Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of the audio book for Death of a Bounty Hunter! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what was the inspiration for the story?
Jay Sherer: First off, thank you for the interview, and also thank you for all you and Bryant do in the comics industry. I really appreciate you both!
Death of a Bounty Hunter is based on a short film I wrote in 2012 for a screenwriting competition. The prompt we got for that competition revolved around reconciliation, which in a polarized 2022 feels like a completely foreign concept. And rather than try to come at that topic with some sort of agenda, I instead approached it from a standpoint of asking the question: “Is reconciliation important? What happens when you get it, and what happens if you don’t?” And those questions quickly get into redemption, isolation, guilt and shame, and self-focus vs. selflessness. But the core revolves around what it takes to pursue reconciliation and what it looks like if you choose to reject it outright. Which ends up giving you the following premise: “Shame and guilt will drive you to isolation and despair, but seeking reconciliation brings freedom.” And I think that premise is true even if you seek reconciliation and it doesn’t work. But, the story aims to explore that to see whether or not it’s true.
The book draws inspiration from several sources. The first was the screenplay concept I referenced, which gave us the prompt. That prompt was, of all things, a Bible verse. And what’s fascinating about the verse is that it’s virtually ignored by a lot of Christians. The verse, paraphrased, is: “Before you seek forgiveness from God, make sure you’re reconciled to those you wronged.” And I had to stop and go, “Whoa, that’s a mind-blowing concept applied to a polarized society.” Is anyone seeking reconciliation right now? Not really. And why? So, that was one inspiration.
Another inspiration was Raiders of the Lost Ark, which also deals with spiritual questions and skepticism, two topics I really like to explore. Which means Death of a Bounty Hunter has a lot of action, but we’re trying to ground it in deeper concepts while also including magic and steampunk and dark fantasy.
And finally… we chose to do it as a novel and a full cast audiobook because I had listened to Neil Gaiman’s full cast audiobook of American Gods (which has a fantastic premise). And when I listened to that audiobook, I realized that it was written as a standard novel, but then done later as a full cast audiobook. My thought was, “What if you wrote the novel from the very beginning knowing you wanted it to be a full cast audiobook? How would that change it?” And that led to three narrators who each approach the topic from a completely different perspective. Those narrators are supported by eleven other characters, which meant we were able to bring in eleven voice performers in total (some voicing multiple characters).
BD: How would you describe the overall tone of the story, and are there specific genres that it fits within that may intrigue audiences?
JS: The best way for me to describe the tone is Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Red Dead Redemption. We call it a weird western, but it’s a mashup of a bunch of genres. We’ve got magic, steampunk, dark fantasy, supernatural, and paranormal elements. But I think at its core, it’s a western. Fans of The Dark Tower series from Stephen King, Jonah Hex, Firefly, and even The Mandalorian are likely to enjoy it. One of the coolest things is that general audiences have also received it really well, and that doesn’t always happen.
BD: What can you share with us about your decision to adapt the story into an audio book?
JS: My co-writer (Nathan Scheck) and I co-wrote and co-produced a Star Wars fan film in 2016 called Star Wars: Rivals. And while that was amazing, it cost us a lot of money to produce it. But, we also consistently put out The Story Geeks podcast, so we have audio equipment. And because we love collaborating with our friends, we thought: We can do a full cast audiobook for a lot less money. And because I had just listened to the American Gods full cast audiobook, it just felt right. And then we got to collaborate with all our friends in Hollywood again (and met some new ones along the way).
BD: The creation process for an audio book (or audio drama) can be time-intensive and requires the talents of both voice actors and a skilled production team. How would you describe the process of bringing the audio book to life?
JS: We learned a ton. Not only do you have to write a novel, which is difficult enough as it is, but then you have to go through an audition process, pre-production, production, and then post-production. We started recording the actors in 2016 and didn’t fully release the audiobook until 2022. It was two years worth of recording, and then an extra two years in sound editing.
And some of that process is super rewarding, like working with the actors and actresses. Collaborating with talented people is so rewarding. I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed that. But then you’ve got hours and hours of sound editing. That was fantastic. But then listening to all the takes, deciding which takes to use, and collaborate with the sound engineer was a challenge. Some people might love that, but for me that was pretty arduous. Fortunately, we had a great sound engineer.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that this story will connect with and impact readers?
JS: First off, thank you for having a #StoriesMatter initiative. We tried to make sure we put in the work to at least strive to accomplish several things: One, the story itself had a compelling premise that would resonate with people or get them to pause and think about the implications of the premise. Two, that we had a diverse cast of characters that wasn’t just to check a box, but was diverse in a way that mattered. Our lead character is a Korean bounty hunter (played by our friend, Tim J. Lim), and it matters that he’s Korean based on the environment he’s in. It impacts his character and his journey through the story (and Tim brings so much to that character). And finally, we want the audience to have an experience that engages them emotionally and encourages them to think deeper about their own perspective on the subject matter.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JS: We’re about halfway through a new project. I’ll be talking about it on The Story Geeks podcast, too. But, I loved the character of Vecna and his approach to capturing and killing his victims. The idea that we convict and isolate ourselves when we feel guilt and shame is really intriguing to me. And that gave me an idea… what if there was a villain who wanted to destroy comic book character archetypes by isolating them using their guilt and shame? The story I’m working on is essentially Bad Times at the El Royale meets Vecna meets The Boys.
The goal would be to try and sell the script, but also to covert it into another full cast audiobook, as well. If it sounds interesting to any of your readers, they can follow along with our progress by subscribing to The Story Geeks podcast!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Death of a Bounty Hunter and your other work?
JS: If folks are interested in Death of a Bounty Hunter, they can head over to https://deathofabountyhunter.com. That site has links to all the places where you can purchase the full cast audiobook and also links to the eBook and the paperback versions. If anybody is interested in my thoughts on popular stories and my journey as a writer and producer, they can check out The Story Geeks YouTube channel or my podcast! We’ve been really fortunate to bring fantastic guests (like you and Bryant and some of our shared friends) onto The Story Geeks show, which has been phenomenal.
Thank you so much for the interview!