When I was a kid my parents were very strict about what movies my siblings and I were allowed to watch. I can still hear the arguments me and my dad would have standing in the aisle of the local video store. We lived in a small town and I can only imagine how my dad felt knowing that his friends, parishioners, and neighbors were listening to him debate with his son about why he couldn't rent Critters 2 or Silent Night, Deadly Night or Action Jackson.
I remember standing for what seemed like hours in the horror section of the video store trying to imagine what these movies I would never be allowed to see were about.
The peculiar thing about my dad, for as conservative and repressive as he was about the films I was allowed to see, he never once stopped me from reading a book. (Not entirely true, he didn't want me to read John Updike books. Because of there sexual nature. A particular stain on my father's bookshelf was Updike's Couples which he believed was an abomination. Which was ironic since he owned it. However, my dad grew up in the town where Updike wrote the majority of his most enduring books. Updike was a local legend and he bought all his early works because, I believe, it made him feel famous by proxy.) For the most part, my dad never intruded into my world of reading. My shelves were dotted with Stephen King and a host of lesser '70s and 80s horror writers. Many of the books were bought for a quarter at library book sales or yard sales.
As much as I loved B-horror books and best selling thrillers, I was a sucker for novelizations. Often this was the only way I was able to find out what existed beyond the posters of the films my dad wouldn't allow me to watch.
I still remember the summer the boy scout troop went to Lone Wolf McQuade. I spent an entire week breaking my father down. We argued every time we were in the car together. I cornered him after work. I ambushed him at breakfast when all he wanted was five minutes to drink a cup of coffee and scan the morning headlines. I was unrelenting. I still recall, the basic premise of my argument was that I didn't want to be a boy scout anyway. My mother forced my brother and me into it. (And I could go down a dark path if I say much more about boy scouts here. The kind of path that is scarier than any horror movie the minds of Hollywood and the underground cinema's of New York can ever think up.) And the movie day was a bonus for all the kids who reached 1st Class and above. So I thought given that I put in the work for my badge, even though I didn't want to be in scouts at all, I should at least reap the benefit of going to see a Chuck Norris movie.
But my dad never stopped me from reading movie novelizations books. I still remember Flatliners, Jaws, The Revenge, and Adventures in Babysitting. I was much less likely to find these types of books at library sales and yard sales. So they were actually kind of a big ticket item. I would find them at the bookstore in the mall or occasionally on a spinning rack at the pharmacy.
One of my favorite scenes in any movie is the scene from Annie Hall when Woody Allen's character criticizes Annie for writing the novelization of a new movie. He tells her the work is beneath her. That she is too smart for it. Although several scenes later he sets her up as the dim foil in a larger joke about existential philosophy and comedy. So who is beneath what is still a matter of varying degrees.
When I was about eighteen years old, writing short stories, and dreaming about being a writer, I couldn't imagine any job better than writing novelizations of movies. First and foremost, I loved movies. My sophomore years of college I moved back to New England from California and I was not happy about it. So instead of drowning myself in booze, which most college kids did, I drowned myself in movies. I would go to the theater after my last class and I would stay there until eleven o'clock or midnight. I would see two or three movies in a row. I didn't care what they were. I just wanted to exist entirely in a darkened movie theater. And if I could have found a small publishing house that would pay me pennies a word to write novelizations of the movies I watch from 1994-1995 I could have paid my student loans back twice as fast.
However, novelizations were a product of a time before video stores and multiscreen cineplexes. They filled a need that was born of the single run movie house. Whole swathes of the country didn't ever receive certain movies in the 1970s and 1980s. So a pulpy press in New York would have a contract writer pen the most popular movies that weren't already based on a book into a 200-page manuscript and they would sell them throughout the country. But I would still take the job in a heartbeat.
Over the years, I have thought about these novelizations. In fact, when I started writing all I wanted to do was write short stories and novels. However, no one would ever publish anything I wrote. I have stacks of rejection letters in my office. Sometime around 2007, I met some producers in Los Angeles who like my writing and wanted to develop my stories into a movie. That never happened. But I did pen my first screenplay that year. For the first time in my writing life, I wasn't rejected. Actually, I got offers of representation. I sat in meetings where people told me how much they loved my work. I got hired to write on other projects. The tide suddenly turned. And for about seven years I wrote almost exclusively for the screen big and small. I put my novel writing dreams on the shelf--so to speak. And honestly, I love the craft of screenwriting. Between 2014 and 2015, my wife and I made a dramatic decision. We had two children and we didn't want to put them in school in New Mexico. So we packed the car and moved back to New England. When we arrived I didn't realize how much I was actually giving up when I left. I believed the world was online. I could still work from Boston the same as New Mexico. But I quickly found when you are out of sight of your contacts, you are also out of mind. And all the work dried up. Also, I couldn't find a job in Boston that would pay the extream cost of living jump.
So, I began digging through all my filing cabinets of projects that never got off the ground. I found the screenplay for SACRIFICE. I knew it was a good story. I had been given a lot of compliments on it over the years. Pretty much everyone who ever read it liked it. So I thought I will turn it into a novel. And I did. Then it got published.
Fast forward another year and a half, and we are right here today. And I have been thinking about how my dream of novelization writing has been half-realized. Now I am going to take it the second half.
Last month, I was in Los Angeles for the premiere of my latest movie--At Your Own Risk. I am extremely excited for that movie to open. I think it is one of the better things I have written. The premiere was sold out, and a lot of people spoke very highly of it.
While I was in LA, discussions began on the next film. It is tentatively called NIGHT TERRORS. I am hard at work on it as we speak. However, I have decided to try an experiment. I am writing NIGHT TERRORS as both a book and a screenplay simultaneously. I intend to publish the book before Halloween and I believe the film will start shooting sometime later this year.
What I am really excited about, I have several of these ideas cooking. I began talking about this new project with my old screenwriting partner. The two of us had been batting around a couple ideas over the last few years, and we decided to jump in head first. So after NIGHT TERRORS he and I will collaborate on two additional screenplay/novels. They will both be horror/psychological thrillers. One is about two people who roam an unnamed city trying to find a video cassette that their friend possessed just before he died. The idea came out of us talking about how much we missed the old days before streaming when you had to seek out cult movies. We started talking about all the night we became obsessed with finding a certain movie to watch and we would drive for hours all over the city checking every rental and retail location in a desperate search for some obscure horror movie. Those adventures are lost today because everything is at the touch of a button on Shudder, Filmstruck, ITunes, AmazonPrime, etc. (I'm quite certain that much of those adventures were just excuses for us to roam around trying to break a new story. We would drive and talk through whatever screenplay we were stuck on and often by the next morning we would have solved the problem.) So we started to wonder what if someone we knew died and they had a video with something on it we needed to get back or something we didn't want anyone else to see. The movie/book will be in the spirit of AFTER HOURS, MYSTERY DATE, or THE MUSTACHE. (By the way, if you have never seen the movie THE MUSTACHE, stop everything and go find it. It is amazing.)
I don't know if the world needs or wants a new series of novelizations that will be published before their companion movies, but I am excited to experiment with this idea.