessing to have both projects to bounce back and forth between. Star Wars Rebels is a wonderfully collaborative project. Spirits of Ash and Foam was just me, alone at my desk. Collaboration is great fun, and Star Wars in particular is a great community to be a part of. But to be honest, sometimes serving multiple interests can get wearying. And when that hit, I could jump to Spirits and do some work where the only person I had to please was myself. And on the other hand, when working alone, you have no one else to fall back upon – no one else to help you out of jams. So sometimes when I couldn’t quite figure something out on Spirits… boom: I switched back over to Rebels. Each became a bit of a palate cleanser for the other.

As for keeping them separate, well, I suppose they have certain themes in common. But I wasn’t likely to mix up Spirits Caribbean island setting with the planet Lothal. That wasn’t tough.

AR: In ‘Rain of the Ghosts,’ we followed the adventure of Rain Cacique, a teenage girl living in the Prospero Keys, after her grandfather passes away. Rain soon comes into contact with a zemi; a special armband with two, intertwining snakes that allows her to see ghosts. Rain overcomes many challenges and finally discovers that she has mission. The book ended with the conclusion of summer. What can you tell us about what to expect next, in ‘Spirits of Ash and Foam.’

GW: Spirits literally picks up right where Rain left off. Summer’s over, and the school year begins, and Rain is soon juggling her studies, her family, her friends, her work at the Nitaino Inn (serving breakfast, making beds and babysitting tourist kids) with her new responsibilities as Searcher and Healer. And that starts with Rain having to figure out exactly what it means to be a Searcher and a Healer. Not to mention figuring out what a zemi is too. This is all a process of discovery for Rain, for her ghostly grandfather ‘Bastian and for her best friend Charlie. Meanwhile, it’s been great fun for me to weave the mythology of the Taíno people into these books, and Spirits has even more of it than Rain did. This new book brings us versions of the Taíno myths of both vampires and mermaids – an odd combination, admittedly – and these are versions I don’t think have ever really been seen before – at least not in pop culture. Plus we explore the characters and the setting with much greater depth than we did in the first book. (Spirits is over twice as long as Rain.) I’m hoping by the end of these two novels, my readers will be well and truly hooked.

 

Spirits of Ash and Foam
Spirits of Ash and Foam

 

AR: You bring up the Taino mythology that is present in your series. For example, according to Taino mythology, a zemi is “a deity or ancestral spirit, and a sculptural object that houses the spirit, among the Taino.” How closely do you plan to stick to Taino mythology? Do you intend to give an accurate portrayal of the Taino people? or follow it more loosely, thus allowing you to still surprise your audience?

GW: I’m striving to be as respectful as possible to the Taíno and their stories. But keep in mind that I’m bringing these stories forward into a modern context. Rain of the Ghosts and Spirits of Ash and Foam are both set in the present. So that creates automatic change. Just as the movie Thor still has surprises for a student of Norse Mythology. But even without that, I’m not too worried about being able to surprise my readers since most will be completely unfamiliar with the mythology of the pre-Christian Taíno and Mesoamerica.

AR: The number nine shows up somewhat frequently in your series. There will be nine books in the series. The N.T.Z. cache has nine stone seats and nine keyholes. According to a message in the cache, there are nine zemis. Nine World War II vets from Bastian’s group appear as ghosts. There are many other smaller examples as well. Is there any significance, that you can discuss at this point, to the number nine showing up in the mythology of “Rain of the Ghosts?”

GW: Hah, good catch! Spoilers! NO COMMENT.

AR: Mr. Weisman, as we wrap up, I had a few other questions submitted by fans of your work. Here are the following questions, submitted by members of The Jedi Council Forums:

Force Smuggler: Who is your favorite cartoon character?

GW: Sorry, my mind doesn’t work that way. I don’t really rank characters. But if forced – because of all he represents to me – I guess I’d say Goliath.

Vstarvan: I’d like to know what direction you would’ve taken with Spectacular Spider-Man if it wasn’t cancelled? Especially with the twist it ended on.

GW: And another sorry. Vic Cook and I decided long ago that we weren’t going to give out additional spoilers about where season three would have gone. There are two reasons. 1. We still have some hope of someday bringing it back in some form. 2. Ideas minus their execution are subject to the worst kind of second-guessing (particularly on the internet). I will say – because we feel it’s obvious from what appeared on screen during the first two seasons – that we did have plans to introduce the Scorpion, Hydro-Man and the Hobgoblin. Oh, and we would eventually (probably Season Four) have introduced the Spider-Mobile.

Jedi_Kenobi32: If you could replace “The Goliath Chronicles” with a new canonical third season of Gargoyles then what kind of changes would you make?

GW: I DID replace that. We did our own season three of Gargoyles with 18 issues of a comic book published by SLG Publishing. Those 18 issues were collected in three trades: GARGOYLES: CLAN BUILDING, VOLUME ONE; GARGOYLES: CLAN BUILDING, VOLUME TWO, and GARGOYLES: BAD GUYS. Grab ’em up on Amazon or directly from SLG Publishing. It’s good stuff, picking up right where Season Two (i.e. “Hunter’s Moon”) left off. And that’ll answer all your questions. (And probably create some new ones.)

Credar: Is there any hope of any kind of continuation/conclusion to Young Justice?

GW: There’s always hope for a continuation. (There is no conclusion.) Certainly Brandon Vietti and I have not given up. But there are no current plans, unfortunately.

Griffen89: What is your favorite animated TV series?

GW: Of my stuff, Gargoyles. Otherwise, again, I’m not big on ranking things. There are many series I like for many different reasons. Among them, Batman the Animated Series, Jonny Quest, The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Kim Possible, etc.

AR: Alright, Greg well thanks for joining us. We really appreciated you talking some more about your exciting new series. Spirits of Ash and Foam was released on July 8th, 2014 and is available for only $6.31, here. You can also pick up Greg’s first installment, Rain of the Ghosts, for $8.52, here. Greg Weisman can be found on Twitter at @Greg_Weisman and at www.askgregweisman.com. Share your thoughts on this exciting interview with us on twitter. We can be found at @arybak89 (Alex Rybak) and at @yodasnews (official Yoda’s News account).

 

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