The Protectors® Podcast

#472 | Ryan Steck & Byrdie Bell | The Alex Hawke Series | MONARCH

November 30, 2023 Dr. Jason Piccolo Episode 472
The Protectors® Podcast
#472 | Ryan Steck & Byrdie Bell | The Alex Hawke Series | MONARCH
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ryan Steck and Byrdie Bell joined the show to talk about the Alex Hawke series.  Listen in as they pull back the curtain and reveal the creative process behind the upcoming book, Monarch. Their collaboration is a remarkable testament to the power of trust.

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Make sure to check out Jason on IG @drjasonpiccolo


Speaker 1:

Oh, hit record. Hey, welcome to the protectors podcast. Excellent guests today. Guests plural. We have birdie and we have Ryan Stec Birdie bell. What's going on? First of all, birdie, you're an actress. This is, yeah, I mean. I mean, typically we get people like Ryan and I was like a you know gruff and everything, but you're like a bonafide actress, that is. That's really cool.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, yeah, it is cool.

Speaker 1:

And now was that something you always wanted to like always, always now we're talking like kindergarten here, because my daughter, like you know, always in a drama club and all yeah, no. Now, when you get into acting, you have to be like do you have to do it in high school? Do you have to be like in the drama club, or you just kind of like, you know.

Speaker 2:

I think that there is such Technicality to it like it really like as much as, as much as you want to sort of just improv. There really is Technique that you have to learn and I think if you the earlier you start it's kind of like sports the better you, you kind of have a shot of entering fully prepared.

Speaker 1:

Well, you know, acting comes with a script and you have a unique background because your dad is like this yeah, this massive author and massive universe and Creative. Now, coming from that creative background, and then having a dad who's creative and picking stuff up from him how he's developing stories, how he's building characters, you're there in a process. Yeah, that's a pretty cool thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we share that and that they were both storytellers. Yeah, I.

Speaker 1:

Love it now, ryan. We have the big news today. I mean it's been out, a lot of people know, but we're podcasting now about it and this is Alex yeah, alex Hawk is a huge steps, the stepping into these shoes and taking on a story. I'm just I'm not putting you on a pressure like that, but I'm gonna feel it.

Speaker 4:

You're good, like it's um, it's. It's incredibly humbling. It's it's, as Bernie knows, and part of the fun of this has been getting to know her. I love their dad very close with him. He was a good mentor to me. I miss him dearly and I but I know Hawk. I know Hawk through Ted and so, getting into this first book that I'm writing right now, monarch, I don't feel like I lost Ted. I feel he talks to me all day. I will literally like I don't know what the equivalent is for like method acting, method, writing, but I will literally get stuck sometimes and say, like Ted, talk to me, what would he say here? And I will usually find it, you know, and but no, there it's huge shoes to fill, it's there's, there's a lot of pressure, but it's the best kind of pressure. You know what I mean.

Speaker 1:

You know, working. You guys are basically have to work this as a team, as you're taking on a big responsibility, you're taking on something that Ted has done for a long time, but you're also working with Birdie, who has to honor her father's legacy. So, birdie, how did this whole, how did this happen to get Ryan to kind of like pull the trigger and say, hey, you know what I want, ryan, he's the, he's the guy that's going to do this.

Speaker 2:

Well, I think it was when Ryan's name came up. It was just such a comfort really because they had that preexisting relationship and and Ryan's been CC'd on lots of emails that I'd I'd received and I knew that my dad trusted him and had faith in him, so it kind of was a no-brainer.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's the biggest thing is having that faith to build it, because we've seen so many different states take over. Yeah, and I was like the Clancy's they're really hard man.

Speaker 4:

They were like Birdie, like I. So I work for Birdie, which is really cool. You know the deals with Penguin. They're going to publish this, but my boss is is Birdie, so that was a comfort to me. The estate books, like I won't name names and some of the estates can be really hard to work for and write for and that's never been the case with Birdie. I probably drive her nuts because I call her all the time to ask her things and run things by her, but I've never felt like a sense of like restricted, you know, with, with, with creating for Monarch in the next book, and it's been very freeing. I've leaned pretty hard on conversations from the past with Ted to know where I want to go with things. But I mean she's been amazing to work with and I think that's why the first time I talked to her like I knew for sure I wanted to do this and a lot of these gigs, that's. That's not. That's not always the case and I don't know how it is with acting. You know, if you sit in and you read for something and you're like, definitely I don't want to do that and I don't know how Birdie's thrived, isn't it Like my kids, like with school plays, like when I try to help them with that, like I can't not laugh, that's my thing, okay. So like, even if, like we're just preparing a scene, I can't not laugh. And I'm the guy that like in the, in the highest pressure situation, if it's a do not laugh at all situation, don't look at me. Like do not look at me. And my best friend lives right across the street. His name is Mikey, he's in my series. His wife, emily, is a dear friend of mine, but she is like my kryptonite. There's been multiple situations where it's like, do not laugh, it's a very serious, everyone needs to be serious. She'll look at me and that's it. And it's like I can't hold it together, I can't act professionally, like it's so bad. And so the thought of like being an actor would terrify me. Being a writer is so different because you're just. You're just alone. You like you can see, like I have a stack of books and notes and I'm alone, man, you sit and you create, and. But that's how I got to know Ted. He would be alone in his office and he would call me and it would always crack me up because our processes are like very different, so he would never take notes or outline anything ever. And then he'd call me and go, hey, buddy, I'm stuck. And I'd be like, well, where are you at? And so he'd start reading me chapters and I would just get lost in hearing him there, right, and then he'd stop reading and I'd be like, dude, that's amazing. Like what comes next? And he'd be like I have no idea. That's why I called you like what would come next? And I'm like, oh, I have no idea, you know. And so we'd start spitballing and so I think of that. Our styles are so different, but like that's what a writer does. You're alone with these characters, so much. And all I could really say is, when I first heard about it, I was, I was so caught off guard when I heard that it could happen Like this. Is true, I haven't said this publicly yet, jason, but like when it first came up, my agent said, like would you have any interest? And I was like I really thought they met as like an editor because I worked with Ted. So I was like, yeah, whoever they get, you know, I'd love to. I can't imagine not being involved, because I worked with Ted for like nine years. Like this, I want to be involved and in like the most politest way possible. My agent was like no, and I know he wanted to be like you're an idiot, like he's like no, like as, do you want to write it. And I was like, oh my gosh, like that hadn't crossed my mind. And you know, I immediately thought back to some of my, my last conversations with Ted, and I thought, if I would have had any clue whatsoever, this might have ever happened, I would have asked so many more questions, right, so many more. And so now we're trying to, I try to channel him and figure out where he was going with things and it's just, it's been probably the most fun I've ever had writing.

Speaker 1:

Now, birdie, before we hit record today, we were talking about the Alex Hawke character, the protagonist, and this is like post-911, around 9-11 time. You were saying like the country really needed heroes and they needed characters, they needed people to read, they needed an escape.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 1:

So let's talk about that Like what was your experience with your dad, with that?

Speaker 2:

Well, it started with when he wrote the children's book Nick of Time, and he started that as early as like 93. And it was sort of like a similar motivation, except on a smaller scale. It was that he didn't feel like I was, there was any literature for children that captured that spirit of heroism, and so he created Nick of Time. And out of Nick of Time came this world of Alex Hawke. But I don't think he had had Alex in mind at all when he was writing the children's books. I think he just created this whole universe. It was pretty, pretty amazing. And then, yeah, and then post-911, it's sort of, you know, he wanted to I think he really wanted to expand to a broader audience.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I hit him on. Was that we were talking, brian? I were talking before episode 275. And now we're like episode 470. So I've had a lot of you know that was my first real experience with the Alex Hawke series.

Speaker 2:

And I was like wow, this is cool. It's such a cool interview. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Such a cool series and such a cool show.

Speaker 4:

Like to Birdie's point, and it's just funny because I literally had this out. No way. Yeah, because I so like adults should read this too. By the way, I got copies for all my kids and I'm not like allowed to say a lot about Monarch, but there's a scene early that I've been doing a lot of research for. So I picked up Nick of Time to go back, because it starts with like a very riveting like I don't want to give it away, but there's a scene on water. It's a sailing chapter. That is like really well done and I think for kids, like yeah, kids are going to love it, but like adults should read this too. I would say, if you're watching, if you're a fan of Alex Hawke and you didn't read Nick of Time and a Time Pirate, you should get that right away.

Speaker 1:

Now, when you guys are putting together this new series not really new series, but like the series living on how do you get together? Is it like email or you guys giving each other's calls?

Speaker 4:

I drive her nuts dude. I call her all the time we go to almost every day, like through various platforms. Yeah, Well, listen, birdie's been my lifeline in this. Like really, I feel like when you do this gig I think there's other jobs that would have been easier purely because you don't have the emotional attachment that I have. So it's not just write a good book, it's write a book that Ted would have liked, that he would have signed off on, and I don't want to let him down, I don't want to let his readers down. I don't want to let Alex Hawke down. I don't want to let Birdie down, and so she's been my lifeline. I reach out to her really about everything, probably more than she wants, but all the time because I still want to make sure that whatever this is is she's getting what she wants out of it too. And I think we have a very shared goal, which is Give the readers the kind of experience that they would have got from Ted. It's gonna look a little different, you know, because it'll be, it'll be for me, but it's every time Hawk opens his mouth. My goal is to make sure it's it's Lord Alex Hawk coming out right, and I work really hard at that. And so sometimes I need to run dialogue by her or story ideas and, like I said, it's really been a lifeline for me.

Speaker 1:

Now this is awesome. I'm excited for both of you guys working together. I'd like to see legacies continue. That is like you know, I get so deeply invested in like certain TV series and stuff like that, and all of a sudden you hit like the last one. It gets canceled and you're like, oh my gosh, make a book about it. Like they just came out with a book on heat to Michael Mann and it was like heat was one of my favorite movies ever. Yeah, you know that. The neo crime thriller Just I loved it. And now they're gonna be making a heat to movies. I mean, it may take years for it to eventually happen, but it's like I love that, I love following series, I love continuing series and it's like we're you know, ryan and I were talking about different series throughout. The years have been going since I've been a kid, like web-brew fin, you know the clan sees everything and it's like I want them to continue for as long as possible and if it does go to other authors, you could see you can see that like you know what they're continuing on the right way. Yeah, and you have to entrust your authors to be able to be like, okay, we're gonna bring this to life might be a little bit little different here and there, but the core of it has to be, like you know, solid.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I agree.

Speaker 4:

I think every writer Deep down hopes to write and create a character that will transcend them. You know I can attest to that. Like when I launched my own series, like the Matthew Redd books, you hope that they're loved enough, right enough, that if something ever happens to you one day, someone else will continue that you. You want those characters to live on. I feel very comfortable and confident saying Ted would be thrilled to know Hock is living on.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Now a movie, tv series. Do we see that kind of like? You know, maybe because we've seen so many. Look Jack hardy there's so many, I mean and Mark Rainey, everybody's kind of going that way with, and it's so.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, looking for like an Alex Hawke series now or it's such a big universe.

Speaker 1:

It's such a big world. I think that it's sort of like how do you, how do you?

Speaker 2:

kind of Contain it or, you know, edit it for for for the screen, but it's like Edited for for for the screen. But I think that would be really cool. I think a series would be really cool.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you definitely have to have series. There's so much you can't get into it. Two and a half hour. Yeah. Definitely not. Now, birdie, you've been, you know, in front of the camera. What would your dream role be?

Speaker 2:

That's really interesting. You know, I think Growing up I really wanted to do period work, work. I was really. That was sort of what I thought I would would end up doing. And then I fell into comedy and All of a sudden it's like oh, this is fun. And I kind of just started doing more and more comedy. I think now my dream role would be on a soap opera, just for the consistency of work.

Speaker 1:

I tell you what. And now I'm gonna be. I'm gonna admit this out loud, but I'm on this binge with my daughter she's 13 watching Jane the virgin. Oh, how am I? Oh my gosh, it's so funny, but because it's almost like a Telenova or a tell yeah, totally. It's so funny and but like soaps are awesome. I mean, I I was, you know, hey, when I was in the army and we were just chilling. I've watched days of our lives. I'm like all right, in 90s I was watching some days of our lives. You know Bo and hope and everybody else. Come on people. You know what I'm talking about, ryan. You know what I'm talking about? Bo and hope, or maybe. I don't, but I trust you Okay.

Speaker 4:

I like don't watch anything. Like I live in my, especially right now, now that I'm doing two books a year, I don't see anything. I I'm what. I started watching the crown because birdie told me how good it was, and it is, it's fantastic. Um, outside of that, I'll just I take your word for it, I believe. Yeah, I mean you, you're the kind of guy that could make watching soaps like really badass, like that works. I could see that.

Speaker 1:

I could see that I don't know if I'm ever going to go back to why. Birdie, if you go on soaps, I'll watch a couple episodes.

Speaker 4:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Hey, wait, birdie is on the show. This is awesome.

Speaker 4:

It. Birdie was in and out watching. She did a show I think it was called was um odd Odd mom's out. Yeah, odd mom out yeah odd mom out and my wife was a huge fan, um, and so it was really funny because I didn't realize that was ted's daughter at the time. We'd watch it. And then One time I was interviewing ted and I asked, like what are you watching? He was like odd mom out, you know, and I was like, oh, my wife loves that show. And he was like, yeah, I watch it because my daughter's in it. And I was like what? Like I had no clue at all and um, and so we started watching that and um, yeah, birdie was in and I would watch it. I always think who she would play in the hawk universe.

Speaker 1:

You know, that's the thing is. Bringing characters to screen has to be tough, whoever the casting director is. Right because you have to be like. You know there was a lot of visualization. When I saw in the jack car series I was like, you know mark reyney with um, you know with some of the tertiary characters and I like chris bratt, but you know ryan gosselin I thought was great as a gray man I mean, but that's, that's another series I would have loved to have seen. So just see it.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, right, it wasn't that bad and I hate it so much that it's a little off the place. Yeah, it's really hard to tell you everything about what is really different from an original series. Uh, I will go to the bolt Brand. Take two, two. Three, two, one there are three, four, go, moving on to ah. I can not let go to far and so I don't think that. I mean they've been close to hawk movies in the past and I've known all the actors that have been attached and I've had every conversation with Ted and some of it is just funny for me because it'd be like, you know, chris Hemsworth's name would come up and Ted loved them but he didn't quite look like Hawk. But then later on it was Jason Statham and he loved that and I'm like he looks nothing like Hawk Brings the physicality couldn't really nail the role. So one of the hardest things for me when I first started writing Monarch was I needed to see Alex, and so I won't say which actor I look at, but I definitely have someone in mind that when I'm writing that's who I see and who I hear.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I guess it's you know, now that I'm embarking on this fiction world, I kind of see different people and different characters. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Are you writing?

Speaker 1:

I just started. Yeah, that's awesome. If we're coming up with names and scenarios. It's interesting. It's very interesting because, as much as I want it to be based on reality, sometimes, like the reality is just, it's very real. It's like how real do I want this to be like a guidebook for bad guys or no? Because some of the things that in my background you know, some of the things I've seen, I have to make sure I don't put a lot of tactics techniques and procedures in there.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, there's also the balance of, like you want it to be realistic but entertaining, right, yeah, the thing that you guys that have like these, these real backgrounds that these characters have lived, struggled with has always been and I'm speaking as an editor now, having worked with so many of you it's like, oh, this stakeout wouldn't work like that and I'm like nobody cares, no one's going to read a boring stakeout, like they're not going to do it. What's nice about the Hawk universe is Ted always favored like go big and have fun. And the very first advice literally signed the contract, got the call from Tom Colgan, who's the editor at Penguin, and he said have fun, go big and have fun. And so so, like, when I go from writing read right with my series to writing Hawk, it couldn't be more different. Like Matthew Red is in Montana, he's a cattle rancher, he's poor, and I was telling Birdie, like the last book that I just turned in for that series. It was a struggle because, like there's a firearm I want Red to have, but I couldn't figure out how he'd afford it. And then I had to, like really spend time figuring out how he would get this gun and then I turned the book in. I went to write Hawk and within like five minutes I gave him a $790 million private jet and I was like different world man. He is the sixth richest dude in England. There's nothing he can't afford. That makes it really fun for me. Any idea, any concept you have you can do with a character like Hawk and that's what makes him so unique. That's what makes him so fun. I think that's why readers love him and it's why I'm having such a good time writing them.

Speaker 1:

I love it. Birdie, I think you know when you were talking before about like comedy and and then we're talking about the Alex Hawks series, big and fun. I mean that must be I I I remember interviewing your dad and I was like this is a very, a very interesting interview for me because, like it's more of a conversation. It was just such a great experience and that must have been like what was that? Like you know, we're just watching him create and then seeing that come to life and it must have been like a kid at the candy store when he got the final, final product.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's exactly it. Like a kid in a candy store. He was just larger than life and, just you know, the bar really, really high. I was just never not entertained, never not inspired. So yeah, it's been, it's been, it's been a difficult, a difficult loss. So this has been really like a huge gift in terms of processing my grief, just to know that I've lost my dad, but I'm not losing these characters in this world.

Speaker 1:

I'm just to me as an outsider looking at it. It's just such a good experience that Ryan has such a background with your dad and trusting this process to him.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And Ryan that goes to us is like hey, you know what You're, you're, you do a lot, and now you're working on this. This must be a really cool, though, to actually take something like this and be like wow.

Speaker 4:

Dude, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, like literally in my life, like a genuinely is. And then I spoke about it earlier it goes to I really think and this is like, I don't want it to sound negative but if I was doing a different branded book, different estate book that I didn't have the attachment to, I think it'd be really easy. You're hired to write it, you just write it and turn it in. I agonize over and this is no joke every word, every sentence that it. When Monarch comes out, I want fans to love it, but if they don't, it won't be for lack of trying. Like two, two, three weekends ago I was I told Bernie when I first started, like I couldn't hear Hawk in my head. You need to. As a writer, you have to hear these characters. And then it got to like a whisper and then I was hearing him. I would say it's like his inside voice, but I'm hearing it better Now. He's helping at me.

Speaker 1:

Like now it's getting to me.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, sally, I know you.

Speaker 4:

But like three weekends ago, my poor wife was like bringing me up coffee and meals. I wrote I've never done this 19 hours straight in my office. I never left, I just was grinding it. And the hard thing about it is Ted was by far and I really mean this by far the most gifted wordsmith in our genre. Nobody could write like him. And so I'll write a sentence where I'm like that's a pretty good Brian Stec sentence, that's a terrible Ted Bell sentence. So I have to go back, and there's been times I'm just beating my face on the keyboard because I know it's off, like it's very easy to tell when it's not, when it's not right. It is not always easy to know how to fix it. And so I'm getting better. It's getting easier now that I'm like a third of the way into the book, but sometimes it's just one word. It's one word you know. And knowing Ted I think makes this easier to do, because Alex Hawke speaks with a very specific cadence. He's really selective in his word choice. There's certain words he doesn't use and the way he talks is very unlike anyone else. What if you knew Ted? You knew that he was the real Alex Hawk. He was like the 70 year old version of Alex Hawk. So the way Ted would talk is kind of how Hawk talked and, because I know that I can really shut things down, sit here in silence and I'll just replay conversations with Ted and then I'll try to hear what I'm writing here. Like can I hear him say it? And if I can and it works, then I'm like I can move on, but it is by far the hardest thing I've ever done. It's also the most rewarding when I'm writing one of my books. If I'm writing a Matthew Redd Thriller, I want my fans to love it. But if they don't like, that's on me, made me look bad. When you're picking up and carrying forward someone's legacy that you really love and I really loved him when I found out he passed, I mean I locked myself away in here and I sobbed like a child. So the pressure to get it right is so high and when I feel like I've gotten it right, it's like, okay, I can relax and then you start to have fun. And Hawk is such a fun character. There's no one like him in the industry. I mean you will not find another kid. He's bond on steroids like really truly, and he can do things that no one else in the genre can do. Again, he's probably the only billionaire badass hero operating in the thriller genre, you know. So there's nothing off limits, but, yes, the pressure to get it right and make sure that not only readers like it. But I don't let Ted down. It is the hardest thing I've ever done, for sure.

Speaker 1:

I look at it a different way. You were very invested and vested and a friend with Ted. You followed the stories. You know the stories, you're inside out, you're emotionally attached to it. But then when you look at it, if somebody else took it over who was just a good writer but didn't have that complete investment in it, you would probably be kicking yourself going, hmm, hmm. But now you, your credibility is because you have this. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

When it first came up and then I was, you know, I was stupid to start and I didn't realize my agent mentioned me as a writer. I thought I'd be an editor. When I was really clear that oh they, yeah, they did need a writer, I was kind of obsessed with it. Like I knew I'd have to talk to Birdie, like she, she's always going to be the boss. So it was like, just don't, by the way, cause my wife knew how bad. Then I wanted it. Like once I really realized this could happen. You never let yourself want anything professionally right, like in the industry, you never do that. I did. And it was my wife that, like my poor wife Melissa, always has to deal with you know all the behind the scenes stuff. And she was like, babe, like, just talk to her. I was so in, like, so nervous to talk to Birdie, like I was like if I mess it up, she's going to pick someone else, she'd go any direction, and to think of, like where we're at now I consider her a really close friend, you know, and it's been a really rewarding gig, if only to get to know her, because she is so like and you'll like, you'll see, cause you interviewed Ted. She's a lot like her dad. She is her dad in a prettier package with a filter, like Ted always said this stuff like you really aren't allowed to say, but you could and no one cared and he could get away with it. Birdie does like knows where to stop, but she is really like her dad and it's made this really enjoyable for me.

Speaker 1:

I love it.

Speaker 4:

I'm really excited for both of you guys working together. It's been really fun. It honestly has been really fun.

Speaker 1:

So this is it. We're looking at what 2025?

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

For the first one, yeah, very cool. So last thoughts, birdie, what's up next for you?

Speaker 2:

I don't know. I don't know. The strike just ended, but I've got you know, my personal life that is going in a different direction. So I don't really know what's up next.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, the weirdest thing is with that strike cause my daughter and I were gonna be we're putting to be background actors for the Outer Banks.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I was gonna be that construction guy number one and she was gonna be like me and something like that. I'm like there's like so much fun things in the industry, but the strike was a very interesting time for the industry and I'm excited to see you on screen and I'm like anybody out there. You know, you really have to check. I gotta go check out the show too. I'm gonna see what you're acting, your comedic chops are. I'm excited about that. I find my stuff watching so much more like it depends if I'm in a different mood. I'm like very like you know the Bosch series and bingenet stuff, but I love comedies. I love just to forget about things for a little while and just listen, watch.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

This is it. Well, I appreciate you guys coming on. We're gonna put this episode out and everybody's gonna know all about the Next Ventures Valgox Walk.

Speaker 3:

Ah, so Sso, Sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso, sso Sorry.

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