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. 


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