My first novel – “The Garden on Sunset” – has been out now for a couple of weeks and I’ve been very happy with the response. People seem to be enjoying it, and many of them have paid me the highest compliment a reader could pay a writer: “I cannot wait for Book Two!”
However, there have been a couple of surprises.
A few people have made the comment to me that they don’t have what it takes to be a novelist because it’s such a lonely pursuit. “You’re always by yourself,” one person said. I was taken aback by that remark, surprised that anyone would see what I’ve been doing for the past five years in that way.
From the outside looking in, I guess it does seem like it’s just me sitting there, on the bed, tapping away at the laptop like a trained monkey. But from the inside looking out, it’s quite the opposite.
I’ve now spent years hanging out with my three main characters—Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn—as they’ve set about trying to forge their own paths in a newly-talking Hollywood that’s shifting under their feet. I was right beside Gwendolyn when she climbed three stories to dance on a human billboard. I wanted to reach out for Kathryn when she got caught in the Long Beach earthquake. And I sat down with Marcus when he went to his first speakeasy, the one with all the hammers and a stage the size of a flattened beachball.
I’ve spent time, too, with a whole host of other characters that populate “The Garden on Sunset.” And not just the famous ones like Alla Nazimova, George Cukor, Joan Crawford, and Ginger Rogers. But others, like Chuck the bartender at the Cocoanut Grove, the waiter in black face at the Zulu Hut, and Anderson McCrae from the casting department at RKO.
To my mind, I’ve spent the last five years with so many Charlestoning flappers, wannabe actresses, undiscovered screenwriters, ambitious directors, gamblers, boozers, typists, and Western Union telegram delivery boys, that I’ve never—not once—noticed it was just me in a darkened room with the door closed, my face lit by the screen of my laptop, the only sound being that of my fingers tapping away at the keyboard.
Always by myself? Are you nuts???
By the same token, I’ve also been surprised when people have come up to me, or mentioned in an email, how much they love Gwendolyn, or admire Kathryn, or want to hug Marcus. What?! I’ve thought. You know who Gwendolyn is? You’ve met Kathryn? You’ve talked to Marcus? For these same five years, it’s felt like me, Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn have formed this secret society, a private club that only the four of us know about, having furtive adventures unseen and unnoticed by a world whose attention is focused elsewhere.
Now that the book is out, it’s somewhat disconcerting—in a good way—to be reminded that people have met my three BFFs. They know what they’re like, what they’re good at, what they need help with and who they can turn to in times of need. This feeling will pass as more people discover and read the book, and as each of the new installments follow. But, for now, it feels like the rest of the neighborhood kids have discovered our clandestine tree house and they want in, too.
Oh? You do? Really? So, come on in, I say.
Everybody is welcome. Nobody is alone.