Book Machine Keeps Cranking

by | May 13, 2007

Upon publication of Elmore Leonard’s 41st novel, Up in Honey’s Room, the author spoke with Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Book Editor for The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.).

Speaking of his early ambitions and what the process of writing a script is like, Leonard says:

I wanted to write movies until I started to do it. Then I found out there was very little pleasure in it. There are all these people involved, changing your story all the time. Writing a book, I’m the only one I have to please. To write a movie you are taking in writing. You are given scenes that someone wants to see, some studio executive with no story sense. In 1993, I wrote my last screenplay, an original for director William Friedkin. It had to do with a lot of money that would be in a house in Miami Beach for one night before it was picked up and laundered. But some burglar, just looking for a TV, enters the house and takes the Igloo cooler full of cash.

Friedkin said he didn’t want any money laundering. And he didn’t want any references to drugs. I thought well, I’ll have to think of a new premise for this. I woke up at 5 a.m. at the Sunset Marquis and in five minutes I saw a televangelist raking in the money by healing a cute little girl of stuttering. When he gets home he and his girlfriend have all this money coming in. This is the money that goes into the Igloo cooler and is taken by this burglar. I wrote it, but it needs work.

Mr. Leonard, 81 years old, started out as an ad copywriter in Detroit in 1949. He didn’t give up his day job until 1961, at which point he figured he could make a living full-time as a writer.

Visit Leonard’s website to hear him read from his latest work.