Gary Whitta had an interesting few years while the pandemic was happening, becoming a nerdy celebrity and internet sensation. Many already knew Whitta for his book Abomination, as well as for writing the films. the book of eli and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But others really got to know him as the host of talking about animals. where he interviewed celebrities about their animal crossing in-game houses as part of a YouTube podcast. Whitta’s latest project is a brand new novel titled Hunting dog, a sci-fi apocalyptic alien invasion thriller, which he began promoting through another podcast. This one, bearing the same name as the novel, serves as an episodic audiobook featuring Shannon Woodward (Westworld, The Last of Us Part II) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us Part II), with a full orchestral score by the composer Austin Wintory (Journey). We had the chance to chat with Whitta about the podcast, which is currently underway, as well as the book on the way in October.
BC: Hey Gary! First of all, how has it been for you this year?
Whitta: This year has been great — busy. Apart Hunting dogI wrote an original Batman series for DC Comics called Batman: Fortress, and it was a ton of fun. We’re currently halfway through its eight-issue run and so far the response has been great. It was a pleasure to play with all my favorite DC characters in their very large toy box.
Speaking of Hunting doghow did you feel finishing your latest novel and preparing for its release?
The novel has actually been finished for a while, the last year or so has been spent adapting the audiobook, which I self-produced. It was a real learning experience, but definitely worth it. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to produce, we’ve all been working from home during the pandemic and on a shoestring budget.
How did the idea of doing a series of podcasts before the book’s release come about?
I knew I wanted to self-produce the audiobook, and I also liked the idea of experimenting with how to distribute it in an innovative way. Typically, audiobooks come in one volume, but for that, I decided to break the book up into nine one-hour episodes and distribute it as a serialized podcast. But the most interesting part, I think, was launching the serialized episodes on twitch, where each episode is streamed live with a post-show intro and Q&A from me, and audiences can listen, experience, and react to the story as it unfolds in real time via live chat. It was really fun to be part of it.
Was it a challenge to put together the content for it after finishing the book, or did you already have an idea of what you wanted it to be?
The biggest challenge really was the practicality of figuring out how to record and produce professional quality sound given that we didn’t have access to professional facilities for much of the pandemic when this was recorded as many studios were closed. So it was mostly done from home, with me and the actors and sound engineers and our composer all collaborating remotely. It took a little longer to do it this way, but I think the results turned out great.
How was the process to find the right cast for this project?
Finding the right cast couldn’t have been easier, as my first choices for both roles – Shannon Woodward and Troy Baker – both said yes right away. I couldn’t believe my luck.
When it came to recording the episodes, was it all separate, or did you rather go for a radio recording with several people together for a session?
Everything was done separately. I still haven’t been in the same room as Shannon or Troy. Even for the single scene where the characters of Shannon and Troy have a shared dialogue interaction, those parts were recorded separately, in different places, and then pasted together in the edit.
What did you think of each episode as it was put together? Were there any major edits or changes to the way it was presented before it was finalized?
Most of the post-production work we did was purely technical – filtering out room sound, ambient noise, mic noise, things like that. But sometimes I would make a creative edit where I realized that a line that read fine on the page didn’t quite work the same when Shannon had to run it (because it was a bit of a tongue twister , or too much of a runtime phrase) so I’d make a minor edit to better suit the line for vocal performance.
You released the first episode a few weeks ago. How has the podcast been received?
The reception has been great so far, we’re only a few episodes in but people are really invested in the story. And this is based solely on Twitch live streams and archived episodes on YouTube. The main launch of the audio series will be via the podcast version, which will launch very soon. You can search for it and subscribe now – currently a trailer and prologue are available – and full episodes will start dropping shortly.
After the episodes are done, do you have any plans for them or are you just keeping the videos on YouTube?
Once the live broadcasts of all nine episodes have ended, the series will remain available on YouTube and also through the podcast.
Any ideas on possibly doing more of this type of content down the road?
We’ll see how this one plays out – it’s all been a great experience and while the results have been positive so far, I want to step back and see what it all looks like when it’s finished. But whatever the outcome, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.
Since this leads to the release of the book, can you tell us more about the novel as well?
The novel is really where it all began, the audio version is a direct adaptation of this text. And I suspect that ultimately it’s going to be the biggest audience for the story, because even though audiobooks are becoming more and more popular, I think most people still prefer to sit down and read, so the book is for them. I’m glad people can read it.
Is there anything else you’re working on that you can tell us about or tease us about for the future?
I’m currently working on a TV series, a few projects for Netflix, the rest of the Batman series for DC, and other projects that I can’t talk about. Busy busy busy!