The standard complaint is that writing is a lonely trade. You sit by yourself all day with only your thoughts and a computer for company. Yet, truth is, I find I like this solitary way of life. To me it's a real blessing to be able to escape into this rich isolation and to fend for myself. Sure, there are, I must admit, some days when it's all a bit of a struggle. But mostly I find myself hunkering down and loving it.
What does give me the willies, though, is the grim thought that no one is going to care about the words I've been typing. I mean, suppose you told a story and no one wanted to listen? I guess that's the definition of a bore: someone who goes on and on and no one wants to hear it. And that's always my big fear — that no one will want to hear what I have to say. I worry that I'm simply spending my days talking to myself. And writing a 400 or so page book is a lot of talking.
So, that's why, when the call came from my agent in Los Angeles that there were several studios and producers interested in making my still unpublished book into a movie, I was pretty excited. I mean, at the very least it meant that someone found what I was writing sorta cool. Or at least engaging enough to want to hire a screenwriter, director, and actors and turn the whole thing into "a major motion picture." The whole thing was very gratifying. I'd sat in a room for three years, and now someone liked what I'd done enough to want to write a big check to get the movie produced and into theaters (and, no less relevant, write a check to me that would help make a dent in the 3 college tuitions I need to cover).
Of course, the movie now is in that controlled, rather detached state of Hollywood life that's called "development." The journey to the screen stretches ahead, and there's no telling how long the road will be — or if it will end in a dead end.
Still, when I was out at the 20th Century Fox Studios a few weeks ago and met with the executives and producers who are shepherding my book, I couldn't help but feel I had already pulled off some sort of (minor) triumph. I mean, there we were five of us, and we were talking seriously (or at least it seemed that way to gullible me) about which bold-named star would be right to play the characters in my book. Back and forth we went debating who should be Charlie Siringo, the cowboy detective, or who should be Soapy Smith, the underworld kingpin in the far north. I gotta tell you, this was heady stuff.
Now I've returned from warm and sunny California to a springtime Connecticut that still feels as gray and nearly as cold as any winter. But like a treasured vacation photo, the memory of my LA trip remains strong. These days I spend a good deal of time fantasizing about the movie The Floor of Heaven could become, about the director they should hire, about the narrative changes I'd make to transform my book into a story that would unfold with excitement over two hours on the screen. I even think about the soundtrack (the Felice Brothers and Mumford and Sons — they got the hurdy-gurdy feel for a gold rush movie). It sure is a lot of fun thinking about all this sort of stuff. And it's certainly easier than sitting down at my desk and writing something new.
I just hope I ain't going to be disappointed.