On J.K. Rowling

It’s been an interesting few days since it was revealed that J.K. Rowling wrote a crime novel (that was published a few months ago) under a pseudonym.

Well, you don’t get breaking book news like this very often, but The Independent reported last night that J.K. Rowling revealed The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel published this April, was written by her under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Rowling indicated that part of the reason for keeping her authorship a secret was freedom from the expectation of her name, The Independent reported: “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling currently has a 4.01 star rating on Goodreads, with only 25 reviews. (I heard some estimates Saturday night that the book had only sold a few thousand copies to this point.) Generally, readers seem to find the book satisfying and entertaining, with special praise for the main character, Cormoran Strike (that name does seem like a Rowling character, doesn’t it?).

Things have changed significantly since the news broke. The book became a bestselling almost instantly. It is currently backordered on Amazon (for those who don’t have e-book readers, or listen to audiobooks) and won’t ship for 1 – 3 weeks. An overnight sensation because of a name, not the story contained in its pages.

I can totally understand Rowling’s desire to publish under a pseudonym. The success of the Harry Potter series is both a blessing and a curse for her. Harry Potter was a worldwide phenomenon… everything she does now will always be compared to it. So, how does an author give themselves the chance to have their follow up work given a fair shake? Write under a pseudonym. It’s not that uncommon. I applaud Rowling for trying (for as long as she could) to see how her work would be received without her name on it. It’s a fascinating look at the psychology of the publishing industry—the producers and the consumers. There are so many interesting things we can take from this event that would take me forever to talk about… like the terrifying reality of how hard it is for an unknown author to get reviewed and sell books… oye

See, I’ve read the Harry Potter books. Loved them. Absolutely loved them. But, I haven’t read A Casual Vacancy, her first adult novel after Harry Potter, and I don’t see myself reading The Cuckoo’s Calling either. No offense to Rowling, I’m sure both are well written, but the description of the former didn’t inspire me to read it, and this new one… well, crime novels just aren’t my thing. Hey, maybe one day I’ll want to give it a shot… but I’m gonna wait a while. For now, I’m picking my books based on whether the story strikes me as one I want to read.

Thoughts on Writing: Movies About Novelists

As an aspiring novelist, I recently couldn’t help thinking about movies about novelists. There are a lot, as you might have guessed. And I can safely say I haven’t seen a vast majority of them. That said, there are quite a few that I have seen, and I’ve picked my favorites of them, and added some thoughts on writing that each movie got me thinking about.

The Shining

I totally get the idea that a few months of isolation would be fantastic for a novelist to be able to work without distractions and interruptions. But an empty hotel miles away from civilization might not be the best idea. Still I love this classic Kubrick film and enjoyed it more than the novel it was based on.

I recently came back from a short camping trip. Not completely isolated but definitively away from the hubbub of normal life. I honestly didn’t get much writing done (okay, zero) but I got some important reading in. In retrospect, seeing as life inspires writing I think total isolation takes you away from your greatest source of material.

Misery

Another movie based on a Stephen King novel. The novel is better, I must say, but this movie does terrify me. As much as it be nice to have devoted fans one day who anxiously await my next novel, there are limits. This movie is well done, and brilliantly cast. I own the DVD, but have only watched it once in full and that is enough.

Is writing just about ones desire to tell a story, or to have it read? I go back and forth on this. It would be the best job ever to be able to live off of your own writing, but would that stop me if I couldn’t make a few bucks off of a novel I wrote? Probably not. If I have a story to tell, I’ll tell it and hope people read it. I won’t stop of no one buys my first novel. So having readers would be great, but is not a requirement for writer who just wants to write.

Still, I think having hardcore fans would be a great motivator, even if there are only a few and not thousands. I’ve read some crappy books from authors who used to be good but got terrible after commercial success. Yes, James Patterson, I am talking about you.

Throw Mama From The Train

I need to watch this movie again because it has been a few years since I have see it. I first saw it when I was much younger and probably didn’t appreciate it during my previous viewing as an adult since I hadn’t yet started writing my own novel. This movie has all sorts of elements that writers can appreciate.

I don’t necessarily think that for a novel to be good it has to follow a formula. Plot twists are great when the story needs it, but as M. Night Shamalayan has proven, they don’t always enhance the story if the story was weak to begin with.

Little Women

I guess this counts since the main character, Jo March, writes an autobiographical novel. I’m not one for using my own life as source material for my novel. I can’t see how even a fictionalization of my own life would be remotely interesting to anyone. My novel’s plot has absolutely no resemblance to my own life. I know that somewhat contradicts something I worte earlier, but let me explain. Bits and pieces maybe have been inspired by incidents or people I know, but there’s nothing autobiographical about it. In fact, the main character’s family make up bears zero resemblance to my own. I am the youngest of three kids, the main character is the oldest of two. My parents are still married, but my character’s mother is divorced from his dad, and widowed by her second husband, who is the father of his younger sister. Nothing like my family a all. It makes for an interesting problem but one that I think forces me to explore things beyond my realm of familiarity, which I feel is good for my creativity.

Finding Forrester

A true favorite movie of mine. Not only does it have a reclusive Pulitzer Prize winning author, but a young aspiring author who is taken under his wing. Who wouldn’t want such tutelage? While I can’t think of any Pulitzer winners I would love to learn from directly I’ll love the opportunity for some one-on-one writing instruction and guidance from Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, or Rex Pickett (who incidentally has given out some great writing advice on Twitter).

Sideways

Speaking of Rex Pickett… the last movie on my list os based on his novel. This may be a movie about wine, but it is also about a struggling writer hoping to see his novel picked up by a publisher. I first saw this movie about five years ago, and since read the novel it is based on, as well as the sequel (which has yet to be adapted for big screen) and is probably in my top five movies and novels.

I anticipate self-publishing my novel when it is complete, so I won’t go through the hell that Miles Raymond does as he awaits word from his agent about whether his novel will be picked up by a publisher, but at least the depiction of what the process is actually like is based on reality. It’s no secret that there are more books being written than publishing houses actually publish. Today, things have changed on that there are more opportunities for authors to bypass traditional publishing routes and self-publish—and succeed.

Five Dystopian Movies Worthy of Remakes

Classic dystopian novels and films are great candidates for fresh film adaptations. Movie remakes and reboots are more commonplace now simply because we have the the potential to do things better. Of course, sometimes that potential is wasted. Neither Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake, or the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes come even close to the original with Charlton Heston, even though the special effects in the original aren’t nearly as good. The biggest thing that kills remakes is overuse of CGI. So, I have to say that this list is done under the assumption that each remake would have to be done right… without unneccessary reliance on special effects, and remain true to the story and characters.

Logan’s Run
In a single weekend I read the novel Logan’s Run, and the 1976 film based on it. I can’t say I was thrilled with either, but the concept of the story is so good, it is begging to be redone and reimagined. A hedonistic society of the future where everyone is slated to die at 21 (or 30 in the original film) and one man, Logan, whose job it is to hunt down runners trying to evade their fate, is now running himself. There’s great potential in this story that, in my opinion is executed horribly in both the novel and the original film.

1984
This one is almost too obvious. There has been a lot of concern recently about government overreach and spying that sales of 1984 have surged. It seems like it is time for Hollywood to take another look at the quintessential dystopian novel as source material for the big screen again.

Soylent Green
As much as government overreach is a concern for many, so is global climate change and the havoc it could wreak on the population, particularly with how it will impact the food supply. Soylent Green. The concept definitely has relevance today, and the original is, in my opinion, a bit slow.

Fahrenheit 451
It’s been nearly fifty years since the original movie by French director François Truffaut, which isn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t call it memorable. The execution of the original is a tad clunky. The poor overdubs and obvious reversed sequences are too obvious. Who could create a fantastic vision of a future without books? I don’t know, but I’d love to see someone try.

Blade Runner
I’m really going out on a limb here, because I know this movie is a classic that is held in high regard by science fiction fans, and given the recent attempt to remake Total Recall (also based on a Philip K. Dick story) it may be better left untouched. Still, I contend that modern remakes have the ability to be done right and to eclipse the originals (like The Dark Knight Trilogy) so I think I can add this to my list without feeling too bad.

Five Films I Wish Were Based On Novels

Many of the best films are based on novels, in my opinion. As an aspiring novelist, I have firsthand experience with the struggles of character development. Since I’ve been writing my first novel, character development (or lack thereof) is one of the things I take note of in any film I see. Of course, there are likely many factors why character development takes the backseat to other things in a film—special effects being the most common.

While technology greatly increases the production quality of films, it also tends to leave more important aspects of the storytelling weaker.

That said, there are some films, that, in my opinion, successfully tell a good story, and have well-developed (and believable) characters—but not based on novels. Here are a few which I wish were.

Almost Famous (2000) written by Cameron Crowe
Perhaps the main reason this movie is successful in terms of character development is that it is semi-autobiographical. There are so many things that, while successfully addressed in the movie, would make great back story in a novel: William Miller’s early childhood with his overprotective mother. The conflict between his mother and sister. Perhaps the story behind his absent father. William’s developing love for rock music, and later on, the full story of Penny Lane. There is so much great stuff to get more insight into. And of course, more depth and description into the world of touring with an up-and-coming rock band.

Almost Famous, had it been a novel, would likely have been a quintessential rock novel, joining the likes of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
After I first saw this movie, I wanted to read the novel. Of course, there isn’t one. Despite the fact the movie is introduced as a reading of a novel, and several scenes are enhanced by an off-screen narrator supposedly reading from the novel the movie is based on. No such luck.

Juno (2007) written by Diablo Cody
There’s a lot of great dialogue in this movie, but one of the things I thought was lacking was insight into the relationship between the title character and Bleeker, the father of the child that drives the entire story. The relationship between Juno and her father and step-mother is also something that would be fantastic to get more insight to.

Swingers (1996) written by Jon Favreau
A high quality lad-lit novel is hard to find. Outside of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper, I haven’t found any established authors of the genre that I love enough to have read their entire bibliography. I have discovered some highly enjoyable lad-lit aside from them—don’t get me wrong—but I haven’t found many that really speak to me. I think Swingers, as a novel, would. The movie is great, and there’s a lot of different relationships that have so much more to be revealed: Mike’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend Michelle, and the events surrounding their break-up, or Mike’s relationship with Trent and the other guys, which has its good moment and rocky moments would make for great reading. There’s a lot of insight to be revealed, especially if written in the first person from Mike’s perspective.

Good Will Hunting (1997) written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Let’s face it, when you have a conflicted character like Will Hunting, you can’t help being curious to know just a genius like him ends up in and out of jail throughout his life, and taking jobs well beneath his mental abilities. Obviously, to those who have seen the movie, they know Will Hunting was an abused child and was extremely devoted to his friends, and while that is well portrayed in the movie, wouldn’t you love to know more?

Agree, or disagree with my choices? Have any of your own? Leave a comment and let me know!

I Really Like This Book Cover Design

As I work towards finishing my own novel, I have to say I can’t help thinking about details I shouldn’t be concerned with, particularly the book cover.

Anticipating that I will likely self-publish my novel, all creative designs will be in my court. So, I guess thinking about such things is okay, if it doesn’t distract me from writing. Still, I like to keep note of covers that I like, and this is one of them:

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I won’t give serious thought into my own novel’s until I’m done—or near done—but I think keeping in mind how to portray your own novel in a single image is a legitimate part of the creative writing process.

Novel Update #1

The thing is, while this may be the first update on the progress of my novel, I should say it has been a work in progress for nearly two years now. Several things have kept me from finishing it, but perhaps the most significant reason is that I don’t write full time. I have a full time job in a completely unrelated field, so time to work on the novel is limited to nights and weekends, which are often meant for family time. That said, in two years I have roughly 95,000 words, which is great, but there are a lot of gaps I need to fill in. Also, stuff I wrote a year or two years ago is constantly being rewritten or scrapped. Most of the rewrites aren’t major, but sometimes you just realize that over the course of the writing that you’ve learned more about the characters and their lives and must reassess portions of their story.

My current goal is to finish the novel by the end of 2013. From there we’ll see what the next step is. Despite lack of resources to promote the novel on my own, I am leaning towards self-publishing rather than make an attempt through traditional publishing options. There have been enough self-publishing success stories to make me think I can get a respectable number of readers if I put in the effort to do so. But, it’s too early to be thinking about that. I want to finish the book before deciding what to do.

What is the novel about? I’d like to share that, but I’ve been advised that discussing your novel before completing a first draft is not a good thing to do, but there are some things I can tell you to give you an idea as to whether or or not you think it might be something you’d consider reading. I am a fan of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper novels, and I’d say I’d consider my novel as being in the same genre.

Currently, I have not settled on a title for the novel yet. It has a working title of Not Famous, but I am no means married to that title. Unfortunately it’s an element that often distracts me from actual writing. I can spend chunks of time considering the book in its current state and wondering if there’s a more appropriate title. I need to convince myself it’s not worth worrying about at this point.

So, that’s where it is at.

Five Reasons I am Looking Forward to the Carrie Remake

When it comes to remaking classic movies, I am definitely in the camp that believes it’s best not to try to fix something that isn’t broken. All too often, remakes/reboots leave us pining for the quality and purity of the original source material. And this isn’t just a reference to Tim Burton, who can’t seem to touch a remake without destroying it (see Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Planet of the Apes). In fact, the Coen Brothers’ True Grit and Christopher Nolan’s reboot of Batman are undeniable exceptions to the rule, thus proving that sometimes we are ready for a new version of something old – as long as they are done right.

When I first learned that there would be a remake of Carrie, I was admittedly skeptical, but I believe that despite the original’s status a classic of the horror genre, that we are ready for this remake.

5. The Trailer Is Very Promising

It’s not always a good thing to judge a movie based on a trailer. Trailers are, by design, meant to get you interested in a film by highlighting the best aspects of the film. That said, the trailer for the new Carrie movie proves to me that the remake is well done, and the performances of the actors spot on. Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore fit their roles perfectly. Unlike trailers of other recent remakes/reboots, this one makes me want to see the movie even more.

4. The Story Needs Redemption

The legacy of the original Carrie was sullied by its “sequel” The Rage: Carrie 2. A horrible movie given legitimacy by Amy Irving’s reprising her role as Sue Snell, the lone survivor of the Carrie’s wrath at the prom. The sequel lacked the depth and quality of the original, with a lame build up to a virtually identical climax that wasn’t nearly as successful as the De Palma film’s.

3. Better Special Effects

Carrie’s telekinetic powers, and the extent of them, just don’t get enough airtime in the original until the movie’s climax… and they’re not great. Up until that point, there is no indication that Carrie has even mastered her ability to that extent. The current state of special effects give the remake an opportunity to examine her growing understanding of her abilities and her control of them… all while looking believable by today’s standards.

2. It’s Still Not a Special Effects Movie

Despite the fact that the special effects will be better, the story shouldn’t require them to be overused just because technologically provides the opportunity. Most of the story is a psychological thriller, building up tension to a breaking point. Aside from the more convincing displays of Carrie’s telekinetic powers, there’s really no need for CGI special effects, that are often overused to compensate for a lacking story. The story of Carrie is by no means lacking in depth and emotional conflict.

1. It’s Relevant

Carrie is an outsider. A bullied girl who wants acceptance, but is subject to bullying and ridicule by her peers. Bullying has become a fairly big issue in recent years, so the story actually has a unique relevance to the present. You will notice in the locker room scene (which you can see a clip of in the movie trailer) that Carrie’s fellow students use cell phones to capture her bloody moment of panic—a modern/current twist on the bullying.