Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Blog: Kit Sloane

I recently asked Kit Sloane to join us for a blog since she's written about a subject that a lot of folks find very interesting these days: Reality TV. Thankfully, she answered the call and here is her blog. I hope you enjoy it!

I write a mystery series about Hollywood people, The Margot & Max series. She is a film editor. He is a director. They meet very interesting people!

This began when years ago, my then frustrated agent suggested I try writing another series. Yikes! She hadn’t sold my first series during the turbulent late 80’s when publishing houses were becoming conglomerates and editors/authors found themselves suddenly “downsized. I was dumbfounded thinking of all the work needed to create a whole new cast of characters, etc, etc. But I kept my eyes and ears open.

Fortunately, at this time, a dear friend was interning as a film editor at a prestigious production studio and I’d meet her there for lunch. I was fascinated by the shy, retiring, mostly women, film editors I met, far from the perceived “glitz” of Hollywood. What a great background for the protagonist of a mystery story, a woman who is detail-oriented and also a genuinely reticent wall flower. I teamed my Margot O’Banion with her partner, Max Skull, a talented, successful, over-the-top director. He sees to it that she faces the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for her.

Now, eight books later, my daughter Annie Sperling (who also does all my book covers. Even with 3-different publishers, they’ve always asked if she can continue doing them!) and her partner, Marc Greville, are production designers in...where else....Hollywood! Making movies is a fascinating BUSINESS. It takes approximately 200 people doing their specific, detailed job to make a movie; from director and actors, to electricians and plumbers. What a fascinating mix! The industry attracts a diverse group of individuals, all talented or highly skilled (or they don’t work), all jockeying for jobs in a highly competitive arena. Incredible fodder for a mystery writer!

My research is done by asking questions and, especially, by listening. When visiting in Los Angeles we often get to go on set during productions. I stand back and LISTEN. People talk. They talk about their jobs, their co-workers, their bosses... It’s like listening to any other water cooler conversations except these people tend to be a bit larger-than-life with added dramatics and the stories are fantastic!

I also have to keep up on the technical changes for making movies. I don't stress these, but Margot has moved from film to taping and digital devices. And I've kept up with the economic changes in the business. Life doesn't stand still!

Having researched everything (I use the Internet, non-fiction books, and even movies) from the House UnAmerican Activities Committees in the 1950s where so many talented writers and actors were blacklisted, to financing and “following the money” as my protagonists make their first independent film, I decided to finally take on reality TV, an especially curious mix of the real and manipulations. I began my research online for the unique terminology that is used and then asked Annie and Marc about friends who’ve worked on these “reality” projects. Wow! The stories they told. THE MAGICIANS, book number 8, came from this research.

So, are all the events I hear about truly subjective or accurate? Probably not. Most story tellers tend toward exaggeration and self-aggrandizement. I mean, we’re only human! But, generally, even in the most outlandish anecdote, there’s a shining kernel of truth. That’s what I look for. That bit of hard fact is often what I base my plot lines on, the unexpected behavior or fashion or trend and the way people act and react to these. That’s what makes a mystery! And many readers say that my stories feel so “real.” Well, they are. Mostly!

the eighth Margot & Max mystery

from OakTreeBooks

Reality TV can be murder...

Thank you so much, Kit!


Tara MacQueen said...

Wow great blog. I'm also a Producer and love the perception de-mystified by your blog of Hollywood professionals.

Kit Sloane said...

Hey Tara,

I don't think most people have any idea of what life is really like for these people, the "making" of a movie. I love talking to all these pre-, pro, and post professionals. What stories they tell!

NancyB said...

Many books start out strong and lose steam mid-way. Not so with "The Magician." I look forward to the next in the series from this author. How great to see this interesting interview with Kit. She is as fascinating in person as her characters are in print. Mystery novels are my favorite and Kit's are never disappointing. She has the unique ability to keep the reader in a heightened state of suspense from the first page to the last. I have yet to understand why the mystery book market is so often overlooked. This venue for discussion is exciting and I look forward to more discussions. Thanks for featuring Kit!

Debra Purdy Kong said...

I remember when Kit published her first 2 Margo and Max mysteries! I'm so happy that you're still publishing books, and are doing well.

C.K.Crigger said...

This series sounds so entertaining, Kit. I think most people are fascinated by the behind-the-scenes machinations of the folks responsible for what we all watch on TV, and particularly, reality TV.


Kit Sloane said...

Hey Debra! Great to hear from you. I'm always amused and appalled at the comment one editor made on rejecting my series, "Who really wants to read about Hollywood people, anyway?" and I received that goody from my agent the day of the Oscars on TV where approximately a zillion people tune in. I figured I'd give my protags a chance, Hollywood or not!