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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, May 8, 2015

Rosenfelt lit-fest speech refreshing


I Swear



Vic Fleming

I was the least successful marketing person in the history of Hollywood.” With that line, novelist David Rosenfelt gets his first laugh. As part of the Arkansas Literary Festival, the author of 21 books addresses a packed house at the Clinton School of Public Service. And not about accessing inner muses or fusing justice with mercy. With mega-doses of self-deprecating humor, Rosenfelt tells it like it is. For him.

He leaves the movie business. “And, trust me,” he says, “there were no actors and directors hanging onto my ankles.” He goes into screenwriting, selling several scripts. None makes the big screen. Of three aired on TV, he explains, “The first two were mediocre. The third was a complete train wreck”: In one scene, a guy throws a dog overboard; then, to impress the female dog-owner, jumps in to rescue the dog, which easily outswims the man.

On a whim, he writes a legal-thriller—in six weeks. His agent sends it to a publisher, who buys it “with four sequels.” So, now he’s a serial novelist. His debut is “nominated for the Gumshoe Award—Best First Novel. I forwarded that email to every human being in America. You may have deleted it, but you got it.” He then discovers that the person who nominated his book couldn’t remember his name.

For the first sequel, the publisher “sent me a book jacket that showed a guy on a bridge looking down at the murder site. But that’s not in the book. So, … I put it in the book”—his first lesson “in literary integrity.” In book five, slated to be his last, a golden retriever plays a role. It sells twice as many as any other novel. Why? “People wrote me, ‘I hate to admit it, but the only reason I bought it was the dog on the cover’.” The publisher then sends him a jacket for a sixth book—with two dogs on the cover.

He tells of “ridiculous mistakes” in his work. A character shot in the thigh almost bleeds to death because “the bullet severed her carotid artery.” A character’s mother is the “perfect match” for a heart transplant, a procedure that doesn’t depend on “matches.” A mystery is solved based on whether a “flight plan” was filed at the airport. A pilot tells him that flight plans are not required. He creates a fictitious town—Wilton, Maine—that floods when a dam breaks. Turns out there’s a real Wilton, Maine, … and it’s 100 miles from the nearest river.

Laughter continues through Q&A, as passionate would-be novelists seek tips.

Do you keep a notebook for ideas that occur to you? 

“No. … Mostly because ideas don’t occur to me.”

How much research do you do?

“Zero.”

Do you have a writing routine?

“No.”

Shouldn’t editors catch those errors?

“They find the smallest things. Like I refer to the Coach House Diner, two words. They checked it, and it was one word. But they didn’t check where the carotid artery was.”

One audience member summed it up: “You give new meaning to stream-of-consciousness.” Another told me: “He’s my favorite speaker ever!” Yet another: “Very refreshing! Cold hard honesty.”

“Who Let the Dog Out?,” Rosenfelt’s thirteenth Andy Carpenter novel, is due out in July. Also due out in July is “Lessons from Tara,” the nonfiction sequel to “Dogtripping,” which chronicles the author’s relocation from California to Maine with 25 dogs.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net. 

Rosenfelt lit-fest speech refreshing

 

I

 was the least successful marketing person in the history of Hollywood.” With that line, novelist David Rosenfelt gets his first laugh. As part of the Arkansas Literary Festival, the author of 21 books addresses a packed house at the Clinton School of Public Service. And not about accessing inner muses or fusing justice with mercy. With mega-doses of self-deprecating humor, Rosenfelt tells it like it is. For him.

He leaves the movie business. “And, trust me,” he says, “there were no actors and directors hanging onto my ankles.” He goes into screenwriting, selling several scripts. None makes the big screen. Of three aired on TV, he explains, “The first two were mediocre. The third was a complete train wreck”: In one scene, a guy throws a dog overboard; then, to impress the female dog-owner, jumps in to rescue the dog, which easily outswims the man.

On a whim, he writes a legal-thriller—in six weeks. His agent sends it to a publisher, who buys it “with four sequels.” So, now he’s a serial novelist. His debut is “nominated for the Gumshoe Award—Best First Novel. I forwarded that email to every human being in America. You may have deleted it, but you got it.” He then discovers that the person who nominated his book couldn’t remember his name.

For the first sequel, the publisher “sent me a book jacket that showed a guy on a bridge looking down at the murder site. But that’s not in the book. So, … I put it in the book”—his first lesson “in literary integrity.” In book five, slated to be his last, a golden retriever plays a role. It sells twice as many as any other novel. Why? “People wrote me, ‘I hate to admit it, but the only reason I bought it was the dog on the cover’.” The publisher then sends him a jacket for a sixth book—with two dogs on the cover.

He tells of “ridiculous mistakes” in his work. A character shot in the thigh almost bleeds to death because “the bullet severed her carotid artery.” A character’s mother is the “perfect match” for a heart transplant, a procedure that doesn’t depend on “matches.” A mystery is solved based on whether a “flight plan” was filed at the airport. A pilot tells him that flight plans are not required. He creates a fictitious town—Wilton, Maine—that floods when a dam breaks. Turns out there’s a real Wilton, Maine, … and it’s 100 miles from the nearest river.

Laughter continues through Q&A, as passionate would-be novelists seek tips.

Do you keep a notebook for ideas that occur to you? 

“No. … Mostly because ideas don’t occur to me.”

How much research do you do?

“Zero.”

Do you have a writing routine?

“No.”

Shouldn’t editors catch those errors?

“They find the smallest things. Like I refer to the Coach House Diner, two words. They checked it, and it was one word. But they didn’t check where the carotid artery was.”

One audience member summed it up: “You give new meaning to stream-of-consciousness.” Another told me: “He’s my favorite speaker ever!” Yet another: “Very refreshing! Cold hard honesty.”

“Who Let the Dog Out?,” Rosenfelt’s thirteenth Andy Carpenter novel, is due out in July. Also due out in July is “Lessons from Tara,” the nonfiction sequel to “Dogtripping,” which chronicles the author’s relocation from California to Maine with 25 dogs.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.