I didn’t set out to write a novel. It happened completely by accident, one of those life-changing moments that, at the time it happens, seems completely innocuous. I never doubted that I’d spend my life writing in one medium, film. Screenwriting had been it for me. Up until 2007. When The Accident happened. I had just finished writing a draft of a quirky romantic comedy and wanted to keep writing, just not on another pass, something shorter, a quick exercise sort of thing, something to keep myself nimble. So I pulled one of the Comp Books off of my bookshelf. The one I wrote in back in the day — a sticker of a friend’s favorite childhood toy affixed to the front, the title and date written on two lines in Sharpie, “Fucked-Up Fairytales 4–23–01,” Fatboy Slim stub under shipping tape below.
Then a collection of six short stories, brief narratives of the late nights and early mornings I spent at underground raves with my friends (ex., “Deconstructing Cher While Tripping On Meryl.”), along with a smattering of philosophical treatises on rave culture (ex., “Puke.”). I started on a rewrite of the first entry, “January 28th,” adding in details I thought I’d forgotten and conjuring some out of thin air. I spent a few days on it, then showed it to my partner at the time, a writer herself. She loved it and encouraged me to continue. So I did another draft of “28th,” then started on the next one. And another. But I didn’t set out to write a novel.
I found a freedom in writing prose that was absent for me in screenwriting. I could play with language, write in fragments (which I did at first, by the way), and I wasn’t worried about having to write to a market. I didn’t feel constricted the way I did writing films — trying to conform to the screenwriting standard of the hook on page ten, first plot point on page twenty-five, and you must have a catchy log line, you know. I wasn’t interested in writing a product for a movie studio to sell (not that I had a chance or anything). I wanted to tell my stories my way, organically, as they come to me, in my voice. And I did, for the first time, without a second thought, in writing what would become “a f*cked-up fairytale.” It was that inexplicable feeling that propelled me onward, that fire in my belly, when the story takes over and begins to tell itself. Even as I sat at my desk with the journal open, reading through my record, building the outline for what would become my novel, it wasn’t what I set out to do.
It was terrifying those first couple of drafts, looking first at the screen, then later, down at the bundle of pages in my hand. Tangible, white background, black letters staring out at me. Black letters which totaled the words that make up this chapter of my origin story, two years of debauchery as I journeyed down the Rabbit hole of raves and crack-out parties in L.A.
I wrote in fits and starts as I made my way through school, an exercise in frustration until the life I was living and my expanding circle of knowledge, first at City College and then at Berkeley, began to shape my writing. It started with Pirandello. Probably ends with him, too, truth be told. Ideas and connections out of nowhere, then scribbled in my tiny book to wait for the next winter break or Memorial Day weekend. And somewhere along the line my story became a novel, even though it always had been.
Now all of the dots are connected and I’ve no other choice but to follow the line. I wrote an inscription of sorts, first page of the Comp Book. It reads in part, “Why I’m writing this, I do not know. The answer, perhaps, is in the journey.” I hope one day you’ll understand what I mean.
Before “a f*cked-up fairytale” begins I write, “To be read as a work of fiction.” And it should be. But, as all of my origin stories will be, it is a fiction born from experience, a poem to the broken person I was then, the person I am now, my friends and lovers, and what they gave to me.