If you mapped the career of Mark Frost you’d see a line that veers across medium (he’s written, produced and directed in television and film, and as a bestselling author he’s published four novels and four nonfiction books) and lingers in unexpected terrain (acclaimed golf histories, historical fiction, a sitcom, writing stints on “Hill Street Blues” and “The Six-Million Dollar Man”). But the 58-year-old may be best known as the co-creator of “Twin Peaks,” the strange, hypnotic mystery dance that lasted 30 unique episodes in 1990-91.
We caught up with Frost at Comic-Con International to talk about “The Paladin Prophecy” — his ninth book but his first for the young adult shelf — which arrives in September with a sci-fi mystery about a special youngster who is destined to join an ancient struggle against dark forces.
HC: “The Paladin Prophecy” looks intriguing. How has the project compared to your other “mythology” creations? And did it present itself fairly quickly and well-formed or did you need the chisel for longer than you expected?
MF: The architecture for ‘Paladin’ — given that it’s at least three books, with the possibility of more — turned out to be bigger than anything I’ve ever created, with multiple levels of reality, interlocking mysteries and a terabyte of time frame. From blueprint to showroom floor, the first book took nearly two years, with extra hours set aside for despair, hair-pulling and shamanic house calls. All in all, I nearly sprained my brain. With the help of my brilliant editor, Jim Thomas at Random House, I finally wrestled this beast to the ground.
HC: This YA field and audience is so vibrant right now that it seems to be defined more by its big ambitions than any meaningful reader-level limitation. How do you find it suits your most reflexive mode of storytelling? Did you need to lean into it like batter reaching for a pitch or was it right there where you swing?
MF: If this hadn’t been right down the middle of my strike zone I never would have undertaken it, because that way lies madness. I have traveled down this path before — “List of Seven” and “Twin Peaks” both have thematic similarities — but “Paladin” took me much deeper into the intuitive underground. Always bearing in mind Joseph Campbell’s Rule No. 1: When entering a labyrinth, don’t forget your ball of twine.
HC: What character in the book speaks with a voice closest to yours?
MF: Will West, the central character, is the voice — and it’s very close to mine, even in some ways autobiographical — but as you know every character speaks from some part of you. I found that to be truer here than just about anything I’ve done, while trying to set the themes of the youthful hero’s journey into a modern, technological and distinctly American context.
HC: I was a great admirer of “Twin Peaks,” it’s on my personal Hall of Fame list with”The Sopranos,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Game of Thrones.” I’m sure a lot of people come to you with big, weird declarations like that — what’s that experience like for you as the years pass?
MF: The fact that the show still engages and entertains — and in many cases obsesses — a large audience to the extent that it does is a constant source of amazement and delight. It’s a validation of how hard we all worked on it at the time, which is a pretty nice merit badge to have on your sash. The fact that many people remember the show a whole lot better than I do at this point is a little unsettling, but, hey, we were just the messengers. I’m channeling different frequencies now.
HC: You wrote the two “Fantastic Four” films for Fox; when you see “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” stir the entire globe, do you start thinking about other comics sagas that are waiting to be adapted?
MF: The superhero genre speaks to a vast swath of humanity these days, and studios are in the business of constantly renewing their money-printing licenses. I sense we’re nearing a saturation point with some of these icons, where it becomes more about the action figures and Happy Meals than it does the mythological heartbeat of the core ideas. I’ve always had an idealistic streak about storytelling in that I believe we owe more to audiences than repeatedly bludgeoning them over the head while stealing their lunch money. We owe them inspiration. That’s why I’m more interested now in creating new heroes than hooking up jumper cables to old ones.
– Geoff Boucher
GALLERY: TV shows that left us hanging