I’ve been tagged in THE NEXT BIG THING by fellow writer Debra Ann Pawlak. Debra is the author of Bringing Up Oscar, The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy which was named the runner up in the non-fiction category of the 2011 Hollywood Book Festival and was named the winner in the “History: Media/Entertainment” category of the 2011 USA Book News competition.
You can read Debra’s Next Big Thing at debraannpawlak.blogspot.com
The Next Big Thing blog tag invites writers to answer questions about their current book or Work In Progress), and then to tag other authors about their Next Big Thing. Here goes!
What is the title of your book?
It’s called Citizen Hollywood.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It is the third book in my Garden of Allah series set during Hollywood’s golden era (late 1920s to late 1950s) at the famously infamous Garden of Allah hotel which stood at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard during that time. Citizen Hollywood is set between 1939 and 1941—this was the era when Hollywood was consumed by the escalating feud between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst.
At the time, Orson Welles was a wunderkind of radio and theater who came to Hollywood to make his first movie. After a couple of false starts, he decided to produce a movie based on the life of America’s most powerful media mogul. The result was Citizen Kane. Understandably, Hearst didn’t take to kindly to the idea—to say the least—and used every means at his considerable disposal to bring the movie down, and Welles along with it.
My novel, Citizen Hollywood, plays out against the backdrop of this battle in a similar way to the second book in my series, The Trouble with Scarlett, played out against the saga of the casting of Scarlett O’Hara for the movie version of Gone with the Wind during the mid-1930s.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm, that’s a bit of a tricky one.
Gwendolyn Brick (aspiring actress) could be played by Christina Hendricks (“Joan” on Mad Men.)
Kathryn Massey (gossip columnist at the Hollywood Reporter) needs to be played by a young Holly Hunter type. Maybe Anna Kendrick? Perhaps Mila Kunis?
Marcus Adler (MGM screenwriter) is the hardest one for me to cast. Lately I’ve been thinking along the lines of Dax Shephard (“Crosby” by Parenthood) but I’m open to suggestions.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Orson Welles, the enfant terrible of New York, comes to Hollywood to make his first movie and Tinsel City is asking itself what will it be about? Will he scandalize the West Coast the way he’s shocked the East Coast? And, more importantly, who will he bed first and does he kiss-and-tell? (Yes, I know – that was more than one sentence but really…? A 400-page novel reduced to one sentence…!??!?!)
Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
When I started to develop the central idea for these books and looked around for other books similar to what I had in mind, I couldn’t really find anything to compare and contrast them with. The closest I can get is the Tales of the City series. Although they’re set in San Francisco in the 70s and 80s and my books take place in Los Angeles in the 20s and 30s, they’re both about a group of people who are living at the same address and making their way through life during a very specific time and place.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I came across an article about the Garden of Allah hotel in an online article. It mentioned all the people who stayed there and it was a passing parade of famous Hollywood names: Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Errol Flynn, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (who wrote the Thin Man series), Lillian Hellman, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra . . . the list seemed to go and on.
I wondered how the hell I’d never heard of this place so I did some research and found there was a book about the place called “The Garden of Allah” by a popular gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham who was there a lot when she was going out with Scott Fitzgerald. So I got a copy of her book and when I found that the Garden of Allah opened at the dawn of the talkies—1927—and closed at the dusk of the studio system—1959—I realized that the residents of the Garden of Allah witnessed the unfolding of what we now consider to be the golden era of Hollywood. I saw there was a rich field for storytelling and couldn’t believe nobody had ever done anything with it. That’s when I decided that it was up to me!
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I have three fictional main characters who, in the course of their lives, meet and interact with all sorts of famous people from the Hollywood era – Louis B. Mayer, George Cukor, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Tallulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley. I try to represent these people accurately but interestingly. Specifically in Citizen Hollywood, the late 1930s saw the arrival of the gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen so things start to take a darker turn in the lives of my characters.
Here are authors I’ve tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing:
Thank you to Debra Pawlak for tagging me!