Sunday, October 16, 2022

Q&A with Peter Berk




Peter Berk is the author, with his late father, Howard Berk, of the new novel TimeLock, which they originally wrote as a screenplay. Howard Berk was a writer and producer, whose credits included Columbo. Peter Berk is a novelist and screenwriter. 


Q: How did you and your father come up with the initial idea for the TimeLock screenplay, and how did you ultimately transform it into a novel?


A: The original idea – a near-future when rampant crime and prison overcrowding prompt the development of genetic acceleration technology that instantly ages inmates the amount of years of their sentence – was entirely my father’s.


I immediately thought it was a terrific and highly unusual premise, but we agreed from the beginning that the story should be primarily about characters and not technology.


For that reason, both TimeLock the screenplay and TimeLock the novel don’t spend much time detailing the nuts and bolts of the technology behind this radical prison program but instead focus on how it so dramatically changes the life of one innocent young man.


Q: How did you come up with your character Morgan?


A: We knew we wanted to create a protagonist who’s extremely bright but rather adrift in his life when we first meet him at age 23 so that everything he goes through after being wrongly arrested for murder and processed through TimeLock changes him not only physically but emotionally as well.


Most of all, despite the fact that Morgan loses a precious 20 years of his life in a matter of minutes and is running for his life, we didn’t want his to be a sad story in the end.

Conversely, despite everything that’s been taken from him, Morgan is ultimately able to find a sense of purpose and stability in his life that he was missing before – not to mention quite possibly falling in love for the very first time.


Q: What impact did your father's writing career have on your own?


A: I would never have pursued writing without being inspired by him and having the unbelievable good fortune of working with him on this and several other projects. My dad was a far better writer than I’ll ever be, but I learned a great deal not only by collaborating with him but by reading everything he wrote on his own. 


Q: Did you know how the novel (or initially the screenplay) would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: We knew roughly how it would end but we also wanted to leave some of the story elements open-ended in case we ever wrote a sequel.


The biggest change along the way, as alluded to earlier, was deciding not to make TimeLock a prison or tech-focused movie per se but more about one man coping with the sudden onslaught of middle age at the same time as he’s trying to track down the people who committed the murder he was convicted of.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on the fifth, and most likely, the final novel in the TimeLock series.


The first planned sequel, TimeLock 2: The Kyoto Conspiracy (release date not yet determined) continues Morgan’s story a couple of years after the events of the first book, while the next two sequels entail somewhat different stories, characters, and settings. The final book, however, returns to Morgan’s first-person storyline and hopefully wraps up everything that’s come before.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just how grateful I am to IngramElliott Publishing for believing in and nurturing the project every step of the way and how honoring my father’s memory in this way has proven to be easily the most gratifying professional experience of my life.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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