I'm very pleased to get this chance to share some time with you, and my 2011 novel, Family Rules.
In Family Rules, Kenny Walsh, a former child star turned drug addict turned car thief, decides to play Dad to a child he accidentally abducts.
First up, I should really make very, very clear that Family Rules isn't my story. I've been fascinated by the response of readers, who often ask me whether it's about me. It's not, definitely not; it's a fictional memoir.
I think this comes from the main character, Kenny, who is pretty compelling. I'd be lying if I said I knew who he was when I started the novel. As with all my books, I started with a somewhat stereotypical character going in; I was planning to answer the central idea/question, "what would happen if a really bad man became an accidental father?" I won't describe what I had in mind for Kenny originally, because it's largely nowhere in the book - only his drug addiction remains, and even that is downplayed from what I first imagined, a passing phase of his avoiding reality.
I began the writing, placing this character in New York and fighting his habits. Then, as I was writing, the idea/question changed from 'bad man' to 'a man whose own family was as broken as possible.' Good fortune stepped in and, around this time, I caught a documentary on VH-1 about child stars, and was shocked by how so many of them ended up in addiction and the downward spiral towards suicide. To go from such adulation to desperation in the length of a very short life struck me as being so sad, and such a waste of human life. I knew immediately the basis for Kenny - the first introduction of the theme is in Chapter 6: 'Believer,' which was written the weekend I saw that documentary.
As I wrote Kenny, he grew more and more real to me - and, in fact, when I talk about him now, it does sound like I've met him and know him. He feels like a real person to me. In the year since I published the novel, I've adapted it to screenplay with my screen-writing partners, James Patric Moran and Timothy Quinlan, and their reaction was the same: Kenny feels like a real person. I think this is why people ask me if it's a true story, and I'm humbled and proud to have been able to write such a compelling character.
Our screenplay for Inventing Kenny is beginning to gain some interest with production companies in Hollywood
[actually, it's hard to type this with so many fingers crossed!]
And the reaction has been fascinating to me - this is a story that touches into some dark corners of family and relationships, with a protagonist who we may even dislike initially, yet whom we come to care for over the course of his story. Several producers even asked me whether it's a dark comedy. It isn't. It's a drama, and it will make a great independent film.
This feedback and reflection has been really, really useful, as constructive feedback always is, and reinforces my decision to self-publish Family Rules. I thought about shopping the book to agents and publishers but feared that I'd get the same reaction: it doesn't fit the formula, there's no market, it's not commercial enough, etc. What I'm finding in pitching the story to Hollywood, and in hearing from readers, is that there is a market but it's best built one-reader-at-a-time. I'm more than happy to do this and love connecting with my readers at VinceT.net - my only request is that they tell me what they think of my writing and tell someone else about it.
It's been a pleasure to share some of the background of Family Rules, especially as so much of the year since it came out has been spent writing and publishing Escalation, a novel that took me by surprise in April and demanded to be written immediately! I hope some of you will be interested to read more of Kenny's story and, if you do, please tell me what you think, and tell someone else about it!
Thanks for reading, you have my love.
*Guest post was submitted in participation with Vincent Tuckwood's Family Rules book blog tour, hosted by Pump Up Your Book*