Did you miss me? I kind of got sidetracked, I know. Working on another novel. Adjusting to the new post-pandemic Fun Institute. And by that I mean, constantly adjusting. Masks on. Masks off. On again. Then outside. Inside. Back outside. Sheesh. Even for a seasoned improvisor, it’s been challenging to go with this flow. But I suppose it’s making me a better person. It’s sure taught me not to count on anything. I’m sure you’ve had your lessons too. Hope they haven’t been too bumpy.
So anyway, here I am, and I have some news. Remember my novel Rest Home Runaways? Well…
I once heard lesfic author Lee Lynch say that a novel’s shelf life is about the same as a carton of milk. At the time, I thought she was just being cynical. But it’s true. Most novels get a lot of attention when they first come out. There’s the initial splash of publicity, the awards that might follow, the reviews. But usually, after that first year, the excitement dies down. Because there are new novels to be celebrated. Which is as it should be. Make room for the new! Still, as a writer of novels, it can be hard to see the sales begin to trickle, the buzz to go quiet.
Rest Home Runaways, published by Bold Strokes Books in 2014, was no different. For those of you who’ve read it (thank you!), you know that part of it is set in Santa Cruz, California, where I live, and where I frequently ride my red bike out to West Cliff where the final scene of the book takes place. There’s a particular bench with a stunning view of the Monterey Bay, and it’s on this bench that my middle-aged, lesbian protagonist, Morgan, finally catches up with her half-blind, slightly delusional father, Mac, who’s escaped from Sunset Villa via a stolen golf cart.
When writing the book, I pedaled out to the bench often. I’d sit there looking out at the pelicans wheeling past, the dolphins arcing up out of the water, the waves rolling in. It was my way of keeping Mac, Morgan, and the rest of the characters fresh in my mind. After the novel came out, I’d pedal out there to keep them alive. Then one day, shock of shocks, I pedaled out there and the bench was gone. Gone! And the only sign there had even been a bench were two short, square, metal stanchions embedded in the dirt. I was aghast! How could they? That was Mac’s bench! But I got over it. Sort of.
Cut to the year 2021. A fellow writer and fan of Rest Home Runaways, Eileen Burke-Woodward, has written a screenplay for the novel—and it’s wonderful! I know this because I had the pleasure of sitting in on its table read. Listening to the actors interpret their parts, I fell in love with those characters all over again. Baby Boomer, Morgan as she regains trust in her wife Treat. Mac as he follows the ghost of his dead wife, Effie, on a 126-mile journey west. The three octogenarian women who, in stealing the Villa’s van to go after him, wind up getting national attention as the Runaway Grannies.
But what I did not expect was, about a week later, while I was once again riding my bike along West Cliff, I came upon the spot where the bench used to be and noticed: it was back! Exactly where it used to be. It even had the same inscription on the back. In loving memory of Roland M. Forster 1918-2000. Now, in my humble opinion, it should have said, In loving memory of Mac Ronzio. But, you know, a person can’t have everything. But maybe, just maybe, she can have her novel made into a movie. Wouldn’t that be amazing? So send a little magic my way, would you? And if you happen to know Johnathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (directed Little Miss Sunhine) or Bert and Bertie (Troop Zero) or some other equally talented directors, send them my way. Okay?