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Thanks, Terminator: How Movies Got Me My Book Deal

September 28, 2015

In September of 2016, my debut middle grade novel will be published by Sky Pony Press, a division of Skyhorse Publishing. Monstervillle: A Lissa Black Production, is about a thirteen year-old girl who must use her knowledge of movies (and a jacked-up board game entitled Monsterville, found in the basement of her new, creepy home in the middle of the sticks) to rescue her sister from the monsters’ lair of Down Below.

The first and second iterations of Monsterville didn’t focus so much on the film aspect. It was definitely a part of it, but it wasn’t as infused in the plot line as it is now. Then, however, I came across a film terms glossary on the Internet (bless you, Internet). Also, it occurred to me how very much movies have influenced me – thanks, Dad, for letting me watch Terminator with you before I started kindergarten. I know every movie reference there is, and I am obnoxious to play Scene It with because I. Know. EVERYTHING! (Mrahahaha). I realized that I could take the film aspect of Monsterville much, much further than I already had.

Because the main character in Monsterville is obsessed with movies, I was too, for purposes of creating Lissa’s world and how she viewed it. I re-read Monsterville, searching for more opportunities to include film terms. I bought books that instructed on how to survive a horror movie. I learned about screenplay writing – I reviewed screenplays for structure, and I read the amazing Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (among other books on screenplay writing).

As a note, Save the Cat’s title is based on the tip that you should always have the main character do something at the outset that makes the audience identify with her and invest in her experience. (Although it’s not an example provided in the book, which pre-dated the film, a good example of this is Katniss in The Hunger Games. Although a flawed character in many respects, her early self-sacrifice for her sister makes us want the odds to really be in her favor). Sure, Mr. Snyder’s advice was directed to screenwriters, but it applies equally to writers.

I will always be grateful to Monsterville, because, among other rewards, it taught me the value of research. With prior projects, I did my work – reading Soccer for Dummies when a character played soccer, studying dialect and cultural elements, etc., but I never completely immersed myself in a research topic the way I did for Monsterville. The book is certainly better for it – the film aspect is a reason it sold.

And hey! Now I have justification for the number of times I’ve seen Beetlejuice and A Fish Called Wanda. Research!



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  1. SGT MIKE permalink

    I can hardly wait to read it!! Wait, if this is true,… then watching Full Metal Jacket counts as “research” for me? Sweet!! Can we say TAX DEDUCTION?!

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