The Little Book of Muses
Even if I can't get the movie Adaptation out of my head, screenwriting is a sexy profession that brings us much joy.
Here are some wonderful Romance Novels with heroes and heroines who have this joy.
My lists are never in any particular order. Enjoy!
1. Hello, Hollywood! by Janice Thompson
Athena Pappas is the head writer on Stars Collide, one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. But when Vegas comedian Stephen Cosse is brought in to beef up the show's suddenly sagging ratings, she starts to worry about her job. Sparks fly as the competition--and attraction--between the two writers heats up. Athena has never had a problem writing the romances of her characters. So why is her own love life so hard to script?
2. Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr
Rising sous-chef Kelly Matlock's sudden collapse at work is a wake-up call. Disillusioned and burned out, she's retreated to her sister Jillian's house in Virgin River to rest and reevaluate.
Puttering in Jill's garden and cooking with her heirloom vegetables is wonderful, but Virgin River is a far cry from San Francisco. Kelly's starting to feel a little too unmotivated…until she meets Lief Holbrook. The handsome widower looks more like a lumberjack than a sophisticated screenwriter—a combination Kelly finds irresistible. But less appealing is Lief's rebellious stepdaughter, Courtney. She's the reason they moved from L.A., but Courtney's finding plenty of trouble even in Virgin River.
Kelly's never fallen for a guy with such serious baggage, but some things are worth fighting for. Besides, a bratty teenager can't be any worse than a histrionic chef…right?
3. She Went All the Way by Meg Cabot
There are a few places screenwriter Lou Calabrese would rather be than crammed into a helicopter with Jack Townsend, star of her claim to fame, Copkiller, and whose ex just ran off with Lou's ex. Talk about uncomfortable. But when, halfway out to the isolated arctic location where Copkiller IV is currently shooting, their pilot turns murderous and their helicopter crashes, Lou realizes her day has just gotten a lot worse.
Now, while family and friends back home fret over her disappearance, Lou is on the run in the arctic wilderness with America's sweetheart Jack Townsend and only the contents of her purse, his pockets, and their mutual knowledge of survival movie trivia to keep them alive. Can these two children of Hollywood put aside their differences and make it back home without killing each other? Or much, much worse, actually start to like one another?
4. Act Like You Love Me by Cindi Madsen
5. Charade (Arabesque) by Donna Hill
Tyler Ellington thought a scholarship to film school was the chance to fulfill her lifelong ambition, but she never imagined her hardest lesson would be in love. Betrayed by sexy filmmaker Miles Bennett, the first man she'd allowed into her heart, Tyler flees home to Savannah, only to find another man intruding in her fantasies. Handsome photographer Sterling Grey has the sense of humor, unwavering patience and compassionate heart that are the exact opposite of Miles Bennett. Soon the wounded Tyler finds herself surrendering to the pleasure of his caresses.
Even a perfect summer romance can't dissuade Tyler from returning to New York, and to Miles. Working with him to produce her prize-winning screenplay, she is moved by his humble apologies—and swept up in his passionate kisses. Her long-cherished dreams have indeed come true, but Tyler can't forget Sterling's warm, tender touch. Now torn between two men, she must decide which love is the real thing.
6. Sudden Moves by Charlotte Vale-Allen
After years of self-imposed, fearful reclusiveness inside her home, Lucinda Hunter has started moving out into the world. She has found her family and her isolation has ended. Daily, she babysits seven-year-old Jason and takes great pleasure in the boy's whimsical, thoughtful nature. The little girl, Katanya Taylor, who ventured into her garden five years earlier and beckoned to Lucinda to come outside, is now a feisty, somewhat irreverant teenager who comes with her mother and grandmother to spend weekends with LucindaÑtheir initial connection stronger than ever.
Everything is going well. Yet Lucinda feels an urgent anxiety, fearful that she will never have sufficient time to spend with her very elderly grandmother; that she will never be able to absorb all the details of the family history. She is racing against time. Yet she is happier than she's been since childhood. And meeting Eli Carter, her grandmother's doctor, presents an unexpected and challenging set of new circumstances.
Then, on September 11th 2001, the world is cataclysmically changed. In the aftermath, faced with the shattering repercussions that affect everyone and everything Lucinda knows, she is pulled, finally, entirely, into a new reality. Nothing will ever be the same.
7. Cooking Up Trouble / Kiss the Cook by Molly O'Keefe
ooking Up Trouble by Molly O’Keefe
Mark Cook shouldn’t mind that a Hollywood heartthrob is intruding on his family’s ranch to learn how to be a cowboy. Or that Mr. Moviestar is getting a bit too close to his best friend, Alyssa Halloway. But, damn it all, he’s jealous to the point of distraction whenever he sees them together! And to compete with a gorgeous actor for Alyssa’s heart, things are gonna get dirty down on the farm….
Kiss the Cook by Molly O’Keefe
No one has ever been able to hook heartbreaker Billy Cook like wild Kate Jenkins. Her passionate kisses made him fall in love thirteen years ago, only for her to turn around and break his teenage heart by leaving town. In fact, she’s the reason he vowed to be a confirmed bachelor! Now pregnant, Kate is back in Montana to deliver her baby, claiming her wanderlust days are over. And Billy can’t help wonder if his vow was a bit too hasty….
8. His L.A. Cinderella by Trish Wylie
Cassidy Malone describes herself as a plain, slightly plump schoolteacher—totally unsuitable for Hollywood life. Unfortunately she is now at the beck and call of top movie mogul and old flame Will Ryan.
Once upon a time she signed a contract, in a whirlwind of youth and confidence. Now, as they write the script they never finished, Will's devilish smile and lethal charm make her yearn for the safety of the classroom!
9. His Brother's Secret by Debra Salonen
n college, Shane Reynard lacked the nerve to tell Jenna Murphy how he felt. Now, with all his Hollywood success behind him, lack of nerve is not what holds him back. When his latest TV show lands him in Jenna's hometown, he offers her a place on his writing team. Too bad spending a lot of time with her reminds Shane of every single thing he liked about her.
But as much as Shane wants to fall for her, there's a family secret he has to confess first. And once she knows the truth, there's a real chance Jenna will never want to see Shane's face again.
10. Cutting Loose by Kristin Hardy
When a gang of twentysomething women get together, men are always on the menu!
A makeover. A masked stranger. A master suite. When Trish Dawson's new look attracts the attention of a fellow costume-party guest, she decides to cut loose and go for it. When his mask comes off, not to mention his clothes, hot actor Ty Ramsay is revealed. Insisting this'll be a one-night-only performance, she's going to risk it all.
But Ty has other ideas...ones that involve all-night make-out sessions, doing damage to the headboard and three-day getaways to the sexiest spots on earth. He might even be thinking long-term, Trish has him so wound up-but she's not sure and may need a lot of convincing...Ty Ramsay style!
Vote for the best of the best on my Goodreads list: Screenwriters in Love.
I know I'm enjoying a book when I have the urge to tell someone "oh this bit, check this out, isn't this fun?!" Plus this quote gives you an idea of Marion being a normal woman, as well as understanding how women think differently. Neat story all round.
Backstory: Marion is on her third husband (she's in her 20s), and totally in love and happy - they both have careers in film, they both love each other's intelligence, all the good stuff. But she has eyes, and this sense of humor. (Never fear, she's not the type to have an affair - that's not where this goes. Her current husband, Fred Thomson, is a former Olympic calibre athlete/Presbyterian army chaplain turned cowboy star. Yes, his biography is just as interesting as that sounds.)
Marion is working for Goldwyn on the 1926 film The Winning of Barbara Worth. (Ebook here!) Goldwyn's secretary asks Marion to see if she can't put in a good word for the secretary's boyfriend, as he's trying to get one of the parts in the film. (Also backstory: Hopper has been a friend of Marion's for years. Which is how she knows Marion's reaction in this story.)
“At six foot four, with brown hair and chiseled if irregular features, the young man appealed to Frances immediately. Hedda Hopper claimed that he was so “her type” of man that when Frances first saw him standing against the wall of the studio building, “she gave him a second look and as she went through the door, even risked a third.”
[The actor boyfriend had sent a screentest for the part but the male execs didn’t think much of it.]
...Frances concluded it was because male stars still tended to be “pretty boys”; the director and producer didn’t think women would be attracted to what she was the first to admit was a “gaunt, slow moving self conscious young man.” But knowing how both she and Sam’s secretary reacted to him, Frances suggested organizing a screening of his and other actors’ tests in front of a group of female office workers at the studio. The immediate response from their collective libido proved that the two women were not alone and Frank Cooper, changing his first name to Gary so that he would not be confused with another actor with the same name, was hired at fifty dollars a week.
...Yet when she viewed the daily rushes, Frances suddenly realized they had a problem on their hands.
“This guy is going to steal the picture,” Frances announced to King and Goldwyn after watching Gary Cooper’s dramatic portrayal of an exhausted man collapsing.“
While Cooper had a somewhat awkward time learning to act, he had improved so quickly (and took to direction so well) that Marion had to write him out of a later scene or he would have been mistaken for the hero of the film. And of course Cooper went on to become a major star quickly after that. Goldwyn was mocked by the industry for not giving him the salary raise Cooper asked for - Paramount snapped him up days later.
I did have to eyeroll at the concept of two men being so completely sure they knew what type of man all women would and wouldn't find attractive. (Not to mention that Marion had to get backup responses - but the way she chose to do this was brilliant - using women already working for the studio.) Again, this sort of thing didn't end in the 1900s - and it works for all genders really. We've all heard varions of (mix the genders as you will, or substitute your own): "Wait, women/men like him/her?! Why?! Ugh, not attractive at all."
Once again I'm having fun with multiple-book-juggling! I now have three sometimes-overlapping book reading needs:
1) commute reads: reading for the train, can't be too engrossing or I'll miss my stop (I am NOT exaggerating about that),
2) evening reads: something I can put down easily so I can remember to get sleep, and
3) paper books that aren't portable and have to be read at home.
Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood is in the third category because it's just heavy enough to be a pain to carry, along with all the other items I'm toting to and from work. At the moment it's also an evening read, but that's a problem because I'd classify it as almost too interesting.
Wikipedia: Frances Marion
[On the book cover Marion is on the right and the woman on the left is Mary Pickford.]
It's completely normal to have never heard of Frances Marion. The only reason I have is because I studied film history, and because I've read a handfull of books about women writers in the 1920s. Marion was one of many writers who wasn't exactly part of the Algonquin Round Table but was tied to it by living at the hotel for a time and by knowing some of the "members." (It wasn't exactly an official club.) She was also conscious that she wasn't really part of "that crowd" because her writing was often dismissed because it was only for film. Even today some people consider writing for film/television/etc. not "real" writing. (I am soooo into scare quotes suddenly, yerg.)
The one thing that you find over and over is how many witty, bright, and interesting women writers were involved in the magazine and film writing industries in early 1900s America. This isn't the first book I've read to posit that one reason women were able to be taken (somewhat, for the times) seriously in these fields was because of how disreputable the business was - women were let in because no one was taking those fields seriously. Because no one respected writers. There's a weird myth of that being a respected career, and that's never been the case. There's a very narrow field of Writers of Literature that got some respect, as well as certain types of academic writing - but there were thousands of other writers making a living who weren't considered valuable members of society, or even artists. And whose names we don't know today. If you think anything has changed, go read interviews of writers working in the film and television industry. Not the ones whose names you've heard of - again, that's a very small, select group. Most screenwriters are rarely are known by name and are just as disposable to the studios now as those writers in the 1900s. Something doesn't work? Fire the current writer and bring in someone else.
What I love about Marion is her attitude. She can do it all - write, direct, produce, edit - and she chose writing as the thing that made her happiest. (Since she was pretty they tried to nudge her into acting - which she always knew wasn't her thing.) She kept control of her career by not signing up with just one studio, and instead freelanced so she could choose who she worked with and what projects. She managed to become one of the best known screenwriters of the time - a recognized name in the fan magazines and newspapers.
I haven't yet read to the part in the book where the entire film world undergoes a Big Change with the coming of sound. It's one of those earthshaking industry moments - like television suddenly competing with film (and film fighting back) or mp3s changing the entire music industry (and the music industry fighting back). I honestly love reading about these moments because
1) everyone in the industry always flips out about them initially (in extremely dramatic ways, because careers suddenly undergo massive change, businesses rise and fall, etc.) and
2) each one always makes the media more interesting for consumers and more complex for scholars/workers in that field.
And I do love a good, meaty history-of-tech story.
Oops, this was all leading up to a quote from the book - got a bit carried away with history squee. Well, I'll just pop that in after the break.
(Also WTF is this one week it's snowing us in and the coming week it's going to be 60 degrees?! And here I thought I was being overly careful bringing some summer clothes along with me. The US east coast is winning the changeable weather award - given by me - over west coast - well, for this season anyway.)
I have found a unicorn: a Juné yaoi novel that contains no rape. It doesn't even have anyone thinking about raping someone. Unfortunately, the book wasn't very good. There were some aspects I really liked, but the way they were written (or translated?) just didn't work for me.
This book was about Biwa, a Japanese screenwriter who has lived in America for most of his life, and Yamato, a famous Japanese actor. Biwa's production team is working on a detective show, and the director wants Yamato to play the lead. Biwa originally believed he made it onto the production team on the basis of his scriptwriting skills, so he's disappointed to learn that he might have been added to the team primarily because he knows Japanese and could act as Yamato's babysitter. Although the two of them don't exactly start off on the right foot, it's not long before they become friends.
When I first started reading this, I thought I was dealing with a complete clunker. Morimoto introduced 8-year-old Biwa and then sped through the next 18 years of his life in just a few pages before stopping at Biwa's first day as part of the production team. I was glad things slowed down after that. The book's earlier scenes are among its best. I enjoyed it when a frustrated and insulted Biwa ripped into Yamato for saying that getting on any TV series, whether American or Japanese, was easy. And I was happy when Yamato turned out to be friendlier, humbler, and more dedicated to his work than he at first appeared to be.
I was a little worried that Biwa's early demonstration that he possessed a spine meant that Yamato would be super-dominant and super-aggressive once they inevitably had sex. Thankfully, Biwa and Yamato's relationship remained light, playful, and a little sweet throughout the entire book. The closest Yamato came to being aggressive was unexpectedly kissing Biwa. Yamato turned the whole thing into a joke or cultural misunderstanding (“[Kissing] is like shaking hands over here, right?” (88)), and Biwa accepted that explanation even though Yamato continued to test the boundaries of their relationship as the story progressed.
Biwa and Yamato were an okay couple, and I really did like those early scenes, but the book suffered from two big problems. One, there wasn't much of a plot, and two, Morimoto's attempts at banter (or Quine's translation of that banter) tended to fall flat. One of these things alone might been okay, but both of them together resulted in a story that plodded along before it finally thunked to a halt.
Most of the book focused on the planning and creation of the detective show's pilot episode. There were long passages describing how American TV shows are created and how they differ from Japanese TV. Morimoto did a bit of authorial hand-waving with the scriptwriting and filming portions and made no attempt to sugarcoat the show's chances of success. I actually think the story might have been better if Morimoto had thrown realism completely out the window and turned the show into Biwa's big screenwriting break and Yamato big Hollywood acting break.
Strangely enough, Morimoto decided to abandon realism near the end of the book and have Yamato and Biwa agree to work together on a project that, as far as I could see, had less than zero chance of success. Since neither Yamato nor Biwa were supposed to be stupid or overly idealistic, I felt like I'd wandered into some sort of Like a Love Comedy alternate universe.
There were times when the banter between Yamato and Biwa was nice, but for some reason their dialogue didn't consistently work for me. Parts of it felt a little too formal, and the topics of their conversations tended to bore me to tears after a few pages. I can remember them talking about American sitcoms and the hugeness of American food portions, and that's about it. By the way, the food portions conversation was at a fancy restaurant, which bugged me, because I'd figure that the portions at a place like that would actually be quite small.
Hmm, what else? I suppose I should say something about the book's one sex scene. It was...pretty bad. Like I said, there was no rape, so it wasn't that. It read a bit like a heterosexual penis-in-vagina sex scene – no lube of any kind, an emphasis on “there will be pain the first time, but after that it'll be fine,” and occasional details that I was pretty sure wouldn't apply to male anatomy.
This wasn't the worst thing I've ever read, and it didn't leave me feeling angry, but there were a lot of aspects of it that could have used improvement. It's too bad, because Yamato and Biwa really were a nice couple, and I wanted to like their story more than I did.
One color illustration, 10 black-and-white illustrations, and an afterword written by the author. Narumi's art style wasn't to my tastes, and the scenes chosen (mostly kissing, sex, or post-sex) were a bit odd, considering that the story wasn't actually all that steamy. Maybe an attempt to compensate for that?
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)