Article and photo copyright Suzanne Philips
You would think that creating the “CSI” franchise and all the extras that go with it would be enough of a challenge for Anthony Zuiker. But he is clearly always looking to tackle something new and has begun to conquer the world of publishing with his series of “Level 26” thrillers. The first book, “Dark Origin” debuted last year to overwhelming fan acclaim and the second book in the series “Dark Prophecy” is generating a lot of buzz. Readers are looking forward to the October 14th release of the book, and Anthony Zuiker was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy day to talk exclusively with CFM News about what readers can expect this time around.
CFM News: What made you want to write these books and how did it differ from writing for the “CSI” television shows?
Anthony Zuiker: I wanted to take the multiple mediums of literature, motion pictures and social communities and merge them into one. This is how the digi novel was born. In the spirit of taking an interactive crime novel and allowing the person to read the novel cover to cover without ever logging into a website and having the traditional experience much like a James Patterson type novel exists. But here, the reader has the option that every 25 pages, if you wish, you can log into Level26.com and enter a code that unlocks a 5 minute motion picture scene which bridges you visually from one chapter to another. There are about 20 of them in the book. Sometimes it’s a love scene or a horror scene, sometimes if you call the killer, the killer calls you back. That kind of thing for book one. On top of that, you are invited to join a social community where you have direct access to the creator, reading daily blogs, submitting content for future novels and really activating a community all in one place.
Writing a novel is really, really different from writing a teleplay. I was responsible for not only writing and directing the 5 minute motion picture scenes, which in the case of “Dark Prophecy” totals a one hour motion picture, I also had to write an 80-page outline and really develop and produce the book with the novelist who is much more proficient in novel writing than I am. On top of building a site from scratch and servicing a website – all three of these mediums into one. And it’s the normal manuscript submission, notes, feedback and getting it to a place that it’s accepted by the publisher. In terms of television, we have 8 writers, 4 researchers sitting in a room with bad snacks and thinking of ways to take a piece of inspirational forensics or a telling narrative storyline about one of our characters and crafting an episode that is “CSI”-centric. That takes about 2 or 3 days to put on a board and then we will type up an outline that is about 8-9 pages long. We get notes from the studio network then write a draft which is about 52 pages long. We shoot 8 ½ day shoots and it takes about 3 weeks for post and color correction and scoring and mixing. It’s a very laborious process in terms of television where you have 400 people working on a show and you have 5 people working on the digi-novel so that’s the difference.
CFM: The upcoming book is highly anticipated. Readers are wondering what to expect from the “Steve Dark” character in this second book in the “Level 26” series?
AZ: We have made a lot of modifications from book one to book two. Book one was very, very dark – very sexually deviant. The cover was very masculine. We had 20 out of context cyber-bridges. Steve Dark sort of took a back seat to Sqweegel, our forensic serial killer. We wanted for book two “Dark Prophecy” to be Steve Dark’s coming out party. The book takes place 5 years later. Steve Dark is no longer in indentured servitude to the government. We are going to – through the course of chasing our tarot card killer who is leaving tarot cards around the country and killing people in the same dramatic fashion – Steve Dark is going to take a casual interest but then take a very serious interest in catching the tarot card killer. And metaphorically as the cards and the killings roll out, those same cards will tell the story of Dark’s life when he gets a private reading from Hilda (played by Justine Bateman inside the movie). This book is a cover to cover crime thriller that is very Steve Dark-centric. The one hour motion picture is a separate storyline of his personal journey through his private reading. You can draw parallels between both mediums.
CFM: We understand that the Sqweegel serial killer character is going to show up on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” this season?
AZ: That’s true. Yes he is. We ended in book one with Steve Dark going to Rome and finding a black Sqweegel suite in the Fountain de Trevi (the Three Fountains). We decided to take that black suited Sqweegel – or “Black Sqweegel” if you will – and decided to launch him on “CSI” which will air October 14th with a little bit of a different evil philosophy of why he kills. We will have some of the mythology from book one come alive in the show. The hook is, how do you catch a forensic proof killer? Once that episode ends on October 14th, the same day that “Dark Prophecy” drops in bookstores nationwide, the villain in the “CSI” show storyline will continue in the book. I think it will be a real treat when you have that kind of literary to broadcast to literary done by the same creator.
“Dark Prophecy” should prove to be another fascinating read in the “Level 26” series. Head to your local bookstore on October 14th to pick up “Dark Prophecy” and don’t forget to watch “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” on that same day at 9:00 pm on CBS to catch a glimpse of “Sqweegel” in person!
CFM would like to thank Anthony Zuiker for taking the time to speak with us and Rogers and Cowan for all of their help!