SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN WILD: AUTHOR Q&A with David Schaub #blogtour

Today's guest is author David Schaub. He is here with us to talk about a new book he has co-authored with Roger Vizard titled Spirits of the Western Wild which is available in audio.  We're very glad to have him here today to talk about his book, writing and what surprised him about getting his book published. 

Q:  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?
When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

A:  It was Roger [Vizard], my story partner who pitched me the idea for a buddy film with a young cowboy and a crotchety old ghost who refused to believe he was dead.   It was mostly a character premise with some great drawings and situational gags that drew me in.  We started kicking around ideas between ourselves about where the story could go, and ultimately decided to join forces to see if we could shape it into a fully executed screenplay that would sustain itself as an animated feature. 

I guess you can say the drawings were the catalyst that sparked the ideas we needed to shape the story, which evolved over several years.  Keep in mind that both of us are still active in production, so this is a pet project that we worked on during our rare bursts of downtime.

So there we were with some fun characters, but no concept for a beginning, middle or end from a story perspective.  Definitely not the best starting-point for a tightly woven screenplay!  But once we understood our characters and their motivations, we found that they kind of just spoke to us.  Then our job was to chase them on this adventure, getting them into deeper-and-deeper trouble as they went.

Ultimately of course, we had to reel in that adventure and focus on structure, theme and all that...  But that came much later. 


Q:  Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

A:  This is self-published on Amazon/Audible.


Q:  What lead you to releasing this as an AUDIOBOOK?
A:    Once the screenplay was complete, we found ourselves sitting on a precious pound-of-paper (1.25 lbs to be exact).  Having drudged through hundreds of screenplays myself over the years, I fully acknowledge what a chore it can be for anyone to commit to actually READING these things (without it becoming a huge favor by the designated reader to do so…).
When Roger moved onto another animation gig, I decided to keep chipping away at the next steps toward production.  I had the wacky idea of producing it as an audiobook to make it super-easy for studio execs to absorb on their commute.  No reading required -- just straight-up entertainment for the listener. 
Self-funding the film wasn’t an option, but since I was looking for something to direct, I figured I could certainly produce an audio drama!  It was also a great opportunity to demonstrate my directing chops with actors, bringing it to life in a way that the written page alone could never achieve.
As a result, the film should play out clearly and precisely between your ears -- as intended -- from our brains to yours.  And hopefully the audio is a much tastier alternative to digesting a pound of paper!
Q:  Was there a composer involved?  The music seems to be an integral part of the audio experience:
A:  The music tracks are licensed for the project through different sources.  But of course, once you find the right tracks, they never quite work out of the box.  Everything is in different keys and tempos, so mixing and matching to create a cohesive whole simply doesn’t work.
Everything needs to be re-tuned and retimed so that multiple tracks could be mixed and edited as one larger composition.  That’s where my musical background came in handy, and I was able to compose extra little bits that link tracks together more fluidly.  And where the perfect track couldn’t be found, I would pull out the slide-guitar to execute those bottleneck transitions to help tie everything together. 
But yes... the hope is that it sounds like the music was custom-composed to fit the beats of the story.
Q:  What about the sound effects?
A:  Yeah, I had no idea what a chore that would be!  Honestly, I thought getting the performances out of the actors would be the toughest challenge, but that was easy compared to the layers of other sound that had to be crafted under the surface and woven into the “breath-space” of the actors. 
It’s a delicate dance to make sure the music, foley and vocal performances don’t compete.  There is a kind of rhythm to it all.  Now that I point it out, you’ll definitely see what I mean if you listen for it.  It’s like each scene is a “song” on the larger album.
The task was more than I bargained for, but I’m happy to say the movie is all there... minus the visuals.  Just a minor detail, that is! 
Q:  What about print?  There is a book also?

A:  Yes, Kindle – but we had no intention of actually releasing it that way. 
I was in the process of getting the final audio prepped for Audible, when I was informed by Amazon that a print (or Kindle) version had to be released before the audio version could be approved.  So that put me into another tailspin…

Unfortunately, Kindle doesn’t offer a solution to display screenplays in their native format, which is a strict standard by industry definition.  But I managed to come up with a formatting solution works pretty well. 

Dialogue blocks are INDENTED for readability on Kindle, but not CENTERED as screenwriters are accustomed to.  There are other formatting oddities, but it’s all in the interest of rendering a look that’s easy to read on Kindle and other eReaders.

Actually, now that it’s out there, I’m happy that it is.  Not only can you follow along with the audio version, but you also get a first-hand account of how the audio adaptation evolved from the written screenplay.  It’s also a convenient way to share some of the artwork that Roger and I have collaborated on along the way.


Q:  Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

A:  We launched into this project under the premise that content is king, and studios are hungry for content these days.  That was the driving force, aside from the hunger to create a project that we could shepherd through to the end.

But with all the self-publishing going on, I guess I was a little surprised at how much content is actually out there!  I wasn’t following the eBook and audiobook industry, and just coming at this from a screenwriting perspective.  But now that we are entering that market – it’s a little overwhelming how deep the water is. 

That’s why it’s great to be on this “Virtual Book Tour” to help us jump-start the process, and get some awareness going amidst all the other content out there.


Q:  Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

A:  I think the cover is VITALLY important for the marketing of a book.  The old adage that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is cute and all…  but the reality is that people absolutely judge books by their covers.  And movies are judged by their posters and one-sheets. 

That’s why we produced a “movie-poster” for our screenplay long before talks of a movie deal or a production plan of any sort.  With so much content out there, I believe that you’ve got to do everything in your power to grab the audience by the throat and not let go.

Ours is a full-sized poster, framed and prominently displayed among a collection of other classic movie posters.  The poster spells out everything you need to know about the characters, spirit and tone of the film.  I’m a huge fan of the Drew Struzan movie-poster art.  While our poster doesn’t even touch on his artistic brilliance, the layout is certainly composed like a classic Struzan movie poster. 

Having the poster on display also makes it seem “real” somehow.  And in a studio pitch, it’s really easy for execs to envision what the final product could be.

Conveniently, it’s also the right aspect for a book cover, and easily adapted to a square format (like a CD) for the audiobook.


Q:  How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

A:  Writing is hard – no matter how you cut it.  I’m discovering that if the words flow easily, then you’re not digging down deep enough.  I’m inspired by the words of so many other writers who affirm that.  I’m posting those classic quotes as reminders on my Instagram feed – and sharing my own related thoughts in the captions as we go:  https://www.instagram.com/moviemethods/

Maybe it’s just the writer’s obsession in me.  I can’t tell you how many times we were tempted to close out this story, and move on to the next project.  At any point it would have been so easy to put a button on it and called it a day…

But I hunger for substance and MEANING, and felt that something deeper was roiling under the surface.  So we continued stoking the fire to see what might emerge.  Then it finally came -- a series of epiphanies that tied everything together and gave the story a reason for being.  INEVITABLE, yet surprising… with all the loose ends tied up in their own unique and satisfying ways.

Something else that helped fine-tune the structural details was Story Compass ®  -- an app that I developed a few years back.  It was especially useful during the re-write phase.  In fact, it was the app that prompted us to keep digging deeper, because that deeper layer just wasn’t there.

In the end, the best stories leave the audience with revelation:  an insightful, satisfying and meaningful reason for having engaged in this journey in the first place.  I love the idea of leaving the audience with something to ponder.


Q:  What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

A:  Both Roger and I are chipping away at other projects, but no plans for another book release right away.  My next order of business is to kick this can down the road to see how far we can take it.  The goal, of course would be to make the film.

I started the Instagram feed for anyone interested in following that journey:
I thought it would be entertaining (and cathartic for myself) to post the twists and turns as we go.  I’m sure there will be lots of discoveries, insights and takeaways on the winding road ahead.   Please FOLLOW – and join the ride!  It’ll be fun.


Q:  What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

A:   Well, it was a completely backwards way of going about writing a story, as I mentioned.  Surprisingly, if you go back and analyze it now, you’ll see that everything naturally falls into place from a structural point of view.

But that was only through osmosis.  We certainly didn’t get there by designing it that way up front.  We had to go through a lengthy, soul-searching process in order to arrive at something special.  That’s how it feels to us, anyway. 

If we had conceived, outlined and built the story through traditional means, we would never have arrived at the same result.  Not even close.


Q:  Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

A:  There is a thematic thread that runs underneath our story related to that mysterious thing we call “destiny.”  While we are indeed responsible for our own destinies, I like to believe that we are driven, and moved toward our desires by forces beyond our comprehension.  In this case, it is the “Spirits of the Western Wild.”  It’s those nudges, coincidences and synchronicities that mysteriously lead us to our heart’s desire.  That’s the message.  There is a magical and mysterious tone to this story that reinforces those ideas, and one character in particular who is the literal, but comedic embodiment of that spirit.


Q:  Thank you again for this interview! Do you have any final words?

A:  While this story is certainly framed up as a “Western,” that’s really just the façade for a deeper story.   [Sergio] Leone said the same about his films – “they are westerns only in their exterior aspects.  Within them are truths that belong to all parts of the world… not just the American West.”

Using this genre as our backdrop, we can strip away modern distractions and focus on the deeper story of friendship, loyalty and the final ascension that occurs when our destiny is done.


Meet the Authors

David Schaub is a writer and Academy Award ® nominated Animation Supervisor working in the film industry for more than 25 years. In 2019 he produced and directed the audio adaptation of SPIRITS OF THE WESTERN WILD.  He also developed STORY COMPASS® smartphone app for screenwriters (www.moviemethods.com) in 2017.
Schaub received Oscar nomination for animation in Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Disney), along with nominations for BAFTA Award, Saturn Award and Critic’s Choice Award, and won the Golden Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects for his team’s work on the film.
HEAD ANIMATION on Sony Picture’s SURFS UP – recognized with two Annie Awards among its ten nominations including Academy Award nomination and four Visual Effects Society (VES) award nominations.
ANIMATION DIRECTOR – Universal’s award-winning JURASSIC WORLD EXPEDITION (2019) VR EXPERIENCE. Exploring cinematic potential of virtual reality.

website & Social links

Website → https://www.dschaub2.com/

Facebook → https://www.facebook.com/dschaub2writer

Goodreads → https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19662596.David_Schaub

Roger Vizard is a writer and self-taught artist. He was accepted into the animation program at Sheridan College in1987, then worked at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Ireland, then as an animation apprentice on “WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT” at Richard Williams’ studio in London.  He later became Williams’ assistant animator on “THIEF AND THE COBBLER.”
After several years working in Europe at studios like Gerhard Hahn in Germany and A-films in Denmark, he moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to work as a story board artist on the first season of Sonic the Hedgehog, then rolled back into animation again after that.  He successfully made the transition to from 2D to CGI on “STUART LITTLE 2” in 2001, and since that time have worked non-stop at animation/VFX studios in Los Angeles.


Website → https://www.rvizard.com/


Inside the Book

Title: Spirits of the Western Wild
Authors: David Schaub & Roger Vizard
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Adventure / Mystery / Comedy

This mystical adventure follows a young adventure-seeker named Luther McCleron on a westward journey to learn more about his Grandfather. A series of fateful missteps take Luther far from his destination to a disheveled little town under the tyranny of a crooked sheriff named Big Willie. It’s here that Luther comes face-to-face with the legendary ghost of Monty: a curmudgeonly ghost who refuses to believe he’s dead. Luther just wants to get back to his quest, but Monty thwarts his plans by using Luther to take out his vengeance on Big Willie.

Through a catastrophic string of events, Luther and Monty find themselves hopelessly entangled in a combative partnership that escalates to the breaking point. Only by reconciling their differences are they able to uncover the profound connections that weave their fates together.

A mysterious book of premonitions, an ominous crow, and ancient Indian drive the mystical tone of this world; conjuring spiritual forces to help steer Luther on his journey through this western “twilight zone.”

All the loose ends resolve in a satisfying story of redemption, loyalty and ascension while exploring the mysterious nature of fate and destiny. Was all of this a coincidence? Or are we guided by ancient “spirits on the wind” that nudge and steer us along our path to assure that we arrive safely at our intended destination in the end?

5 out of 5 stars
 A fantastic and Immersive adventure for everyone. 
What a wonderful audio book and what a pleasure it was to be on this journey. Not only the adventure was captivating but also everything around it. The sounds effect and voices really bring it all together, you almost feel like you are right there witnessing all this first hand. The production quality is something I have never heard before. Very well done and I highly recommend it.


Amazon → https://amzn.to/2qsxtKC


  1. Thanks for featuring our audio drama here!
    Reviews are coming in, and we'd love to keep them coming.
    ** With that in mind ** we still have promo codes available (US & UK) for anyone interested in a free copy in exchange for an honest review on Audible.com ;-)
    Feel free to to request a review copy by email here: dschaub2@gmail.com
    Thanks for the interest!

  2. I started an Instagram feed to document the journey from writing to recording… and kicking the can down the road toward our goal of producing the animated feature at some point:
    I thought it would be entertaining to post the twists, turns, and writing inspiration as we go. I’m sure there will be lots of discoveries, insights, and takeaways on the bumpy road ahead. So please FOLLOW, and share the adventure with us. It’ll be a fun ride, for sure!


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