Friday, January 4, 2013

My Next "Big Thing"

Esteemed author, philosopher and literary outlaw Dennis Fleming (see photo) invited me to join in on this remarkable concept for authors. If you want to see how he writes, what he writes, you can find out

Enough backstory. Here's what I have been writing or at least trying to.

First, I have a new play that opens on Friday, Jan. 11, and runs for 2 weekends. It's produced by First Run Theatre. Performances are Fridays 1/11 and 1/18 at 8 pm; Saturdays 1/12 and 1/19 at 8 pm; and Sundays 1/13 and 1/20 at 2 pm. It's a one-act, and I am blown away by what the director Donna Nelson and the cast have brought to my words. The title is "Open Sundays, All Makes Repaired," and it's paired with another one-act, "The Predicament." The theater is at DeSmet High School on Ballas Road.  Here's a link: First Run Theatre

Second, my novel, which was published two years ago, still finds readers and has introduced me to a legion of Charlie Chaplin fans. The title is "Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin," and it takes place in Hollywood, today and during the 1930's. And, yes, Charlie is in it. I have been fascinated by his life and films for many years, so writing the novel was really an act of passion. But then I guess all writing is based on that, isn't it? Here's a link to that. 

Onward to the 10 Questions:

1) What is the title of your new book?

The working title is "The Eulogy Club." It may well be the final title, because I like that combination of words and the curiosity it creates.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

A combination of two events: 1) I attended a memorial service for a friend; 
2) I had lunch with three long-time friends a week later. At lunch we talked about the same stuff we've talked about for years: politics, food, travel, health, movies. After lunch I decided to drive through Forest Park, it being a soft, magical spring day. I stopped by one of the fountains, got out and began to wander around. My friend who had died loved to bike ride in the park. I thought about him, and the feelings that were expressed at his service, words he never heard. I thought about my lunch, about feelings that were never expressed. That's when the idea hit me. Not as a book at first, but as something to do with my friends. A get-together where we would tell each other what usually is said only after death. That quickly morphed into an idea for a novel. The title was right in front of me. "The Eulogy Club." I started making notes that night.

3) What genre does the book fall under?

I've never been much good at genres. Probably nothing more than a novel. Dramatic. Touching. Humorous. Tragic? I don't know yet. Instructive? I don't know yet. Let's just say Fiction for Adults (but not Adult Fiction, because that sounds like one step removed from Porno.)

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It's too soon to say. The characters have not been fully fleshed out yet. If I want the movie to be a big hit, I'd cast George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Sean Penn and Christopher Walken. The characters are in their early 60's, which seems a good time to speak of death and treasure friendship. So a quick pick would include DeNiro, Walken, Jeff Bridges, Dustin Hoffman. 

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Sometimes the things we think we should say to someone while they're still around shouldn't be said at all.

6) Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

Of course I'd rather have an agency involved, but that takes such a long time and so much work, and I don't have enough time or energy to wait around for that. So probably self-publish. But that's a long way away. First I have to write it. 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

No comment. I'm planning by the end of 2013. My novel, "Shadow and Substance," took three years to write the first draft. I was working full time in the creative department of an ad agency and struggled to find the time and energy to keep writing on the novel. It actually spent more time on the shelf than in creation. 

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

No titles come to mind. Any novel that explores friendship in all its permutations, the sense of time running out, the fear of being vulnerable, the advantages and drawbacks of honesty. Sounds like a Russian novel to me.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 Early on, I bounced the idea off a couple of literary friends. Their reactions were identical: "Wow." Then I read 3 or 4 pages, possibly the opening of the novel, at a St. Louis Writers Guild open mic night last year. Highly positive reaction. Further inspiration comes from a small business I have. It's called The Life Preserver. I make video biographies of people, usually for their kids or grandkids. It's a legacy kind of thing. Older people have this need to say things that they omitted in previous years. Important things that usually fall into the category of "they already know how I feel about them." Which is why I frequently ask, "Did you ever tell your kids you love them?" And the final statement: "What else would you like to say?" 

10) What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I've thought about an Author's Note to the effect - How to say the things you should say to a friend and still keep them as a friend. Something like that. But I don't see the book being a "how to" book. It's just possible that things will go awry in the novel, friendships will be damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Maybe I'll write a blog about Friendship and Eulogies and Memorial Services for the Living. Or maybe I'll have a priest, a minister and a rabbi write testimonials. Which leads to, "A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender says 'What's that book you have there.?' The priest says, 'It will introduce you to Jesus.' The minister says, 'It will give you eternal peace.' The rabbi says, 'It costs only seven dollars, plus shipping.'" Something like that.

Now about the 5 Writers I'm Tagging:

1) Jean Whatley. Remarkable with words, powerful means of expression, highly personal observations, a delight to read. She has just had her first book published, a memoir of the road. It's called "Off the Leash." Here's a link to her blog:

2) Peter Green. Knowledgeable author about World War II, crime, and other compelling subjects.

3) T.W.Fendley. Award-winning sci-fi author who specializes historical fantasy. Here's her intriguing website.

4) Linda O'Connell. She must be published in just every publication out there, has won numerous awards, has a lock on human-interest stories, and a marvelous sense of humor.

5) Dwight Bitikofer. A highly original poet who works well in a jazz environment. Winner of awards; several summers at U. of Iowa. Here's his Facebook page. Dwight the Poet


  1. Gerry--Your book "The Eulogy Club" sounds like a marvelous one. I have just begun a novel about a critique group--I am in a group with Linda O'Connell--but in my book, her name is "Laura." (The guilty must be protected. ;)

    You are right about her giftedness when it comes to human interest stories. You are wrong about her being published in just about every publication that exists...In some of them, she has MULTIPLE stories included in them.

    She is also a hoot. In fact, the four women who are in my group are fabulous. Not a dud in the bunch. They are all hilarious as well as talented.

    I agree with you about Jean Whatley. I was at the Humane Society reading, and saw you, but didn't know it was you until I saw you get into your car (and saw your license plate). I didn't want to appear to be a stalker, so I didn't shout out, "Hey, I know you from your blog." (It took a great deal of restraint, which I have little of.)

    Good luck with your book.

  2. You are always welcome to call out to me, "Hey, Hoser." Loved your comment. Now if I can summon up the discipliner to write the book. And don't apologize for lack of restraint. On you it looks good.