Guest Post from Andy Briggs – Author of The New Adventures of Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior
As part of the Tarzan blog tour, we have a guest post from Andy Briggs…
All writers get asked the same question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” As tempting as it is to answer “Aisle three in Tescos…” it’s actually an interesting question, and one that differs between writers. Imagine…
Outside it’s a grey, rainy day. No, I’m not describing the weather right now, but when I was young and at home during the school holidays. With very little to do I would sit in front of the television waiting for Tarzan to start. From the films to the countless TV series, Tarzan had always represented escape for me. Escape from the gloomy British weather to the jungles and savannahs of Africa. It showed me what I was missing!
Imagine my surprise to discover that Tarzan was not just on TV, but there was an actual book – 26 of them, if only you could find them all. Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 years ago, they were, at the time, the oldest stories I had read. Tarzan lit a fire within me that I am now only just managing to deal with – a thirst to explore and create.
Writing was the easier of the two. I could sit down write pages of adventurous stories set in glamorous locations around the world. With an encyclopaedia on one side (yes, in those days there was no such thing as the Internet!) and an illustrated map of the world on the other, I would tour the wild untamed corners of the globe. Writing stayed with me, even when I didn’t have the money to actually travel anywhere. I kept writing through a string of unsatisfying jobs until the breaks started to happen – at first alongside my talented brother, and then my own tales exploded…
Tarzan’s inspiration was always there, constantly fuelling my thirst for adventure. Then I was finally able to travel, and suddenly the walls of the world crumbled away. In a happy union, it was the writing that made travelling around the world possible and with each trip, with each mini-adventure, I would return home with my mind on fire and write a story.
I was drawn to the jungles of South America, the wilds of Venezuela where Arthur Conan Doyle set his classic The Lost World. Even as I pushed through the verdant bush I imagined myself as some explorer in a Tarzan tale. It was here that I came up with the idea for Legendary; the story of a cryptozoologist in search of creatures that aren’t supposed to exist, but do. I headed home and slowly wrote the script, which is now being shot in China as a major motion picture for 2013. I doubt very much that that chain of events would have happened if it were not for Tarzan.
So, where did the idea for re-launching Tarzan come from? Was it a crazy imagination feedback loop in which Tarzan inspired Tarzan? Well, that’s a good question. In fact, I distinctly recall never thinking about rebooting Tarzan. For me Tarzan has always been. It’s not something mortal people are supposed to tinker with. I actually discovered that Tarzan was on a list of characters that had become public property, in other words their copyright had expired. I was surprised. I knew Tarzan had been around for my lifetime, but how long had he actually been around for? My mind instantly whirled; if he was public property then I could do anything I wanted with him! But a quick check revealed his place on the list was incorrect. Copyright lasts 70 years after the author’s death, and Edgar Rice Burroughs passed away in 1950 – so the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate still owned Tarzan. Nobody could just play around with him.
But it was too late. During that brief period I had suddenly seen how Tarzan could be brought back alive for a whole new generation of readers. Everybody knows him – whether you’re 9 years old or a grandmother. He has taken root in popular culture, despite the fact very few children have read one of Burroughs’ books and the last Tarzan movie to hit the big screens was the Disney cartoon in 1999. For over a decade he had been missing from our lives… yet almost every 9 year old still knew all about him…
My basic philosophy is don’t ask, you don’t get. So what if the Estate owned Tarzan? They didn’t appear to be doing anything with him, so I sent off an email outlining how I would bring Tarzan alive for the 21st century, crossed my fingers, and sat back and waited.
When you are waiting for news it’s best not to think about the news you’re waiting for. Clear your mind, think other thoughts. I can’t do that, so as I waited the new adventures of Tarzan expanded in my mind. This was not a continuation of the classic character and it most definitely wasn’t a re-write – Burroughs did an excellent job, go read his books! What it needed, to use Hollywood parlance, was a reboot. Such things are par for the course in movies, but you seldom get them in literature. Most recently, both Batman and Star Trek have been rebooted on the big screen with huge success. Why couldn’t it be done with a book?
Then the email arrived. Their interest was piqued. A trip to Tarzana was in order. Yes, I did say Tarzana – the Los Angeles suburb named by Burroughs himself. Sitting in the very room Burroughs wrote in was a daunting experience, and to be told that I could reboot Tarzan was a pleasant shock. Don’t ask; don’t get, I thought… and I never would have imagined, when I was watching Tarzan on TV during a school holiday, that I would be the one carrying the torch for him now. That’s inspiration full circle.
TARZAN: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR is out now, published by Faber.