Thursday, August 25, 2011


Jenna Wright was personally responsible for getting me signed with my first literary agent, then 18 months later was courageous enough to guide me out of that relationship.  That's too long a story for this format, but Jenna was the first person outside of family and friends who really believed in my writing.  Since then she's left NYC for the sunshine in California and the prospect of reading scripts and deciding whose work will make it onto the big screen.  I thought Jenna might offer an interesting perspective for anyone with aspirations of getting their work made into a movie.  She was very generous to spend some time playing 5 questions with me.

1- What's the biggest difference between reading work for a literary agency and reading for a movie studio?

I’d say the quality. Agencies that are open to queries get a lot of submissions from amateur writers looking to become represented, so the quality can vary widely across all skill levels. When you’re getting submissions at a production company (or studio), the scripts / books are coming from agents or managers who have already vetted the material, so it’s already reached a certain level of professionalism after being developed or read by those agents / managers. Not to say that quality work can’t come from queried submissions to agencies. It’s just a smaller percentage.

2- Where do most of your scripts come from?

Agents and managers. We could get into legal trouble if we read an unsolicited submission. That’s why some places make you sign release forms before they read your material.

3-Now that you're on the inside, so to speak--How much of the film business is pure nepotism compared with looking at a project purely on merit?

The vast majority comes from merit, I’d say. Let’s say some Hollywood player’s nephew wants to break into the business. His spec script might get read or he might be able to get his directing reel seen by people simply because of who he is, but if nephew isn’t bringing anything to the table in terms of quality and aptitude, he’s not going to get hired. Movies are too expensive to take chances like that.

4- Does it make sense for a writer to submit their screenplay to a studio, or is that done exclusively through agents?

Through agents and managers. Again, because of the legal problems that could come from having read unsolicited submissions. Being represented is key because they’re the ones who can get you read. Also, you’ll have someone who’s vouching for you. Out here that’s everything. It’s a very risk-averse town, so to have somebody willing to say “I took this client on, I believe in them and their talent” is huge.

5- How much has the digital world and Indie writers affected the film industry?

I think that the studio system will always be in place, but there’s absolutely been a shift. People have much more control over the content they choose to put out for public consumption, as well as the content they choose to purchase.

If you’re getting frustrated and can scrape together a few thousand (or even a few hundred) dollars, you can go out there and shoot your own film. You can submit to festivals. Use it as a calling card. Upload it to YouTube and get discovered. Same with book publishing. Tired of agent rejections? Upload it and publish it yourself! Pay a fee to get it formatted and boom: you can have your novel up on any number of websites where readers can download it to their personal devices. It’s pretty incredible.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Anyone reading this blog for a while knows I try to stay ahead of the curve with interviews from edgy newcomers to established N.Y. Times Bestselling Authors.  This time I'd like to highlight a real life criminologist who doubles as an award-winning fiction writer.  Jennifer Chase is the author of the Emily Stone series of novels which are part mystery-part thriller.  Emily Stone is a female vigilante armed with a digital camera and the uncanny ability to interpret valuable information the police seem to be overlooking.  In her thriller, "Dead Game," Emily Stone actually uncovers a social network community for serial killers.  This is highly evolved stuff which Jennifer pulls off amazingly well.  Thanks to Jennifer for taking time to play 5 questions with me:

1- With all of your forensic background and technical skills, what gave you the urge to create fiction?

Actually, writing came first and then forensics. I’ve loved books and writing for as long as I can remember, so the urge to write has been part of my DNA for quite some time. As I began to study forensics and criminology, I had the idea for my first book Compulsion, which was loosely inspired by a violent neighbor who threatened my life for more than two and half years. I found that a forensic background and writing crime fiction complimented each other. I love being both creative and scientific. It’s the best of both worlds for me.

2- How much of Emily Stone is really you? And what traits are simply not in your repertoire?

Ah, I love this question. Yes, Emily Stone is the more intelligent, savvy and tougher version of me. She takes the next step and hunts down killers and the most feared and heinous members of society, something I think about quite often. All my characters, the good and bad, are some part of me I suppose even if it’s just the dark part of my mind. Emily Stone encompasses the traits that I would love to see in someone out there helping law enforcement anonymously, but it’s not in my repertoire. After my first hand-to-hand combat fight with a killer, I’d probably run screaming for my mommy. Lets face it, law enforcement is overburdened, outmanned, and in need of more specialized training when it comes to serial crime and cold cases. I felt that Emily Stone filled a need as a phantom detective. It’s my version of a law enforcement forensic superhero.

3- What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding?

For me, setting out to write a full-length novel is the most challenging. It’s a huge undertaking and a little bit scary too. There’s a little bit of me that feels like maybe I can’t do it this time, but I’m a person who has always loved a challenge. I try to take each novel to the next step, not only for my readers, but also for myself as a novelist. Funny thing, the most challenging part of writing is also the most rewarding for me. There’s nothing better than the feeling of finishing a first draft of your novel.

4- When a criminal acts irrationally, like keeping your dead girlfriend's corpse in the house for a couple of months, doesn't that create a great insanity defense all by itself? And do you suspect that can be staged?

The use of the insanity defense is used rarely, despite what we see on television. However, there have been a few successful cases. And, it’s possible (but unlikely) to stage all the “psychological” elements, both before and after the homicide. This would take someone who knows quite a bit about psychology and the criminal justice system. They would have to know how the local detectives would investigate the case along with prosecutors, etc. As with the case you stated above, it appeared that the individual killed his girlfriend in the heat of the moment and then didn’t know what to do. Basically, he didn’t want to get caught carrying out a body from his apartment and couldn’t stomach dismembering her. He committed the crime and then knew it was wrong afterward. People do strange things under stressful circumstances. A psychological history and the use of drugs would play a significant part to his defense. I don’t think this case would fit the requirements of an effective insanity defense.

5- What are your thoughts on the tendency for authors with traditional print publishing contracts deciding to go Indie instead? Do you see that trend continuing or is it just a temporary blip in the new digital publishing world?

I think it says a lot when an author with a traditional publishing company decides to go independent instead. We’ve been told over and over that getting that big publishing contract is the way to go and the only way you’ll be successful. Or, is it? I’m in awe of Indie authors who are kicking butt and selling loads of ebooks. That’s fantastic! I think that a little competition is healthy for publishers. I don’t see this as just a trend. Readers have spoken loudly and don’t care if a book is published by a big publisher or self published. The bottom line is the book must be good. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a need for mainstream publishers, but nothing ever stays the same and it’s time for publishers to make some changes too.

Here's a link to Jennifer's Web Page: