Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Classic Movies Helped Me Write My Novel

So, my first novel is now available on Amazon Kindle, and I'm about as proud as a new parent handing out cigars. Two years of working, writing, and thinking will hopefully pay off in a story that people enjoy reading. As always, my ongoing love affair with classic movies has been a big part of the process.

That won't be obvious to everyone who reads the book, and it might not even be apparent to other classic movie fans. The novel is a YA fantasy about a boy raised by a dragon. Its relationship to fairy tales and other fantasy novels is certainly more marked, and it also draws from literary classics like The Jungle Book. I have been a voracious and constant reader since I was 3, and everything I have ever read swims around in my imagination and seeps into my own work. Hopefully English majors will appreciate the many allusions and influences.

However, my brain also teems with classic films, and those, too, permeate the novel, especially when it comes to creating characters. My roguish dragon, Willais, is always a Tyrone Power type in my mind, especially when he is magically transformed into a man. I even gave him Ty's distinctive eyebrows. Lanky, sweet-natured Bert is inspired by Ray Bolger, especially as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz but also in The Harvey Girls. Bert's wife, Magda, is a mix of Mary Boland and Spring Byington types, with a little extra temper thrown in (a touch, perhaps, of Alice's Queen of Hearts as voiced by Verna Felton). Whenever I needed a pop-up character for a single scene, I imagined a classic movie character actor who might have played the part. Victor McLaglen is in there, and Frank Morgan, too. I doubt many people will notice, if any, but it really helped me see the characters in my own mind when I was writing about them.

Of course, many of the characters have very different family trees, but I don't think the novel would be the same if not for all of those classic movies I have enjoyed so over the years. Once again I'm grateful for a passion that has not only entertained me but has made me think that much more about narratives, characters, and the way in which a good story comes together!

If you're actually interested in the novel, it's called Wierm's Egg. You can find it on Amazon by clicking the link. Of course the Beyond Casablanca books and the two Jim Henson anthologies are there, too.