Brian McGreevy & Sean McDonald

Authors and Editors in Conversation

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Sean McDonald: How surreal has it been to watch your debut novel, Hemlock Grove, become a TV series? How closely does it track what you imagined when you were writing?

Brian McGreevy: There has been no shortage of interesting or disconcerting moments; for instance, standing in a physical location that had previously existed exclusively in your head is a bit of a reality collapse. It is also inevitable that the actor you cast for a part will have certain insights that you can’t—even if it’s a character you’ve been thinking about for five years—because this is an intelligent, sensitive person whose sole job is to think about it, and also because someone who is a closer approximation to the character’s age, sex, and physicality by nature will have a perspective that the author can’t.

(via Masters of Horror)

Sean McDonald: You are both a series creator and head writer for the show. What exactly does that mean? How involved were you with the production? And dare I ask who this shadowy Lee Shipman character is?

Brian McGreevy: I was in charge of the writing, but, apart from the casting process, had little involvement with production; I would say the execution and stylistic stamp of the series were at the hands of Mr. Roth. Lee is my writing (so, frequently, drinking) partner; all of the film work we do is in collaboration. He is much quieter than I am, and quietly working on a novel of his own that I’m sure will make my work look like Sunday School curriculum.

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Sean McDonald: Has the series—and especially the collaboration with so many other people—taught you anything about the characters, the world of Hemlock Grove?

Brian McGreevy: Only insofar as the experience has taught me things about life, which invariably inflected my perspective on the work. But I consider fiction and film discrete media and went into the adaptation with the mindset that I was starting a new project rather than continuing an existing one.


Sean McDonald: The book is thick with literary, mythological, and historical references. Did you try to carry this into the screenplay and the finished series—and if so, how?

Brian McGreevy: A good deal carried over, with some added, most notably in the script for Roman’s vision quest sequence when he is comatose. The number of Jungian references/motifs in the novel was already so unsubtle that it seemed the only logical progression was to give the good doctor himself a cameo.

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Sean McDonald: How do the novel and the series interact in your mind? What would a fan of the series find in the novel to surprise and delight, and vice versa?

Brian McGreevy: As stated, I consider the two discrete media; however, whether the two do or do not interact is up to the audience. The ideal sequence, I suppose, with any adaptation is to read the source material first through your own subjective lens and then engage with a given interpretation—but in an ideal world, generally people read more.



Sean McDonald: You are something of a werewolf and vampire aficionado, sometimes an outspoken one—aside from Twilight, True Blood, and Mad Men, are there pop culture versions of them that you like? As a book and series, how is Hemlock Grove different from those? And at this point, just how sick of werewolves and vampires are you?

Brian McGreevy: The crucial distinction is that these archetypes in Hemlock Grove are less part of a given pop cultural mode and entirely metaphysical constructs for an ongoing morality play in my own head. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to get tired of them.


Brian McGreevy grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is the head writer and executive producer of the Netflix adaptation of Hemlock Grove.

Sean McDonald is executive editor and director of paperback publishing at FSG.


“Hemlock Grove Author Brian McGreevey on Adapting His Werewolf Novel For Netflix” (GQ)