The Chesterfield Company called me at more or less the last minute to tell me I’d been accepted into the Writers Film Project, a year-long screenwriting workshop at Amblin and Universal. Perhaps they had somebody drop out, or possibly they just took a while to make up their minds about accepting a genre writer into the group.
We did joke about “Chesterfield Time” over the course of the year.
I had to pack up a few changes of clothes and my laptop and find a place to live and get down there in a hurry, with my current project wagging its tail behind me.
Before I heard from the workshop (which I didn’t expect to get into), I’d contracted to write a Star Wars novel. The deadline was quite tight. For the first few months I was in LA, I was working on the novel as well as going to daily WFP sessions.
This was all made somewhat more stressful when the powers-that-be started rumbling about an “unacceptable” plot point, which happened to be the point the entire novel balanced on. Once I was so upset about the situation that I put my head on Jacques Cousteau’s desk and cried.
Eventually the problem worked out, probably because of my heroic editor, possibly because the plot point was in the first paragraph of my proposal. In addition, I’d arranged the plot so the events all happened in sekrit, so it wouldn’t screw up anybody else’s timeline.
Besides, they’d approved it, and it wasn’t like it was a long convoluted proposal to begin with.
If I remember right it said “O. Henry meets Star Wars” and added a couple of lines about the Sekrit Plot Point, and a bit about the astronomy (which Mark Bourne helped with; I thanked him with Markbee’s Star; as “Mark Bourne” is not a particularly Star Wars-ish name, I couldn’t make him into a character).
Somehow I managed to finish the Star Wars book and get it in the mail (yes! Mail! Hard copy! Yikes!) (I had a computer, a U.S. Robotics modem — 1200 baud no less, or maybe by then it was even 2400 — and email and online access in the form of GEnie, but most publishers hadn’t got to email yet) in time for the deadline, and attend the workshops and write my two screenplays (one of which became The Moon and the Sun, which got optioned for the movies), and all of a sudden it was November again and my books were coming out (the Star Wars book plus a good percentage of my backlist, which all went back out of print soon thereafter when the publisher decided to go all Star Wars all the time) and it was time to go home.
But first I had to do a tv interview with the Sci Fi channel, which back then was still in small part visibly fannish and had some news and chat shows.
The studio was diagonally across LA from where I lived in North Hollywood, and while LA’s bus system is a lot better than anybody outside LA (and a lot of people in LA) believes, you really couldn’t get there from here by bus in any reasonable amount of time.
I may have mentioned in the previous My Year in LA installment that I left my elderly Camaro in Seattle, even though it was designed to drive fast on LA freeways (and had done so in the distant past), because I hadn’t wanted to drive it through the Siskiyus in November. The Camaro’s idea of driving in snow is to spin around in circles, and my idea of driving in snow (as I’m a confirmed Seattle snow wimp) is never to do it.
Some of my friends in LA still believe I don’t know how to drive, because who on earth would live in LA for a year without a car?
My solution to getting to the studio was to call my friend Joe (Mr Pop Culture) and offer him lunch (for both him and his car) in return for a lift to the studio. This worked for him, so we set out across town.
When we arrived, they hustled me into Makeup.
“Do I have to?” I whimpered.
“Yes,” they said. “Trust us.”
I may be exaggerating to say it took an hour for the makeup artist to paint my face, but it took a whole lot longer than I spent on camera. When she’d finished, she turned me around to the mirror and I said, “Oh my god!” or words to that effect.
I looked like a clown.
My immediate impulse was to wash it all off, but I’d already hurt the makeup artist’s feelings (see above, “Oh my god!”), so I didn’t, and I figured maybe nobody would even see the interview.
“It will be all right,” said the makeup artist, realizing I had never done this before. “TV makeup is different from real life makeup.”
Joe and I went into the green room to wait.
And wait and wait and wait.
The scheduled interview time arrived and departed.
Finally the previous interviewee came out: Adam West (Batman). We were introduced; a gentlemanly fellow, he had obviously enjoyed the interview.
I went into the studio.
Two minutes later I was back in the green room, interview over.
“I, um, I guess that didn’t go so well,” I said.
“Oh, no, it went great. It’s just that the previous interview was going so well that we let it run for two segments, so we only had time for two minutes for you.”
“I’m never washing my hand again,” Joe said, having shaken hands with Adam West.
Whew, thinks I, I was right — nobody ever will see the interview.
As far as I know, nobody did see the interview… except my father, who took a picture off the tv screen.
In the clown makeup.
I don’t much like pictures of me without clown makeup.
Trust your makeup artist.
I looked sensational.
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You can find The Moon and the Sun at Book View Cafe, where a new chapter is featured each week. For print copies of The Moon and the Sun and my other SF novels, visit my website’s Basement Full of Books.