On Monday, August 8, HBO Connect hosted a live chat with none other than Jane Espenson whose resume reads like a Who’s Who in science fiction television. Espenson has written for shows such as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Star Trek: Deep Space 9’, ‘Eureka’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Dollhouse’, ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ and ‘Warehouse 13’. She was the producer of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, ‘Tru Calling’, ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Dollhouse’, ‘and Caprica’ and is now producing the new ABC fall series ‘Once Upon A Time.’ She is also credited for creating one of Syfy’s biggest hits, ‘Warehouse 13’. So it’s no wonder that HBO would choose her as someone who fans would be thrilled to chat with.
Originally the chat was billed for fans to discuss episode 6 of ‘Game of Thrones’ that she wrote called ‘Golden Crown’. But many of her fans also wanted to pick her brain about her writing and some of her favorite things. With over 340 questions from the fans to choose from, Espenson only had time to answer 45 of them. The format was in question and answer form which I’ve highlighted below:
About the ‘Golden Crown’ episode she wrote for ‘Game of Thrones’:
Q: “Were you a fan of GoT before getting signed on to write an episode?”
Jane Espenson: “I was not. But I am now!”
Q: “Evening Ms. Jane. Had you read the books before being asked to write for the HBO Series?”
Jane Esperson: “When I heard it was a possibility I ran out and bought the first book and devoured it! LOVED IT! I chose not to read any further because I didn’t want to have the future’s of the characters in my head!”
Q: “How much fun was it writing this episode?”
Jane Espenson: It was the most fun ever! I’d never done a project anything like it — starting from such amazing source material allowed me to relax. I knew the story was rock solid so I could have so much fun with the scene work.”
Q: What are some things you enjoy about writing a fantasy?”
Jane Espenson: “I love having a metaphor — like fantasy — between the script event and real world events. It allows you to write about humanity with clearer eyes, I think, when you have that bit of distance. The universality of humanity stands out when you have to abstract away the specific circumstances — oh, I’m not sure I said that clearly, but I think the gist is there!”
Q: “How do you feel about Martin’s habit of killing off major characters?”
Jane Espenson: “I’ve worked with Joss Whedon, Ron Moore and Russell T. Davies — I’ve been involved in laying down a lot of hits. You get used to it.”
Q: “I feel like most of the changes between the book and the series have been positive ones, how much is up to personal discretion and how much is before any scripts are written?”
Jane Espenson: “Great question — some changes I made myself as I wrote, and others were done by Benioff and Weiss either before or after my draft. For example, they accelerated the Dany story relative to the others. But changes in dialogue (but not attitude) were very much at my discretion.”
Q: “What was your favorite moment during Golden Crown?”
Jane Espenson: “The Golden Crowd. How can it not be? Best moment in the book — well, one of the best. I was so excited when they told me that that scene happened to fall into my episode!
About her writing:
Q: “Hey there! First, you’re brilliant! Second, can you tell us a bit about your working process? How do you come up with ideas and what inspires you? Thank you!”
Jane Espenson: “Usually, I’m writing something that I’ve been hired to write, so the story is there already — or at least the broad framework. But I have a few things that come entirely from my own brain, (HusbandsTheSeries.com ) and they come from whatever I’m really passionate about, or what I find interesting or funny in real life.”
Q: “What other authors inspire you?”
Jane Espenson: “I love Jane Austen. If I could write dialogue that sounds that fresh that long after I’m dead, I’ll be very proud.”
Q: “Do you consider yourself to be as strong as the female characters you write? Or do you have someone who inspires you?”
Jane Espenson: “I’ve written for Buffy and Starbuck and Laura Roslin and Dany — no WAY am I that strong. But I’m inspired by my friends and by other writers — Joss inspires me all the time.”
Q: Knowing your love for Jane Austen And your Magnificent writing in game of thrones and Torchwood episode Categories of Life (so sad and brilliant), Do you ever get inspired by your idols and by the genres and shows you write on to write an epic novel ?
Jane Espenson: “I have thought of writing novels — I don’t know about an EPIC novel — but when I try to write prose I find myself falling into writing lots of dialogue, and pretty soon it’s turning into a script!”
Q: “Favorite character you’ve ever written?”
Jane Espenson: “EVER? I can’t pick. Buffy, Mal, Starbuck, Gwen Cooper, Jack Harkness, Daenerys, Tyrion… I even wrote for the Baby Dinosaur on Dinosaurs. Tyrion is up there!”
And some fun stuff:
Q: “What do you like to watch during your free time?”
Jane Espenson: “Community! And Modern Family!”
Q: “Trek or Wars?”
Jane Espenson: “I cannot answer that. (But secretly… Trek)”
Q: “What advice would you give to young writers just starting out in the field?”
Jane Espenson: “It’s coming to be the case that it’s more and more necessary to move to Los Angeles if you want to be a TV writer. Even the studio fellowships for young writers are now requiring previous industry experience.
Q: “So what is next?”
Jane Espenson: “The web series goes up on line on September 13th, so that’s my main focus right now, getting that shot and edited. It’s called Husbands and it’s sort of Mad About You with two guys. Young newly-dating couple — an actor and an athlete — get drunk married and don’t want to be big public gay divorce, so they make a go of it. it’s very funny. It stars Brad Bell (aka Cheeks) and Sean Hemeon and Alessandra Torresani from Caprica and I’m very proud of it. Check out the blog page at HusbandsTheSeries.com !”
The live chat session ended before Espenson could say goodbye but she did leave a message on Twitter to the fans:
It was great to be part of the chat and although my question wasn’t answered, it was nice to gain a little insight of someone who has made herself a house hold name in the sci-fi community. HBO has archived the entire live chat session which you can access here.