To call this book timely would be a massive understatement. It’s about a powerful group of Washington elites who actively try to take down the president and his administration—which has proven to be incredibly divisive and bad for America. Keep in mind, this conspiracy-laden thriller came out at the very time the House of Representatives was holding a trial to impeach the current POTUS, with the words “deep state” regularly being used on cable news programs and in print around the country.
Hauty’s book is fantastic, for many reasons, but three things in particular make DEEP STATE a standout title this year.
First of all, Hauty wrote this one pretty much straight down the middle. Here, you’ll find good and bad guys on both sides of the political spectrum, but with no input from Hauty himself. In a world where everyone seems to be offering their own hot take on all things politics, Hauty kept his own opinions about Washington out of his thriller, making it an enjoyable read for everyone, conservatives and liberals.
Secondly, a longtime screenwriter, Hauty uses his decades of experience writing movies to his advantage here, creating a character-rich world that pops visually, and is paired perfectly with a plot that moves at the speed of runaway freight train. Hayley Chill, his protagonist, is literally a rogue woman on the run to try and stop a plot to kill the president—making her a no-brainer for my first pick of 2020. A veteran and former boxing champ, Haley can hold her own physically, and is also whip-smart with great instincts. She’s one of my favorite new characters in the genre, and I think Rogue fans will feel the same way once they meet her.
Lastly, Hauty delivers one of the best twists of the year, ending his first thriller in a way that’ll leave readers desperately trying to pick their jaws up off the floor before someone steps on it.
Screenwriting v. Noveling
And the first two questions? Allow me to be blunt. A screenwriter (especially in film but mostly to the same extent in television) has ZERO say-so in what ends up on the screen. You are a cog in a vast machine required to create the finished “product.” It’s a cliché to say so, but entirely true that all the other hands in the mix hate you (the writer) and hold you in contempt. Once hired for your services, you are essentially a highly paid and extremely expendable slave. All decision-making flows in one direction: you accommodate them. And “them” includes a small army of insecure lunatics who reign over your fate for the life of the project. Sound fun? You are paid extremely well for your suffering, fellow scribe. Suck it up. That’s what I did. Bought a house. Raised a family. Sent the kids to college. And, in that time, movies changed. They stopped being about human beings. (Why? Fall of home video and rise of global market.) So I decided to stay light on the balls of my feet, just like always. I considered filling the page from margin-to-margin. Total lark. Had no idea what I was doing except for having developed some very particular writing muscles. Which muscles? So glad you asked!
Here’s a pro tip about Hollywood. Everyone hates to read. And I mean everyone. Please don’t send me your spec script. I hate it already. Tough place to be a writer, right? How do you get people to read your million-dollar baby? You compel these word-hating recalcitrant readers by writing like your life depends on it. By learning to cut all of the fat. By treating words and language like they’re foreplay. By toying with your reader, teasing him or her and being flirty. You learn to write in the most entertaining fashion you possibly can. Tarantino is the master of this showmanship. Shane Black is an early innovator, too. They’ve been imitated (in screenwriting) to death. So you develop your own game. Punch up, not down. Give ‘em something they’ve never seen before. Surprise them. That’s how you endure thirty-five years in the screenwriting game. Or, at least, that’s how I survived.
And so I endeavored to bring those same writing chops to my noveling. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I am down with everything there is to know about capturing a reader’s eyeballs and clenching them in my greedy, little hands. The rest is just writing margin-to-margin, right? (Not really, but you get my point, don’t you?) Which brings me to the very most salient point of this six-hundred-and-sixty-three word screed. All of you noveling badasses out there must take this one lesson to heart: please, please, please, you must write the screenplay or pilot adaptation of your lovely novel. Don’t let anyone tell you haven’t the “skill.” Say no until they agree to give you at least that first shot. Because, fellow scribes and fans of scribes, any writer can write anything.