Early in the spring of 2006 I hit a wall with my career. I had reached what felt very much like a crossroads in my life. After several months of talks with a studio, I had failed to land a job writing and producing a popular TV drama. I had the feeling I wasn’t hired because of my age. I had had a stellar career writing and producing many great TV shows and some not so great shows. But in show biz, people over fifty have
been known to hit a wall. I was over fifty.
I wasn’t certain I’d hit the wall, but I didn’t want to knock on doors for several more years only to discover I was unhireable--not because of my lack of talent, but because I had allowed myself to grow old. I decided I wasn’t going to wait to find out if I had been, what we in the biz call, “aged-out.” It was time to begin my next career.
I grew up loving to read. I had started my writing career as a novelist and playwright. In grad school, I wrote two very popular horror novels of the 80s under the pseudonym Sal Conte. I decided it was time to return to my great love—books. Only this time I would write under my own name.
I also decided to write Young Adult. I chose Young Adult because when I was at Disney I developed a show for the Disney Channel called Even Stevens. I had a great time developing that show and felt writing for a younger audience was my thing. I went into writing YA for girls as a neophyte. I had done no research. I didn’t know anything about the genre—other than I’d read quite a few books, including those of Meg Cabot, and the Fearless series by Francine Pascal.
I then told my Hollywood agent and manager not to send me out on any job meetings for a while. I was writing a book. Never Slow Dance With A Zombie. While neither of them liked that I was not earning them a commission, they both embraced my new career. Midway through writing the book I asked my manager host a reading for me at Sony Studios. I wanted to get some feedback, but mostly I wanted to hear the book for myself, and decide if I was wasting my time. I figured if it was at a studio a lot of people would show up—they did.
As soon as the reading ended my agent, Jim Kellem, came up to me and said “I can sell that.”
“You don’t know anything about selling books,” I told him.
“I’m talking to a New York agent to sell the book for me.”
The reading went very well. The book was fairly well received, so I continued writing.
A few weeks after the reading, my agent called and told me he’d scheduled a few meetings for me. “What did you schedule meetings for? I told you I was writing a book.”
“These are movie meetings,” he said. “People want to hear about the book.”
“I haven’t even finished it.”
“People still want to hear about it,” he said. Both he and my manager, Sheree Guitar, started setting meetings at studios and production companies to talk about the book. Suddenly Hollywood seemed interested in me again. That’s when that old saw came to mind: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Or as far as I was concerned: There’s more than one way to skin a cat and have a career in Hollywood.
I love writing novels. It’s much more fun and rewarding than writing for TV. But I also enjoy working in Hollywood. I realized as an artist that our art can take many forms.
Sometimes it can begin in one form—a book—like Harry Potter, and wind up in another, reaching an even wider audience. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to write books and help my books exist in broader mediums that can increase my audience. My art is not just writing. As a storytelling artist I include film and TV and theater and video games—even the internet as my medium. As a storytelling artist I want to be somewhat experimental.
As of this writing that first novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, is slowly winding its way to the big screen. The screenplay for my Sal Conte horror short story, The Toothache Man is currently being written by a screenwriter. I have two more novels, Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel. They are the first two books in the Falling Angels Saga. Earth Angel just came out and is on blog tour as of this writing. I’ve also been in discussions about doing something fresh and different for the internet. I am busier than ever.
It’s exciting to be able to use everything I’ve learned in my twenty plus years in Hollywood in my new career as storytelling artist. My dream is to have my stories exist in more than one medium, reaching people wherever they may be.
Looking back, I am actually happy I didn’t land the job on that TV drama. I may not be making as much money (sometimes I don’t make any money) but I am much happier. I am no longer wondering about the end of my career. I am at the threshold of something new and exciting. You’re never too old to chase a new dream. Trust me; I know—I’m having the time of my life.
By the way, even though I signed with a New York agent, it was my Hollywood agent, Jim Kellem, who sold Never Slow Dance With A Zombie to Tor (McMillan/St. Martin’s Press) in the spring of 2007. Go figure.
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|E. Van Lowe|
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i would like to say thank you to E. Van Lowe for guest posting today and to you as well for stopping by!