For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed Aspen Colorado based Zip Creative client — novelist and screenwriter Michael Conniff. His novel, MOTHER NATURE, is part of his multimedia, multi-platform BOOK OF O’KELLS, including novels, the first Facebook novel, a novella, mysteries, a play, a screenplay, a documentary, and the graphic novel ATOMIC TOM. He is a founder of the Issacson School for New Media in Aspen.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
The BOOK OF O’KELLS, my multimedia, multi-platform work about the bastard son of Thomas Edison, beginning with the publication of MOTHER NATURE, about a billionaire ex-nun who becomes a radical eugenicist and tries to create a town without men.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
My great-grandfather was a great inventor (462 patents), second only to Edison, his contemporary. He began as a lamplighter lighting kerosene lamps in Albany around the turn of 20th Century. The line in my head that started all this O’Kell stuff was “Light was the boy’s life.” Once I wrote that line I never stopped. Making my illustrious ancestor a bastard makes me quite the bastard myself.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes — who have had an impact on you and your work?
My teacher Gordon Lish, my father Frank Conniff, Alan Brinkley, Raymond Carver, Jimmy Cannon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pushkin, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Jane Austen. Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker and Michael Connelly on the mystery side. And now the great television writers and showrunners.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Art won’t leave me alone, so I just give in to the inevitability of what I’m trying to say.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I have multiple original television pilots that I am developing and trying to sell with the help of Joanne Zippel. The two of immediate moment are OVERKILL, a screenplay about two women who become “hit men” but only kill men who deserve it; and SPY HIGH, a television script about a special group of high school students thrust into the world of espionage. I’m also happy to report I finished a short story today called HAPPY ENDINGS, so I’m happy about that, too.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
My vision was (and is) to use every available platform to tell a story. The execution was when I wrote the first novel ever on Facebook, now called THE GOOD EGG. Also helping to start the Isaacson School for New Media in Aspen was a way of living in (and up to) my vision.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
I would love to have every idea in production, in every media, on every platform, with the most talented people in the world.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
The biggest obstacle is always the person you face every day with all his many failings.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
I find it impossible not to be in a nonstop quest for ideas and inspiration that never ends.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
The Book of Kells. Not to be confused with the BOOK OF O’KELLS.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
How can it not be Churchill, who won the Nobel Prize — for literature?
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
For having a clue about what the future of storytelling will bring in the 21st Century.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream: I’ve only had it once in the last seven years, but man it tasted good!
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Hello? Move to Silicon Valley. Now!
Q: Where would you most like to live?
I live near Aspen so it’s hard to find a better place.
Q: What is your idea of success?
Writing from the heart.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Doing what you love for the people you love.
Q: Final Thoughts?
I’m closer to the end than the beginning so I would say this: don’t be one of those people who can’t get their work done; don’t look back and say “I wish” or “if only.” The work has to be its own reward. Success without work is impossible. Work without success is the beginning — not the end — of the world.