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Interview: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan On “Black Light”

(Editor’s Note: The following interview was conducted at the New York Comic Con on Saturday, October 15th, 2011)


Immerse Yourself In The Darkness

Interview With Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Stephen Romano on Black Light


By: Chris Bushley



black light novelBack in October, our friends at Mulholland Books sent Cosmic Book News an advanced copy of one of the most intriguing, multi-faceted books I have read as of late — Black Light.

This is the debut novel by the screenwriters of the Saw franchise, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, in conjunction with the enigmatic Stephen Romano (The Riot Act). It is a literal “bullet train ride” of a read, hitting you with every emotion. From lust, fear, sorrow and utter revulsion, you can’t help but get caught up in this whirlwind tale of a man with incredible skills, trying to find out just what really happened to his parents so long ago. 

Black Light is the story of Buck Carlsbad, a paranormal expert that has the unique ability to pull a “mark” (ghost) into himself in order to finally set them to rest. He is a walking amalgam of genres, ghost hunter, martial artist, reluctant lover, but mostly he is a man set off on a quest of self discovery — one that may leave him broken and dying for his efforts. The character of Buck is one of the richest characters that I have ever read. He exudes confidence yet is emotionally stunted, he is completely bad-ass and yet internally broken, he is the every man, yet so much more! He is completely fleshed out, from external shell to the subtle nuances, an original character brought together from all the coolest aspects of a thousand archetypes.
The novel itself is a rare find within the confines of the Horror genre. It is not bound by the shackles of the “in your face splatter fest” that is all too often relied upon in the modern Horror novel. And considering the trio of authors on this book, one would expect to constantly be immersed in gallons of gore. But the obligatory acts of violence are used sparingly, creating a sort of horrifying crescendo when they occur, making the scenes reverberate within in you so much more than they ever would have! 
This is a great book that bends the senses and thrills until the final page. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
You can hear what the authors had to say about their collaboration right here, in this CBN exclusive interview from the New York Comic Con. From Black Light, to the movie, to Stephen Romano’s new novel and more, the creators gave us some of their time to sit and chat about it all.
comic books

Photo Credit: John Gulager

Cosmic Book News:  Steven [Romano] is a veteran novelist, but this is a first for Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The two of you have written so many screenplays in the past, why was this the perfect time to come out with a novel?
Patrick Melton:  Well, Marcus and I had dinner with an editor, John Schoenfelder, who follows this sort of template that Guillermo del Toro followed with Chuck Hogan, where they collaborated their ideas to make a book. And we talked about this idea we had about this guy, a paranormal expert who has these skills, and he takes a job that takes place on a bullet train. John said, ‘Great I love it!’ and that’s the beginning. That’s when Stephen was brought in because of his literary expertise, and that’s how it all came together.
Cosmic Book News:  Buck Carlsbad, the main character, is such an amalgam of characters. He has many different facets, from his martial arts skills to his ghost hunting expertise. With three writers on the book, who was the quintessential “voice” of Buck?
Patrick Melton: It began as a screenplay that Marcus and I wrote, right after Feast actually! But when we wrote it, it was when “ghost stories” were going out of vogue and the “torture porn,” as we call it, came in. So we jumped on the band wagon!
Stephen Romano:  And oh, what a band wagon it was!
Cosmic Book News: So, did you adapt the screenplay into the novel? Is that essentially where it came from?
Patrick Melton: So, we never showed anyone the screenplay. We wrote, like, a treatment and our editor shared it with Stephen who helped to “pulp” it up more than it was at the time. Which was the direction we were going. And he added a lot of the film noir elements to it.
Stephen Romano:  Plus expanding it a little bit, making it a little bit more epic in certain ways. Making the stakes a little higher, adding a cast of characters that was maybe a little more expanded. John Schoenfelder and I would throw these ideas at Patrick and Marcus, and they really liked them. So, to answer your question directly, I’d write stuff and show it to them and they’d say, ‘Oh wow cool’ or ‘This needs to be changed,’ and it was great! A real collaborative effort, a lot of fun!
Cosmic Book News: You guys are known for a lot of slaughterfest, in your face grotesque scenes. But, with Black Light, the gore is kept to a minimum. Was it intentionally pulled back to showcase Buck as a character and the things he endures, as opposed to just shock value?
Marcus Dunstan:  With Black Light, the ideas was to put a twist on the supernatural that would ground it a little more. Patrick and I loved the idea of taking something that isn’t confined by a 90 page format that didn’t need to hold back in any case to its concept. So, this supernatural terrain allowed us to go back to our childhoods and pepper it with visceral images and viscous entities. There is still cutting, there is still nail, claw and there is anger. But it feels more real and it doesn’t have to push as hard to get you there.
Stephen Romano:  It’s more along the lines of a non-stop action adventure kinda thing. But we do have the token torture sequence in there, but it’s not like we’re trying to rehabilitate our image either. We’re just trying to tell a really good story. I think when you’re known for doing certain things, it’s harder to do other stuff and I think this was, at least for me, really refreshing.
Cosmic Book News:  The character of Buck Carlsbad has a lot of quirks. His use of urns, his no drinking and his use of a Walkman. Who’s brilliant idea was it to use Warrant’s song Down Boys? That thing was in my head for the duration of the book!
Patrick Melton:  Well Stephen was in a hair band when he was young! Which is quite ironic!
black light

Photo Credit: John Gulager

Stephen Romano: I was! I’m a big fan of hair metal! The thing with Down Boys is it’s about life worn stuff, and people don’t really think about the deep meaningful side of lyrics to songs like that. We wanted to make Buck a more interesting character in ways that were original. You don’t see a private eye listening to Motley Crue, it just ain’t gonna happen! So, anytime we could make him quirky and interesting and come up with a reason for it within the context of the character — we went for it! It made it much more fun to write! On that note, we intended to dedicate the book to Jamie Lane who died just before the book came out. But, unfortunately our publishing schedule didn’t allow for that. But in future editions it will say, “For Jamie.”
Cosmic Book News: The title, “Black Light,” actually refers to Buck’s ability to see what the dead see, and he can actually bring back objects to the mortal plane. How did the name come about?
Patrick Melton:  We always had the concept that he could go into this other plane, but at one point John said, ‘You gotta name it something cool!’ And Stephen said, ‘What would Andy Wharhol call it?’
Stephen Romano:  Actually that was John [Schoenfelder]. He said, ‘You have to come up with a post-modern expression that defines it. What would Andy Wharhol call it?’
Patrick Melton: Hmmm, Black Light? It was originally titled “Black Jack Nine.” Which, for some reason sounded too cute or cool for them [Stephen and John].
Stephen Romano: I think Black Light is a better title! The idea of pulling something out of the “black light” was an idea given to us by our editor, he really did drive a lot of what we were doing in terms of really pushing for originality.
Cosmic Book News: The book has a lot of potential for not just a sequel, but a series of books. Is there a possibility of that seeing fruition?
Marcus Dunstan: Buck Carlsbad has pissed off people on two realms of existence. He has set off a number of possible courses to take as he wrestles with his “gift.” 
Patrick Melton: We had a lot more room to set up Buck’s world, more so than when doing movies. We got the chance to set him up, his world, his past; we had the chance to set up these other characters as well. There are characters that don’t sort of play up as much as you’d think because we are leaving them to do things in the future. So, the idea was to set a full plate and then have subsequent adventures with Buck. We have discussed a sequel as a group, but a lot of it comes down to [this book’s] success and if Mulholland Books wants to do more. So we will see!
Cosmic Book News: Well if we have to wait for a sequel, let’s talk about the movie!
Patrick Melton: The book came out [with] intentions to make it into a movie. So Mike De Luca is the producer, who did Social Network and MoneyBall.
Stephen Romano: The great thing about De Luca is that he is not just a legendary producer, but he is also a writer. He wrote [John] Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness and the last Freddy movie before they rebooted it.
That’s great. He was the first guy we wanted to work with.
Cosmic Book News: How faithful will the movie stay to the novel? Will it be more gory?
Stephen Romano: The novel is pretty gory.
Marcus Dunstan: At the same time, whenever you can cloak it in the supernatural, I think there is a way to break fingers, tackle ghosts, ingest, regurge — whatever you have to do, but keep it within that PG-13 net that has grown quite violent in its own right.
Cosmic Book News: Who would you cast to play Buck? Would you bring in an unknown actor or go with someone that would draw in a crowd?
Stephen Romano: Who do you want to see as Buck Carlsbad?
Cosmic Book News: No one cares who I want as Buck!
Patrick Melton:  Marcus has this deep, deep love of Manhunter. So we want William Peterson circa 1985!
Cosmic Book News: Well, the Back To The Future Delorian is down the hall, we could possibly make this happen!
Patrick Melton: We will cast William Peterson from now, but give him the “Benjamin Buttons” treatment! 
Patrick Melton:  But in all seriousness, you guys know the names as well as we do. I mean you could say Jason Statham is tough, but he often has roles that don’t show off his charming side, not since Snatch really. But I don’t think he does an American accent, especially not a Texas one!
Stephen Romano: You had mentioned Matthew McConaughey.
Patrick Melton: He would be an interesting guy, just because he has that Southern charm and he can be tough! I heard he was great in Killer Joe, it hasn’t come out yet, I think it was at Sundance. But he’s also from Austin, Texas which would be great!
Stephen Romano: I think your idea was pretty good about casting a relatively unknown guy, maybe somebody that was on a show, like The Wire. Somebody who is a good actor but not yet a superstar, then surrounding them with Gary Oldman types. But don’t put me in charge of that ’cause I’ll just hire Kristen Stewart as Bethany Sin! [Laughter] But she’s not going to vomit for us!
Patrick Melton: We like to say regurgitate!
Cosmic Book News: Before we wrap up, you guys have a lot of things going on right now. Can we here a little bit about them? 
Marcus Dunstan:  Next year, we will see the release of Piranha 2 3DD and The Collection, the sequel to The Collector! And Stephen has some fantastic news of his own as well!
(Editor’s Note: We were informed Marcus was working with Guillermo Del Toro on the sci-fi monster blockbuster, “Pacific Rim,” currently filming in Toronto, ON. However, this was deemed “top secret,” but the news has since come out.)
Stephen Romano: I recently signed a deal with Simon and Shuster to release my first solo thriller. Currently it’s called, “Resurrection Express.” I always refer to it as ‘Mission Impossible meets The Bourne Identity, directed by Quentin Tarantino.’ It’s going to be a wild one! It’s not Horror, but a straight up thriller like Black Light is!
Cosmic Book News: Thanks to Mulholland Books for contacting us, and a thousands thank to Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Stephen Romano for taking the time out of their insane schedules to hang out with the CBN staff! It was an amazing time and we appreciate it whole heartedly!
“Black Light” is currently available at and at fine book stores everywhere.
For more on Stephen Romano, head on over to his official site:
You can check out “Black Light” on Facebook as well.
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