52 Pick-up 2, #2, 1/21/2020
Janet Washer: “Are there other, possibly intriguing projects on the horizon?”
It’s funny, because as I’m answering you, I’m sitting in Los Angeles, looking out the window at the palm trees and thinking about Wyoming… As to literary projects, I’m still full-bore on the Walt Longmire novels having just turned in Next To Last Stand, a novel about the theft of the noted painting Custer’s Last Fight, that was acquired by Budweiser back in the depression. It’s Walt’s first art heist book and a bit of a relief after the heavier subjects of the more recent novels. I just got the editorial letter back from Viking and they love it, so that always makes me rest easier… I’ve already started on the next Walt book with the working title None So Blind and there’s a novella lingering in the wings waiting for me to get to it entitled Tooth & Claw. There are other literary projects, but I always find my way back to Walt, I suspect for the same reasons people continue to enjoy reading him—he’s good company.
Why I’m in LA. Well, months ago I pitched a few ideas (one TV series and the other a feature film) to a couple of different people in hopes that one of them would get some traction and one of them did but not the other, which was fine for me in that I really didn’t have time to work on both. As time wore on, the TV idea languished a bit and the movie idea suddenly caught interest, so I switched gears. Then the TV idea suddenly started making ground and now I’m suddenly riding-roman as the old rodeo guys used to say—where you’re straddling two horses, standing with one foot on each saddle just trying to hang on. Both projects are with really good people, and I’m hoping they go into development just because I believe in them and think both have some important messages to convey.
As to details, I really can’t discuss a lot of it for numerous reasons, most of it being that you kind of have to keep your ideas under wraps because if you don’t somebody will come along and throw something together amazingly similar to your project and run around trying to sell it before you get off the ground. The small amount I can discuss is that the TV show is a procedural with a female protagonist, and the movie is something completely different than anything else I’ve ever done.
It’s interesting because one of the first questions the Hollywood people ask is, “Are you going to write a book based on this?” I guess they like the idea of gaining real estate in all the airports, bookstores, and newsstands… Are there still newsstands? Anyway, the answer is always yes. Whenever you have a good idea, or what you hope is a good idea, my mind always turns to a novel. When I do proposals for Hollywood, I tend to not write screenplays because those leave so much out. I tend to write abbreviated novellas which are handy in that the people you’re pitching to can sit down and read it in one sitting, and more important you’ve got something from all your efforts, something that can potentially become a book.
I think it’s important for a writer to have other and varied projects in the works, not only for the value of interest, but for the added merit they give the writing of the Walt books. I think it’s easy to get into a rut where you repeat yourself, forget to allow the characters to grow or send them out in search of the more interesting aspects of themselves. I also think there’s a pressure from some readers to repeat yourself, to find a comfortable space for the characters and just stay there in Mayberry, but if you’re going to do that you might as well just be working at the sausage factory grinding out links… Instead of saddling up and keeping your eyes on the horizon.
See you on the trail,