Five minutes with... screenwriter and author Maria Lewis

12 March, 2024

Maria Lewis is a best-selling author, screenwriter, film curator and pop culture etymologist currently based in Australia. Over the past 17 years of her career, she has built an international reputation as a storyteller across a diverse range of mediums. In 2022, her podcast 'The Phantom Never Dies' won the AWGIE Award for Best Audio – Non-fiction. 

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
When I first realised that I was finishing high school in two weeks and had no way to pay my bills. Sorry, it’s not a more creative, beautiful or inspirational story: graduating and then starting work at my local newspaper ASAP was a means to an end at first. I fell in love with the craft and the process later.  

What inspires you?
A good yarn! Whenever I’m in a rut, watching a great film, getting lost in an amazing television series, being absorbed in a compelling book or losing hours in a comic is the biggest inspiration. Love to be impressed by other people's imagination and ambition. Diving into someone else’s work when I’m in a rut is the biggest inspirational kick in the tit. 

Why did you join the Guild?
Union strong! But specifically, I had been a member of the MEAA since I was 17 and working full time as a journo, so as I was beginning to make the transition into more film and television work, the AWG was a pretty essential membership. The first few years of my screenwriting career, having access to the AWG database of contracts and minimums AND the legal service saved my ass, saved my stories, and saved my IP more times than I can count. 

Best moment of your writing career?
Winning an AWGIE was pretty sick, but I don’t want to be a suck up and I was on crutches at the time so in more pain than is ideal for a ‘best moment’ so … let’s say getting hired by DC Comics to develop an original character for them. That project got Zaslav’d four years later, is what it is, but doesn’t take away from how much that meant to me as a lifelong comic book girlie in the moment. 

Best advice you’ve received about writing?
Do less? I don’t remember that as specific advice from a specific person re: a specific body of work, but I feel like that’s an enduring note for a lot of my work whether that’s a novel, episodic TV, feature, doco, whatever. I have a tendency to do more than is necessary – too much dialogue or too much lore – and frequently I just need to dial that shit back.  

What is your best tip for writers?
The doing is the thing. Anyone can put on a beret and call themselves a writer, but the doing is the thing. It’s sick to take a moment and bask in your shakas once you finish a project, but writing is a grind and writing is a trade. If you have the luxury to do this full-time, you sink one and move on to the next thing that sparkles. 

What are you working on now?
My feature The Black Talons – about a netball team that fights crocodile monsters – is the priority right now, but I have a Chrissy rom-com that’s looking to shoot this year so deep on never-ending revisions on that while finishing off work on two very different Aussie shows (environmental horror, small town crime). Any other time window goes to generals or tweaking pre-existing features or shows on the slate.  

What are you currently reading?
I was trying to think of something that would make me sound impressive, but anyone who knows me wouldn’t believe it if I said Homer’s The Odyssey so … The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. Love a rom-com, sue me.  

What are you currently watching?
I’m mid-multiple-deadline-mental-breakdown right now, so I always go to my comfort shows: in this case, The Wire. All time all time all time. I think seasons four and five are criminally underrated and here’s my definitive ranking of The Wire seasons you didn’t ask for: season 1 (best), season 4 (saddest), season 5 (grimmest), season 2 (most unexpected), season 3 (not as good as you remember) and We Own This City counts as season 6.

Maria Lewis’ eleventh novel Assassin’s Creed: Mirage – Daughter Of No One is out now. 

Find out more about Maria and her work here.