Absolutely savage: Interview with Salvatore Simeone

We spoke to TKO Studios co-founder and Lonesome Days, Savage Nights author Salvatore Simeone about his werewolf graphic novel and what we can expect from the innovative studio…

Salvatore Simeone is a busy man. Not only is he co-founder of TKO Studios, an entertainment company which provides genre content through prose, comic books, film and television, but he’s also the author of Lonesome Days, Savage Nights – a werewolf graphic novel with a difference. 

Following Stu Manning, an ex-cop and private investigator who also happens to be a werewolf, Lonesome Days, Savage Nights, is a new spin on the werewolf tale with Stu’s ability to control the monster within him – letting him take over when it’s necessary. Alongside Simeone, the book is written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), drawn by Szymon Kudranski (Punisher) and lettered by Thomas Mauer. 

We spoke to Simeone about TKO, werewolves and what we can expect for Stu’s next adventure…

How did things start with you for Lonesome Days, Savage Nights?

Well, Steve [Niles] and I have known each other for a long time. We’ve been good friends for years and we always had an interest in comic books. I’m also a big werewolf fan. I’ve written papers on software and computers and things like that, but I’ve never really taken a crack at writing any of my thoughts down as stories. I got together with Steve and then we wrote it together!

How did that collaboration with Steve Niles work?

I came up with the concept, the characters and basically what each character’s job was and what they were supposed to do. Then Steve put the words in everyone’s mouths and brought it to life. Then I would get it back and if there were certain things I felt like they wouldn’t say or wouldn’t happen, I would work on that. I learned a lot [from Steve], just seeing what a pro does as far as laying down the story. 

Steve has now gone off in his own direction with the company he started up and I’m taking a crack at this next book on my own, so we’ll see where it goes.

Sebastian, the editor, came up with some great stuff too. He’s more than just an editor, he made a significant contribution. Also, the artist, Szymon [Kudranski], he’s unbelievable. Without him it wouldn’t be the same book, there’s no doubt. It was a pretty collaborative effort all around!

Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is a new spin on the werewolf genre with Stu being able to control the wolf. Why did you decide to go down this route?

I wanted to do a werewolf story where the werewolf’s personality was more wrapped up with the individual and not make it just angst about this being that inhabits Stu’s body. 

As the books go on they’re going to almost communicate with each other. There’s work going on the next book now, and the werewolf and Stu are going to start melding a little bit more. 

Even in this book when he converts to the werewolf you can see it’s sort of still Stu, but it changes his personality. The werewolf is much more linear and he wants to take the harsher approach to things, but he’s not just the irrational killing machine.

Stu takes the approach of ‘I didn’t ask for this and I don’t like what happens to me, but I’ve got to make the best of it’. However, little by little he’s finding out that it doesn’t come for free. It comes with a cost.

So he’s got a little bit of the werewolf interjected in him, but the second book is going to get a little more into that theory…

What were your inspirations when writing Lonesome Days, Savage Nights?

There was a book I’d read as a kid where a person could turn into a werewolf but when he did, he was totally cognizant of himself. He turned into a wolf for its athletic ability and his payback was that he started ageing in dog years. So if he wanted to turn into a wolf, every hour he spent as a wolf, was like living seven hours as a human.

I thought about it for years and at first I thought I would make this werewolf a real opportunist; like have him change right in the middle of a jewellery store and have the werewolf grab everything but Stu is a little more altruistic. He uses it less selfishly. As time goes on he can’t totally control it. The wolf may have a shot at just breaking out and is going to be much more likely to want to get in control. 

There’s definitely going to be some issues down the road of who is really in control of the body they’re sharing. I can’t disclose too much, but that’s definitely going to be part of the next book that’s coming out.

“There’s definitely going to be some issues down the road of who is really in control of the body they’re sharing…”

Stu Manning is a great character in Lonesome Days, Savage Nights – an ex-cop/private eye with a tragic backstory and a werewolf living inside him. How did you go about creating the character?

He reminds me of a lot of different people that I’ve known. People who had dreams and ambitions. I used to be in the military and I’d seen people have some of their intentions thwarted or changed by the realities of life. Then as a young person, [I worked] a little bit with law enforcement and I’ve seen people go in with certain intentions and then things happened [that changed those intentions]. Which is why I think it wasn’t the career for me. So I tried to write it as kind of an amalgamation of what I had seen happen to a young person’s dreams when they go into law enforcement and then how the realities of it hit them. 

So Stu is kind of a conglomeration of everyone’s good intentions, kind of thrown off track, and then he’s working throughout the rest of his life trying to get it back.

Stu also has support in the form of Audrey the ghost…

At first, I wanted to keep her around [but] Steve killed her off early! It was almost like “you can’t do that!” but then I realised we could work with that and it did work.

Eventually, I’d like for Audrey to have more of a life of her own and maybe have her own set of books. She’s not going to just wait around to help Stu when he needs guidance. She’s going to become a kind of soul searcher. I don’t want to talk about what she does in this [next] book, but she’s going to have the ability to face someone down and tell them what’s going on in their head, what they’re doing and have them almost take a chilling look at themselves.

Her and Stu will run into each other now and then – she may need some grunt who’s running around on Earth or he may need somebody more mature and wiser than himself – so they’ll cross in the books. But in this [next] book she’s going to establish herself as a presence of an individual force to be reckoned with. Plus she’s going to explain to Stu what it’s like where she ended up. 

Audrey’s got some surprises in store, she’s one of my favourite characters of the whole book, so I felt like it was like my payback too; you’re gonna kill Audrey off, so she’s going to come back bigger and badder than ever!

Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is also incredibly visceral with plenty of blood on the pages. Was there ever a limit to how much gore you were going to show?

No, the artist was just so good at it! I described a lot of the scenes and Szymon is really good at bringing that stuff to life so I didn’t really want to rein him in. 

For the next book, I’m going to create fight scenes and there’s definitely still going to be plenty of cutting and slashing for sure. But he is a werewolf so you gotta expect that!

Do you see Lonesome Days, Savage Nights as an ongoing series or do you have a finite end for the character’s arc?

I would like to bring Stu to his full maturity and resolve the issues between him and the wolf. Stu and the wolf are just babies in this first book and in the second book they’re going to have a relationship with each other. I feel like all the characters were babies [in Lonesome Days, Savage Nights]. I mean, Stacy didn’t get a chance to really be a cop yet and Detective Ritchie has a lot more to get done.

I think Stu has at least maybe two, three more books to finally come to the resolve and find out what really happens when he and the wolf reach full maturity in the evolution of their personality. Then it could launch into something totally different. I’m not really sure. I wouldn’t want to be one of them that just doesn’t know when to end, like some TV shows I’m sure we can all name… 

So yeah, it’s certainly not going on forever, but it’s got a few more books to just tell the story as I originally thought of it.

Could you tell us more about TKO Studios?

Tze Chun kind of had the original concept [for TKO]. Tze’s a bit younger than me – he’s friends with my oldest son and we met on a cruise ship. You know how it is when you make those fast friends on a vacation, and everybody’s ‘gonna be in touch’ and they don’t. But Tze and my son stayed friends all those years and then he and I became friends and then we started the company.

We wanted to go for the ‘supernatural’ rather than the ‘superheroes’. We wanted to [work with] real quality authors. We intend to just put out really good quality graphic novels and some good prose. Also, because Tze has such a big background in film and I have somewhat of a production background, we want to make some movies and TV shows and have a true production side of TKO. 

Our book, The Banks [written by Roxane Gay], is being adapted by Macro into a movie. They’re really great partners to work with and we’re co-producing The Banks with them. We want to do more things like that. We don’t want to just option out our books, we really want to have a hand in the production of the books themselves.

[In regards to books], Garth Ennis is coming up with the follow up to Sara, called Partisan, which is about female partisans and the Soviet Union. Then he’s got a third book coming out that’s a little later in the war. 

We want to do more of what we’ve been doing. We all really enjoy it and we have a great team. Luckily we all get along and we all have our roles that we’re all well suited to. It’s a great thing to be doing!

Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is out now. This interview was first published in SciFiNow+ subscribe here to get content like this before anyone else PLUS receive 20% off!