A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. -Stephen King, Skeleton Crew (Introduction)
If it weren't for Stephen King, an overdue vacation, and a movie gone wrong, I never would have written a novel.
For fifteen years, I've been a screenwriter. It's been my pleasure and privilege to write- and see produced- nearly four hundred short films. But film is the ultimate collaborative medium. I finish a script, and hand it off-- six months later, the historical drama I wrote may show up on the screen as a futuristic comedy.
Hundreds of hands touch a film before it's finished. Sometimes, this creates a transcendent film that's better than the one you wrote. But sometimes, it creates a terrible film that you wish you could pretend never happened at all. No, no, I realize the credits claim I wrote this, but I swear to you- I wrote a historical drama. There were no giant clown feet from Mars in the movie I wrote!
And it happened that I wrote one script that meant so, so much to me. It was deeply personal- so personal that I made a rare call to the producer to beg a promise he wouldn't change the ending. He promised. Then he changed the ending anyway. I was devastated.
Ordinarily, I would have cried to my best friend Wendi for a couple of days, and then gotten over it. But it happened that for the first time in years, Wendi had decided to take a vacation with her family. A long vacation. Without Internet access.
Left alone, I picked up Stephen King's "On Writing." I've always loved King- though always his short stories better than his novels. And what I especially loved were the author's notes to readers that came with his anthologies. The way he talked about writing- as if telling a story were something intimate- resonated with me. I picked up "On Writing" because I hoped it would be an entire book of those personal, murmured author's notes.
And it was.
I spent three days of my best friend's vacation reading "On Writing" again and again. I spent the rest of it working on my first novel. Then my second- which at the time was called "The Incident with the Landry Boy."
The first novel is in my dresser drawer, an ugly child never meant to be seen by the world. But the second, you know now as "Shadowed Summer." And it never would have been, if not for a bad movie, an overdue vacation and Stephen King.