Friday, June 6, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

How did your first novel/story come about and how long did it take to get it published?

by Paul D. Marks
 

Since I love using Beatle song titles, the path to my first fiction publication was a long and winding road.

There's really no simple or easy answer to the question of how my first story came about because it's so long ago who really remembers? I know who doesn't: me. I don't even remember what my first story was. What I do remember is that I was always writing something. I think I started off writing poems and song lyrics. One time I even wrote some lyrics in the margins of a science test. And the science teacher also happened to have a music publishing biz on the side – which I didn't know. He liked the lyrics so much he wanted to publish the song. Unfortunately, the lyrics I wrote were for the Beatles' I'm Only Sleeping.

But one of my early novels, a satire about a screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood, was almost published way back in the 80s. Almost. It was accepted for publication (if that's the right terminology) by a major publisher. But then there was a "housecleaning" at that publisher: the old team of editors and assistant editors got swept out. And the new team didn't want most of the old team's slate of projects, so I got swept out with the "new broom". So that one almost got published. But by the time it was put into "turnaround" it was too late for it as a lot of the humor was dated. Remember Fawn Hall, Jessica Hahn, Donna Rice and Gary Hart – see what I mean, dated. 'Cause even though it was about a guy trying to make it in Hollywood, it had a lot of topical and satirical humor of the day. I work on it every once in a while to remove the dated satirical elements and make it more neutral in terms of topicality. So one of these days it might see the light.

The first writing that I got paid for was a piece in one of the L.A. papers about John Lennon on, I believe, the one year anniversary of his murder. It wasn't fiction, but it felt awfully good to actually get paid for writing something. But even though it felt good to be paid, there were mixed emotions because of the subject matter.

clip_image002My first published fiction was a story called Angels Flight (before Michael Connelly borrowed the title from me clip_image004). It was published in the Murder by Thirteen anthology and recently republished in L.A. Late @ Night, a collection of five of my stories. A new review of L.A. Late @ Night in the current issue of All Due Respect calls Angels Flight the reviewer's favorite story in the collection and says this about the two main characters, "They're a dynamic pair, and I'd like to see them together in more stories," so I might just have to oblige him.

The title for Angels Flight was inspired by the famous funicular railway in downtown L.A. and my love for old Los Angeles. I think the story was inspired when they drained one of the lakes in L.A. and found all kinds of junk there. So in my story they drain Echo Park Lake, finding a dead body and the story takes off from there. And even though it was originally published in 1997, it's still one of my favorites. I think it's (hopefully) surprise ending brings to mind Shakespeare's quote, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

After Angels Flight, I had more stories published and eventually my novel White Heat. And all I can do to end is quote another rock band, the Grateful Dead, "What a long strange trip it's been."

6 comments:

Catriona McPherson said...

Your life is possibly just a squeak cooler than mine, Paul. Even your teachers were cool. Great post.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Catriona. But my teachers weren't all that cool....

Susan C Shea said...

Loved your story and that you survived the editorial purge, even if your first novel didn't / hasn't yet. And that photo! A friend of mine wrote a novel (not published yet) about the nasty fight to shot down LA's red streetcars in the 40s. That photo brings it to life. Thanks for a good post.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Susan. The ups and downs of the publishing biz. I guess we all have our war stories. And your friend's novel about the red cars sounds like a good idea.

GBPool said...

You write a Los Angeles Noir style that is both riveting and dark, but you add that touch of soul that makes it alive. Great work, my friend.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, Gayle. I appreciate the kind words!