Thursday, March 23, 2017

In the age of the Neo-Cultural Wars

As a highschooler, too young to yet vote, but the right age to be very attentive to things political, I was in a rage about the PMRC and the attack on NEA funding by the Regan administration and congress.
Maplethorpe's Two Men Dancing, 1984
Andres Serrano's Immersion (Piss Christ), 1987


As I remember it, politicians (not a panel of artists, critics, and art historians, or the public) felt they were qualified to sensor the kinds of projects that received federal money. Or, more accurately, some politicians felt they had been dealt a winning hand to play with their constituents that helped prove the point that the Regan revolution embodied: Government can't solve the problem, Government is the problem. 
     Though Maplethorpe was an established portrait artist and was interested in the exploration of beauty in all its forms, his homoerotic photographs (of which this is a tame example) was considered by various conservative religious lobbying groups, the people they represented, and the politicians they supported, to be pornographic and a celebration of deviant behavior. Similarly the sacrilegious tone of Andres Serrano's Immersion, a powerful image that was captured by dropping a crucifix in a container of urine, was an easy target for attack. 
Jello Biafra
     Two other things were happening simultaneously. 1) The Parent Music Resource Center (PMRC) emerged. This lobbying group was concerned that violent, racist, and vile language in music was destroying the morals of American youth. It was fronted, notably, by Tipper Gore. The wife of (then) Democratic Senator Al Gore. Politically speaking, it was an effort for the left to grab some moral outrage and claim the government could be a solution to social degradation. The PMRC brought us the warning labels about explicit lyrics. At least if one is buying an actual object one can hold in the hands rather than streaming. 

2LiveCrew was definitely misogynistic and offensive to many. But as so much was in that era, wanting to put labels on music was a code for saying these violent, overly sexual black, urban, (likely gang affiliated) musicians are going to spread their tainted values into our precious white-flight, gated communities. It is this period of American politics when the term Dog-Whistle politics was made popular, a way of using coded doublespeak to be racist/not racist.
Twisted Sister
I skipped school to watch Jello Biafra on Donhue directly confront Tipper Gore. And the congress held ridiculous hearing in which Dee Snider, front man for evil Twisted Sister, was asked to testify as a representative of Rock and Roll. 

 2) At my high school, the art department had it's budget cut while the football stadium was being expanded. Clutching the tiny nub of an old Cray Pas I plotted my snarky zine, others printed an alternative newspaper. While skateboarding badly and listening to punk music on my Jam Box I ranted to friends who already agreed with me. They ranted back. And we felt smug in our mutually supportive counter cultural perspective. It accomplished nothing. But we were secretly superior. 
     Which brings us to now. The Neo-Cultural war in the age of Trump. To make my position clear, Trump is a cunt. 

What's a writer and artist to do? What can we do other than feel wronged, and be right about how wronged we have been? For me, I am trying to use my current book promotion as an opportunity to make a virtuous circle of support. Here is how that works: I want to support a local arts organization by donating some time, books, profits. . .with help from that organization, we find a Chicago independent bookstore willing to host an event. We sell tickets that include an original limited edition poster by a print maker who is donating his time and talents. We put together a panel discussion of community groups and artists. Perhaps we have a postcard and petitions ready to be signed by those who attend. In other words a local artist, local author, local arts organization, local bookstore come together to raise needed capital, support one another, promote one another, and turn the moment into a discussion and an action. 
     It's only one little thing. But it is a thing. And if the NEA goes unfunded, larger arts organizations and individual artists will either give-up or seek funding elsewhere. Those elsewhere's may be the places where smaller arts organizations currently depend on funding. There will be a tightening, and there will be lack of funding at the bottom. 

Help nationally. 
Help locally. 
That's the working theory. In a time when the press is "the enemy of the people," and the arts and schools are being unfunded, our individual voices and efforts matter much more. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A birthday gift for everyone

If you've been following along you are aware that Missing People and Good For Nothing were released in North America by Tyrus (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) on January 1, 2017. My local independent book store informed me that on January 3rd, they would be placing hardbound copies of my book at the front of the store in the new arrivals section. As it happens, January 3rd is my birthday. For twenty years, one of my life goals has been to bop into my local book store and see one of my titles on the shelf, to heft it, open it, smell it, feel it, and to know I am a full participant in the writer/reader/bookseller life cycle. 
I had a very nomadic childhood, and books (and the places I'd go to buy them) were an important through-line when I moved my young life from state to state. Wandering a bookstore was like being home. Finding a book to sink into was a comfort amid the swirl of new variables that came with each new neighborhood. In my twenties I worked in a used book store. I mostly sold coffee. But I also answered questions, helped find title, made suggestions, and had daily conversations about books. I saw how books touched peoples lives, became like cherished friends, made people's lives better, richer, more meaningful. So walking into Anderson's books in Downers Grove, Illinois on my birthday and finding two hardbound titles that I'd written staring back at me was a significant moment (captured in this short video):

How is this a birthday gift for everyone? 

Today I give the gift of not blogging about the play by play of sales of these two title as time moves forward. This post will be the last focused on the roll out. After today, emphasis will be on the writing process for the new book Half Dead. But, so many things have happened in the first three weeks since these titles were released, I will enumerate some of them here. 

Missing People
“Both psychologically searing and fast paced, Missing People poignantly shows that when one person goes missing, their loved ones can lose themselves as well.” – Booklist

Good For Nothing 
“Graham’s deliciously satirical first novel will charm readers with … plenty of laugh-out-loud moments … Graham gives his leading man a sympathetic edge, using him and his well-drawn supporting cast as vehicles for biting social satire of contemporary American life. A brilliantly entertaining debut.”

The Dirt Worker's Journal Book Blog
Brandon S. Graham’s new novel “Missing People” is the classic punch in the gut Grit-Lit storytelling I’ve grown to love from him over the last few years. He does not disappoint with this nail-biting tale of colorful characters making their way in the world.
To me the book reads much like a movie playing out in front of you on the big screen. This is the telltale sign of a great writer. Someone who has spent day in and day out with each character-pouring everything they have into each one to make their book alive and believable. 

“Missing People” is a book I highly recommend. Graham is at the top of his game. My prediction is this book is going to sell many copies and most likely make it to the big screen. It’s that good. So, pick up your copy today!

Columbia College Alumni Spotlight  
'In Missing People, Brandon Graham MFA ’08 tells the story of someone who’s not there. His second novel explores the disappearance of Etta Messenger, told through the shared histories of her parents, her high school sweetheart and the other people who made up her life.

Graham has a lot to celebrate in the new year: Missing People came out January 1, at the same time as the US publication of his first novel, Good for Nothing. Both are offered through Tyrus Books, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster. At the same time, Good For Nothing was optioned for a movie.
Over the years, Graham has worked in visual arts, ceramics, writing and more. While pursuing his MFA at the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, he combined written and visual art into short literary zines and longer off-set booklets. He talked to us about how all of these experiences combined in his career as a novelist."

Book Launch Party: My first book signing/event was a few days ago at a local pub. After moving so frequently as a kid, it is significant that I've been in this place for eleven years (a quarter of my life). Books are long projects and staying put helped. Even more helpful was beginning to understand what be a part of a community actually feels like. 

In a week or so I have another signing locally, then two weeks later in Traverse City Michigan followed two weeks later by an event in Chicago. Next post, I will mention very little about those things, and instead focus on the new manuscript (over 100 pages written). Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Taking Stock

As often happens at the end of the year, I am taking stock of where things stand.

When I began this blog I intended it to be a record of my writing process as I struggled with my first novel, Good For Nothing. I harbored a deep fear that I would admit (digitally) aloud that I was embarking on a futile process and eventually have to share, publicly, that I had like so many others, been unable to finish the project, or find an agent, or publisher. This fear was not unfounded. The statistics related to debut novels being published are very bleak. Also, at the time, the publishing industry was in a snit about what exactly digital publishing would mean for their business model, and bookstores were closing right and left.

Beyond that, I had up-close experience with talented writers who had attempted to find purchase in commercial publishing and failed. One writer in particular had announced he was starting a new career as a novelist, made his whole life about the effort, finished three novels, and never found a publisher willing to print them. It seemed 1) heartbreaking and soul crushing and 2) a likely outcome for anyone trying to edge their way into the publishing game.

But slowly, things came together.
I finished the novel.
I wrote a query letter.
I found agents.
They worked hard to find a UK publisher.
The editors got to work, the book was published and distributed, it sold, was reviewed well, and I was relieved to have not fallen completely on my face.

During that time my agents tried to sell GFN in the US market. There were many kind notes from editors, each rejecting the manuscript. So while people could walk into airports and train stations and airports around England and find my title on the shelf, I could not walk into my favorite book shop and see one myself. It was all slightly unreal.

During the drip drip drip drip of rejection letters, I was writing. It was creatively rough to keep working while feeling I may have done something wrong the first time around. But I had heard how hard the second effort can be, I knew writers that had spent everything on their first book and had nothing left for a second novel. To overcome that, I kept pushing. And I finished Missing People. The manuscript went out, kind rejections began to trickle in, and I spent the year teaching college composition classes. Reading so many essays, preparing classes in a field I'd never worked in previously, and dealing with many teenagers - their problems and personalities - made it hard to make my own work.

Then, this past summer, GFN was optioned for a movie.

Tyrus purchased North American rights for Missing People, and a few weeks later also purchased rights for GFN.

I went through the editing process for two novels at once. The books went to press.

And miraculously, Tyrus was purchased by Simon and Schuster. Over the course of several years I went from legitimate fear of devoting a huge amount of time and emotional energy into a project that would never see the light of day, to having my first two novels published by one of the five major publishers in the world. Honestly, I'm not good at recognizing that I have worked hard and that it has paid off, or at feeling that I've done something well. But it is a big deal in my life. Though I have a tinge of survivors guilt. After being close to so many talented, capable, passionate writers who haven't found a way through the morass of the publishing industry, I'm reluctant to celebrate. I feel it could diminish the efforts of others. I also know there is an egotism to that kind of guilt.

In the past few weeks I've had some good reviews for both titles. Both Good For Nothing and Missing People were selected for review in Publishers Weekly. This is significant as it is a media gateway publication; once reviewed by PW other outlets choose to take a look. 


PW review of GFN:

PW review of MP:

Those reviews likely led to this really overwhelmingly generous review in Booklist which is a publication of the American Library Association and is read mostly by librarians, book clubs, and very passionate book lovers: 

It reads in part,"Graham's deliciously satirical first novel will charm readers with its hapless but oddly appealing protagonist." Man I like that review!

I want to say thank you. To my friends and family, Thank you. To those who have followed along, Thank you. To all those who have contributed to the process along the way, Thank you too. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year.

On January first I will walk into my local bookstore and pick-up hardbound copies of my two novels. I believe, at that moment, it will feel real. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Unexpectedly Simon and Schustered

In the past few days my publisher, Tyrus Books, was acquired by Simon and Schuster! 

A couple years ago, when Good For Nothing was initially offered in the North American market, a  particular editor from Simon and Schuster held on to the manuscript, read it twice, wrote a few complimentary notes about the characters and language. I began to feel it was likely that GFN would be published by Simon and Schuster. And then, as things often do in the publishing process, there was a change of heart, things tipped the wrong direction, and the editor apologetically passed on the novel. I was mildly miserable. And now, in a strange twist, my first two novels will both be published under the Simon and Schuster umbrella. I'm unsure if this is cause for celebration. So rather than a big party I am drinking alone (again).

Here is a link to the PW article related to the acquisition if you'd care to see it:

As promised, here is a short story for your reading pleasure. It is a variation on the text for a visual book collaboration by the same name.

I could trace my childhood by brushing a finger over a map’s dry surface. Starting from a modest ranch, part of off-base housing near the Naval base, in Newport News, Virginia. Sliding my finger south I could pass it over six homes along the Atlantic coast in the Carolinas, Georgia and eventually end in a spot south of Miami where the land stops. My family settled there near some of my mom’s people.

My first lungful of air was filled with the scent of the sea. When just big enough to walk, I remember looking down at my cherubic toes in hot sand. Up en pointe I punched holes in the beach. Chubby feet balled to catch the grit and hold it, to grasp the new sensation and not let it loose. The wind blasted grains and mist against me. A wet line of foam surged toward me, sweeping sudden and cold over my feet. Later my cloth diaper, heavy with seawater, came loose, the weight bending the safety pins until they popped and gouged a red, angry line down my thigh. My parents and big sister laughed at my nudity and I was happy.  

After college, I rebounded like a kid’s cheap yo-yo, drawn one state at a time back along the coastline until I married and built an academic life outside our nation’s capital. My grandmother Daisy passed away last semester, and as the most responsible living relative, I’m flying down on my sabbatical to tie up a few loose ends, liquidate a few assets and pay some outstanding bills. Plus, my wife and I need the break.

I don’t keep a resume. Hell, now that I’m tenured I barely keep my CV up to date. But I know CV is short for Curriculum Vitae, which is Latin for course of life. And that’s what’s on my mind as I feel the jet engines slow, feel my stomach drop.  
Out the window, as we swing in a wide turn around Miami, I see Biscayne Bay. I was here in ’82 when Christo and Jeanne-Claude ringed the islands down there with Pepto-Bismol colored plastic sheeting, like some grotesque halo, or a misguided, gaudy Shinto celebration of nature. Supposedly it killed a lot of pelicans, the plastic. Those massive birds dove in whole flocks to catch fish in their bucket mouths and came up under the pink sheeting to suffocate, their corpses accidental and grisly additions to the exhibition. At least that’s what I heard back then.

My rental car takes me down roads whose names I should know, past sights that used to be commonplace. It’s funny how memory works. The shiny, happy, bright images of a ten-year-old are dulled with layers of failed responsibility and pessimistic attitudes about consumerism and tainted politics. The color leaches out of everything given enough time. Or maybe my eyes are just tired.

In Homestead, where I attended middle-school, I stop at a wide spot on the shoulder of the road to buy avocados, a mango and three oranges from a Cuban man with boxes of fruit lined-up on a card table. I sit on the hood of my car and pitch curls of orange peel into the tall grass. The sticky, sweet juices run into my whiskers while the sun bakes my forehead. Seagulls cry out overhead and catch the air in their wings as they glide into an adjacent parking lot. From above, the rising waves of heat from the flat surface must look like deep, dark water. I watch them squawk in protest, hop around and peck through the gravel for food. Soon they give up and get back to the sky. I take their lead and drive toward the fish camp.  

The strip of road that leads to Key Largo has beach on both sides. In the shallows to the right a flock of flamingos stand on one leg. I’ve been told flamingos have white feathers. Their usual pink coloring comes from the red algae in their diet. This flock bothers me. They are faded and pale. Not the flamboyant, vivid birds I remember.

The last time I saw my grandmother alive was at my grandfather’s funeral, years ago. She’d gotten arthritis bad and her hands were like a knot of white root vegetables. She’d been forced to give up on planting the flowers she’d always loved and instead stuffed cheap plastic flamingos into each of the terra-cotta pots that lined her little porch. When she hugged me, she’d had strength left in her arms, nearly crushed me.

I’m mostly here to clean out an old storage unit where my grandparents kept some things after hurricane Andrew did its damage and the insurance company shafted them. Their house had stucco the color of guacamole and big white awnings that folded down like protective metal wings over the louvered windows in a hurricane. The awnings were no help when Andrew stripped half the roof off and filled the house with storm water and palm fronds. The gators ventured from their canals around the citrus groves and swam in the flooded streets. After things dried out my grandfather Jan found a big old granddaddy gator had made a nest between two mangled banana trees in the back corner of the yard. By that time it was clear they were abandoning the house, so he left the backdoor open in case the gator needed anything amid the moldy carpets and swollen floorboards.

The fish camp is at the far end of Key Largo and consists of a series of cinder block cabins facing the sea, a long pier to stand and fish from, a place where the charter boats come to pick up guests, and a narrow stretch of beach, baby dunes, and ragged sea grass. The exterior of the cabins are each a different color. The woman at the office hands me the key and tells me I’m staying in the Honeydew suite. After I unpack, I sit at a picnic table near an abandoned fire pit and eat slices of ripe mango in the dark as the wind comes off the water. I take out my cell phone to call my wife, the light is harsh in the night, and bugs immediately gather. I slip the phone back in my pocket. I know she doesn’t want to hear from me.

In his retirement my grandfather Jan had loved two things, and neither of them was his wife Daisy. The first was a sky blue T-bird convertible. He always claimed he couldn’t drive it in the spring because over-sized mosquitoes were drawn to its color and would cover it so thick it looked like its hood had been flocked black. But he couldn’t find the heart to sell it, even when his cataracts were too bad to drive. The other love of his life was his Slash2 BMW motorcycle.
The next day, after drinking black coffee on the pier as the sun comes up, I find both of his prized possessions in the storage unit off Truman Avenue near the tip of Key West. It only takes two days to sell the T-bird for more money than I expected. I use the cash to pay Daisy’s remaining bills and to have the BMW tuned-up, and purchase new tires, a new battery, and an extra set of fresh spark plugs.  

That takes a few days. During that time I visit the Hemingway Museum, eat fresh seafood and fresh fruit. I watch old couples dance like kids. I watch kids lay on the beach, not speaking, like old couples. I drink too many girly drinks with ridiculous umbrellas. I end up addle-brained and ashamed, thinking Papa Hemingway would never make me a tragic hero in his next book.

As the sun sets on my fourth night I walk along the beach and people watch. Little children play in the surf tossing a Frisbee into the ocean and watching it wash back in. An old Japanese couple walks together, shoulders touching and a metal detector skimming the sand in front of them. A shapely bald woman in a see-through dress carries a big bottle of Champagne in one hand and a glass that she keeps refilling in the other. She comes right toward me. As I watch without appearing to watch, she un-slings her oversized purse, and like a magic act, a white dog hops out. She leans over drunkenly to let the enchanted canine drink from her glass. She refills it again, holds it high in a toast to me, I smile and we part ways.  

That night I build a fire and sort through musty boxes of papers from the storage unit. Old family photos of people I don’t recognize. There are several black and white images of my grandparents as a young couple on a beach, her hair long and light from the sun. There is a snapshot of them rolling in the surf like a staged press photo to promote that Pearl Harbor movie, From Here to Eternity. They looked happy, giggling too much to give a serious kiss. I slowly burn everything except one stack of images, a few faded postcards like you'd find on a wire spin-rack, a leather motorcycle jacket in reasonable shape, and a decrepit helmet with goggles attached.  

A week after I landed I drive the rental car back to the lot where I got it. I hop a shuttle to the terminal and tell lies about a family emergency to three different people until I’m refunded the majority of my return ticket. I spend nearly a third of the refund on the cab back to the garage where the bike is waiting.

I’m cautious for the first few miles, feeling out the brakes, the heavy boxer engine sticking out either side of the frame like nubby wings. It doesn’t take long before it feels like an old friend. I stop at a roadside stand that sells Cuban coffee and sandwiches. I knock back the coffee, put the sandwich in my saddlebag for later. I text my wife instead of calling her. I can’t imagine enough time has passed for her to want to speak to me, the pain of my hurtful confession still too sharp. But I want her to know I’m coming. I’m taking the long way up old coast roads. Taking my time, letting the wind ease the sharp edges and the sun beat on me until the garish colors bleach to white.  

Lastly, I've been told that a few of the hardbound first editions of both books have made it off the press and to someone in my publisher's hierarchy. That means, despite the official publication date of either Jan 18th (originally) or Jan 1st (more recently) that if you pre-order my books now, you may get them in time for Christmas. That is not a promise.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Inaccurate fictionalized approximation of facts related to Tyrus Books

As previously promised - I will attempt to share the idea of facts (but not actual facts per say) that characterize fake history and current qualities of my North American publisher Tyrus Books as well as its place in a larger network of media activities.  

Once upon a time Ben LeRoy wanted to make good things. He founded Bleak House Books. Bleak House (for the geeks out there Bleak House is also the name of a Charles Dickens novel as well as the name Dickens' home in Broadstairs, Kent came to be known as) was recognized for publishing numerous acclaimed works of fiction. Time passed, publishers took notice and Bleak House Books was purchased and folded into a larger publishing house.

Once upon another time Ben LeRoy wanted to publish good books. With money from selling Bleak House, in the summer of 2009 they started Tyrus Books in Madison Wisconsin. Tyrus published titles that received critical acclaim and in 2011 F+W Media expressed an interest in acquiring Tyrus as an imprint for their growing book publishing division. F+W Media has been around for nearly a hundred years. For most of that time they published niche magazines about hobbies, art, crafts, writing, lifestyle etc…Examples: Writer's Digest; Knitscene; Southwest Art; and HOW. Sometime in the 1990’s they expanded to publishing books in the self-help and memoir space. Then in the early 2000s they began building the book publishing division by buying existing regional fiction publishers.Tyrus was meant to be their literary/crime imprint. Initially Ben LeRoy didn’t want to sell a second successful publishing house and he definitely didn’t want to move from Madison. Eventually he and F+W reached an agreement. Ben is publisher of Tyrus, Tyrus is an imprint of F+W media.

For me, this means I have the face-to-face experience of working with a hands-on boutique literary publisher but with the marketing muscle similar to a larger house. It is, in essence, the best of both worlds.

In related news
Here are the press sheets that were produced for the US release of Good For Nothing and Missing People. A press sheet is a one page snapshot of pertinent facts intended for book sellers and reviewers -  and usually accompanies the ARCs (advanced review copies).

F+W Media uses Ingram distribution services, one of the two big book distributors. Despite the publication date of January 18th marked on the press sheets, Ingram is now listing the pub date as Jan 1, 2017. In theory those people who choose to order in advance could conceivably have a fresh, hardcover edition in their paws by Christmas.

Next time, I think I’ll share a short story. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Unpacking the Good For Nothing option (part 2)

Advanced Review Copies (ARCs)  from Tyrus

In Missing People I wrote:

He crosses the Chicago River, the bridge swaying and bucking like the deck of a ship as the car traffic and foot traffic beat out competing rhythms in opposite directions. He walks a zigzagging pattern along the sidewalks and across the streets, moving away from the heaviest commuter routes to less traveled areas. The sidewalks in the city’s center have been cleared of snow, but the piles along the curb make the way narrow.
     He passes beneath a block-long array of scaffolding built the previous summer to protect pedestrians from construction debris during the stone and glass building’s architectural face-lift. Summer storms and an early, unusually harsh winter curtailed their progress and interrupted their schedule. Now, Townes thinks, the scaffolding is a rusty metal promise, a physical reminder of the intention to complete the renovations.

For the purposes of this conversation it may help to know that Townes is our overly-cerebral protagonist and he is ending his commute into Chicago on foot. His observation fits here. Because a movie option is like that scaffolding, a rusty metal promise, a physical reminder of the intention to make Good For Nothing into a movie. 
     The option is a temporary placeholder so an interested party can pay a fee to have the right to put together a movie deal over a limited span of time. The contract itself is about sixteen pages in which great care is taken to specify what will theoretically happen [or what will eventually happen if one wants to be optimistic (and why the hell not be optimistic)] when Good For Nothing is made into a film. It sets a floor and a ceiling for compensation. On the first day of filming the Author (me) will be paid a minimum of X and no more than Y. The exact number is based on a percentage of the intended budget for the production. It also discusses every possible iteration of spin-off, sequel, rebroadcast, DVD, streaming, sale of foreign versions of the film, remakes etc...It's bewildering. But, the reason the option contract is long is so all parties know and agree upfront to the conditions of an eventual deal. 
     The initial term of this option is eighteen months with two paid extensions written into the contract. At this point Michael Walker is acting as screen writer only. He has completed a first draft of the screen play and is working toward finishing the second draft. Then he will begin the process of building interest with actors, producers, and directors until he has put together the right mix of people and the right amount of capital to begin making a movie. Or something like that. There are a lot of steps between now and an eventual production. That about sums it up. 

In other news, above you can see the ARCs that arrived. They are the initial copies that are shipped to reviewers and booksellers to begin to build interest in the lead-up to the January 18th publication date. As you can see they are paperback, though the finished books will initially be printed as a hardbound.
 Lookie here. Thirteen years ago I was teaching ceramics to college freshmen and made this little piece as a hand building demo. I bisque fired it and glazed it and took it my friend Marvin Crozier's studio so we could raku fire it. Then I moved. It sat for ages. On Oct 1, 2016 Marvin decided to fire it and shipped it to me. Marvin is a great potter and good man. If you are in the market for ceramics, check him out. 

Lastly, I was visiting artist at Columbia College's Center for Book and Paper Arts recently. I spoke to a class of graduate students about thinking from the field of artist's books that shaped my own work, how my work in ABs relates to my publishing efforts, and how narrative writing can be an important aspect of work in the field of ABs that is often not included as part of the pantheon of book arts. I should have taken a picture of the class, but I didn't. Trust me, it looks about how you'd expect. 

Next time: Tyrus. Oh - if you are interested in perhaps attending a reading or signing think about following this blog. I will be posting details as they are confirmed. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Unpacking the Good For Nothing option (part 1)

Proof of US cover 

As promised in my most recent post, I will try to tell you more about my US publisher and how Ben LeRoy came to acquire Good For Nothing and Missing People, as well as how GFN came to be optioned by screenwriter MICHAEL WALKER. But first, a brief general update.

Line edits for both GFN and MP are finished. The artwork for both books is nearly finalized. As you can see the US edition of GFN is very similar to the UK edition, which suits me fine as I love the Illustration by artist Joseph Lappie as well as the cover design by Jonathan Graham (no known relation). I am also writing irregularly on my new project, Half Dead. 

So exactly who is Michael Walker?

If you can glean something about who a person is from their life's work, perhaps this will allow a glimpse into the man who is turning my novel into a screenplay:

Before turning to writing full time, Michael was an actor for nearly 30 years. His theatre work includes Valentine in TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA and Claudius in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at The Young Vic; Rashid and Higgins in Terence Rattigan's ROSS at the Alexandria Theatre, Toronto and The Old Vic; Emerson in Sam Shepard's THE CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS at The Royal Court; The Estate Agent in SHERLOCK HOLMES for the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and New York; The Arab Prince in CAUGHT IN THE ACT at The Garrick Theatre; The FoxHunter in REYNARD THE FOX (adapted from John Masefield's poem) at the Edinburgh Festival and Young Vic; and a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company in OTHELLO, MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL and ISLAND OF THE MIGHTY. 

TV and FILM includes Dr Who, Henry V111, Space 1999, The Professionals, Romance, Coronation Street, Lillie and Captain Seth Burgess in The Onedin Line. His stage play, KILLING, was performed at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, directed by his wife, actress Genevieve Allenbury (Queen of Valencia in ABC'S GALAVANT). 

His first screenplay (with Paul Rattigan) of Noel Coward's RELATIVE VALUES was released as a feature film (associate produced by Michael and Paul) in 2000 by Momentum Pictures, starring Julie Andrews, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry, Jeanne Tripplehorn, William Baldwin and Sophie Thompson. His second screenplay (with Paul Rattigan) of THE RIVALS (based on the Restoration Comedy by Richard Brinsley Sheridan) is currently in development with producer Chris Koch, director Paul Murphy and actress Celia Imrie (to play Mrs Malaprop). His other screenplays include an adaption of THE GIRL AT THE LION D'OR from the novel by Sebastian Faulks and an adaptation (with Jay Benedict) of THE MAN WITH THE CLUBFOOT from the omnibus series by Valentine Williams. 

Other writing includes poetry, the children's books WEE NESSIE, HENRY AND CECILIA and NATTY NORA AND SCRUFFY SAM, the short stories INNOCENCE, THE TRAIN JOURNEY and THE CYCLIST, the short films IT'S A DOG'S LIFE, FLOWERS, THE CYCLIST and (all with Paul Rattigan) the short film THE SCREENTEST, the TV Sitcom TWO MANY COOKS, the TV historical cookery programme FIT FOR A KING and the TV Quizzes SWIVEL and KIDS. For many years, he was also the main speechwriter for the Annual Women In Film TV and Film Awards. He lives in Chiswick, London with his wife Genevieve and their two Bengal cats, Wimbo Wa Dini (Swahili for 'praise') and Malaika ('angel').

Furthermore, if my endorsement is persuasive, I can say that my interactions with Michael have been more than pleasant. He is warm, kind, and generous. We have an easy rapport, our interests and biographies intersect in ways that make conversation natural and energizing. 

With Michael's permission, the story of finding GFN in his own words.

Now to how I came across GOOD FOR NOTHING. This last Christmas was the first in our 31 year relationship that Genevieve and I did not share Christmas. I'll explain. For the last 8 years I have been joining her in Houston and putting our two cats in a wonderful local cattery for the month or so I'm over there. Why Houston? A long story but basically - Genevieve started traditional British Pantomime there at Stages Theatre. It has become an enormous success and, for many locals, the one and only piece of theatre they see all year. Last Christmas, because we knew we were going to be in L.A. for the first 3 months of this year (primarily for Genevieve and Pilot Season post her stint as Queen of Valencia in ABC's GALAVANT), we decided it was fairer on the cats to only be in the cattery for the time we would be in LA and I would stay in London with them over Christmas while Genevieve performed SNOW QUEEN at Stages Theatre.

Our good friend Jane (Cussons) who I have known since we were at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1972, invited me to stay over the Christmas holidays. At lunch on Christmas Day she had invited Karl (Sabbagh) and his wife Sue. I had met them before - both at Bafta in London and at Jane's in Shipston-on-Stour (near Stratford-upon-Avon). I found (and find!) them a lovely and interesting couple. On the beautifully decorated table, on Jane's place mat and mine, was a 'gift' from Karl. It was GOOD FOR NOTHING. I started to read it that night. I could hardly put it down. I knew straightaway I wanted to adapt it into a screenplay but I thought it prudent to wait until I had read the whole book before saying anything to Karl. I finished the book - your book - the next day (Boxing Day). A few days later, back in London, I called Karl. I could hear him, at the other end of the telephone, jump for joy. "At last," he said, "someone else who shares my feeling that this would make a great screenplay!"

I took GOOD FOR NOTHING to LA. And I read it. And I read it. 7 or 8 times. Then I made notes. Then I did a synopsis. Then I did a treatment. Then I started to write the screenplay in earnest. And, since getting back to London and securing the option from you and Pontas, that's what I have been engaged with.

Well, there is a piece of it. Next installment will cover either my US publisher or a bit about the GFN option contract, or both. I'm winging it.