Hi reddit, I’m hoping a few of you may know me through my work – I wrote "Solo", the most recent James Bond novel and have been lucky to’ve found success with a number of projects as an author, screen-writer and director. Some others you might know? "Chaplin", "Restless" (BBC1), "the Trench", "Stars and Bars", “A Good Man in Africa”...

I'm trying something new today, stopping by reddit. My latest project is a collaboration with Land Rover, called "The Vanishing Game" - it's an interactive, digital book that I’ve written, which is best described as an adventure thriller. I'm quite proud of it and would appreciate if you’d have a look at www.thevanishinggame.com.

Whether you’re curious about this new story, are a Bond aficionado, want to talk writing and filmmaking – whatever it may be - I’d love to answer your questions. Let’s have a bit of fun, reddit. http://imgur.com/Zg9kyW3

EDIT: Reddit, I really enjoyed speaking with all of you - there've been some really great questions and you've all kept me on my feet. I am going to sign off, but I enjoyed this immensely. Thanks everyone for participating!

Comments: 55 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

CompKarma11 karma

At the end of The World Is Not Enough, Bond makes sweet love to Christmas and then drops the line, "I thought Christmas only comes once a year".

Roll credits.

How would you have ended that scene in the spirit of Ian Fleming?

WilliamBoyd11 karma

Actually, I'm not sure Fleming would have approved. The Bond one-liners are very much a movie invention. But, how about: "Don't go away, darling, YULE have a very agreeable time..." I'll try and come up with more terrible puns.

IKingJeremy6 karma

A few James Bond questions.

Which James Bond actor do you believe most accurately portrayed the character from the novles?

Once Danial Craig moves on from the series, what current actor would you like to see replace him?

Which James Bond actor is your favorite?

WilliamBoyd9 karma

Ian Fleming made it very clear that Bond was NOT English. He's half Scottish and half Swiss. Therefore to me Sean Connery (a Scot) was always the most plausible. However, bizarrely, I have written films in which three of the Bond actors have appeared so I actually know Connery, Brosnan and Craig. Daniel Craig has even been directed by me in a movie (my film "The Trench") and he's probably the best actor to play Bond - he's a superb stage and screen actor. As for the next Bond... Hmmm. I think they should try the English actor, Rufus Sewell.

maxodog6 karma

How do you transition from writing novels/books into screenwriting? From what little I know about the process it must be difficult to get into that mindset.

WilliamBoyd8 karma

It is a complete change of mental gearing. You can do anything in a novel -- anything. But in a film or TV you are in a world of narrative parameters and compromises. So the key thing is to understand those restraints -- for example there is only really one point of view in a film, the camera lens. Once you have your head around these issues you're good to go. It still isn't easy, however.

maxodog3 karma

Ok. On a completely unrelated note, was there a film/book that inspired you to write professionally?

WilliamBoyd2 karma

I don't think there was a single inspiration. When I was about 17 or 18 and contemplating my adult life ahead of me I only knew one thing -- that I wanted to be an artist of some kind. Originally, I wanted to be a painter but I think I must have seen a movie about a writer -- sitting in a room with a typewriter and a glass of wine -- and I thought "that is the life for me". I don't come from any artistic or literary background (all my family are middle class professionals) so I don't really know where I got this yearning for the artistic life. Maybe I realised I wasn't cut out for a "proper" job. So I set out to become a novelist -- it took a good few years.

Punderthighs5 karma

Who is your favorite Bond Girl? and why?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

I have an instant response. The incandescent Jill St. John playing Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever (Sean C's return the the franchise, if I recall). Interestingly, in the novel, Diamonds are Forever, Bond begins a long-term relationship with Tiffany Case and they live together for some months in Bond's Chelsea apartment. It's the only real relationship Bond ever experiences in the novels (given the day-long length of his marriage). In the subsequent novel, From Russia with Love, we learn that Tiffany has dumped Bond for a US Marine officer -- hence his forlorn mood at the novel's start.

orucker5 karma

Who do you think would win in arm wrestling, Bond or Archer?

WilliamBoyd11 karma

I've just checked Archer out -- and I suspect he would win. Because he'd cheat in some way, right?

MuggleWizard4 karma

Hi, Mr. Boyd! I read "Solo" a few months back and loved it! Why did you choose to write a new Bond adventure in 20th century Africa, as opposed to the classic American, European and Russian environments that traditional spy novels deal with?

WilliamBoyd11 karma

When I re-read all Fleming's novels again I realised that Bond had never visited Africa (except briefly at the end of Diamonds are Forever). I was born and raised in West Africa and it seemed to me a way to exploit my own knowledge of the place. There were other reasons. I decided to set the novel in 1969 (when my home was in Nigeria during the Nigerian civil war -- thinly disguised in Solo) and also I wanted Bond to be a kind of "unaccomodated man", removed from his familiar environments, without gadgets, support etc. I wanted to test him, see what resources he had as an individual lost in an African war-zone.

LegendaryG_host3 karma

As a screenwriter in the Film world, how often do directors ask for re writes, and do you find that frustrating when it happens? Or is it just the nature of the business?? Sorry if you were asked this, but do you prefer writing novels or screen, or which do you enjoy more?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

Well, if you get on well with the director then there will be constant fine-tuning of the script -- which is a necessary pleasure, in theory. It should keep getting better. If you're writing for a studio you will be contractually obliged to do, say, one rewrite and a "polish" -- and then you get fired and they hire another writer. Now, when I write scripts I insist on being a co- or executive producer as well, and one of my motives is to avoid being replaced, or rewritten (the abiding nonsensical working practice in Hollywood). I don't mind polishing or tweaking a script -- and I enjoy working in film and TV precisely because it is a collaboration, something that writing a novel manifestly isn't. I am principally a novelist but I need to and enjoy working with other people -- so I try to incorporate both "jobs" in my life. Bt if I stopped enjoying working in films I'd stop immediately and stick to novels. Films have to be made from time to time from your scripts otherwise the experience begins to pall. I'm lucky enough to have had a lot of my scripts turned into films so I'm still enjoying the collaborative life.

LegendaryG_host3 karma

Wow that is awesome. Thank you for sharing, I have been wondering that question for years. At one time, I wanted to pursue writing, film school, etc. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn't. Thank you so much for what you do. I am a huge fan of film. I don't know how you guys do it. I always picture writers in my mind like mad scientist complete with giant tesla coils around them. The creativity alone, and I have seen some of your work, is absolutely astounding. You said you directed Trench? Did you enjoy that role, or do you prefer to write? Again sir, thank you for doing this AMA. Really enjoyed reading through your answers.

WilliamBoyd1 karma

It's a pleasure. I always like to emphasise the writer's role in movie making. We are constantly overlooked -- or, not so much overlooked as somewhat ignored. NOTHING in film is possible without a script -- you can't cast, you can't budget, you can't schedule -- let alone make a film. I really enjoyed directing The Trench -- but I was a writer/director -- about as creatively powerful as you can be on a movie. I'm tempted to step behind the camera again next year and make a short -- who knows? What was most valuable about directing a film was how that knowledge shaped my screenplay writing: I know exactly what you can do and, more importantly, what you can't.

ichbineinewhore3 karma


WilliamBoyd6 karma

My inspiration, my modus operandi, was straightforwardly literary -- to write the most compelling, beguiling story I could. I give all the credit for the interactive stuff to the Land Rover team and the digital production company who were responsible for the "moving parts". However, I agree, the resulting blend is quite extraordinary and I am still thinking about what new doors are opening, here. I still don't have all the answers but I imagine The Vanishing Game format would be very appealing to writers. It has to be said though that the expertise required is massive -- though you could cherry-pick aspects (photos, sound track) that might enhance an on-screen reading experience. This new medium -- if that's what it is -- combines the strengths of the novel and film, it seems to me: all the novel's sophistication, detail, nuance plus film's ability to create mood, achieve mise en scene so effortlessly.

W-Cephei3 karma

With all this internet new era... There's a way to achieve arrive Hollywood through the internet?

What do you think?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

I suspect there is -- though I don't have the answer. It depends what you want to do, I suppose -- Write? Direct? Produce? My feeling -- and I'm no expert -- is that the internet can allow you to make and post your own short film. If it's any good, people will notice.

W-Cephei1 karma

Sorry. I should have specified... It's for a screenwriter.

Thnx for the response.

WilliamBoyd2 karma

I'm not sure screenwriting skills are easy to demonstrate on the net. My best advice would be to write and make a short film and post it. All good films, of whatever length, rely massively on the writing. It'll be noted.

Frajer3 karma

How did you find it writing for a character as well known as James Bond?

WilliamBoyd7 karma

It was a fascinating exercise. However, the Bond of the novels is completely different from the Bond of the movies. In the novels he's a far more complex, darker persona -- he makes mistakes, he's not a ruthless killing machine. What I did was re-read all fourteen novels (and short story collections) and reacquaint myself with the character again (I had read all the novels as a teenager) and went from there, trying my hardest to forget all about Bond as we've seen him in the movies.

KoopaDoop3 karma

Hey Will. Thanks for doing this. I just read (watched?) "The Vanishing Game" and really liked it. How was it using that medium of storytelling? What was the process like?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

Well, the process was relatively straightforward. I was asked to write a long short story (or a short novella) that could be categorised as an "adventure". And that was that. All the amazing "stuff" that you now see around it was added after I had written The Vanishing Game. I knew there would be some fancy narrative gizmos involved but I never expected something so mould-breaking. You now have a new reading experience available, I believe, and that is the remarkable bonus of the whole enterprise.

acheekymonkey3 karma

How did Bond (Solo) come about? Is it part of a transition from comedy and fictional autobiographies (Brazzaville Beach, New Confessions) towards the mystery and thriller genres (Restless, Waiting for Sunrise, etc.)?

WilliamBoyd5 karma

You are invited. You can't audition or make it known you'd be interested in writing a Bond novel -- the invitation comes out of the blue. In fact I had just published my novel "Waiting for Sunrise" -- which is a spy novel set in World War 1 -- so I was very familiar with the genre. I've also written articles on spies and spying (Kim Philby) and long pieces about Ian Fleming and John Le Carré so I feel very at home in that world. It wasn't a big leap, to be honest. Also, all my novels have complex plots -- so moving into a genre that demands a complex plot was and is appealing.

NorbitGorbit3 karma

is there an official bond bible that you must follow?

WilliamBoyd2 karma

Yes, there are a few encyclopaedic books that give you chronologies and time lines (and illuminate some of Fleming's mistakes) and every minute fact. Useful for reference. Kingsley Amis wrote a couple of books on Bond from a writer/fan point of view. He wrote a whole book on Bond's drinking under the pseudonym "Bill Tanner". These books won't help you write a Bond novel but they should stop you making mistakes.

heartattacked2 karma

Your laptop seems to be missing a key, what's the story (and feel free to make it fictional!) there?

WilliamBoyd6 karma

it is missing a key (it's not my laptop). It's the "L". Is that working? I never realised how much you need an "L"!

jsevenofnine2 karma

I'd like to think that people are just not ready at the time with "License To Kill" especially Mr. Timothy Dalton's amazing portrayal of Bond being darker and more serious. What did you particularly think of the movie, Mr. Dalton and his performance?

WilliamBoyd1 karma

You're right. Timothy Dalton is a very good actor. To be honest I'm not that up on the Bond movies. I made a conscious effort not to watch any (as they appeared on TV) while I was writing the book as they are so different from Fleming's original -- though no doubt I saw them all as they were released.

acheekymonkey2 karma

Research and history seem very important to your writing process. Is it satisfying to get the details right? What subject areas are you currently excited to learn about?

WilliamBoyd2 karma

It's not only satisfying it's vital. If the world you're creating in your fiction isn't plausible or authentic -- real and textured -- then it'll be painfully obvious. The trick is to know exactly what to put in -- the one detail that will do a lot of work -- there's no point in just shovelling research into your fiction -- it'll sink. I've just completed a new novel featuring a character's life from 1908-1983 -- I've covered a huge amount of ground, as you can imagine, and so am rather mentally spent. However, I do find that my thoughts are returning more and more to the 1960s -- there's something about that decade that's particularly alluring, now we're well into the 21st century.

jedaii_knight2 karma

Mr. Boyd, welcome. Is there such a thing as writer's block? If so, what is your strategy in overcoming it?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

There is indeed. And I know many excellent novelists who've suffered from it. My strategy is always to have a store of ideas in my head about what I might write AFTER the book I'm currently writing. Whenever I get an idea I jot it down in a notebook. So, when I finish one novel, I have about two or three ideas for the novel I might write next. I then find that one of them inexorably suggests itself -- and I begin the researching and inventing process once again. So far I've never been afflicted by the "block", thank Zeus!

OMAHGAD1 karma

If you could write the next chapter of another famous franchise (a la SOLO) what would it be?

WilliamBoyd3 karma

Archer?... I'm not sure I'd ever take on another sequel. The Bond experience was fascinating and really intriguing but I think once is enough But "never say never". However, I am planning (one day) to write two sequels to my novel "Waiting for Sunrise". I want to make it a trilogy of novels running from 1913-1919. A 1000-pager that covers the whole period of the Great War. That'll keep me busy!

ForgotToKnock1 karma

When writing Solo, did you picture any particular Bond actor? Also, what is your favorite Bond movie?

WilliamBoyd1 karma

I didn't because I knew there was absolutely no chance that Solo would be made into a film because the book is set in 1969 and ALL the Bond films are set in the year they were made and are therefore relentlessly contemporary -- a great shame in my opinion. The gap between the novels and the films is now vast, over half a century, hence the disconnect between the literary and the movie Bond. The person I did picture was the American singer/songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. On at least three occasions Ian Fleming stipulates that Bond looks very like him. Check him out!

jsevenofnine1 karma

What's your ultimate comfort food/s?

WilliamBoyd1 karma

Wine. No, seriously, I don't have a sweet tooth so I tend to munch on salted peanuts or smoked almonds. I also get a sushi or oyster craving from time to time and have to run off and find some.

pbj9861 karma

What is your advice to someone who has written a screenplay and is looking to get a chance for it to at least be seen and have a chance of getting made?

WilliamBoyd1 karma

It's always difficult. My feeling is that you need to have an agent or a manager -- that's really the only way to have a chance it might get read. The unsolicited script rarely gets through the door. Otherwise it's all about contacts -- but again that's not something you can acquire. If your script is good then there's a chance that someone will want to represent it (and take a commission).