Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Lucky Break

By Mark W. Danielson

Last weekend, Ben Small and I were privileged to be two of fifty authors who were invited to participate in Irvine, California’s Men of Mystery event. Approximately five hundred people who love mysteries pay good money to have lunch with an author. Over the past six years, I have listened to such impressive key speakers as Dean Koontz, Vince Flynn, James Patterson, and this year, Andrew Gross.

Andrew is best known for co-authoring the first four of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. On his first book, Andrew received zero billing. On the next, his name made the cover. The third gave him equal billing and made him a household name. His dubious partnership with James Patterson began with a phone call where James told Andrew he “did women well.” Wearing a smirk, Andrew quickly explained that James was referring to his writing skills before admitting that this phone call was his lucky break. We should all be so lucky, but the fact is, a break of this magnitude is merely a foot in the door, and what kept Andrew employed was his quality writing. Without it, his partnership with James would have ended before it began.

After the event, I spoke with Robert Fate Bealmear. Robert drops his last name, using just his first and middle names, and I must say it suits his outlook on writing. Robert agrees that more often than not, fate determines a writer’s success. Having authored over sixty books, many of which have been made into films and television, Robert is truly an acclaimed author, yet he’s still amazed that at 73 years old, Hollywood is still buying his work. I replied that the great thing about writing is whether you are twenty or ninety, good writing is always greeted with enthusiasm.

That evening at dinner, someone asked whether I could make a living at writing. My answer was yes, but probably not by writing novels. I do quite well at selling freelance magazine articles, and unlike novels that pay royalties based on sales, magazine publishers always pay up front. Given this, one might wonder why I bother writing novels. Simply put, it’s because fiction allows me to express and resolve whatever it is that’s bubbling inside me. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, I will always write, so long as there is a topic worth writing about.


Ben Small said...

Men of Mystery is the best event I attend. Joan Hanson runs it like clockwork, and it's organized to facilitate relationship building, with well-connected and engaging readers and some of the top mystery and thriller writing talent, paper and screen.

Bob Fate's a friend. A more interesting background, you'll be hard pressed to find. Oil wildcatter, international fashion model, winner of the Oscar for technical material, and chef at an L.A. eaterie, Bob's got wide experience. And his Mark Twain-ish look and Hemingway-esque prose make him popular wherever he goes. A class act.

Yes, ladies, Joan also runs a Women of Mystery program, sometime in May. It's a bit different format, but popular nonetheless. Kokie Roberts is participating in the next one. If you're interested, let me or Mark know, and we'll put you in touch with Joan.

Beth Terrell said...

Sounds like a wonderful venue, Mark. It's invigoratiing to be with so many high-caliber writers. But when Robert says success in writing is mostly Fate, does he mean Destiny, or does he mean Luck?

Ben, I'd like to be a Woman of Mystery, but my protagonist is a man.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Beth, in Robert Fate's case, I suspect it's more destiny than luck, but you have to admit, Fate is a great name for a writer.

I'll pass your name on to Joan Hansen. The Women of Mystery has nothing to do with protagonists; only women writers. It's interesting that you have chosen to write male protagonists while I've written about women. Are we talented or confused?

Ben Small said...

Beth, I just saw Mark, and he looked very nice in his hoop dress. :<)