Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Look, Then a Book

My new Lauren Atwill adventure, NO BROKEN HEARTS, has just been published!

For about six more weeks, my life will be frenzied, as I squeeze in writing guest-blogs, throwing a launch party, visiting bookstores, and preparing for conventions and library events to promote the book, while feverishly trying to finish the next book. 

Kind of what I dreamed about since I was a kid. Of course, in my kid-dreams, I had a secretary who’d take care of the schedule and just point me in the right direction. 

At Goodreads, I’m giving away 20 signed copies of NO BROKEN HEARTS: Enter to Win a CopyPlease put your name in the hat, as it were. Goodreads uses an algorithm to select the winners, on October 31, which takes the selection pressure off the writer. Whew.

Readers often ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”

I say, “If I knew, I’d have more and better.”

Writers rarely know where inspiration comes from. We understand, sometimes, how to create conditions conducive to leaps of imagination. But then sometimes we’re driving aside the maniacs on the Garden State, thinking about nothing except getting home alive, and suddenly we know how to fix that hole in our plot. How does this happen? We really don’t know.

When I started NO BROKEN HEARTS, I had a (really) vague idea of a story that would involve my amateur sleuth/screenwriter Lauren being loaned out to a second-rate studio by the major studio with which she's just signed a contract for her first screen credit in years. Start with something that would make her really angry! Conflict on page 1!

Then, as I do in all my books, I take a Hollywood scandal (from any era), imagine it into the 1940s and wonder, “How can I make this even worse?”

The scandal in NO BROKEN HEARTS is a Hollywood rumor from the Golden Age that a legendary male star (whose name I won’t repeat because I doubt this story) once accidentally killed someone and his studio paid off an underling to confess and serve manslaughter time for considerations of money and employment afterwards. How could this be made worse? How far would a studio really go to protect a star? Would they cover up a murder? Of course, Lauren would find the body, and be told to go along with the studio’s story. If she doesn’t, nobody would believe her.  And she’d be blackballed. And maybe she really doesn’t think the star did it because of something she saw at the scene. And then the real killer could realize he left a trail and come after her.

Yeah, that would make things worse.

Next, I looked through pictures, for ideas for settings, clothing, period details for the book, but mostly to pull me back into the 1940s and excite me about traveling there again. Pictures open the door to my imagination much more powerfully than music (which works wonders for many other writers).

I flipped through my files, searched favorite web sites, and the pages of books.

And then, there it was.

This is Ronald Coleman, an actor from the Golden Age of film whom I deeply admire. But I had totally forgotten this picture. From it, I began to develop the fictional star Lauren has had a crush on since she was a girl. She finally gets the chance to write for him, and then it all falls apart in a brutal killing that could cost Lauren her career, and maybe her life, too.

Inspiration and its partner, enthusiasm, won’t write your book for you. But sometimes one thing, one thing smoothes the path in such a happy way.

If you’ve never seen Ronald Coleman’s work, I recommend the classic 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda. Based on the wildly popular book by Anthony Hope, it has so many rapturous traits of 19th c. romances – malevolent scheming, wild coincidence, and outrageous twists. (And Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a villain bonus!) 

The charming but blasé Rudolph (Coleman), traveling through the kingdom of Ruritania, notices some odd glances in his direction. It turns out he bears a startling resemblance to the soon-to-be-crowned king. Wouldn’t you know it, an other-side-of-the-blanket birth has led to these men being near twins!! When the real king is kidnapped to allow another to claim the throne, loyalists convince Rudolph to impersonate the king. 

The kidnappers can’t very well say, “Hey, that’s not the king! We stole the king!” 

In the end, Rudolph has turned hero and rescued the king, but not before falling in love with his doppleganger's betrothed, played by Madeleine Carroll. The last scene between these lovers-who-can-never-be . . . 

Well, you should see for yourself.

Copyright Sheila York 2014


  1. I love that movie too, although Madeleine Carroll's character always strikes me as a distressing milksop. Ronald Coleman! Yes! Have you ever noticed how few modern American actors have attractive speaking voices?

    1. Coleman was fortunate in the transition to talkies that he possessed that voice, and that the microphone loved it, too. You'd know more than I (WAY more) about the problems silent film stars encountered in the transition. I have read that having a nice baritone didn't always mean the mic would approve of you.

    2. The vocal qualities of John Gilbert, my particular heartthrob, were deliberately sabotaged, it is said, by Louis B. Mayer, who hated him.

  2. Congratulations on your new publication! Thelma Straw

    1. Thanks! I am a nervous wreck. Book supposedly shipped yesterday, tho Amazon is still showing "preorder".

  3. Just downloaded my Kindle copy and sent one to a friend. I love instant gratification.

  4. Sheila, thank you for giving me a chance to read this wonderful book ahead of the crowd. Everyone, listen up. You will LOVE this book--the twisty plot, the snappy dialog, the behind-the-scenes look in the workings of Golden-age Hollywood, and especially that aging movie star. He comes alive.

  5. Sheila, I'd be interested in hearing what got you involved with movies, stars and this world you are so involved in and knowledgeable about. As a child, I was an avid movie goer... but as an adult this world has not been part of my life. I'm fascinated by your expertise and really would like to hear what drew you to this world! T. Straw

  6. P.S. Do you also write screen plays?