July 6, 2011 in Dag

Would you let them make a movie out of your book?

I know it’s probably not something I’m ever likely to have to worry about, but I do occasionally wonder about what I’d do if someone came up and offered me lots of money for the film rights for one of my books.

You’d think that working out the answer would be pretty easy. Why wouldn’t I just say yes on the spot? After all, it would likely offer a far more lucrative stream of income than the books on there own. And besides, heaps of people who’ve read my book have commented on how they thought it would work really well as an animation.

But I’m still not convinced that it’s exactly what I want, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I’d be concerned about doing justice to my story. I know that sounds like a terribly arrogant thing to say. But so often, I’ve gone to see movies based on books I love and been terribly disappointed. Even highly regarded adaptations, such as the Lord of the Rings movies, failed to me to capture the spirit and complexity that make the books so wonderful.

The second reason is more personal. Partly it’s a reflection on how much of myself I put into my writing. I have a strong sense of ownership of my storylines and my characters. But I love the way that as I start to pick up readers, I can share that ownership with them. It’s been an amazing thing to hear from readers about how they’ve embraced my characters, even finding new dimensions to them I hadn’t thought of. It’s real bond, directly between myself and the readers.

But a movie would change that. I’m fully aware of how many different people it takes to make a movie. Directors and producers and actors, plus probably a bunch of other writers to adapt the prose into a screenplay. Maybe it’s just the control freak in me but I hate the idea of losing control of my characters to all these people, and having them come between me and my readers. And I can speak a little bit from experience here. I’ve done quite a bit of writing for theatre (comedy sketches) and have also studied scriptwriting for both film and television, so I have some idea of what can happen to an idea from its original form to the final work.

The final reason is to do with the idea of imagination. To me, books are the most imaginative medium there is. Readers are free to conjure up visions of the worlds of the novel and its characters. Each might have a different idea of how a character looks or sounds, or exactly how a location appears. But once it’s made into a film, imagination goes out the window. You have someone else’s vision imposed on you, and it may be hard to replace that in the future.

So these are the reasons I made a pact with myself quite a while ago. My stories are mine and mine alone to share with my readers. If ever a film producer came to me offering big money for the rights, I’d thank them kindly, say how flattered I am and then show them the door.

At least that’s what I tell myself. Sometimes, when I think of what I could do with the money and how it could enable me to live the writing life I’ve dreamed of, I have a feeling that I might be prepared to be a little bit flexible.

June 26, 2011 in Dag

Joyously dumb: My writing and pop music

If you’ve taken some time to look at my “What is dag-lit?” page, you may have noticed that one of the ways I used to describe dag-lit was “joyously dumb. But what on earth is that meant to mean? It’s a bit tricky to explain but I’ll try.

Believe it or not, it actually has more to do with music than pure writing. Pop music to be specific. I’m a big fan off pop music. And this is where it gets a bit tricky, because there are lot’s of different definitions of what pop music actually is.

When I’m referring to pop music, I’m talking generally about music that’s not classical or jazz. It might be rock’n’roll or reggae or have a blues or country sort of edge to it. I tend not to put things into categories so much. I usually refer to it all as pop music.

I suppose that like anything, musical appreciation is subjective. Not everybody likes the same sort of things. And I certainly don’t like all “pop music”. I’m especially not fond of a lot of the production line, machine-like stuff that seems to be all over the radio these days (then again I might just be showing my age).

Pop music isn’t clever like classical or jazz. It doesn’t have lots of fancy chords or tricky time changes or all those other complicated things that can be picked apart by music scholars. As a form of music, it’s pretty dumb. But to me that’s part of its appeal. And when it’s done well, it has a kind of magic to it that just takes you away into another world completely. Makes you tap your feet and hum away, and leaves you in a good mood for hours. And that’s what I mean when I refer to the joyously dumb.

But there are certain musical artists who (to me at least) are able to achieve even more. These are the writers and performers who can marry pop music with great ideas, themes and lyrics. One of my personal favourites is R.E.M. A couple of great Australian (New Zealand?) examples are the wonderful Crowded House and a more recent Melbourne-based band called Augie March. These bands write really intelligent and intriguing lyrics to music that has all the joyous dumbness of the greatest pop music.

So, at last, getting back to the subject of my writing. What I’ve just described is exactly what I want to achieve as a writer. I don’t want to write sophisticated literature that will be picked apart by academics at universities. I want to write stuff that moves people, and takes them away to a joyous place, like the best pop music. But I want to do more than that as well. I want to be just that little bit smart, to leave my readers thinking a bit as well as feeling good.

But I guess that that, just like music, is totally subjective. I’ll leave it to my readers to let me know if I’ve succeeded.

June 5, 2011 in Dag

Goldilocks and the Fashion Police

Once upon a time, there was a lovely little girl named Goldilocks.  She had long hair of gold and a kindly heart.  Goldilocks was always trying to help her friends.  Whenever it rained, she made sure to carry a spare umbrella, just in case someone else had forgotten theirs.  And if anybody accidentally bought too much food at the grocery store, she was happy to carry some of their bags home for them.  Yes, everybody in the town loved Goldilocks.  There was only one thing wrong with her.  She had no fashion sense.

Every time Goldilocks went out, the townspeople gasped at what she was wearing.  Stripes mixed with flowers.  Knee length socks under boots.  The townspeople could not believe the atrocities against fashion which Goldilocks was committing.  They tried to drop hints to her, left copies of Cleo and Cosmo under her doorway while she was out, but it was to no avail.  Goldilocks continued to wear short skirts over denim overalls and green stockings with orange shoes.

Finally the people could take no more.  They organised a town meeting to discuss the situation.

“This cannot go on,” cried the mayor.  “We can’t let her continue flaunting the rules of fashion while we try to go about our daily business.”

The rest of the townspeople all agreed, but no one could come up with a plan of action.  They all loved Goldilocks too much and didn’t want to offend her.

Then one man stepped forward.  A small man, dressed all in black, that nobody had ever seen before.  He stood up on the podium and said, “what we need to do is call in the fashion police.”

“Who are the fashion police?” asked the townspeople eagerly.

“The fashion police enforce the rules of fashion,” replied the man.  “If they ever see anyone breaking those rules, they put them up against the wall and shoot them.”

At first, the townspeople were somewhat dismayed by this.  Without Goldilocks, who would be there to help them rebuild their homes when the cold winter winds blew them over?  And who would give food to the orphans when there was no one else to provide for them?  But the man said there was no other alternative.

“Think of the effect she must be having on your children,” he insisted.  “How would you feel if they all began to dress like her?”

The townspeople knew he was right.  Without any delay, they called in the fashion police.  Goldilocks was tried, convicted of crimes against fashion, and shot, all in the same afternoon.

Now things are very different in that little town.  Whenever it rains, nobody will let you share their umbrella. And if you’ve done too much shopping, you’ll just have to carry those bags home yourself.  But these seem like a small price to pay.  Because since the fashion police came to town, nobody has ever been out of fashion again.

Note: I wrote this story for a short story class after sitting in a train listening to a group of girls criticising the clothes other travellers were wearing. Some of the quotes were taken direct.

May 27, 2011 in Dag

Blog Tour De Troops

Welcome to the next stop in the blog tour de troops. I’m welcoming you from down under – Melbourne Australia.

Before I begin, I just want to make sure that you’ve already checked out Jennifer Provost’s post. And when you’re done here, pop over to Kat Lively.

We Aussies have a lot in common with Americans. We both value a lot of the same things. So when I’m offering thanks to the American troops, I’d like to add a special note to any Australian troops out there as well.

I’d also like to talk a bit about the book, Doodling I’m offering up today. It’s a humorous fantasy about a different kind of freedom. The freedom to get away from the hustle and bustle of our fast moving world and live life at a nice, relaxing pace. At least that’s what the hero of the story, Neville, wants to do when he stops trying to keep up and decides to let go and fall off the world.

As the story progresses, Neville discovers that it’s not so easy to escape from the world. Maybe there’s a message in there about taking responsibility, and the fact that we are grateful for people who are prepared to make sacrifices.

Then again, maybe it’s just a funny kind of story. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the review at Eulana.

While I’m in gratitude mode, I also want to thank the fine folk at the Indie Book Collective for making this fantastic event possible, and for the rest of the great work they do.

But don’t just sit there. Please post a comment and I’ll get a copy of Doodling out to you. And don’t stop here – make sure you head off to visit Kat Lively next. And then keep on going. There’s lots more free books available, plus a chance to win a kindle for yourself and a troop as well.

One final note to any commenters – please excuse any delays I have responding as I’m most likely in a totally different time zone. And please leave your email so I can pass on the book details to you.

Thank you to all commenters for supporting me and the troops. As this event has now officially closed, I won’t be responding to any further comments.

May 22, 2011 in Dag

The Strange Case of Arthur Fribble.

Arthur Fribble’s strange condition began to become apparent while he was in primary school.

His grade one teacher was the first to notice it.  She had asked the class the simple question, “what colour is the sky?” and Arthur had correctly replied, “blue.”  After being congratulated for this response, young Arthur sneezed.  Just one little short sharp sneeze, the teacher recalled when questioned about it many years later.

As the condition developed, it soon manifested itself in many of Arthur’s activities, both in the classroom and the playground.  Successfully completing a short spelling test was enough to cause the boy to break out in spots, while if he ever kicked a goal during a lunchtime football game, his eyes would begin to water, his cheeks would puff up, and he would burst into a series of urgent, uncontrollable sneezes.

The high school years were difficult ones for Arthur.  Teenagers can be cruel, and Arthur’s classmates could not resist ridiculing him at every opportunity.  But curiously enough, after these sessions of teasing, Arthur’s condition always seemed to clear up.  It was only after the other kids had left him alone for a while, and his self confidence had begun to return, that it would reemerge.  He might perform well on an exam, or summon up the courage to talk to a girl he had a bit of a crush on, and instantly all the symptoms, the rashes, the runny noses, the bloodshot eyes, would reappear.

As poor Arthur left school and headed out into the big, bad world, things were not looking bright for him.  After failing his final exams, he struggled to hold onto a job and soon found himself friendless and miserable.  It seemed that there was no hope left.  But thanks to a chance encounter with the famed immunologist, Dr Rheinstrom Bergstrom, things began to change for him.  It was Dr Bergstrom who recognised the strange pattern of Arthur’s condition.  As long as Arthur’s life was going nowhere and he was achieving nothing, just getting by from day to day, then he was alright.  But as soon as things started to pick up, and Arthur began to get back on his feet and move forward with his life, then the condition would reassert itself.  From these observations, Dr Bergstrom was able to make his extraordinary diagnosis:

Arthur Fribble was allergic to success.

I last saw Arthur about six months ago.  Although things still weren’t easy for him, I was glad to hear that he was doing a lot better.  He had begun a university degree and he proudly informed me, while only sneezing six times, that he had managed to pass all exams so far.  But I was most pleased to discover that he had actually begun going out with women.  He told me that every time he went on a date, he made sure to bring cortisone cream, anti-histamines, and a couple of condoms.

Just in case he got lucky.