Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Secret Screenplay Life

By Kelli

So what book would I tinker with and why? This was a tough question, 'cause the things I like to read I like to read because I wouldn't tinker with 'em. And I don't like collaboration, so I'm usually content to let stuff alone, on my shelf, take it or leave it. As is.

However ... I suddenly remembered that I've actually done it. Tinker, I mean. Here's the skinny ...

In one of my previous lives (I'm not going all Shirley MacLaine here, I've just done a lot of different things) I wrote screenplays.

N.B. I was also running a comic book store at the time, which I owned with my family. I'll save stories from that episode for another time, though Josh has already heard a few at a Thrillerfest party ...

Anyway, back to the ranch. I decided to try my hand at screenplays. Everyone was doing it in the early '90s, it seemed, so why not? I'd been a film major for a brief period. One of my early goals when I graduated high school was to film a remake of We, the Living (Ayn Rand novel that still begs for a good film adaptation). I visualize scenes like a director, down to pans, tilts, jump cuts and fades.

So first I wrote an original screenplay to get the hang of it. What would be called a "woman's picture", complete with mystery/thriller elements, but essentially a story about female bonding across ages and cultures. With that, I was able to get representation in LA, and the script got all the way to ICM and Ed Limato and the production company of a top actress. But then it kind of fizzled, and my agent just kept telling me to write and wasn't actually sending it anywhere ...

So I wrote another one. Now, this one was an adaptation of a book and a movie from the '40s. A book I'd read as a kid and that had haunted me for years. It dealt with time-travel and lost loves and art. It would be classified these days as an urban fantasy or romantic fantasy. And no, I'm not going to tell you which one it is because I'm highly superstitious and I'm still nursing a secret hope that someday my adaptation of this book will see a green light.

Hopefully it won't be a green light at the end of dark tunnel, but you get the idea.

The book captured a certain wistful, romantic quality that I'd loved since I was eleven years old. However, the moral tone was decidedly Victorian, and the ending just didn't cut the mustard (Victorian morals usually lead to less-than-satisfying endings). So I borrowed the elements I loved, and rewrote and reconceptualized and essentially updated the entire story (adding new characters, changing the plot, etc.) until I was happy with it.

I'm proud of this script. It would make a hell of a movie. I had a connection at TriStar, but it didn't get further than a production meeting. My agent, I'd come to realize, wasn't doing much agenting. And I'd also come to realize that unless you're willing to move to LA and devote your life to slipping scripts inside parked cars, it's damn hard to get one read.

So ... after writing one more original romantic comedy--called "Sax and Violins" that's based on Romeo and Juliet--and part of another adaptation of a classic, I decided to leave behind the oh, so glamorous world of screenplay writing behind, and go back to college to get my MA. And that led to my first novel, which did see the light of day and the green light of publication.

Screenwriting was fun. Great practice for honing dialog, too. And my tinkering? Well, like I said ... I'm superstitious. And I'm hoping, one day, to get that script out there again. In the meantime--if you want to know the name of the book--I'll tell all at the Bouchercon bar. ;)

AND NOW--congratulations to our own Rebecca Cantrell (aka Bekka Black!!) iDRAK launches today on istuff everywhere!!! Sink your teeth into it!!


Jenna said...

Wow, Kel... Never realized I was missing this by not making it to Bouchercon. So you weren't just acting, you were writing too. Ve-e-e-ry impressive! xoxo

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, sweetheart!! Not really impressive, though--just a lot of dreaming! :) The acting was through the early years of college ... though I can say I was in a play designed by a Tony-winning set designer, which is kind of cool. :)


Camille Minichino said...

You are even more versatile than I thought, Kelli! Are you by any chance a Gemini??

Kelli Stanley said...

Why yes, fellow twin--although people keep insisting our versatility is mere fickleness, WE know it's not! ;)

Thanks, Camille!!


Rebecca Cantrell said...

One of these days, Kelli, your work will be on the silver screen. And I'll see it opening weekend and hiss to everyone who can hear "I KNOW her." So, if you want to have a good viewing experience, best avoid my theater. :)

Thanks for the shout out, but IDRAK isn't really out today. It's in the queue at Apple and will be out Any Day Now. Any Day. No, I'm not anxious. Not at all.

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, Becks, and please keep those dreams coming! :) Though of course I'm terrified of winding up delusional (if I'm not there already) like some sort of Norma Desmond in a hat.

Too much noir, I think ...

And sorry for the mix-up!! I thought it was launching today--be sure to let us know when so we can sing about it on Twitter!

Graham Brown said...

Hey Kelli - I love that you have a few screenplays out there - what about one for a certain Noir novel called City of Dragons???

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, G-Man!! :)

I'd love to write a script, but who has time? ;) I've got a great film management company repping my books though, so maybe one day. :)

I think Spielberg should jump at your series, and I'm already envisioning the opening scene!!



Gabi said...

How come Josh gets stories we haven't heard? He's offered you bribes, hasn't he?

Kelli Stanley said...

Gabs, sweetie, I'm afraid it was the open bar and all the extra drink tickets that somehow wound up with me ... ;)