Today I will be featuring a guest post by Irving Podolsky.
NZ: What made you decide to write a fictitious memoir and what it was like writing it?
Irv: Oh gee, there were probably four or five reasons why I decided to write it like a first person memoir. Primarily, the style grew out of the story while outlining. But even before that, I knew real memoirs from non-famous people were being turned down by agents and publishers. And worse, writers like James Frey with “A Million Little Pieces” or Herman Rosenblat’s “The Angel at the Fence,” those writers wrote exaggerated and in parts, totally fake true stories! And got busted! And interrogated on “Oprah”…BY Oprah!
What a way to go down! Over a marketing decision!
So from the get-go, I planned to write something called fiction, no matter how many of the scenes were based on truth, or what I remembered of it.
Now… How “Irv’s Odyssey” got started…
A few years ago, while under the shower (my think tank), I indeed started thinking. Do I have one more in me? Would I have one more shot at writing the greatest movie ever made?
You see I work in the film business where everybody has a hot screenplay, or at least hopes it is. I wrote spec scripts for a number of years as well, and actually got a project packaged by the William Morris Agency with Sissy Spacek starring. The Tribune Company’s entertainment wing had signed on to produce and we had a popular director in place too.
But then, came the news: “SOVIET UNION COLLAPSES!” Terrible!
Because it took me six months to license a published true story about a Soviet gulag! And it took me another year to work out the legal kinks and write a 368 page mini-series spec script about the Cold War. And now, no more cold war! Or even a lukewarm war! And no more interest in the Berlin Wall which was dismantling day by day.
All my dreams, wiped out in three days. I was crushed. So crushed, I gave up the idea of selling another screenplay. I had tried to do that for twelve years and the clock had finally run down. I had to make some serious money at my day job to pay our mortgage. I owed it to my wife.
So I stopped writing…until four years ago with that inspirational shower moment.
There’s this old adage: write what you know. So for a starting point, I revisited my past, remembering my first jobs out of film school in 1970 and how I stumbled into porn flicks. (They weren’t called that back then.)
No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I was BEHIND the camera, in clothes. No performing! Directing.
I was dead broke, and I couldn’t find a post graduation job, and I was incredibly naïve! I had never even seen an adult flick. But I needed food and rent money and when I got offered that gig, I took it. I figured, how bad could sex be? I grew up really fast that day I first called, “Action.” I was twenty-two, and just one girl away from being a virgin.
Anyway, as I was saying, about four years ago the idea came to me - all those models who were bouncing in front of the camera, most were my age at the time. What happened to them? What are they doing now? Do they have children, grand children, a “normal” neighborhood life somewhere? Their then-and-now story would be fascinating. So I tried tracking down all the people I knew back then in that bizarre upside-down world. I couldn’t find a single one. Some had already died. Some had changed their names. The rest simply disappeared into the fabric of our diverse society.
That left me with only one person I knew who had been there, done that and had drastically changed. That person was me. But although I traveled a strange and awesome journey for five years before I met my wife, I didn’t want to write my memoir. I wanted to write a commercial screenplay. Consequently, Irving Podolsky was born, a character and author somewhat like me but not me, discovering things based on my life but not exactly my life.
So the novels became Irv’s fictitious memoir, and here’s more reasons why: Since I was referencing memories of friends and family for story and scenes, I didn’t want to invade their past. And then, like authors do, I combined characters and switched time sequences around to build the story arc. And I added all the dialogue because I certainly couldn’t remember what was actually said in 1972.
Well actually, there is one sentence I remembered and I wrote it into a passionate love-making scene. The words were, “I must be mad…” whispered by a beautiful young lady I had met in Rome. But she was from South Africa where you can say, “I must be mad,” and it doesn’t sound like a line pulled from a romance novel. Or maybe it does but under the circumstances, it didn’t come off corny. It was intense, and I never forgot that moment.
I have a coffee mug that says: Careful or you’ll end up in my novel. I’m waiting for another moment like that.
Okay, part two of your question: What was it like writing “Irv’s Odyssey”?
A blast! No pressure to succeed. Just the tug to entertain. And that happened all through the writing process.
Remember that I wanted to build a screenplay, not a novel. So I decided to scratch out a short outline to see if people liked it before I wrote myself into a corner. But those first twenty pages swelled into a sixty-five page treatment which sort of resembled a book manuscript, and people read it like a book, and then they said, “It should be a book.”
I was so jazzed. They wanted more and I kept writing more. And the more I wrote, the easier it got. I decided to grab feedback from people I didn’t know ‘cause I needed honest and unbiased reactions. Vanity had to be scratched from the equation. I didn’t want to type all those words if they were crap, and I didn’t want to pretend they weren’t if they were.
So my friends gave the story to their friends and here’s what came back: “Who’s this guy, Irving Podolsky? His writing is rough but he reminds me of… (insert famous authors I’ve never read). What happens next? Where’s this going?”
Again, in my shower think tank, I thought... Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can actually write a real book with thousands of words that wouldn’t embarrass me.
So I mushed on, handing each successive draft to professional writers I knew in the film industry. They became my editors and through the various polishes I learned the rules and found my voice.
Once I got past the learning curve writing became exciting, even…inspirational, and that first book turned into the trilogy, “Irv’s Odyssey.” Then came my blog and a weekly column at Curiosityquills.com and the reviews and guest posts like this one.
It’s been a great ride so far! And another book is on the way.
Thank you Natasha, for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing.
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