Before we moved from Mississippi to try out the screenwriting world of Los Angeles, Edward awoke one morning with this story idea fresh in mind: “A lawyer discovers that his father is having an affair with a young, beautiful attorney at their firm. To protect his fragile mother, he decides to seduce her away for himself.”
There were as yet no murder and no trial. But once we were living in L.A., both seemed essential to making BLOOD RELATIONS succeed as a movie.
We had grown up near and visited New Orleans all our lives; both our fathers had attended Tulane University; we both had experienced betrayal and felt its aftermath; and Edward had been a practicing attorney and I thought like one. The storyline suited our experiences and interests.
Our movie agent at the time “auctioned” the finished screenplay—the dream of every would-be screenwriter—meaning that he sent copies to ten or so producers on a Friday and indicated that it was a “hot” script and he expected their prompt responses. If two or more producers said yes, at that point the auction came into play, and the superior bidder won.
Only one company wanted BLOOD RELATIONS—Bruckheimer Films—and they had the pull and stellar track record to make it a success. But their studio, Disney, turned it down. Rather than give up, we determined that BLOOD RELATIONS was worth our efforts to convert the 110-page screenplay into a novel with new characters, settings, subplots, dialogue, twists, and even humor.
It is common for screenplays to have co-writers but less so, novels. How do two fiction writers work together to produce a book that seems to have been written by one? They brainstorm plot, setting and character ideas, and then one announces, “I think I can write that,” and sits down to type, always with the likelihood that brand-new ideas will present themselves from seemingly nowhere. The other writer reads and edits, adding and subtracting, making comments such as “over the top,” “too on-the-nose,” “needs a better word choice,” “This works,” and “I’m starting to get bored at this point.” It is helpful if both writers live in the same house and know each other’s style and vocabulary and humor well enough to imitate them. One of us was better at writing the Laura scenes; one of us was better at writing the sex scenes; and we both wrote the legal scenes.
Later, after we began “real” jobs in Los Angeles that offered real satisfaction teaching English as a second language to adults, we did not long for the Hollywood world we had abandoned—it was one of adrenaline rushes, thrills, and action, usually followed by disappointment if not despair. We continued working on BLOOD RELATIONS and began to develop Edward’s original storyline into something we felt proud—and even amazed—to have written.
Edward also wrote the PBS documentaries GOOD MORNIN’ BLUES with B. B. King, THE ISLANDER, PASSOVER, and HANUKKAH. Perhaps the vital interest he took in writing and producing another documentary, THE LAST CONFEDERATES, was a harbinger of the new path our lives would follow. The film tells the story of the thousands of Confederates who left their native South and everything familiar to seek new lives in South America under foreign stars. Similarly, we moved to South America in 2009 and now reside in Vilcabamba, a noted backpackers’ stop in the Ecuadorian Andes. We share our mountaintop with our three dogs and two pet burros, Josephine and Jasmine.
The memoir LIVIN’ LARGE IN VILCABAMBA is Kathy’s work in progress about the planet’s two least likely pioneers as they navigate a new language, culture, and geography, learning never to ask themselves, “What else could possibly go wrong?”