I decided I wanted to become a writer when I saw Richard Nixon resign the presidency on television. I was five. I was absolutely stunned when the BeowulfParents explained to me that someone else had written the words the president was saying and that they got paid for it. I thought it was the coolest job I could ever have, so I decided to start early.
I was convinced that I would be a bestselling author by the time I was 15. Clearly, I had to start working right away. Here, in roughly chronological order, are the unholy messes that I managed to churn out in the many years that followed before I was actually published.
The Ida Scripts:
The Ida Scripts were a series of vignettes about an eight year old girl (since I was also eight and I had no concept of writing characters that weren’t me) named Ida, and her two best friends, Iris and Ivy (do you notice a trend?) The scenes were only one or two pages long and consisted of adventures such as “Ida Goes To The Store,” “Ida Does Her Homework,” and “Ida Watches TV.”
For some demented reason, I asked my third grade teacher (who hated—absolutely hated—me) if I could perform The Ida Scripts in class. She said no, which made BeowulfMom pay a visit to the school to chew out the teacher for “curtailing my creative outlet.” The teacher finally gave in.
BeowulfMom’s big mistake was that she didn’t ever actually read The Ida Scripts, and had no idea that the scene I decided to perform for the class was a morbid little number called “Ida Goes To The Morgue.”
I recruited six of my classmates to play dead bodies and two other brave souls to play Iris and Ivy. I, of course, played Ida (no fool, I). Halfway through the production of “Ida Goes To The Morgue,” two little girls began screaming in terror and the performance was cut short. After that, I wisely shelved The Ida Scripts and decided to write my first novel.
My Father, The Ghostbreaker:
I want to make it clear that I had this idea years before Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis did. My Father The Ghostbreaker revolved around the life of 12 year-old Marcia Cameron, whose father, an unassuming lawyer, takes up the hobby of ghostbreaking. Ghostbreaking, for the uninitiated, is the “science” of getting rid of ghosts using machinery.
The machinery in question was called, respectively, “the graph” (I still don’t know what it actually did), “the Vistaroid” (it gave out some kind of “spectral reading”) and a lot of other old-time computer-like things with switches and dials.
The Camerons lived in Los Angeles, and you’d be surprised how many ghosts there were there. I like to think that if it weren’t for Marcia’s crusading, vigilant dad, the entire town might have become a Hellmouth. Kind of like Chicago would be if it weren’t for Karl Kolchak.
I spent so much time writing and re-writing My Father The Ghostbreaker that eventually the movie Ghostbusters came out, and I spent a lot of time being furious. To this day I think they owe me.
Meredith Blackwell, Child Spy:
I was fascinated with spy movies as a child, largely because of my unrequited crush on Roger Moore (I was 12, he was 56—it wouldn’t have worked out). The plot of this novel concerned a high school freshman named Meredith Blackwell, whose world is turned upside down when the F.B.I. discovers drugs (gasp!) planted in her locker.
Somehow (and this was never made clear), Meredith ended up working for the F.B.I. to help them catch a kidnapper. Meredith masquerades as an “international ballet star” named Charlotte LaTruse (yuccchhhh) and the F.B.I. trains her as a “junior agent.”
The problem was, despite many hours of television, I had no idea how the F.B.I. actually worked. I therefore saw no problem with the ending, when Meredith actually gets kidnapped and manages to overpower the kidnapper with a bottle of Percodan. (You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.)
Years later, I had an actual F.B.I. agent read the draft and he laughed so hard I think he got a hernia.
Once A Spy:
Clearly not having learned anything from my Meredith Blackwell debacle, I launched a second spy novel featuring an agent named Travis Macy. Who Travis actually worked for remained vague, but it was some part of “the government.” Travis, who was really only a watered-down Sam Spade, was teamed with a female agent from a different agency who has the distinction of having by far the weirdest name I’ve ever come up with: Magnolia Symmetry.
Travis and Magnolia’s “mission” was to find out which country was stealing America’s nuclear warheads. Because I was (and still am) incredibly lazy about research, I conveniently glossed over all the technical parts (like the actual mission) and instead wrote scene after scene of Travis and Magnolia getting trapped in strange places in foreign countries. When last seen, they were in Nassau, in the middle of a monsoon.
Stacks Of Stock:
This one is so stupid it barely deserves an entry. It was about a young girl (again) becoming fascinated with the stock market and investing her life savings (seventy-two dollars!!) in the market. Not surprisingly, she got incredibly rich and it spawned a hideous sequel called The Millionaire Of Wall Street.
Once again, I realized about halfway in that I really had no concept of the real stock market and I ended up actually showing the manuscript to a real stockbroker. He was kind enough not to laugh at a 13 year-old girl, but he did advise me to “save my money” in case I was thinking of investing in real life.
The Last Robert:
The Last Robert was my one and only venture into surrealism, and wow, was it awful. It concerns twelve men, all named Robert, who get invited to a birthday party at “The Robert Building.” I guess the entire high-rise was populated with men named Robert.
In any case, once all the Roberts show up, poison gas is leaked through the vents and they all fall unconscious. One by one, they disappear. Chaos ensues as the remaining Roberts try desperately to figure out who is taking them.
The whole thing culminates with a bizarre trial scene (in the Robert Building) in which one of the Roberts is implicated and is then bizarrely shot through the window (presumably by a rogue Robert) and dies. The other Roberts then proceed to have a sort of hoe-down, and the novel mercifully ends.
(I actually gave this mess to my 10th grade English teacher to read. Not being the type to mince words, he told me it was terrible and wanted to know how I managed to win the Creative Writing award every damn year.)
Gone With The Wind And Back:
My sequel to Gone With The Wind, which conveniently leaves out Scarlett’s children, the Civil War, and the entire character of Rhett Butler. The only redeeming quality about it is that I learned how to write in a dialect.
This was actully an assignment given to me by my 12th grade English teacher, in which I had to re-write the ending of A Tale Of Two Cities. It actually turned out to be an easy assignment. There was a lot of blood, death, and decapitation, Lucie Manette runs off with Sydney Carton (hey, at least he has a job) and boring Charles Darnay is executed. My teacher thought this was so delightful that he made copies for the entire department.
Now, knowing all this…don’t you all wonder how I eventually managed to sell something? And continue to work in this field?
Even scarier…I’m about 160 pages into another novel. But that’s another story.