The New York Journal of Books review of FELICITY CARROL AND THE PERILOUS PURSUIT.
Many thanks to my friend and great writer Bonnie Dodge for featuring me on her website.
I get to talk about my love of writing and yes, my new book–FELICITY CARROL AND THE PERILOUS PURSUIT.
“Hey, that was my idea!”
As writers you’ve probably heard this from other writers or have proclaimed it yourself in one variation or another and no doubt with a few colorful added expletives.
I certainly have.
This occurs when we’ve read a book or seen a movie in the theater or on TV with a concept that echoes one we have written or are in the process of writing. Suddenly, there appears to be our idea on a page or up on the screen and we had no part of it, not to mention any credit or money. That’s when the bottom falls out of our writing world and crashes somewhere in Shit City, the land of failed scribes condemned to remaining in our day job for eternity.
This occurred recently over the movie The Curse of the La Llorona.
Now La Llorona is an old and very familiar tale among Hispanics about a hideous hag who searches the night for her children. The very children she killed. The reasons for her terrible action vary from telling to telling. Nevertheless, this crying monster wanders the night for children to take and make her own. My parents told me and my siblings this tale when I was a kid, no doubt to keep us away from strangers. The story did scare us. But during summer nights, we’d search for La Llorona. Since I lived by a cemetery, it was especially fun as much as frightening.
After the announcement about the upcoming The Curse of the La Llorona movie, I heard from a writer who had consulted with me on one of his scripts. He had written about another spooky Hispanic tale—not Llorona. But he wondered how the new film might affect the market for his story.
I told him that I thought he was okay. I was the one who was screwed.
I had already written a script and a book called “The Weeping Woman.” La Llorona means the weeping woman in Spanish. Judging from the description on IMDB and the trailer for The Curse of La Llorona movie, however, my novel and script are totally different. My story is about children disappearing in San Antonio. Troubled Detective Blue Rodriguez is assigned to investigate and discovers the kidnappings echo the old Mexican ghost story of La Llorona.
Still, I was disheartened to think that someone else beat me to the punch on La Llorona —at least, selling a script and making money. Especially since I haven’t sold my La Llorona script. But as we’ve all heard at writing seminars, ideas can’t be copyrighted–only the way we express them can be protected. How true.
Take Titanic. The idea of that sinking sink has spawned numerous films, each different depending on the writer and director.
Or how about the idea of star-crossed lovers? That story has been told again and again, from Romeo and Juliet to Warm Bodies.
Here’s another cool idea. A destructive comet heading toward earth. In 1998, two films dealt with that very subject and a mission to divert or destroy the comet. There was Armageddon with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck and the famous animal cracker scene (which is another story). Then there was Deep Impact with Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall. Two films with the same idea, yet, Armageddon was more action oriented and Deep Impact focused on more personal stories.
Consider a love story between a woman and a sea creature. Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning The Shape of Water told about a lonely deaf woman who falls for an amphibious captive. Mrs. Caliban, a 1982 cult favorite novella by Rachel Ingalls, is also about a woman who has a romance with a sea monster. They sound similar but each telling is diverse.
Back to La Llorona. Having heard about this mysterious creature ever since I was young, I was so fascinated that I not only wrote the book and screenplay, but short story, a play and a short script I hope to produce this year. So as much as I would have loved to keep La Llorona all to myself, I knew I couldn’t. She is out there and open to the interpretation of other writers.
According to the Internet, at least six other La Llorona movies have already been made, including an animated one. Those stories were all totally dissimilar from anything I wrote and each other. The only common denominator was that weeping woman. La Llorona was even the subject of an episode of the TV show, Grimm.
Two years ago, my daughter came up with an idea for me to write—about a person who clones the love that she lost. I didn’t get around to it, but should have. What movie is playing now on a similar theme? Replicas with Keanu Reeves. My daughter was bummed.
So to my fellow writers, forget about what’s out there and whether you believe somebody already has your idea or someone will steal your idea. We need to concentrate on making our stories the best they can be. Unique and wonderful. In the course of your writing, you may hear of a movie or TV series that sounds similar to yours and that will make you want to throw out your work. Don’t. Maybe put it away, or even twist the idea to create something even more daring and new. Your story won’t be the same as others. Yours will be distinctive. After all, you’re bringing yourself, your views, experience, your voice and skills to the writing. All that and more will make it special.
In light of this latest La Llorona movie, I’m staying positive. Perhaps, it will spur the public to want more La Llorona stories, as well as more stories about Hispanic culture and with Hispanic characters—of which I have written plenty. Then my scripts and stories will be ready for that hungry producer or publisher to buy. Well, I can only hope so anyway, and until then I’ll just keep writing and hope you do the same.
Thanks Publishers Weekly for the splendid words about FELICITY CARROL AND THE PERILOUS PURSUIT.
“Fans of Victorian mysteries have cause to rejoice.” Publishers Weekly.
Felicity Carrol is now available for presale at Amazon.com and other fine book sellers.
For the full notice click below.
My screenplay “ARIZONA MOON” was named a quarter finalist in the 4th Annual Stage 32 Feature Screenwriting Contest.
While defending a Mexican woman accused of murdering her white abusive husband, a wealthy alcoholic attorney falls in love with the Latina interpreter in a sleepy Arizona town in 1959. When the trial begins, he must find strength to help his client and himself.
From the script I wrote the novel “VERDICT IN THE DESERT” that was published by Arte Público Press is the largest US publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by US Hispanic authors, part of the University of Houston.
Amidst the heraldry of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, a string of brutal murders rocks Britain’s upper crust―and could threaten the realm itself―in the spellbinding debut of Patricia Marcantonio’s Felicity Carrol mysteries.
Felicity Carrol is interested in everything―except being a proper young matron of Victorian society. Brilliant and resourceful, Felicity took refuge in science and education after her mother died and her father abandoned her to servants. Now, all he wants is for her to marry into a family of status and money.
Felicity has other ambitions―but her plans shudder to a halt when her mentor is murdered at the British Museum and his priceless manuscript of King Arthur lore is stolen. Tapping into her photographic memory and the latest in the burgeoning field of forensic detection, Felicity launches an investigation. Handsome Scotland Yard Inspector Jackson Davies is also on the case, and finds Felicity as meddlesome as she is intelligent. But when more nobles are murdered and their King Arthur relics stolen, Felicity must journey on her own into the dark underworld of antiquity theft, where she uncovers a motive far more nefarious than simple profit.
As the killer sets his sights on a new victim―a charismatic duke who has captured Felicity’s imagination―the stakes rise to impossible heights. It’s a case that could shake the kingdom in Patricia Marcantonio’s series debut, Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit.
As a kid, I loved Spider-Man comics. He was a cool web slinger who not only took on and cleverly defeated “normal” criminals, but also those crazed ones like the Green Goblin, Venom, and Doctor Octopus.
But one of the big reasons I loved the comics was because of Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego or vice versa. Peter was a nerdy teenager who looked after his elderly Aunt May. He was smart and always broke and didn’t live in a mansion. To make extra bucks he even sold photographs of himself as Spider-Man to Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. Peter was just an everyday kid, but when he put on that suit–POW. He became slick, fast and funny. A bringer of justice. He became the Amazing Spider-Man.
With the news of Stan Lee’s death on Nov. 12, I began remembering those days when I read Spider-Man comics in my bedroom and regularly escaped into the world of the web slinger.
Spidey was the creation of writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko. The hero was first seen on the pages of the anthology comic book Amazing Fantasy in 1962. So popular, Spider-Man got his own comics.
By the time I got around to reading them in elementary school, I was buying the comics second hand. I bought new issues when I could afford them which wasn’t often but still managed to collect lots of them to read and reread. Not being wealthy and kind of nerdy myself, Peter was someone to whom I could relate. I felt myself an outsider then and was drawn to them in comics. Not only Peter, but Superman—the ultimate outsider, and Bruce Wayne. I guess I loved how the nerdy and outsiders could do the extraordinary.
From Lee’s imagination and in partnership with other comic book innovators arose a diverse and wonderful range of heroes from Thor to X-Men, Iron Man to Daredevil, Dr. Strange to Black Panther. Enough to fill the Marvel universe. The characters were often flawed but very human in their fight against evil.
When the Marvel movies started, it was a kick to see the heroes on the huge screen. Needless to say, I was a big fan of the Spider-Man films. Even though he swung around the city thanks to CGI, the heart of the stories were about Peter, his relationships and dealing with being a hero.
Over the past few days, I’ve been reading about Lee’s successes, troubles, and setbacks in the comic book industry and over his long career. According to some articles, Steve Ditko and comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby claimed the lion’s share of credit for the creation of Spider-Man, saying Lee’s part was minimal. Even with that, Lee’s accomplishments are still pretty awesome.
But I still go back to my memories of being a kid, sitting on my bed reading comics. Back then I didn’t think about who wrote them or illustrated them, I just thought about the characters, the story and the action.
I just thought about how much I loved them. And I’d like to believe Stan Lee wouldn’t have asked for more than that.