CHATTING VERONICA MARS’ NEW BOOK SERIES WITH CO-AUTHOR JENNIFER GRAHAM

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It’s no secret that Veronica Mars has an insanely dedicated following.

After the beloved mystery TV series ended in 2007, it found new life this year in the form of a Kickstarter-funded feature film. Released earlier this month, the Veronica Mars movie was written and directed by show creator Rob Thomas (who also co-created another cult favorite series, Party Down). In the film, Veronica (played again by Kristen Bell) returns to her hometown of Neptune, California, years after the show’s conclusion to investigate a murder that her former flame, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring), is accused of.

But while fans (or “Marshmallows”) eagerly wait to see if Veronica Mars will be getting the sequel treatment, they can already find out what happens next to the beloved private investigator. Picking up almost three months after the events of the movie, Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Amazon) is the first installment in an all-new original mystery book series. Co-written by Thomas and author Jennifer Graham, the novel (published on March 25 by Vintage) finds Veronica back in Neptune, this time trying to solve a missing person’s case. And when a second girl with unexpected ties to Veronica’s past goes missing too, it’s up to Veronica to uncover the truth surrounding one of her most personal cases yet.

Taking a break from writing the second novel in the series, Graham chatted with me about transferring Veronica Mars to a new medium, how she and Thomas worked together, what Marshmallows can look forward to in the book, and more.

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ALEX NAGORSKI: From a storytelling perspective, what are the advantages of telling Veronica Mars stories on the page versus TV or film?

JENNIFER GRAHAM: One of the things that fiction can do that TV or film can’t is to give the reader access to a character’s internal life. Obviously, Veronica in both the movie and the show has that hardboiled voice-over, so to some degree we get to hear what she’s thinking, and Kristen Bell conveys a lot of nuance in her performances. But in a book we get a little more of Veronica’s mindset, which was both exciting and terrifying for me. On the one hand, we have this amazing opportunity to bear witness to more of her thoughts and memories and get closer to her personal experience. On the other hand, the act of imagining the interior world of such an iconic character is a little intimidating, especially when that character is as complex as Veronica. Veronica’s a bad-ass, but she’s not a cartoon bad-ass; there are ways she’s vulnerable or even insecure. I didn’t want to show her mooning around or being self-pitying, but I also didn’t want her to come across as a robot. I tried really hard to capture that balance.

Does this book work as a jumping on point for the Veronica Mars universe? Or do readers need to have seen the show and movie to understand what’s going on?

We tried to make it accessible to both veteran Marshmallows and people who aren’t fans yet. I think anyone with an interest in PI fiction could pick it up and be quite entertained, whether or not they’ve seen the show/movie. I did drop in a few in-jokes and call-backs–as a fan myself, they were a lot of fun to write–but I don’t think they’re distracting or confusing. And Rob’s characters are so damn good, I think new readers will be more than willing to jump in.

Were you a fan of the series before working with Rob on this novel? If so, what’s your favorite episode?

I totally was! I’m not sure what my favorite episode is, but I have a half-dozen favorite moments–Lilly’s tribute video, which always makes me tear up; the plot twist at the end of “You Think You Know Somebody;” the “locked room” mysteries of “An Echolls Family Christmas” and “Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough.” I’m a big structure junkie, and so my favorite moments of Veronica tend to show the tightness and control of the narrative while also giving space for the emotional through-lines of the series.

Can you walk me through you and Rob’s creative process as co-writers? Did you alternate writing chapters/scenes, or did you have to figure out a system of how to write together at the same time?

We “broke” the plot of the book writers’ room style–Rob had the seed of an idea, and we sat down to hash out the main twists and turns of the plot together. When we had the basic structure nailed down, I went home and wrote like the wind. I had an outline to work from, but Rob really encouraged me to take some ownership of the project as well, which was so generous of him and so fun for me. I had plenty of space to flex my creative muscles and contribute to Veronica’s world. Then when I’d finished my draft, Rob got involved again in the revisions, to make sure the whole thing was in line with his vision.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is described as “the first book in a thrilling new mystery series.” How many books are planned? And have you already started working on the sequel?

I am feverishly working on book two as we speak! So far that’s all that’s set in stone. Everything after this next one depends on how the books are received.

The book picks up right after the events of the historic Veronica Mars feature film, which was released earlier this month. Will the characters in the book be familiar to fans of the show and movie, or are you introducing a whole new roster of characters?

Most of the characters are from the show and movie. I think Veronica Mars fans are really invested in the supporting cast, more so than in a lot of comparable franchises. Part of the draw of the series is Veronica’s relationship with the various members of her support network, and I wanted to make sure that relationship played a role in the book. As a fan myself, I would have been disappointed not to get to write anything about Keith or Weevil or Wallace. There are definitely a few new faces too, though–it’s a brand new case, and Veronica’s been away from Neptune for a long time.

What are some of your personal favorite mystery novels? And are there any particular authors who inspired you while writing this book?

My favorite crime writer is probably Ed Brubaker. He and Sean Philips put out a comic called Criminal that I re-read half a dozen times while working on Veronica. It’s not a mystery per se, but it is pure pulpy noir in the very best sense–full of antiheroes, bad decisions, lost causes, tortured pasts, haunting secrets, and grit, grit, grit. Anyone who’s into Veronica‘s darker genre nods should absolutely check it out.

I also re-read a lot of classic hardboiled and noir material while I was working on the book–Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith, Dashiell Hammett, Chester Himes, Micky Spillane. I wanted to make sure the cynical, hard-edged element of those writers took up some residence in my prose. And I’m a Gillian Flynn fan, too. Her first two books especially engage with trauma in a way I think is relevant to working with Veronica, whose trauma has historically been a part of her drive.

If you were a private investigator, what’s the first mystery you’d try to solve?

This question runs the risk of exposing me as a total ghoul, because I am a little bit obsessed with famous unsolved murders. Zodiac, the Boy in the Box, the Black Dahlia, the Axeman of New Orleans, the Cleveland Torso murders. The obvious Whitechapel legacy. But morbid curiosity aside, I’d like to believe I’d also put my skills towards exposing corruption and inequality. Neptune is a convenient microcosm, but there are a lot of Sheriff Lambs in the world.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is on sale now.

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Originally published on PopBytes

LINDSAY LOHAN WANTED TO AUDITION FOR “THE AVENGERS”: 6 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THIS WEEK’S “LINDSAY”

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This week, viewers of Lindsay got to see a refreshingly sweet side to Lindsay Lohan. Here’s what you need to know:


Lindsay is surprisingly good with kids

As part of her court-ordered probation, Lindsay goes to a New York City children’s center to perform community service. There, she befriends 3-year-old Donovan, and the duo spend the day together playing, talking, and making arts-and-crafts projects. It’s the tenderest scene of the series so far, and good luck not tearing up when Lindsay is saying goodbye to Donavan and he says, “thank you for hugging me.”

Damn your master manipulation, OWN editing team.


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Oprah sits down with Dina Lohan

In a one-on-one with O, Dina admits that her biggest fear during Lindsay’s dark days was that her daughter might not make it—or as Oprah put it, “she could be one of those tragic Hollywood stories.” While Dina hasn’t always put Lindsay’s best interests first, there seemed to be some genuine concern there. Consider our vote officially cast for Oprah and Orange Oprah for #TrueDetectiveSeason2.


Lindsay’s assistant still has her best interests at heart

Despite last week’s heated argument, assistant Matt Harrell continues to worry about Lindsay and her sobriety. After Lohan’s second assistant (apparently she needs two) drinks wine in front of the ex-teen starlet, Harrell fires her pronto. Snaps for Matt for putting his beef with Lindsay aside to help her stay on the wagon.


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Lindsay finds pole-dancing empowering

“It’s actually a really good workout,” Lohan says after showing off her stripper skills. (Or a good fallback profession.) “It’s really empowering for women to get to know your body and yourself. I liked doing that kind of workout and I sweat more doing that than I do doing yoga, or getting on a treadmill, or anything else.”

At least somebody got something out of I Know Who Killed Me.


Lindsay wanted to audition for The Avengers sequel

This week’s installment of tough love with A.J. Johnson found Lindsay going off about her management team: She complains that she’s basically her own agent, and that her representation is more interested in getting roles for people like Vanessa Hudgens. When LiLo tries to score an audition for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, she’s told the producers are “going with an unknown,” and gets pissed her team didn’t push harder for her.

We’re pissed they called Elizabeth Olsen “an unknown.”


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Lindsay’s sobriety coach is not great at being subtle

The end of this episode also marks the end of Lindsay’s mandated time with her sobriety coach. When asked about how Lindsay’s recovery is going, Michael falters quite a bit before carefully saying, “I’m not going to discuss whether or not Lindsay is still sober. That’s between Lindsay and Lindsay. I have no hard evidence that she’s not.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.


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BONUS THING WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Lindsay’s grandmother is beyond adorable

And she believes that Lindsay deserved an Oscar for The Parent Trap. Bless her heart.


Lindsay airs Sundays at 10pm on OWN

Originally published on NewNowNext

SAM SMITH PREVIEWS ‘IN THE LONELY HOUR’ IN NYC: CONCERT REVIEW

sam-smithSam Smith is the best new artist of 2014.

Yes, it’s only March and Smith has yet to release an album. But that said, there’s a reason that so many fans are heralding the 21-year-old English singer/songwriter as “the male Adele” across the web. For starters, Smith is the recipient of the BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll and the BRIT Critics’ Choice Award, both of which Adele won in 2008 before collecting her first Grammy a year later. And with the support of Adele herself, it looks like Smith might be starting down the same path as the global superstar. Accolades aside, it’s Smith’s larger-than-life talent – from his passionate and soulful vocal delivery to his introspective and vulnerable lyrics – that accounts for the biggest connection between the two artists.

In the UK, Smith got his first taste of success last year when he was the featured vocalist on hits like Disclosure’s “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La.” Last month, Smith’s debut solo single, “Money On My Mind,” went straight to #1 on the BBC charts – around the same time that Taylor Swift invited him to join her onstage at one of her London shows to perform the song together. And this weekend, Smith dropped jaws (and, let’s be honest, probably some panties) stateside when he performed as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live opposite host Louis C.K last night.

Last Monday, Smith’s mostly sold-out U.S. headlining tour came to New York City’s Webster Hall. Following an exquisite opening set by Dev Hynes (a.k.a Blood Orange), Smith kicked off his show with “Nirvana,” the first of 13 tracks that he would sing. The title track off his first EP (released this past January), “Nirvana” instantly demonstrated that Smith’s massive pipes are far from limited to just his recordings. With a voice so good that it might as well have been made out of truffle butter, Smith effortlessly staked his claim as the future king of contemporary neo-soul.

Throughout the evening, Smith performed various tracks from his upcoming album, In The Lonely Hour (due out on May 26 in the UK and June 17 in the U.S.). But the fact that the fervent crowd was hearing many of these songs for the very first time didn’t stop them from having a fully immersive concert experience.

It was hard to spot a dry eye following “Not In That Way,” Smith’s raw, heart-wrenching tribute to unrequited love. It’s a theme that he admitted will be featured heavily on his album, despite the fact that he’s never actually be in a relationship (no wonder T. Swift tried to sink her fangs in early).

“And I hate to say that I love you when it’s so hard for me, and I hate to say I want you when you make it so clear you don’t want me,” Smith achingly crooned over a melancholy acoustic guitar. “I’d never ask you ‘cause deep down I’m certain I know what you’d say. You’d say, I’m sorry, believe me, I love you, but not in that way.”

Considering his album’s title, it’s no surprise that thus far Smith’s repertoire is full of songs that cut deep. The ballad “Leave Your Lover” found the singer lamenting over the object of his affection loving somebody else, while “I’m Not The Only One” detailed the agonizing feeling of not being able to let someone go despite the reality that you can’t trust their fidelity. As his soaring voice penetrated through the otherwise completely silent venue, his performances of both of these songs left the audience breathless.

But it was far from an entirely somber night. The infectious and upbeat “Restart” perfectly blended Smith’s disco influences with elements of uptempo 90’s R&B, and subsequently left the crowd trading in their tear-stained tissues for dancing shoes. Meanwhile, his cover of The Arctic Monkey’s “Do I Wanna Know” exhibited the singer’s grungier side as he went into full rock star mode, raspy wails and all.

Of course it wasn’t just previously unreleased material that Smith performed. After announcing that the next song would be “Money On My Mind,” there was so much screaming that you’d be shocked to learn that the song is not already a monster smash this side of the Atlantic. He followed immediately with “Lay Me Down,” the phenomenal buzz track he released last year, which he believes is the one that truly changed his life. Smith explained that just over a year ago, he was working at a bar. After that song came out, the rest is already history.

Additional highlights of Smith’s set included a solo rendering of his recent funky snyth-meets-disco collaboration with Nile Rodgers, Disclosure, and Jimmy Napes, “Together,” as well as an audience participation heavy rendition of “La La La.” He brought the pace down again when singing the slow-burning “I’ve Told You Now,” and a stunningly beautiful acoustic version of “Latch,” which highlighted the lyrics’ desperation in ways that the electronic original doesn’t have the room to.

Smith closed out his encore with “Stay With Me,” a track which went on to receive its official radio premiere the following day on BBC Radio 1 (and music video premiere this past Thursday). DJ Zane Lowe described the song as “a classic” before hitting the play button, and ended up spinning the song twice because he loved it so much (“the world needs this record,” he explained). And Lowe was far from mistaken.

An ode to wanting to turn a one night stand into something more meaningful, “Stay With Me” is the official second single from In The Lonely Hour. Smith’s golden voice soulfully builds before it’s joined (but far from overshadowed) by a grand gospel choir. Similarly, the minimal piano melody gradually adds in strings, an organ, and percussion, resulting in a song that gives puts a fresh and contemporary spin on its clear Motown influences.

With only a few months to go before his highly anticipated album finally drops, Sam Smith is continuing to build momentum and fuel the hype with his phenomenal live performances, new song releases, and teases at what’s to come. He’s already garnered international acclaim and begun to build a rabid fan base, and based on what he played at Webster Hall on Monday night, it’s all leading up to what can (and should!) very likely be one of the biggest records of the year.

If you can, grab your tickets to see Smith on the rest of his tour now. Otherwise, you’ll regret it when he’s collecting awards on the Grammy stage and selling out arenas this time next year.

Originally published on PopBytes

OPRAH DROPS A F-BOMB: 6 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS WEEK’S “LINDSAY”

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Lindsay Lohan was at it again last night on the third episode of her self-titled OWN docu-series. This week, Oprah herself stepped in to do some damage control.

Here’s what you need to know:


Lindsay thinks they make keys at Duane Reade
#KeyGate continues! In case you thought last week’s tribute to Lindsay not having keys to her new apartment was the last we’d hear on the subject, think again. Reprimanding her assistant, Lindsay brings up the infamous keys yet again:  “It takes ten minutes at Duane Reade,” Lohan moans.

I don’t know how the rest of us have all been missing the on-site locksmith—he’s right between the candy and family planning aisles.


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Lindsay doesn’t want to talk to her assistant
Lindsay’s assistant, Matt Harrell, needs five minutes every morning and evening with her to make sure both of their needs are  met. Unfortunately Lindsay can’t be bothered—and the lack of communication is making things tough for poor Matt. After blatantly dodging the conversation multiple times, Lindsay finally tells Matt that she feels like she’s the one who deserves the paycheck due to his lack of respect for her and his general neediness.

If only they could do a Freaky Friday-type body swap so that Lindsay could gain a little perspective. Sigh.


Lindsay is turning into a docu-series about the making of a docu-series
After showing up late to 7 out of 12 days, and asking for a “personal day” when the crew was already waiting for more than an hour, at least Lindsay is proving consistent in her complete lack of work ethic.  As a result, Lindsay is only cementing the reputation Lohan was hoping to shed with the show.

Someone needs to download “Work Bitch” onto LiLo’s iPod, stat.


Lindsay continues to be saved by strong African-American women
We’ve already seen Oprah and Shawn Holley lend a helping hand. This week, we got another appearance from Lindsay’s actress-turned-wellness coach, A.J. Johnson. In one of the series’ most honest moments so far, Lohan confesses that being just two months out of rehab, she may not be ready to have her life documented on camera. “I’m feeling a little bit like I’m slipping and it’s scaring me.”

Hopefully, her wellness coach can help the troubled starlet find her footing—but since Johnson is better known as Sharane from House Party, we’re not betting on it.


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Oprah drops a truth bomb
While Oprah’s driving along the Long Island Expressway (yes, Oprah drives on the LIE!) she asks LiLo the question we’ve all been wondering since the show premiered: Is there anything notable enough in Lohan’s life right now to merit a reality series? If she knows what’s good for her, Lindsay should’ve been shaking in her Uggs watching that scene. We all saw what happened to James Frey when he lost O’s stamp of approval.


Oprah also drops the F-bomb
Ever since the show’s trailer dropped, we’ve been curious about when we’ll get to hear Oprah tell Lindsay that “You need to cut the bullshit, you really do.” But that’s not the only expletive the Queen of All Media used during her scheduled check-in with Lindsay. “You’re not going to be fucking up,” she tells our Little Girl Lost, threatening to pull out of the docu-series if Lindsay doesn’t want to commit to it wholeheartedly. “I need to hear that from you because it helps. It empowers me,” Lindsay responds.

We’ve got five episodes left to see if she actually follows through.

Lindsay airs Sundays on 10/9c on OWN

Originally published on NewNowNext

“JEM” MOVIE IN THE WORKS, FIRST LOOK AT NBC’S “CONSTANTINE,” MORE: GEEK LIKE ME

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Earlier this month, we showed you the first shot of Grant Gustin in costume as The Flash. Today, we’re sharing sneak peeks at two more characters heading from the pages of DC Comics to the small screen.

NBC’s Constantine, based on the comic of the same name, centers on the cynical (and bisexual!) antihero John Constantine, a British con man-turned-occult detective who protects our world from supernatural threats—as long as there’s something in it for him.

The network has released the first photo of Matt Ryan (Vikings­) in full Costantine mode—blond hair, ruffled shirt, trenchcoat—a look that’s far more faithful to the comics than the 2005 Constantine movie with Keanu Reaves.


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Another DC character transitioning to television is Harvey Bullock, the gruff Gotham City police detective who’ll be a supporting character on Fox’s Batman prequel, Gotham.

The show will depict Gotham City before the caped crusader picked up his cape and cowl, and introduce new versions of Batman’s classic rogues gallery–including the Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, The Penguin, and Two-Face.

Today fans got a first look at Sons of Anarchy‘s Donal Logue as Bullock, who serves as both a partner and mentor to James Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) on his journey from rookie detective to police commissioner. The duo’s first case will reportedly revolve around the brutal murder of billionaire couple Thomas and Martha Wayne, a.k.a. Batman’s parents.

In a time when the Dark Knight’s origins have been rehashed countless times through various media, Gotham could potentially give us a truly fresh and exciting new take on the classic tale.


Jem and the Holograms, the beloved 80s cartoon about a fashion-forward pop star with a secret identity, is also getting a relaunch—this time on the big screen. Director Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun have announced their plans for a “truly outrageous” live-action Jem movie, and are asking for fan submissions for costumes, music, and more.

Check out their pitch below, and find out how you can get involved at JemTheMovie.com!


On March 1, Marvel Comics editor Sana Amanat gave a groundbreaking TED Talk, “Myths, Misfits & Masks” about how cultural stereotypes can impact teens’ self-worth. Amanat is doing her part to break down some of those stereotypes with the newly launched Ms. Marvel,which sees a young Muslim girl, Kamala Khan, imbued with incredible powers. It marks the first time a Muslim woman has been at the center of a comic book published by the Big Two.

To celebrate Amanat’s presentation, Marvel is offering free digital version of the All-New Marvel Now! Teen Heroes line of comics, including Ms. Marvel #1, All-New X-Men #1, New Warriors #1 and Nova #1. Head to marvel.com/tedx, add the All-New Marvel Now! Teen Heroes collection to your cart and use the provided promo code “TEEN” to get your free digital collection.

The offer ends March 31 at 11pm, so don’t delay!


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After a few false starts, Brian Michael Bendis’ Powers is finally coming to television via the PlayStation Network, according to Deadline.

The Powers comic follows two hard-nose cops, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, dealing with a world where superheroes and villians are an everyday part of life, as is the collateral damage they create. (Think NYPD Blue meets Men in Black). Ten episodes have already been ordered, and pulp writer Charlie Huston has been tapped showrunner, with Bendis and Powers artist Michael Oeming serving as producers.

Originally published on NewNowNext