Writer in Residence

Writers on TV Feature Interview: Andy Burns

By Carey Toane

As soon as I decided I wanted to interview writers about TV, I knew I wanted to talk to Andy Burns. I recently read his engrossing examination of Wrapped In Plastic: Twin Peaks from ECW Press. Andy was nice enough to chat with me over email about David Lynch’s freaky fabulous show, and other related distractions.

Andy is the founder and editor-in-chief of the pop culture website Biff Bam Pop. For six years, he wrote the nationally syndicated radio program The Legends of Classic Rock, while his writing has appeared in various WWE publications, the Toronto Sun and Rue Morgue magazine. Andy lives in Toronto with his wife, Jovanna, daughter Anya, and dog Dusty.

Wrapped in Plastic cover

How long did it take you to research and write Wrapped in Plastic? 
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I've been researching Twin Peaks for the past twenty-five years. I watched it during its initial run on ABC and stayed with it through to the bitter end. I was 13 when it first aired and I taped every episode on VHS. Over the course of high school I'd go back and watch the series if I was sick for a few days. So as I got older, it's not like my love for it ever really went away. It was something that would often come up in conversations with friends and I'd often find any excuse to write about it at Biff Bam Pop, the pop culture site that I'm the Editor-In-Chief of. 

Now, once I got the go ahead from Crissy Calhoun and Jen Knoch at ECW that they wanted me to write for their Pop Classics line of books, I had a three month window to get a first draft done. I didn't say it at the time but I was a little nervous with that window, seeing as how this was going to be my first book. But I got it done. We went through a few drafts as I honed the various chapters. I was seriously blessed to have such great editors for my first long play.

Why do you think Twin Peaks was such an important show for you personally? 
Great question. Partially it's because I was there from the beginning and it just stuck with me. It also spoke to my love of the weird and supernatural, a love I'd had all through adolescence. The show also introduced me to a less mainstream style of creating art. Not everything was force-fed or explained to you with Twin Peaks, much to some folks chagrin. I didn't mind though. I just liked how unique it was. A face in a dresser drawer handle? WTF? The Black Lodge? All this sort of art house, creative movie making - maybe I would have found it elsewhere as I got older and developed my tastes along the same lines. Hard to say. I would also suggest that I carry with me a lot of passion for the art I discovered in those formative years; it's not exclusive to Twin Peaks. I found Apocalypse Now and Charles Bukowski and Pink Floyd and the Godfather and Bret Easton Ellis and the Rolling Stones at the same time. Some loves last a lifetime. 

You spend a good deal of time in the book exploring the show's themes, many of which are classic literary tropes. What do you think of the idea that TV is the new novel? 
You know, that's an interesting notion. My immediate gut reaction upon reading that is that they're two different mediums that can happily co-exist, but if I had to choose, I would take the epic journey of a novel or series of novels over television. I'm a huge lover of Stephen King's Dark Tower series of books - I had a visceral reaction as I neared the ending of final book, one that's never really happened when watching a tv show (at least to the extent that I remember it). Truthfully, to me television is the new movie experience more than novel. But hey, you could maybe change my mind. 

I have a theory that the new Golden Age of Television is really the golden age of the television writer. Could you make the argument that Lynch was one of the first famous writers to move to TV - thereby kicking off this trend?
I've got a theory it could be bunnies. I digress. Yes, I 100% agree with you on this. Spielberg had done Amazing Stories, but in more a production capacity. Lynch writing and directing for television in 1990 was unprecedented. Most folks in Hollywood wanted to move from tv to the big screen, not the opposite. But when has David Lynch ever gone with the grain? But let's not forget Mark Frost's role in the creation of Twin Peaks as well. Coming from Hill Street Blues, this guy knew television and knew it well. This was a true collaboration, at least in the beginning. 

I would suggest though that not only is it the golden age of the television writer, it's also the golden age of the show runner as well. Twenty years ago nobody knew what that term was, but now we know that Matthew Weiner and Kurt Sutter and Nic Pizzolatto aren't/weren't just writing their respective series, they're steering the ship as well. It truly is a golden age. 

How excited are you for the Twin Peaks remake? 
Is this a trick question? Is there something you know that I don't? Is it actually happening??? Honestly, I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. I'm certainly curious about what Lynch and Frost have come up. I'd love to see these wonderful actors return to their defining roles. But the last month has been a complete clusterfuck when it comes to Lynch apparently backing out from directing. I feel for his actors, many of whom were probably looking forward to the work. I also understand that Lynch is an artist and for him to acquiesce to anyone is not in his nature. But for the fans, it's frustrating and sadly has taken some of the excitement away, I believe. It certainly has for me. Fandom is a harsh breed as well, for any piece of pop culture, and you just know that if the third season does go forward, there's going to be a very, very vocal bunch on the web that hate it, no matter what. For me, at the end of the day, if it happens, I'll watch it, and no doubt enjoy it for it is. If it doesn't happen, I'll have (another) moment of disappointment, and then I'll move on. Netflix is doing Fuller House, right? 

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Carey Toane is a librarian, journalist and poet. Her first collection of poems, The Crystal Palace, was published in 2011 by Mansfield Press. She lives in Toronto, where she is currently working on a collection of poems inspired by and dedicated to Twin Peaks. She is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/careygrrl

You can contact Carey throughout the month of May at writer@openbooktoronto.com