INTERVIEW - Max McCoy
I had the chance to ask author Max McCoy some questions.
He wrote four Indiana Jones novels including Indiana Jones
and the Philosopher's Stone, Indiana Jones and the Dinosaur
Eggs, Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth and Indiana Jones
and the Secret of the Sphinx.
Although you give some details on your web site I should like
to know: Has it always been your dream to become an author or
how did it happen that you have become one?
I knew since I was in grade school that I would be a writer.
Don't ask me how, I just knew, and by the time I was in junior
high I was writing stories that featured my friends. That's
what I did instead of doing my homework. I was a lousy student,
and in high school my guidance counselor suggested I "give
up these pipe dreams" of being a writer. Well, I didn't, and
after getting a job at a local newspaper (where I learned
that your stories are only as good as the questions you ask),
I began freelancing stories to magazines under the pseudonym
"Rheuben Buckner." Later, I met Greg Tobin, a Doubleday editor,at
the first writing workshop I ever went to. That lead to THE
SIXTH RIDER, which was published in 1991 and won (ironically,
it would seem) the Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award from the Western
Writers of America.
2. I read that you had been offered to write the Indiana
Jones books. What was your trigger / motivation to accept
Another editor at Bantam, Tom Dupree, suggested that I try
my hand at the Indy books because he liked the way I handled
action. So, I wrote a sample that became the opening chapter
of PHILOSOPHER's STONE. I remembered seeing RAIDERS at a drive-in
movie in Joplin, Mo., when it first came out. I had no idea
what this movie with the odd-sounding name was about, but
I was hooked (like everyone else) in the first five minutes.
I remember sitting there thinking how wonderful it was that
somebody actually got paid to write this stuff. Little did
I know that Lucasfilm, through Bantam, would eventually ask
me. And, I got to come up with my own plots for my four Indy
books--that was important.
What about licensing? Have you ever had contact to George Lucas
or other officials of Lucas Film? Were there any conditions
concerning the story?
The novels were licensed by Lucasfilm. While George Lucas
approved the final manuscripts, I dealt regularly with Lucy
Autry Wilson, one of his longest-tenured and most trusted
associates. And, I dealt with a number of continuity people.
I didn't like some of the limitations I had on the stories--there
were always struggles when Indy was depicted drinking, for
example (even though Indy drinks in the movies), when things
got sexual, or when things became "politically incorrect."
So, that was a hassle. I don't think the Lucasfilm folks ever
decided whether the Indy novels were for adults, or children,
or what. But, I always believed I was writing hard fantasy
for adults (that's my term. At least I think it's my term,
since I don't recall anyone else using it. Hard fantasy is
to fantasy what hard science fiction is to sf). I was thrilled
to take over following Martin Caidin (CYBORG, etc),who was
always one of my favorite authors, but I wanted to take Indy
in a different direction--or at least return to the noirish
Indy of the RAIDERS. Things became more restrictrive as the
books progressed, however, and I have to shoulder my share
of the blame. I blew deadlines. I had personal problems. So,
in the end, I can only blame myself for failing to execute
my original vision for Indy. There is some of it there, it
shines in places, but it wasn't all that I wanted. And, I
can only thank Lucasfilm for giving me the chance to play
in Indy's universe for a spell.
Where do you get the ideas for the adventure novels from and
is there anything personal of your life in the books? What is
the importance of the historical background in this connection.
Where don't you get ideas? Anbody who pays attention to the
world, or who reads history or mythology, cannot help but
be struck by the rich source of story material that surrounds
us everyday. So, the problem is picking the right material.
And yes, there is much that is personal in all of my books,
but I will leave it to readers to determine for themselves
which are those parts. Historical background is always important,
and especially so in hard fantasy. The hook--in Indy's case,
it must be a bona fide historical mystery--is important.
5. How much time does it take to write such a novel and
what is your working procedure?
I've written a novel in as little as six weeks, or as long
as several years. I have no standard working procedure, as
every title is different. Mostly, however, I work late at
How would you react if you were asked to write the film script
for an Indiana Jones film? Or if they wanted you to provide
It would be a great compliment. Then, after someone picked
me up off the floor and I returned to conciousness, I would
try my best to come up with the best script possible. Actually,
I just optioned one of my original screenplays, a thriller
called THE MOON POOL. Of course, scripts get optioned all
the time, but I think this has a good shot at getting made.
I do have a few ideas for Indy scripts, but no, I won't discuss
them, because people get so crazy about Indy movie ideas.
Besides, there's no point in dicussing them with anybody other
than Lucas. And, I'm thinking about take one of the premises
and giving it to one of my own characters.
7. In how many languages have your novels been published
and what is the number of copies printed?
Three languages that I know of--English, German, and Japanese.
I have no idea as to the number of copies, because I don't
get royalties on those foreign language editions. If I knew,
it would probably make me cry. But, I'm glad readers in Japan
and Germany have access to them.
Do you actually know the other Indy authors, such as Wolfgang
Hohlbein, Rob McGregor, etc.?
I certainly know of them, and Rob McGregor lives in Missouri,
my neighboring state (I'm in Kansas, dammit. I have a love-hate
relationship with Kansas. Currently, I hate it.) Everything
I have heard about Rob indicates that he is a nice guy and
a talented writer. Obviously, Rob and I have different takes
on the Indy character, but there wouldn't have been Indy novels
without Rob. So, hats off to Rob. I can't read German, so
I don't know how Wolfgang has handled Indy. I took a German
class in college once, and came to agree with Mark Twain about
how hard it is to learn it. But, I'd like to read a translation,
if any are available.
9. Is another Indiana Jones novel being planned? Now that
it is almost official that there will be another Indiana Jones
film the time would be favourable, wouldn't it?
I have no idea. You'd have to ask Lucasfilm, or whatever
publishing company currenly has the license. Personally, if
there is another Indy movie, I'd like to see the original
team. Not just Lucas and Spielberg, but also Lawrence Kasdan
as screenwriter. And, pray they don't set it after WWII. The
time period is as much a part of Indy's character as his whip
Many thanks for answering these questions. The entire Indiana
Jones fan community and I thank you very much for your co-operation.
Not everybody takes so much time to please his / her fans.
If you want to know more about Max McCoy visit his official
website or click
here to go to our McCoy section. There you'll find a biography
and a complete listing of his Indiana Jones novels including
copyright 2002 by HOLO GraFX for www.indianajones.de