I went to LA for the weekend. I say that with the same authority that people say, ‘I went to Newcastle for the weekend.’
But Newcastle isn’t LA. I should know because I grew up there.
Even with East Coast Mainline (now Virgin) and their uncanny ability to actually extend the travel time between Kings Cross and Newcastle Central Station, it is still takes longer to get to LA. Not that I minded. LA for the weekend? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. (although I nearly didn’t get there as I had rashly agreed to give a radio interview, by telephone, whilst running to the airport gate).
There is something about LA that makes you think you can do anything… if you really want to. And what I really want to do is get my novel commissioned for television. So if someone says: Can you come to LA for the weekend… then I’ll go. Heck, I’d even go for the day.
I am an unashamed Americanist. I did my BA in American Studies, when it wasn’t trendy. I did my MA in American Studies, when it was. I have studied the history, culture, literature and politics of California, but nothing prepares you for the sun and enthusiasm of LA, where almost everyone you come across wants to tell stories. Some of them even want to tell your story.
I met people who wanted to do just that. Tell my story. I met people at an array of hotels. Usually on the roof terrace by the pool, as the temperature had risen to 90 degrees. Unseasonably hot, even for California. And as the sun got hotter, so did the enthusiasm. A famous producer wanted to tell it as a soap opera. A famous agent wanted to tell it as an edgy post-watershed drama. A famous actress wanted to tell it as a movie. And there are a myriad of ways that a story can be told. A myriad of ways that a novel can be adapted. Then it occurred to me that THEY didn’t want to tell my story. They wanted ME to tell my story.
All because I had written a novel which had been published. To stand out on television these days – with its cornucopia of channels – an idea or a concept or a story has to be highly authored, and authoring a book is a bloody good place to start. If you think about it, the most successful dramas are told by people who could only really tell them. SHAMELESS works because only Paul Abbott could write about his dysfunctional, but loving, family. QUEER AS FOLK works because Russell T Davies WAS that gay man living in 90s Manchester. The recent television drama TRANSPARENT could only be written by Jill Soloway, who was inspired by her father, who came out as transgender.
For all its sun and enthusiasm, LA had thrown me a gauntlet. I had to turn my novel into a television script. Well, the first episode at least. And so the hotel roof with its top pools became my office, when I wasn’t taking meetings. Of course, there is still a long way to go. But even though I am back in damp, grey west London, I am still bathed in sun and enthusiasm.
Even if nothing comes of this process; Even if my story ends up on a pile of other stories that won’t be told… No one can take away that moment when, by the rooftop pool of a well known hotel, an even more well known actress read my dialogue back to me.
No one can take that away from the girl who grew up in Newcastle.