Derek Kent sees more than just a movie when watching Stanley Kubrick’s films. Instead of plot and dialogue, Kent’s eyes pick up obscure allusions, hidden codes and mysterious Illuminati symbols.
In the UCLA alumnus’ first adult novel, “Kubrick’s Game,” students embark on a quest based on the same Kubrick films that Kent watched. Together, they struggle to solve cryptic puzzles and avoid enemy teams on the UCLA campus. The book was released on Monday.
The Daily Bruin’s Nate Nickolai talked with Kent about his start as an author, the inspiration behind his characters and his own experiences at UCLA.
Daily Bruin: When did you start writing?
Derek Kent: Children’s books were the first books I was writing back when I was 15 years old in high school. I kind of got re-obsessed with Dr. Seuss at that age, and I wanted to start writing stories like him.
(Then) I got obsessed with Harry Potter. I remember seeing it for the first time ever in BookZone … I got totally obsessed like, ‘Oh that’s what I need to be doing, writing novels not picture books,’ because I wasn’t having much luck with picture books. So I started writing middle-grade novels which became my series, “Scary School.”
DB: What was the writing process like for this novel?
DK: The main thing with this one was the research process, which was about a year and a half of solid research. I was full-time reading every single book ever written about Kubrick and reading everything online there is about him and his movies, and I had to condense it all into my usable information, which created a binder … all organized by his movies and his life and cinematography and all the different categories that I wanted to touch on.
I got with the puzzle creators from “Fantastic Race,” so I worked with them on creating the puzzles for the book, so it was collaborative … This one took me about a solid six months full time just to write the first draft and then about a year of editing.
DB: What draws you to Kubrick?
DK: I’ve been obsessed with him since high school. I started taking film classes in high school and I just felt like his films were head and shoulders above all the others just in terms of being ahead of their time … So I was just very a big fan for a long time, and then through the years especially since his death, the theories about him have only continued to grow.
As soon as I read “Ready Player One,” after that I started thinking if I were to write a book about my passions, as the big thematic element, what would mine be, and the only thing I could think of was Kubrick.
DB: Did any of the scenes that take place at UCLA come from your own experiences as a UCLA student?
DK: I was a theater major, and I was also kinda trying to get into film school, but didn’t, but a few of my friends got into film school, so I stayed involved, acted in their films and would help them with their films. So I was definitely involved in a lot of guerilla filmmaking around campus, which our characters do.
I was into commedia dell’arte at the time, so that’s something they taught us in the theater school, which is an Italian theater style with masks and very like physical slapstick comedy. I even studied it in Italy; I went to Italy for a theater program through UCLA and studied commedia dell’arte there. In the book … they use a lot of the same masks.