The Job – This Month’s Victim: Jim Butcher (author, "The Dresden Files")

 

Whedonopolis.com: This interview is going to be very Buffy-centric and Whedonverse-centric, OK? Because you’re not exactly Whedonverse-related but Harry does mention "Buffy" a lot…

Jim Butcher: Well, thank you and yes, there’s a lot of "Buffy" references in there. There have to be; how could there not be? Plus the new "Dark Horse" comic is coming out; I’ve got the first issue so… (affects evil laugh) "I wanna see Season 8!" They just started re-running season 7 on FX, and I hadn’t seen season 7 in a while so I don’t really remember it , so it’s almost like seeing them new.

W: How long have you been a fan of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," the show?

JB: Let’s see… the first thing I saw was the second time they aired "The Harvest," the first two-hour episode. I saw it the second time they put that on the air, and then I didn’t come back to it until Season 2. Shannon (=his wife) had taped it for me and it was the Halloween episode of Season 2. I was working nights at that time, so I’d come home at 6-8 in the morning, and I’d have my dinner at 6-8 in the morning, and Shannon’d have taped the show for me the night before, cos she was already off to work-so I came in and sat down with my plate of spaghetti at 9AM to watch the Halloween episode.

It gets right around the part where Spike is walking down the street, and he looks around and goes, (imitating Spike) "Well… this is just… neat." And I snorted spaghetti out of my nose, and you know, once you’ve exhaled pasta over a show, you just have to show up next week! (laughs all around) So I started taping the show, I got back all the episodes I’d missed before that, and then by the time Season 3 rolled around, I had all the episodes on tape, in order, with the commercials taken out and they were running in the background when I was doing other stuff. So that’s where I started watching "Buffy."

W: Very cool! Has "Buffy" inspired the look of the characters at all? Because Murphy-the way you describe her, it’s very Buffy-like size-wise?

JB: Somewhat, yes. I’m not sure how tall Sarah is…

W: She’s 5’2". (Actually, Sarah Michelle Gellar is 5’3" – Ed. Note.)

JB: Is she really, 5’2"? Wow!

W: Yeah, she’s tiny. She’s pocketsize!

JB: Yeah, she’s a tiny little thing, and they say that several times in the show… I guess I should have listened.

W: So Murphy is…

JB: Murphy was actually based on somebody I saw give a karate demonstration, an aikido demonstration. She was a little 5′ tall, she looked like somebody’s favorite aunt; a little cheerful woman and they had three 250-lb. guys start trying to tackle her. They were told, "All you have to do is try and hold her down." And she just tossed them all, left and right, for like five minutes…

And it was funny too, because she was just a little old lady! So that’s where Murphy came from, but yes, in my fantasy casting of the show, I was like, "Yeah, yeah, we’ll have Sarah play Murphy. Why not? She probably didn’t have anything better to do. She can play Murphy."

W: How did you come up with Thomas Raith? Because he reminds me a lot of Spike.

JB: Oh, yeah, Thomas was my vampire pretty-boy, definitely, and of the vampire pretty-boys, Spike is definitely one of the premiere ones among them. Although the new guy in "Blood Ties" is also awfully nice. I’m not gay or anything, but I’m looking at the guy, going, "Man, that’s a good looking guy! I’m not gonna let my woman anywhere near that guy…" I don’t know if you’ve ever seen "Blood Ties"?

W: No…

JB: You should try and catch it; it’s really good…

W: It competes against "The Dresden Files"!

JB: Does it, in your time zone? Cos in ours, it’s like an hour later.

W: Yeah, and it comes on against "The Dresden Files," and if I have to choose between Paul (Blackthorne) and the new vampire guy, I’m sorry, I’m going with Paul.

JB: Yeah, Paul is a good-looking guy, that’s for sure. He’s a nice guy, too, in person.

W: Is he?

JB: Yes, he is. He comes running up to me on his bicycle… (This writer shows Jim the wallpaper on her phone – a picture of Paul Blackthorne) Oh, there he is! He comes running up to me on his bicycle on the set, cos he rides his bike all over the set instead of walking, and he goes, (in a British accent) "Oh, excuse me? Pardon me, aren’t you that famous author, Jim Butcher? Can I get your autograph, sir? Sir? Sir, can we have an interview over here? You better get used to that!" And I went, "Oh, I don’t know that’s ever gonna be quite like that," but I gave him a copy of the "Dresden Files" books, the British versions, and I said, "Here. It’s spelled ‘aluminium’ in all these books; that way, you won’t be threatened."

W: How does Harry know about "Buffy" since he has so many challenges with modern technology? Everything explodes around him… Book Harry, not so much TV Harry.

JB: Oh, yeah! Well, TV Harry, they’ve had a few things exploding… Yeah, Harry doesn’t have a TV in his apartment, but he watches TV at one of the places where he goes, like he can sit down in a bar and watch TV. He can sit down across from a TV store; that’s one of the places where he does it. There’s this TV store place across the park, and he sits down in the park and watches TV. So he’s vaguely aware of "Buffy…"

W: Because he does have some very specific references to her…

JB: Yeah, "Make like Buffy. Here, take this."

W: Exactly!

JB: "If a vampire comes to get you, make like Buffy."

W: And then he says, "Maybe it works better on TV." So… Okay, how do James Marsters’ audio versions… no, before that; how did James Marsters doing the audio versions of "The Dresden Files" books come about?

JB: They called me, and they said, "We want to do audio versions of the books," and I said, "Okay, that’s fantastic! Let’s do that!" and then they called me a few weeks later, and said, "We’ve got James Marsters to do it," and I said, "Great!" And that’s pretty much how it came about. They went out and found him, and they caught him at a time in his schedule where he actually had time to do it and he wanted to do it, so that was all the audio publisher getting him for that.

But them getting James was what got the show to TV, because James, after he’d recorded my books, he went off to record voices for the new animated "Spider-Man" they had on MTV a few summers ago? And Morgan Gendel was there, and he spoke to James. He said, "Hey, you know your way around an audio studio; most actors don’t, we have to show them everything," and James went, "Oh, I was just recording this book!" And he told him all about the first book of the "Dresden Files" and so Morgan said, "Hmm…" And he went and checked it out and he liked it, and it was after that that he contacted me; but James was the word of mouth that got Morgan to come looking at the books as a property… So that’s how those things work; somebody talks to somebody and that’s how it gets around, apparently. So I blame James, yeah.

W: What?

JB: I blame James for that, yeah.

W: How have James’ audio versions of the characters affected you? Like, do his vocal creations match the way they sound in your head when you write them?

JB: No, no, and they shouldn’t match what’s in my head, my goodness! Nobody should match what’s in my head! (laughs all around) No, no, James applies his own talent and creative energy to that. When I’m writing a book, I’m pretty much writing it and it’s all me, but as an audio thing, he actually has to use that as a script; he has to apply what his own talent is, his own acting and he’s got to do all these different voices for all these different characters. I just got "Summer Knight," I haven’t got to listen to it yet. I want to, but I didn’t get to it yet.

But he gets to do all these characters, and it’s really cool and I can listen to it and there’s slightly different inflections on how I pronounce things. Like, when he’s delivering lines or when he’s just reading, and it’s really enjoyable for me to hear it, because it’s kinda being able to see it through a different pair of eyes. I like listening to it, and I laugh at things I wouldn’t have been able to laugh in my own writing, because James, you know, is adding his own humor into it without actually changing the words, just by using inflections which is very difficult to do but which he does very well… and just doing all the different characters and so on is also something I’ve always been really impressed with James, he’s very good at doing that, bringing out the different voices.

W: I’ve heard the first three chapters of "Summer Knight," cos they had them up for download. When he speaks like Mab, (the Winter Fairie Queen – Ed. Note) you feel cold.

JB: Oh! Cool!

W: And there’s this whole blooper thing on his site, where he has a conversation with himself before he starts doing Mab’s voice…

JB: Yeah, I’ve heard some of the conversations, yeah!

W: …the whole discussion with himself before deciding to make Mab Latvian. Of all places in the world!

JB: (laughs out loud)

W: Why Latvia, I do not know, but it works!

JB: Great!

W: By the way, how do you pronounce the word "S-I-D-H-E"?

JB: "SHE." The She.

W: "The SHE?"

JB: Yeah, just one word, "she."

W: Cos I was reading the short story from "My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding" out loud in the car with my friend, and he was like, "What did you say?" And I said, "She, that’s how James pronounces it, but let’s ask Jim."

JB: No, they send me a list of words that James might mispronounce; they say, "Give me a phonetic pronunciation of every word on this list," so I have to write everything up. So I go, "This is how it’s pronounced."

W: Cool! We were discussing the other day, with the other girls on the site, that James has to be on "The Dresden Files," because that’s the way many of us got into the books initially; at least that’s how I did it, because I heard James, and we thought we had the perfect stunt casting for the show. Maybe if you have any sort of input or…

JB: Okay…

W: We would like James to show up on the show as Thomas Raith.

JB: I will pass that along; I’m sure they will not be upset at all by that.

W: Cos, you know, it’s not like he’d have to be in Vancouver all the time as he would have to if he were playing Harry, so yeah…

JB: Right, right… Well, I’ll pass that along; tell them I will do that.

W: Thank you!

JB: I will pass that on to Robert (Hewitt Wolfe, producer). I don’t know if it will have any effect, but I will do it.

W: Thank you very much! We’d really appreciate it.

JB: I would really like to see him on the show, honestly. I also think he could do a really good villain; a really good recurring villain, he’d be wonderful at too…

W: He would be good as Marcone…

JB: Yes, he would. He’d be an excellent Marcone.

W: Plus you have that James and Paul thing kinda looking alike, and sounding alike…

JB: They do have very similar voices; in fact, the first time I heard Paul talking and switching back and forth between Harry’s voice and his own accent, I’m like, "That sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before? Oh, wait a minute! It’s like when I heard James go back and forth between the Spike accent and his regular accent; that’s why it sounded so spooky!"

W: Okay, since Buffy had Dracula pop up, what are the chances of Spike popping up in the "Dresden Files"?

JB: Oh, probably none. I think Joss would just keep his stuff in his own universe. I’d like to play in Joss’ universe but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Dracula is open source code; anybody can use him, but Spike belongs to Joss.

W: Maybe you could ask Joss for permission; I don’t think he would say no…

JB: Who knows? I’ve no idea.

W: You never know. Anyway, this is the last part of the interview; everybody has to answer these questions.

JB: Okay…

W: It’s the Pivot questionnaire that they do at the end of "Inside the Actors’ Studio."

JB: Okay, right.

W: Jim, what’s your favorite word?

JB: Oh, uh… uh… what’s my favorite word? Uh, "hamburger." We’ll go with "hamburger," that’s a good one.

W: What’s your least favorite word?

JB: Oh, "Brussels," because it’s always a part of "Brussels sprout."

W: What’s your favorite sound?

JB: Oh, favorite sound… You know that noise it makes when you level up on "EverQuest," it goes "ding"? It’s not actually "ding," it’s kinda more of a "DOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGG!" But it’s one of those, "I’ve just leveled up-transcended" sort of noises.

W: Your least favorite sound?

JB: Oh, lately, the telephone! (laughs all around) Cos there’s always something else; "Oh, no! I’m gonna have to do something else now. How am I gonna find time to do that? Leave me alone! I just wanna write my book; I wanna write my science fiction novel."

W: Your favorite curse word?

JB: "Dandy sprat".

W: What?!

JB: "Dandy sprat," it’s a Civil War curse word to call somebody who’s evidently a homosexual.

W: Can you spell that out?

JB: D-A-N-D-Y S-P-R-A-T. Yeah, it’s a Civil War curse word. (in an annoyed old man’s voice) "You dandy sprat!"

W: You know we’re gonna start using that; ; we already use "frak" and "gorram" and "hell’s bells…" What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

JB: What I’d most like to attempt? Oh, gosh… I don’t know; maybe something where I’d get some respect… (laughs all around) It’d probably be either teaching or I’d like to do martial arts professionally if I were a bit more… I’d have to be a little bit more martial-artsy, but I’d like to do something like that.

W: Okay. What profession other than yours would you most definitely NOT like to attempt?

JB: Anything that had a tie, where I’d have to wear a tie. I couldn’t survive that; it would drive me insane.

W: Finally, if God really exists, what would you like to hear Him say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

JB: He’s gonna say probably exactly the same thing Stan Lee said when I met him in the green room at Comic-Con. He said, "Who are you again and why am I meeting you?" (laughs all around) That’s what Stan Lee said to me, yeah, so… And I said, "I am a big fan of yours, sir, I just wanted to meet you," and then the editor’s there, and he said, "Oh, Stan, he’s not telling you he’s the author of these books they just made the new "Dresden Files" TV show out of." And Stan goes, "Oh, that’s great! Was I like an influence or anything?" I said, "Absolutely." "That’s even better! What’s your name?" "Jim Butcher." "Jim Butcher, Jim Butcher, all right. You know, I’m a big name-dropper, so now I’m gonna be able to tell people, ‘I was just talking to Jim Butcher the other day and he said…’" Which is funny, you know, for Stan Lee to say something like that for me… "I’m a big name-dropper, Jim!" He’s a good guy; he’s just a good guy.

W: That was great! All right, thank you very much for talking to us.

JB: You’re welcome very much.

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