Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Asher on Building Novels.

Titles appear in my head. Some titles slip away. Others stick. Sometimes years pass and one title will simply linger. That's the way it was with MY HUSBAND'S SWEETHEARTS. I had the title for ages. And then an agent in LA found out about me and decided that I should be writing screenplays. As a kid, I loved plays. My older sister was an actress, living in NYC by the time I was ten and I was dragged to every imaginable piece du theatre -- from off off off off off (etc) Broadway to the second half of Broadway shows (the old trick of mingling with the smokers and slipping in without tix after intermission to the empty seats...) By 13, I had an unruly crush on Mamet.

So, I thought: Sure. Count me in.

I read some scripts -- including the not yet produced THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE -- and sat down to write MY HUSBAND'S SWEETHEARTS.

The screenplay became my spec script. I didn't live in LA. But it got me into lots of meetings and, yes, lunches.

The script itself was never optioned, but my agent -- while talking about another project -- ended up pitching it and called to tell me so. Time had passed. I asked him what he'd pitched -- he couldn't have remembered it exactly. He told me and he'd made some alterations -- blurring things here and there. I liked the new blur. And realized that I didn't just have a screenplay on my hands. I had an extremely thorough outline for a novel.

I wrote the novel.

Now I call screenplays "plot poems" ... because like a poem they rely on the pressure of the white on the page. It bears its weight on the collection of words -- on each scene -- and like a small house under a heavy snow, the words have to hold up all of that weighted white. I love how much pressure it exerts on the characters and I think that this pressure worked over well into the creation of the novel.

THE PRETEND WIFE was a very organic process. It was one of those novels that seem to rise up naturally from the characters themselves. I think that there's something in me that's tied to the idea of our early loves, lost love, that life is a series of steps and missteps. I fell for the characters in the novel just as Gwen did, and this helped to create an honest depth.

I'm now at work -- hush, hush -- on a novel that's partially set in Provence. So ... I'm eating bonbons.