Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Where Ideas Come From (Thursday Night 8:00 PM On Turner Classic Movies)

I can't speak for all writers (although I do when I say we want more money and we want it now), but I know the question I'm most frequently asked is where do I get my ideas.

Ideas come from all sorts of places, but as those of you who read every precious word of this precious blog know, the idea for Life As We Knew It came from my watching the movie Meteor.

I love movies. They're my favorite form of storytelling. And I have a particular fondness for film noir.

This very Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern, Turner Classic Movies (or TCM as it's known to its crazed cult following) is showing  one of my all time favorite noirs, Cry Danger. I'm particularly happy about this because it's not available on DVD and I'm generally awake at 8:00 PM (TCM that night is showing another couple of my all time favorites, The Breaking Point and The Prowler, but I'll be asleep by then which is okay since they're both available on DVD and I own them both and watch them regularly).

Back to Cry Danger. In it, Dick Powell stars as Rocky Mulloy, which is in and of itself not particularly interesting (nothing against Dick Powell), except that it's kind of fun to note how many noir heroes have names with "ck" in them. Rick, Nick, Mickey, Rocky. Anyway, Dick Powell is perfectly fine, but character actor Richard Erdman steals the movie, and you should watch it for him, should you happen to be free Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern and have access to Turner Classic Movies.

All right, you say (I can hear you saying it). Susan's a big movie fan and in particular a big film noir fan and most unexpectedly a big Richard Erdman fan. But what does that have to do with me?

Well, probably nothing, unless you too are a big Richard Erdman fan. But as it happens, I was "inspired" by Cry Danger quite a number of years ago, and kinda sorta lifted its premise and turned it into a middle group novel called The Pizza Puzzle.

Now Cry Danger is about robberies and ex-cons and beautiful women and alcoholics and night clubs and gangsters and trailer camps and the post-war period., all in 79 minutes because film noirs don't waste time. The Pizza Puzzle is about middle school friendships and family problems and teachers and pizza, so unless you know that the latter is directly "inspired" by the former, you'd never guess it, and the only way you'd know is if I told you, which I just did, but I trust you'll keep it to yourself, and don't tell the folks who made Meteor about Life As We Knew It either, because I'd prefer if they never found out.

Sadly (well, I'm sad about it) The Pizza Puzzle never earned out its advance (although it sold 100,000 in paperback, which should have helped). But I did get a $15,000.00 advance for it 18 years ago, and I'm sure the money came in handy at the time (to be honest, it feels like a lot more than 18 years ago, but the date on the contract is Feb. 1995 and my calculator assures me that's 18 years ago give or take a couple of weeks which my calculator didn't care about).

So if you happen to be free Thursday night at 8:00 PM Eastern, my recommendation is you sit back, relax, watch Cry Danger for 79 noir heaven minutes, and have a couple of slices of pizza while you're at it!


Paige Y. said...

I purchased a copy of The Pizza Puzzle when it first came out for my media center -- we still have it!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Good morning Paige Y.

I have a friend who used to teach The Pizza Puzzle. She claimed her students really enjoyed it.

But then again, she's my friend, so she has to say that!