Last year I pitched the idea of editing and contributing to a collection of short, non-fiction stories about the author’s experience dealing with Hollywood. Featuring twenty-five authors including Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles), T. Jefferson Parker, Lee Goldberg (Monk series), Andrew Kaplan (Homeland), Peter James, Colby Buzzell, James Brown and more, including excerpts from Charles Bukowski’s novel “Hollywood,” Hollywood Versus the Author tells the tales of the love/hate relationship between literature and the silver screen.
Here’s the pitch:
It’s no secret that authors have a love-hate relationship with Hollywood. The old adage that “the book was better than the movie” holds true for more reasons than the average reader will ever know. When asked about selling their book rights to Hollywood authors like to joke that they drive their manuscripts to the border of Arizona and California and toss them over the fence, driving back the way they came at breakneck speed. This is probably because Hollywood just doesn’t “get it.” Its vision for the film or TV series rarely seems to match the vision of the author. And for those poor bastards who’ve had the misfortune of sitting across the desk from one of the myriad, interchangeable development execs praising the brilliance of their work while ticking off a never-ending list of notes for the rewrite, the pros of pitching their work to Hollywood never outweigh the cons.
I’ve sat on both sides of that desk—first as a development executive for film director Wolfgang Petersen, then as a screenwriter and author pitching my work to the film and television industry. I’ve seen all sides of what is known in this small community as “Development Hell.” The process is both amusing and heartbreaking. Most authors whose work contains a modicum of commercial potential eventually find themselves in “the room” taking a shot at seeing their creations re-visualized by agents, producers or development executives. What they often discover is that their audience is younger and less worldly as themselves. They discover that what passes for “story notes” sounds a lot like the whimsical outbursts of patients in mental institutions, or, at best, the disjointed narratives of half-awake dreams.
Hollywood Versus the Author is a collection of non-fiction anecdotes by authors who’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the development room firsthand—some who have successfully managed to straddle the two worlds, seeing their works morph into the kinds of feature films and TV shows that make them proud, and some who stepped blindsided into that room after selling their first or second books. All the stories in this collection illustrate the great divide between the world of literature and the big or small screen. They underscore the insanity of every crazy thing you’ve ever heard about Hollywood. For insiders and outsiders alike, Hollywood Versus the Author delivers the goods on why people who care about what they write love to hate the people who use their ideas to fuel the Hollywood dream machine.