After the unmitigated triumph of my novel STRANGLERS IN THE NIGHT some twenty plus years ago, I strode purposefully forward in my Bali Manic shoes and Chanel suit, inhaling the sweet smell (No.5) of success, sipping champagne en route to a glittering literary future. And then the cookie crumbled, as they say…
The head Judge in the competition which led to my book’s meteoric rise, was foolhardy enough to admit having bribed the other judge as he was hopelessly in love with me… Sales ceased, interest flagged, and talk of a film was out the window. I was totally flabbergasted and cast down; as was the overweight, aged Judge who managed to bankrupt himself. A deep abyss yawned before both of us. I was vaguely flattered, but how could he have done such a thing?!
If you believe that, you’ll believe anything! I don’t even know where it came from… Do us writers EVER know? There must be some mysterious conduit into our psyches. Who cares, as long as it happens and continues.
Now the semi-true bit…
I woke up at 4.30 am thinking about characterization, but obviously, lines were somehow crossed.
Having worked hard on a collection of short stories, I had five in the bag. All eclectic and a bit zany. One was titled TAKING TIME & OTHER THINGS (confessions of a kleptomaniac), another HARD FEELINGS (the intimate memoir of a concrete manufacturer). The sixth was proving a problem. I tapped my teeth with a pen, as writers do, and realised it was just limping along, (the story that is)…Why? That trusty light bulb then pinged on. Of course, it was my antagonist!. He had as much menace as a new-born baby. Totally unsuitable. There lay a teaser…What to do? I’d interviewed a few ‘baddies’ before he arrived and begged me for the role. In a weak moment, being a soft touch, I said yes. He was in my office awaiting further instructions and I felt deep dismay at what I was about to do. But it had to be done.
Morning, Kevin, I said. You okay? How’s your mother’s leg now?
Mornin;’ better. He replied, looking crestfallen as if anticipating the worst, took a pristine hanky from a pocket and blew his nose. Loudly. He then drew himself up to his full five two height, sniffed and said:
You’re gonna fire me, aren’t you?
Was that a tear in the corner of his pale blue eye?
Fuck it! he said, mildly shocking me. He never swore… and continued…
I’ve played the role of Tiny Tim on the stage … been someone’s cowardly younger brother and died of tuberculosis in a film, but I’ve never been a hero or a villain. Thanks for nothing! And he marched out of the room, missing my pathetic Sorry, Kev!
There were two more hopeful candidates sitting outside my office, I invited the ugliest one in. He was chewing gum.
Morning! Please take a seat. Name?
Any acting experience?
Yep, was in HOW RED WAS MY VALLEY and VAMPIRE LEADER, he told me, still chewing.
I took in his shifty, dark eyes, his tall, rangy, but wiry build, and his cauliflower ear and quickly said:
Ciao for now.
Reblogged this on Elisabeth Marrion.
A great story!! I love Willem Dafoe, glad you hired him.
Great fun, a good laugh – but so true!!!
Fan tabulous story telling Joy…more more more please!
Many thanks for encouraging comments!
Terrific post Joy and I love Willem.. my favourite film was The Pavillion of Women set in China.. amazing.. xxx
Muchas gracias, Sally. I have my mad moments…xxx
Brilliant read to start the day.
One of my favorite exercises is interviewing characters. Love the post.
Thank you Sue and Jean. Appreciated. xx
Love this, Joy. Inspiration does come from everywhere, doesn’t it? Sometimes I think the cast of characters in our heads are every bit as fascinating as those we manage to get on the page.