I was hoping I would have my trashy Hollywood novel out as a paperback and Kindle before the end of the month, but real life has been getting in the way of my writing – as always. Originally I wasn’t going to do a paperback, but the success of Dear Oprah in hard copy inspires me to try again.
I want this book, Reflections, out there because I don’t want the only book I have published to be a cancer memoir. But the trashy Hollywood novel, as I refer to it fondly, keeps getting delayed.
First of all, this was an experiment from the beginning. I used a template called A Novel in 30 Days to write the book. I had never tried to write a book using an outline before. Of course, at the time I wrote this, about eight years ago, I had never finished a book, either. In fact, I think I had about 10 books started. I would get through the first five through seven chapters and then lose my momentum. So I decided that, even if what I wrote was trash, I was going to finish something.
At the time, I was stuck at home because of illness. I started watching some of the exploits of some famous people, particularly Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. I decided that I would create a set of twins, similar to the Olson twins, but with some of the characteristics of Britney and Lindsay. For instance, I would borrow Britney’s crazy behavior and borrow Lindsay’s crazy mother.
I had great fun putting this book together. And I actually did a lot of research for the book, because I knew very little about how Hollywood people lived. I didn’t realize the extent of the paparazzi, I didn’t realize how difficult it was for them to lead normal lives, and I didn’t realize how easy it was for people to take advantage of those in the spotlight.
Truth of course is always stranger than fiction. I decided that I would have my main character, who had played in a bunch of teen type movies, try to take on a mature role. About this time, my friend Marilyn and I went to see a play at our local community playhouse, the Hippodrome. The play was by Tennessee Williams, his infamous piece, Suddenly Last Summer. Of course, I’d seen the movie when I was younger. Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn were fantastic and it, but I really had no idea what was going on. At the time I saw the movie, I didn’t understand how strange it was, I didn’t get the gay references, and I wasn’t sure why the main character was killed and eaten. Ewww.
Of course, years later, I did find out what the movie was really about. The play that we went to see was a true representation of Tennessee Williams’ original piece. And that gave me the idea to use the Elizabeth Taylor character as the goal for my former teenage movie star to take on. In other words, my wholesome little teenybopper would become the crazy person in Suddenly Last Summer.
Now remember, I based this character partially on Lindsay Lohan. And I’ll be darned if good old Lindsay didn’t turn around and take a part in a lifetime original movie as Elizabeth Taylor. So now, it seems that I borrowed the idea of having my character play the Elizabeth Taylor part from real life. But in reality, Lindsay Lohan borrowed from my book. (Kidding, of course. Life frequently imitates art. The trick is to get the art out there before life usurps it.) Unfortunately, this turn of events made it unlikely that an agent would be interested in the book.
A lot of people told me to change the part that my character took to someone else besides Elizabeth Taylor. But all the way through the book, one of the running jokes is that all my characters think that the play, Suddenly Last Summer, was the most depressing play ever written. And frankly, I didn’t want to lose that joke. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I cannot take this book that seriously. It was fun to write, but it’s not great literature. This is an entertaining novel about the murder of a guy that we all want to see murdered.
I even had fun with my detectives. The female detective calls herself a “celebrity whore,” and she’s very excited to take the case. The male detective considers all these movie stars a bunch of “spoiled brats,” and he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. So they quibble all the way through about whether the twins are worth rescuing or whether they are just more Hollywood detritus taking up time that could be better spent on solving the problems of real people. So I had fun with the book all the way through. It was fun to research; it was fun to write.
Of course, when you write anything, you have to make certain decisions. You know what they say, kill your darlings. So now I am editing, which to me is the worst part of any writing experience. I hate editing my own work. I read a sentence and go, “I could not possibly have written that. Who broke into my computer when I wasn’t looking?” There are sentences that make me want to gag. I can’t believe I wrote them. And now I have to fix them, and that is painful.
I never thought I would publish my books myself. I’ve always told people, don’t self-publish unless you absolutely want to have a piece to show people. Self-publishing seemed so expensive and so much like self-promotion. I did understand that there were a few people who had a reason to self-publish, even if it cost them a fortune to do so. I met a gentleman who had come over from China. He was very broke. He worked hard and raised himself up and became a doctor. He wanted to publish his memoir so he could take it back to his parents and show them what they had done for him by helping him come to America. And he wanted to give the memoir to his nieces and nephews to show them what they could do with their lives. I understand this.
I am editing the memoirs of two people, one of whom wanted to write his memoir for his children and grandchildren, the other who wants to write a medical memoir to help other people. I understand their motivations for self-publishing. They also have the money to do this, which many of my fellow writers do not. I hate to see writers self-publish their works imagining that they will make all kinds of money on a book that is not commercially viable. This after they have spent a fortune publishing the book, marketing the book themselves, even creating the look of their manuscript. Money flows out but nothing comes back in.
I believe that thanks to Amazon CreateSpace, we’re on the edge of a publishing revolution. In a way this is good – everybody can get their book out there for free. In a way it’s bad – everybody can get their book out there regardless of whether it’s worth publishing or not.
But in my case, I wrote a fun, trashy book that I think was entertaining but that, thanks to current events is no longer commercially viable. The fact that I can publish it for free inclines me to say, why not? If I make some money on it great. If I don’t, I have nothing to lose, and I have another piece to put on my growing writing resume.
While some people may be impressed by all those literary journal publications, most of my friends have never heard of the literary magazines where my stuff is published. But I hand them a book and that impresses them. Since I’ve been telling my friends for years that I’m a writer, it’s sort of nice to be able to prove it.