We’re back with Vickie Lester and George Kaplan, on writing sex, and various things Hollywood

kobler148

What was your particular process when writing and – later – revising IIHK? As you wrote the novel did some parts come easier than others? And were any aspects heavily revised?

Now you’re making me work! Let’s see, I finished the first draft of the book a little over two years ago. The biggest initial change was the character count. In the first draft there was no uncle for our heroine, or half-sister. As for hard or easy, writing for me is a very fluid state, I just go wherever the characters lead, in that regard it just flowed. In terms of process I write straight through until the first draft is finished. I let it sit for about a week without reading it and try to pick it up with a fresh eye. I make a ton of revisions and then I ask readers to give me feedback, and by readers I mean my husband and next door neighbor. With this book my agents gave me a set of notes for revisions, and after it went to the publisher (ex-publisher: click here for explanation) I worked with the gentleman you introduced me to, Robert Winter, for line by line scrutiny. He paid particular attention to maintaining narrative tone, clarity, and gave me extensive notes on enhancing and defining the text.


There are more than a few memorable characters in Kiss, do you have any favorites? Were some particularly fun to write?

Joe Merlin, the crass, corpulent, producer was really fun to write. And then there were characters I kinda loved. Like the heroine’s father (I wonder why?) and the smart-talking barista in the coffee shop across from “Eminence Towers” and the Church of Clientology.


The dialogue for Cole Starkey and Bob Brown is, in particular, often hilarious. Was it easy to get into the rhythm of writing for those two at times reprehensible but ultimately likeable Hollywood dinosaurs?

I had Bob Brown’s distinctive patois down pat, right? Because I was listening to someone similar since the beginning of time—well—my time, at any rate. Cole was easy as well, I drew on voices from when I was a kid and living in London, but that was long ago. His dialogue got updated and refined by the Mr. Winter (your countryman) who I was referring to earlier.


Well, I do know Mr Winter and though he is not the world’s greatest extrovert, I fear your praise will cause his head to swell and make him insufferable! (Winter, if you read this: Sorry, but what are friends for!)

Looking back at the whole process of writing the novel, what were the easiest and what the most difficult elements?

You’re going to laugh, George, but I didn’t find writing the novel in any way difficult. Now if you want to talk about writing the weblog, that has its difficult moments. Breaking it down I’d say writing a novel is spinning a yarn, telling a tale, crafting a story. There’s a beginning, middle, and end. A weblog is a continuum. (By the way, I hope you appreciate, you who are from the UK, that I am not using the more Americanized term: blog.) Back to the difficulties in writing a weblog—it’s more of a running commentary—sometimes it resonates with readers, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s much more temporal.


Hey, no blushing, but now can you talk a little about writing sex?!

gloriaswanson

Ah. Sex. There was a lot less in the novel in the first draft, and then I started getting feedback. My next door neighbor said, “Write the sex! You just glossed over it!” My first thought was, why write it? Everyone knows what sex is like. And then it dawned on me that sex is different for everyone. And how a character experiences sex, or perceives of sex, says a lot about them. 

Hey, how a person perceives sex says a lot about them? Is there anything wrong with dressing in a bunny suit? Uhhh, never mind…! Of all the various tools at your disposal when writing, which do you feel you are most skilled at using? Plotting? Characterization? Dialogue?

Dialogue! Followed by characterization. My personal Max Perkins***, also known as Robert Winter, said something I liked about the characters. He said they had a pungent realism. That’s aces for an author to hear, coming from an editor. I hope the plotting made sense, it seems to derive from what the character’s are doing.

[*** William Maxwell Evarts “Max” Perkins September 20, 1884 – June 17, 1947, was the editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald…via Maxwell Perkins – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.]

What do you find to be the major difference between writing screenplays and novels? Which habits have you needed to wean yourself off?

The good thing I got from writing screenplays was a sense of pacing, in a movie you never want to lose the audience’s attention, I was conscious of that while I was writing the novel. The other benefit from screenplays is knowing how and when to use dialogue. The major difference between novel and screenplay is written description. In a script it’s brief, just the barest information. I had to wean myself off of that. I had to describe the world of the novel much more clearly.

Before we wrap up, could you give me an insight into what Vickie Lester reads, watches, and, listens to? Which writers and what kind of novels or books hold the most appeal for you? As with most writers I assume that reading means a great deal to you, what sparked your interest? Did your time in London expand your horizons? What music makes you put your dancin’ shoes on? Are you a Sixties, Seventies, Eighties girl? Or all of the above? Did your parents and siblings have any effect on your tastes?

Even though the blog (and trying to figure out how to promote the book) takes up most of my time now, I do still read as much as I can. It’s a habit formed in childhood that’s hard to break. What sparked my interest in reading? It must have been my older siblings. They taught to read when I was four, since then I’ve been roaming the library stacks—and I think Jeff Bezos owes his early success to me. Books that appeal to me have emotional validity, a captivating voice; and a precise view into history, a place, or a personal dynamic… Which is my way of wiggling out of giving you specifics. Okay. I can see you scowling. I’ll tell you why I read, which I think is more important than who I read, I read to see the world differently.

London was a great for me. It taught me that everyone thinks their home is the center of the universe. But more than that, I think I caught a sense of continuity there, of history, that I hadn’t experienced in the United States.

Music? I dance barefoot and I listen to everything!

Everything? Even Pat Boone, Justin Bieber, and polkas?! Details, Vickie, details! The world wants to know!

Well, I did do something similar to a polka in a ballet class recital of Coppélia. To my knowledge, I’ve never heard Bieber sing, and did you know Pat Boone played a very funny parody of his squeaky-clean image in a movie called “Goodbye, Charlie,” starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Curtis? Okay. I’m done dodging your question: I listen to classical (blaring, so I feel like I’m in Carnegie Hall), film scores, R&B, Alt. Rock, Classic Rock, Punk, Hip hop, House, Nat King Cole and other vocalists who send shivers down my spine, that kind of thing!


Before you worked in the industry which movies that you saw in your childhood and teenage years had the most impact on you? The Mister is, I know, a great guy and a great help but is he allowed to talk shop in the house?!

Oh baby! We talk a lot of shop around here. Which is probably why I didn’t write a novel set in Nebraska (no disrespect to Willa Cather). Movies, I’ve seen so many and from such an early age I can’t really separate them as a distinct influences, it’s more like they’re a part of my vocabulary. Does that make sense?


Having read your book that makes perfect sense. Now, It’s In His Kiss has only just been loosed on the world but I have to ask this, do you have ideas for another novel in the future and will it have a similar setting and subject or will it be different? Having done it once do you now have a clear idea of what you want to do and what your strengths are?

Before I started the weblog I was halfway through writing another novel. And guess what! I’m still halfway through… The novel is set in the center of my universe, Hollywood, and now that you mention it there are one or two overlapping characters… (By the way, do you know ellipses or, … , drive editors INSANE?)

They…hate…ell…ip…ses… Golly!

Golly Jeepers! I have a yearning to get back to writing the new novel, but I know I have to devote my time now to selling It’s in His Kiss. Strengths? I can tell you right now “patience” is not one. Wait, you meant in terms of writing. That I do know. I listen to my characters, and the very, very wise words of Billy Wilder, “The Wilder message is don’t bore – don’t bore people.”

Gloria-Swanson-Billy-Wilder

In my opinion, you have more than succeeded in fulfilling that objective. And I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m blowing smoke! I think I can speak for many others in saying I wish you the best of success with It’s in His Kiss and I’m excited to see what you do in future. Thank You for agreeing to this interrogation, I’ve really enjoyed it!

Thank you, and so have I, George! And if you’re interested in the book we’ve been discussing, it’s available in paperback and digital download.

11 comments

  1. Heather in Arles

    This was just so utterly fantabulous that I am at a loss for words! I am! As someone who has absolutely no idea how novels are written and yet loves to read, this was truly insightful. Merci Mr. Bunny Suit, I mean Mr. Kaplan for the delving questions and to you, the lovely Ms. V, not only for your answers but for writing such a wonderful novel, one that has stayed with me long after having read it…
    …and yes, the thought that some of the characters might return in a future novel brought me not a little joy too!
    Gros Bisous à vous deux,
    H

    • I am listening to the Arctic Monkeys. I believe George would be proud.
      The next novel is a cautionary tale…about a nanny who becomes a studio head…
      Hey! I’m still working on it! xox, V

      • Heather in Arles

        Ah, I will most certainly have fingers crossed that the book is seen and appreciated as it should be in the traditional outlets.
        And of course! The novel that you have excerpted here!! Oh me my mind is as mushy as the cottage cheese that I dollopped on my rice cake this morning (topped with EVOO and cracked pepper of course)! Bring it on….!!!

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday Maxwell Perkins | waldina

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