My interview with crime novelist Dennis Tafoya ran over last week, so here’s the second part. Enjoy!
You’ve garnered some interest in Hollywood, what’s that experience been like?
I have a great film agent and she sold the film rights to both the “Dope Thief” and “Wolves of Fairmount Park”. I was going to be in LA, and she set up meetings with people…it was lot of fun, really energizing. I spoke with a lot of smart, interesting people. I know the film world can be famously frustrating, and it’s not that I don’t understand those frustrations. I was lucky and met some really cool people, people who were involved in the Dope Thief and involved in Wolves. And some people I was in touch with that were really interested and looking for good content.
That’s the good news for us. It’s kind of the day of the author. There’s people in Hollywood who are looking for material that comes from novels. You look at True Detective from Nic Pizzolatto. Nic made his name from a great novel called “Galveston.” He has a novelist sensibility. They’re hungry for content and more open to talking to folks like us, more than before maybe
It’s been a long process and basically stuck in that world…”Development Hell” they call it. There’s a guy, a great guy and cool writer who has become a friend and who has been working on the script for Wolves for a while. It’s very difficult to be in a position where you’re trying to adapt somebody’s work to bring a screenplay and have to attract an actor or attract a director who can bring the financing to get that stuff made. It’s a world I’m really only starting to learn. I have a lot of respect for those folks. It’s not easy.
In The Wolves of Fairmount Park, you tell the story from several completely different perspectives; how do you manage to slip into the different characters?
Actually, that is kind of easy for me, frankly. I feel like I reach a breaking point at one point, where I’m writing through with one voice that I feel like it’s the time to change it up because I want to know what the people in that situation are thinking and doing.
Some of the stuff I really love, like James Lee Burke, he has this great novel set in Texas, not far from the Mexican border, there’s a sheriff. They’re these great books, there’s these very compelling characters and he introduces these characters and the natural thing is to want to know what they think and how are they experiencing the same things from that other point of view. So for me, it seems like a very natural thing to drop one….and pick up another. It breaks things up for the reader. As long as those voices are distinct, that’s the challenge and the opportunity. I’ve been lucky in being able to see how these other characters might be in the world. I enjoy it and I think it’s kind of a natural feeling to want to do that.
How important are writers groups to a new writer?
I think two things about that
In terms of the process, everybody is different. I wrote with some writing groups, and then I ended up with a developmental editor. I think everyone’s process is going to be different. The way in which you use a group is going to differ from person to person. How much you lean on the help that you get there, the reactions, the criticism that you get there. That’s a very individual experience.
I know some fantastic writing groups, and I know people who are best selling authors who work with writing groups. Chuck Palahniuk and Chelsea Cain…I’ve never met Chuck Palahniuk, but I’ve met Chelsea and she’s talked about how she’s in a writing group with (him)…that tells you something. If folks who are writing at that level are using that vehicle, it clearly offer a lot to a lot of people. It’s about personal chemistry, you have to find people who are on your page and help you fill in critical but not harsh feedback.
The other thing I would say about this, aside for the mechanics of writing, the society of writers is vital. To me it’s been the best part of the writing experience has been in getting to know other writers. To ask them questions, do they go through the same things I go, about agents and editors and the process and getting stuck and getting unstuck and all that stuff that brings on the language and experiences that writers understand best. Whether or not you work with the writing group…to me, I find it indispensible to find friends.