Monday, 7 October 2019

Turning my novel into a film - nearly

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a press screening for a new Channel 4 drama. 

The production company was there and I suddenly realised it might be an opportunity to talk to its top executives about my novel and how to turn it into a film or TV series.

Now, I’m not the most confident person. I’ve had more than few knocks recently and on that Monday morning I was particularly down and out of sorts for some reason.

But the moment was there, right in front of me. I would kick myself if I let it pass without at least trying. So, I gathered my loins and plucked up the courage to introduce myself to the production executives, after the screening was over.

They were very charming and listened, patiently, as I spoke about Changing Trains as potentially their next big project; How this gay coming-of-age adventure was so relevant right now, with all the equality issues we face; How it could be seen as an important ‘love letter’ to Europe amid Brexit; And also as a commentary on youth discovering new places and learning about oneself through travel; How it was partly inspired also by the writings of Christopher Isherwood. 
I did all this, but kept it brief, knowing that I had limited time.

The executive gave me his email address and asked me to send over the story, with a brief paragraph or two outlining it all.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting anything more. When he asked me to send it over I thought 'Whaaaat?' I couldn't believe it. With that in the bag, I thanked the exec over and over, so grateful to have been asked to do even that. So, I left the screening
feeling very proud to have put my insecurities behind me in order to champion a book I truly believe is a worthwhile read and therefore, possibly not a bad film, either.

I duly sent over an email thanking him for his time and laying out the idea. And then I waited.
The next day I received a reply thanking me for sending the story to them. They also said it sounded like a great idea, and, just when I thought I had won an opportunity to change my life, he wrote that there was only one issue, which was that filming had already started on another story about Inter-railing in Europe for the BBC.

The story in question in Us by David Nicholls, which tells the story of a couple travelling Europe by train while their marriage falls apart and their son comes out as gay.

I was truly gutted. They did say that both my novel and Nicholls’ were completely different - mine is based on a true story- but they also said that there was perhaps enough of an overlap to make it ‘difficult’ to pursue.

I wrote back thanking them for their consideration. I also cheekily added that maybe it WOULD be worth doing because the current production proves there is an audience for it and perhaps people will want more. 25 Bond films anyone? 

I don’t know how these things work, but I do know that I love seeing films of a particular genre, style, time period, etc, so the more the better.
Here’s a transcript of that the executive actually wrote:

It was a blow, but I’m determined to stay positive, so I'm now wondering now how one gets in touch with the ‘right people’ at Amazon, Netflix, ITV, Channel4 or even the BBC, for that matter?

Bond is back - for me he never went away!

So last weekend it was World Bond Day. I almost missed it, which would've been really annoying, as I'm a huge Bond fan.

I'm really looking forward to No Time To Die, the latest instalment, but I also wanted to make a teensy contribution of my own to World Bond Day.

If you've read my novel, you'll already be in the know. But for those who haven't here are some of the ways I managed to work the world of my favourite spy hero into Changing Trains:

1. A Couchette with a View
The protagonist, Sam, listens to the evocative That Fatal Kiss from A View To A Kill on his overnight train from Paris to Barcelona. It's a very soulful, chilled, reflective and hopeful moment in the book.

2. From Nice with Love
Madame Gilbert, the landlady of the pension in Nice, insists on calling Sam her little James Bond. She's one of the most popular characters in the book and was just like that in real life, too.

3. A Diamond is Forever 
In Monte Carlo, Sam recalls seeing Shirley Bassey singing a Bond theme at the famous Sporting Club in the principality on TV, while growing up in Scotland.

4. Casino Royale 
Sam has a deja vu moment at the world famous Casino de Monte Carlo. Although he's visiting this place for the first time ever, he feels it is strangely familiar, then realises it's because he's seen it in Bond movies. He feels like Bond himself may even be in there at that moment. 

5. You Only Live Twice
Sam meets his very own 'Bond girls' on the overnight train from Venice to Nice. Being gay doesn't excuse chivalry, of course, so when Sam Rescues Lucy and Sally on an overnight train from Venice to London, they are more than happy to become his own un-official 'Bond Girls'. 

So there you go. A bit of Bond in a gay themed novel. What's not to like...

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Sorry Hollywood, I don't have the luxury of embarrassment right now

My friends all know me as a fairly outgoing guy. I always have a smile for people and I always try to do what I can to help anyone I can see who needs it.

But things aren't really all that great for me right now. I'm using all my strength to stave off depression, 'bad' thoughts, and trying to keep my head above water.

I've always been a bit reticent to ask for help. Having been brought up with the adage 'you're big enough and ugly enough to help yourself lad', this is how I've tended to cope. And I've always been embarrassed to directly ask for what I want.

This has all changed now, though. I literally have nothing left to be embarrassed about. I don't have the luxury any more of feeling stupid or crazy for even thinking anyone in the world would want to help me make a success of my creative endeavour.

I published a little novel last year, my first. And I'm not saying it's a game changer or 'one of the most important LGBTI novels of our times' (thank you Bridget Jones). But, you know, it is a decent story, really, with a great setting - Europe for goodness sake - and a fab 'soundtrack' that the main character has with him on his travels.

There are some great characters too - Madame Gilbert is a stand out favourite. And an LGBTI storyline - definitely bang on trend, some would say.

But, I've exhausted nearly all my limited cash and resources trying to encourage people to read it. It's been a mountain to climb, because I've had no backing from publishers or agents.

As if this wasn't enough of a pipe dream, I really would love to see it made into a film. It's set mostly in the 1980s, so there's loads of nostalgia factor; it takes readers to some of Europe's most glamorous locations - Paris, Barcelona, Alicante & Benidorm (What?), Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and Venice.

So I figured this has to be a director's and actors' dream project. And yes also a logistical challenge for location managers, but, hey, details.

Which is why, this author, with nothing really left to lose, is writing to some of the world's best directors asking if they would be interested. I mean who do I think I am?

So here is my first: Brad Anderson, Hollywood director with credits like The Machinist and TransSiberian. He is on record as saying he would love to make any film set on a train. Well Brad, mine is set on a train, told from a train and the character is on-and-off them all throughout the story.

This is what I wrote to Brad. Do you think he'll ever see it or get back to me?
If he does, I'll let you know:

My email to Brad Anderson. Will he come on the journey?

Tough times as an indie author

It's the start of a new year and I'm unsure what happens next in my life. It's almost exactly a year since I published my first novel. I wish it had sold more.

It's not a groundbreaking story of triumph over adversity, nor a shagfest - although there is gay sex, woohoo - but I'm told by everyone who has read it that it resonated with them, made them feel good, took them back to their own experiences.

If I had a publisher and agent, maybe it would be different. But I just wish that indie authors like me could be given the same kind of exposure as the publisher/agent route.

The problem is that this is now my livelihood. Yet, because I'm totally unknown, it's really hard to get the word out. Although, I'm super grateful to the 19 people worldwide who bought my little story in December, and I really hope they enjoy it.

Of course the awful truth is that this kind of income meant that Christmas was tough for this writer. Poverty is horrible. And even though I published the book I've also tried to find a job to pay the mortgage, bills, etc.

Sadly, despite 25 years experience as a journalist, I can't even get an interview. I've got loads of experience and I work hard, but with the cold months ahead, it's not looking good. I quietly think that maybe people see my CV and think I'm too old. But of course no recruiter is allowed to say that. I feel that ageism is the hardest kind of discrimination to claim.

So here's my request to the universe - I wrote something that people seem to like, so I would love, no
I need, your help to find a way to get more people looking at it and buying it and maybe save me, too? Or at least help me earn enough to focus on more books.

When times are tough, like now, I try to be strong, but it's lonely here, unable to find enough income, unable to get even one well connected Twitter person to recommend my efforts as a read. It really matters. I dream that even just one 'important' person likes my story and then says so.

I'm not battling an anxiety illness. I consider myself fortunate that I don't have any debilitating depression - at least not yet - but I'm really beginning to struggle and sure could do with a lift, if anyone is able to give that to a complete stranger. Just a normal, gay guy, trying to survive.

Sorry to be so frank, but I do need some good news. Here's a link to my book, if you fancy a nice low cost read. And thanks to anyone out there who feels like giving this author a chance.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Getting over the gay age gap

Me and my man, Fouras Western France, Nov 2018
I've fallen in love for only the second time in my life.

I wasn't expecting it and thought I was past this kind of thing, being 52 and all. 

He is 38, so quite a bit younger, but insists he's totally in love with me, too. The age difference doesn't bother him. If anything, I'm the one being ageist, forward thinking our lives together, double checking if he really does mean it, worried about 'getting involved' with a younger guy.

When did I get to be so insecure? Well, that's a loaded question actually. I've been insecure for a couple of years now. Life has been a struggle, but I've held myself together and now want to enjoy the prospect of a new love in my life.

Photo: @dlanceblack Instagram
To be honest, if I look around, there are plenty of other couples in my life who have similar age gaps and who are perfectly happy. There's no end of hetero men happily re-married to 'younger models', and in my particular community - the gay one - such age gaps are common.

Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley seemed the most recent example I could find where gay love and age were proving a successful match; Their 20 year age bridge proving no barrier at all. And of course there's 'Elton and David', with a mere 15 years between them.

And then I suddenly remembered that my muse for Changing Trains, Christopher Isherwood, also fell for a much younger man.

Bachardy (left) and Isherwood when they first met
Isherwood was 48 years old when he met 18 year old Don Bachardy on a California beach one Valentines Day. Their 30 year age difference raised many eyebrows at the time, but the couple remained together for the next 30 years, until Isherwood's death in 1986.

They were an outrageous pairing who did nothing to hide their love for each other. They became one of Hollywood's most famous openly gay couples at a time when many gay actors were forced to remain in the closet.

It's only been a month with the new very special guy in my life, but I hope it keeps getting better. I'm not 100% over our 14 year age gap yet, but I'm working on it, and loving our time together.