Writing the actor|
When I was in graduate school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing, I wrote a short story in which the main character was a supermodel. It didn't go over well during my workshop critique session. I hadn't thought it would. In that program, the kind of story written and appreciated was about the common person, the small event, the slice-of-life vignette. No genres besides "literary fiction" were smiled upon. I remember talking about my story with my professor afterwards, explaining why I'd wanted to write it, and he said (reluctantly, it seemed to me), "Okay, you can write a story about a model, but supermodel?"
I guess I'm not satisfied with the mundane. I think, Hey, if you can write a story about a model, why not make her a supermodel? Why have a character who is a princess when you can have a character who's a princess who can talk with the wind? Why have a character who can talk with the wind when you can have one who can set people on fire? In improv comedy, this is called raising the stakes. In my mind, it makes for a ripping good tale. One reader who read an early version of this book said, "Couldn't he just be a successful businessman?" But why have a character who's attractive and rich when you can also make him an actor? A famous actor? A wealthy, hot, A-list British actor?
My six books for young adults are all fantasy. I consider myself a fantasy writer. Although my two books for adults would be classified as contemporary realistic fiction, I still think of them as fantasy. The job of fantasy is to blow up what is real so we see it more clearly, in technicolor with all its charms and dangers. The events of austenland aren't really possible. Neither is the premise of the actor and the housewife (says who?!). But reading a book like this helps me see more clearly my own daydreams, my own fascinations with celebrity or fictional characters or romantic ideas. Though not fantasy, for me it still does the job of fantasy.
As well, Felix had to be who he was because Becky was so far on the other side of the continuum. They were opposites in so many ways--religious and political views, gender, family situation, finances, nationalities. That's what made it fun for me. That's what enabled me to ask a lot of questions in the story that fascinated me.
I do have some acting experience. I grew up taking drama classes and performing in community and school theater. This was my own passion--none of my family or non-theater friends had any interest in drama. In college, a friend formed a group of us into an improv comedy troupe, an incredibly challenging but fascinating exercise. I was in an Equity (professional theater) production of Romeo and Juliet (I was ensemble). My favorite play I've done was Noises Off! at a community theater in Missoula, Montana. Comedies are my favorite, and Noises Off! is the queen of comedies. (I played Poppy.) Before I was married and had kids, I did do some film work--extremely minor roles and extra stuff in industrial films, local commercials, made-for-TV movies, locally filmed series like Touched by an Angel. Really minor. Mostly just background, some stand-in, a couple of featured roles. But I had a film agent, so I did the auditioning thing and spent many hours on movie sets and glimpsed a bit of that world. And I'm so relieved to be out of it. Ick. Auditions, the stress of the set, all of it, requires a young person's nerve and energy, and I became too old for it all at age twenty-five.
So, no, I don't have the experience to write about an A-list actor. I did some research and made up the rest. Which was also fun. But I'm no authority, so this book should be read as fiction. As should every Hollywood movie featuring a writer character. Seriously, the way they portray writers is ludicrous. But I guess that's the prerogative of the storyteller--to entertain, and tweak the truth to fit the story. I hope I've done so in the best way possible.
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