Authors: Stories Behind the Books, Suzanne Kelman
Over the past several months I have been so happy with the progress of my Author project. Each Author has shared some insightful details about their writing careers, short personal anecdotes, and there are some laughs for sure. My next Author is Suzanne Kelman, Author, Screenwriter, Playwright, AND Podcaster. That is quite a lot of titles for one person but Suzanne is able to balance it all in her charming studio that sits just off her house in Western Washington. With 23 noted Hollywood awards to her so far, Suzanne stays humble about her successes and enjoys sharing her positivity to others. Her interview is below...
Author, Screenwriter,and Playwright, AND Podcaster that is quite a job title...er job titles. How did you fall into all three of these categories? Did you always have a strong passion for story telling?
"Fall in" is a great way to describe my career twists and turns, because there never was a real plan, one thing in my life has always led to another. My background is in theatre, and I became a screenwriter because I was writing a stage-play that wouldn't lie down and be staged, I kept visualizing it on the screen. Eventually, I gave in as the story knew the direction it wanted to go in and I learned how to be a screenwriter in order to write it. I, in turn, fell in love with this form of writing and started writing for the screen. But alas, it can be a long time waiting for films to get produced. I then became an author to sustain my screenwriting "habit." Then, I became a podcaster in order to get more attention for my book, so I could continue writing for the screen and on and on it goes, it's a little bit like the song "I knew an old woman who swallowed a fly."
You are based in Washington, which thanks to modern technology, you can easily communicate back and forth with colleagues and people you work with, but why not be in Los Angeles where screenwriters probably dream of being? How is balancing work with being two states away from Hollywood?
I live and work in a studio in the middle of the woods on our beautiful property in the prettiest state. The place I live really feeds into my writing. My environment inspires me. Yes, there are some disadvantages to not being on the doorstep of the industry I work for, but I think the payoffs easily weigh out the disadvantages. I go to L.A. two or three times a year to meet with producers and industry professionals. I try and book a lot of meetings during that time. In between I do all of my meetings via Skype and through email. I am on Skype with producers around ten to fifteen hours a week depending on where we are in the process of the project.
When a new character or a plot of a new screenplay or play jumps in your mind, how long does it take you to get it roped down on paper and into a position that fits? This is speaking more about process. Do you see plots and characters crystal clear or do you have to write down and come back?
This is a great question, and the real answer is there is no rhyme or reason to how story and characters find me, and it often happens that way round. I often will get a flash of a story, usually at a most unexpected moment, a sudden picture gets my wheels whirrring. When I was writing my screenplay Illusion I had a picture flash into my mind from nowhere of a very eccentric person sat in a ramshackle room watching 30 clocks ticking on the wall as fire poured under the door of his apartment. I had no idea who he was, why he wasn't running for his life, or why the clocks were so important, but I started to ask questions until the story began to form in my head. This is very common for me. I see a scene and as if a have just arrived as a detective in an Agatha Christie mystery, I have to figure out the reason for everything that is happening. Once the idea is starting to form out of the fog, I start writing. I don't do much plotting because I don't know who the characters are until I start writing them, and it's their character traits that plot their journey. Once I start writing I'm a Pantser. I try to write between 1000-1500 words a day.
We talked about your book, The Rejected Writer's Book Club, which has been reviewed as a very funny and delightful adventure but the title poke at the rejection letters artists of any medium get when we submit work. What was your motive for this? What is your experience with rejection letters and what do you think we can learn from them?
I wrote the book because I wanted to turn something that is often painful or embarrassing for writers on it's head. I saw a shame as people discussed their rejection letters and I always think a writer should be very proud of them, they are stepping stones on your journey. They say I was brave enough to send my work out into the world. So, I created a club that celebrated rejection in style.
We can't forget that you host a podcast, Blondie and the Brit - Writing, Publishing and Beyond. What is your podcast about?
I started the podcast with my co-presenter and business partner K.J. Waters. We met on twitter about four years ago and enjoyed hanging out together on social media. One day K.J. who is also an author, approached me with an idea of creating a podcast to support authors and writers in their process and thought we might get a little exposure for our books along the way. So, each week we interview an author or someone in the publishing industry and learn all about what is working for them and their writing process. It has been really fun and we learned so much. It has been very successful with over 50'000 people visiting the home site and we get an average of 1000 listeners a week and at this time about 70 people signed up to hear our weekly show.
You have 23 Hollywood award nods to you, including a People's Choice Award and winner for Best Script Overall at the L.A. Script-A-Thon. What was your first award and what was it for? How did that feel to win for work that you created?
My first award was for my first screenplay, "Maggie the Brave" I won Best Comedy Feature at the L.A. International Film Festival. I was so shocked that I had won that I forgot my best friends name who had travel to the event with me. The most memorable accolade I had in the Fall of 2015 which I received from The Academy of Motion Picture, Art and Sciences. A script I co-wrote placed in the top ten scripts in the Academy's Nicoll Fellowship Awards, it beat 7500 other scripts to get there. I received a beautiful award certificate signed by Robin Swicord (screenwriter of Memoirs of a Geisha) who also happens to be my mentor, and also the Academy president Cheryl Booth Isaacs. I have it framed on my wall, and I remind myself every day that people at the Academy know my name and have read my work. I always feel blown away by that thought.
Has a screenwriter/storyteller, do you watch TV much? Why/Why not? Do you think television scripts are more or less being successful for modern audiences? (This is a lot of questions but I really liked when we talked about Netflix and streaming television shows verses cable television and how the two are competing in this day and age).
I hardly watch any TV or cable. I prefer to binge watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. This is because I often need to be truly submerged in a show to really understand it. So if a producer asks me to write something in the vein of a modern show, I will watch as much as I can so I can truly absorb the beats of the story and voice of the storyteller. But, I don't watch regular T.V. because there is too much on and I would easily get distracted.
What is next in the works for you?
In my screenwriting career, I am working with a producer on a very exciting new T.V. show and pilot. It is still in development right which is my favorite stage; I love to create. In my author career, I am also working on book two of my Rejected Writers Book Club series. Then I'm preparing to do a big market push for promote my the first book in the series which is being published by Lake Union Publishing in March this year.
To view Suzanne Kelman's work and every aspect of her writing career, you can visit:
Suzanne Kelman: http://www.suzannekelmanauthor.com/
IMDB Profile: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5882992/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Thank you so much to Suzanne Kelman for welcoming me into her home, studio, and being a part of this project.
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