Shows About Authors
With my career-shift toward becoming a published author, many people upon hearing the news state how exciting it must be, how fulfilling to follow a passion, how enjoyable to write stories all day, and how recklessly freewheeling to not have a steady income. It is - but not nearly as much as people think.
It's mainly a lot of time spent at a computer wishing I could remember the incredible idea I had the previous night in a dream or earlier that morning in the shower. There's a lot of head-banging on the desk, word-searching in the thesaurus, hand-wringing over deadlines (even if self-imposed), and dealing with mountains of imposter syndrome wondering what the hell is happening with my life. In other words, it's dull.
Even I look elsewhere for guidance on what life as an author should be like. And as with most things, I look to television and the movies. Below are twelve shows or movies about being an author. Some explore the hopeful success, others the dark depths, and several a second life as a police investigator!
Californication - Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is an award-winning novelist. He lives like a rock star but family turmoil and questionable morals regularly derail his life. But his wit in dealing with the jerks of life is the stuff of legend, though having your long-awaited second novel stolen by an underage psychopath can cause unneeded strife. My first introduction to the life of a writer being "cool." Where do I sign up?
Castle – Richard Castle (Nathon Fillion) is a best-selling mystery writer who lives lavishly and plays poker with other writing greats. Relying in his powers of plot and character, he helps NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) solve murders – in return for her inspiration as his new lead character. A great lifestyle, but he basically works two jobs. Nice place in the Hamptons, though.
Her Alibi – Movie where author Phil Blackwood (Tom Selleck) is a mystery author with writer’s block who bails a beautiful woman with a circus-family history (Paulina Poraskova) out of jail and uses her situation as a new storyline. Funny movie as he writes the story as the situation unfolds – he has no idea what is coming. This is likely the best reason to be a pantser instead of a plotter.
Misery – Darker side of being famous when obsessive fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) finds author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) injured in a car crash and nurses him back to health, only to demand he write a new book that answers the questions to a previous novel. Until he does, she doesn’t allow him to leave, even re-injuring him so he can’t escape. When he finally does, the book written under duress is one of his best. I'd love a best-seller and a legion of rabid fans, but not at the expense of my ankles!
Murder, She Wrote – Author Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) was the first to use her skills as a mystery author to help the police solve crimes. She lives modestly but is admired for her strategic brain and attention to detail. Other than the police work, her generally quiet life best represents my own.
Secret Window – Another movie focusing on the darker side of being a writer where author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is confronted by John Shooter (John Turturro) who accuses the author of stealing his idea for a book. The two go back and forth in a series of escalating attacks – even killing the girlfriend of the author – only to learn Shooter was just a figment of the author’s imagination, and he did all the heinous acts himself. A vivid imagination is one thing, but talk about your characters getting out of hand!
The Shining – Writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) brings his family to a secluded Colorado mountain hotel as he takes a job as the winter caretaker hoping to spend the quiet time working on his novel. Yet his past troubles with drinking and his marriage are exacerbated by the supernatural powers of the hotel’s dark past. Months of quiet with no distractions does sound nice, though I'd probably be booked into Room 237.
Bones – Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) uses the information from cases working with the FBI to write her mystery books. For her, they are a simple exercise and hobby, and though her books are successful, she cares little for her writing career in comparison to her scientific work. Again, two jobs sounds like a lot of work no matter what your I.Q. is.
Shining Vale – Author Patricia Phelps (Courtney Cox) had a successful debut women’s fiction book but has been unable to write a follow-up. After an infidelity, she and her family move to an enormous Victorian mansion in Connecticut where she can finally work on her second book. She quickly finds her muse, repressed housewife Rosemary (Mira Sorvino) who owned the house previously, and though dead, hasn’t fully left. Well, I have the Connecticut part down.
Skin Deep – From director Blake Edwards, this 80s movie was one of the first that drew me to being an author. Award-winning author Zach Hutton (John Ritter) has lost his writing mojo and spends his time drinking and chasing women. Only when he gets his act together, does his find the right woman and the inspiration for his next book. I'm finding a lot of fictional authors drink a lot more than me.
Stranger Than Fiction – Falling in the “meta” category, this movie follows IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Farrell) whose boring life is turned upside down when he starts hearing a voice narrating his life. The voice belongs to author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) struggling to find the perfect ending to her book, of which Harold is the main character. My life wouldn't even make a good 'B' movie.
Finding Forrester – Sean Connery plays seminal author William Forrester, now living as a recluse in Manhattan. His first and only book won the Pulitzer and is taught in English departments, including at a nearby private school where a writing prodigy (Rob Brown) is dared to sneak into Forrester’s apartment. The two become friends and the old master helps the prodigy develop, and in return, the prodigy re-instills a love of life that the master uses to write a second book. Admittedly, the thought of my books taught to young students in school is appealing.
Though not one of these movies accurately describes life as an author, elements of each are certainly appealing to all. Plus they are totally entertaining!
Did I miss a show about fiction authors that better hits the mark? Let me know in the comments.