Authors In The Media With Peter Blauner
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Authors In The Media With Peter Blauner
Very recently, I did a regular Q&A with New York Times Bestselling author Peter Blauner. We also briefly discussed his journalism career & his writing for popular television shows such as Blue Bloods & Law & Order SVU. In this edition of Authors In The Media Q&A we will go more in depth about his journalism career & him writing for television shows!
Q: In our Q&A Peter, I remember it was mentioned that you covered crime & politics and all sorts of bad behavior. Did you have to interview criminals and politicians? If so, which politicians & criminals, did you have to interview for New York Magazine?
A: There were lots. Mayors, governors, senators, drug dealers, and mobsters. The thing is, I got to know more about them when I became a novelist rather than a journalist. The reason is that they would talk to me a lot more freely if they knew they weren’t going to their real names attached to the quotes in a newspaper or a magazine. You get a lot more honesty in a bar at two in the morning than you get in a corner office at two in the afternoon.
Q: You also mentioned in our Q&A that your journalism helped with your writing skills. Would you ever return to journalism, or would you rather just mainly focus on writing books and television episodes?
A: Not in a full-time way. It’s a younger person’s game. Especially since you really have to hustle to make a living doing it. I enjoy writing shorter Substack pieces because there’s no pressure of deadlines and trying to get paid. I do as much reporting and opening as I feel like the column needs. But when it comes to writing novels and writing for TV, it’s playing for keeps.
Q: It sounds so exciting working with Pete Hamill who was a famous columnist for New York Magazine & Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote Goodfellas. They taught you lessons about how to conduct yourself as an adult & how to listen and tell stories. What was it like working with both men?
A: The first time I went out to lunch with Pete, he told me three things. 1) If you think you’re going to ever write seriously about something that happened to you, then write down every aspect of the experience within twenty-four hours or you will forget the most important detail. 2) If a question occurs to you and you feel uncomfortable about asking it, then you must ask it. 3) Always read people who are better than you and who you can learn something from.
Those are pretty much the most important lessons I ever learned.
Q: I find it impressive that you’ve written for Law & Order SVU, Blue Bloods, the regular Law & Order & Law & Order Criminal Intent. What’s it like working in the writers’ room with the television writers? What is the process like writing a script for a television episode?
A: Every show is different. But it’s about being patient, discreet, and serving the show’s interests first. You have to listen to other people’s ideas, try to build on them, and know when to back off. Sometimes it can be fun, throwing ideas around with a bunch of nice smart people. But often I think less is more. At Blue Bloods, when I wrote an episode, it was usually just the showrunner Kevin Wade and me in a room quietly discussing the story. And since Kevin is a very good writer himself, that was usually fine.
There’s a saying in screenwriting: The King James Bible is the only good thing ever written by committee. There might be something to that.
Q: What advice would you give anyone wanting to write a script for a television series or a movie? I’m sure it’s exciting but like anything else there’s a lot of hard work involved.
A: It’s a process. And it’s often not about the writing itself, but about your circumstances, timing, the connections that are available to you, and what the market will bear. That said, a good story and strong characters are the gold standards in any medium. So that’s where you have to start.
Q: Would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I a little bit about the new television series you are writing for Apple TV called Identity? Where did the idea for the show come from & who is the cast for it?
A: I’d like to but I can’t. We’re in the very early stages. All I can say is that I’m working with some very smart and talented people and things look promising.
Q: What was your experience writing for Blue Bloods and interacting with the cast of that show, is it like your experience on the Law & Order shows or is it different?
A: Yes, it was certainly different. Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan and the others have done a very good job establishing their characters and building a very loyal audience. They’d built that house very sturdily before I arrived and it’s still standing years later. We did some good episodes and worked with some really terrific guest stars. I particularly loved working with the late Treat Williams and Michael O’Keefe, who is a very actor that your readers may remember from The Great Santini and Caddyshack years ago.
Q: Since you write books and television episodes do you have any favorite shows where a journalist is a main character? One show I recommend (if you haven’t seen it) is Tokyo Vice on Max (formerly known as HBO Max). It’s loosely based on Jake Adelstein’s true crime memoir about investigating yakuza and other crimes in Japan.
A: I liked that show a lot. But for my money, the most successful and entertaining portrayals of journalists are in older movies like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, THE FRONT PAGE, and NOTHING SACRED. The last two are written or co-written by the great Ben Hecht, who was a Chicago newspaperman in the 1920s. More recently, SPOTLIGHT was not too shabby.