Tuesday, March 7, 2017

AN AUTHOR’S FUTURE WITH LEGS by CATHERINE LANIGAN


Whether it’s spring, summer, winter or fall, as an author, we are always thinking of our next story or our story is haunting us from the wings. In that process of finding our characters, their issues and their conflicts, I find it interesting to also take into consideration, the future of that story. Not just the synopsis and then the book that we are writing for Heartwarming or any of our other beloved Harlequin lines, but the very distant future of our story---even after we are gone.

I am writing this from the Phoenix airport where I have spent the weekend, being a part, a very tiny part, of history. First, I must backtrack. All the way back to 1912 when Zane Grey wrote “Riders of the Purple Sage”. As many of you know, and how could you not be American and a writer and have not heard of Zane Grey, especially if you write for any of our Western Romance lines. Zane was and still is the “Gold Standard” of westerns. It was his stories, most of them novellas, really, that spawned the early western film genre. There were five filmed versions of this book. It sold over two million copies and is published in 24 languages. In total, according to the newspaper articles this past weekend, over 250 million copies of his books sold and are still selling.
My trip to Phoenix was spawned by the first ever in history of a Western Opera. “Riders of the Purple Sage” was Executive Produced by my friends, Billie Jo and Judd Herberger. What I adore most about this project is that it is so totally “out of the box”. Talk about risk-taking. No one had ever done an opera like this. In English. About Arizona. Craig Bohmler, the composer, created music that is American, fresh and distinct to each character.


To awe you, the visuals of this Opera were so powerful, moving and overwhelming, my jaw dropped about every two minutes as the lighting altered, muted, transformed and blazed---just like my beloved Arizona sky. These landscape backdrops were created by the incomparable Arizona artist, Ed Mell.



This gives you a glimpse of the power of Ed’s paintings. 

I’m going to include some of the newspaper articles to show the excitement and enthusiasm there has been here in Arizona for Zane Grey’s opera. The critic reviews were rave, but the twitters and phone calls made from the audience yesterday (yes, I was eavesdropping) were bubbling with over- the- moon awe.


What all this is to say is that when we write, many of us, and I’m no exception., tend to get mired in the profusion of deadlines, edits, the cover material, planning our blogs, book tours, promotions, giveaways and reader emails, that once the book is out, and our next book’s deadline is barreling down on us, we keep moving and don’t look back. Sometimes, I think we should pause and consider, the other facets of the diamond we have created. That book has a plethora of intellectual property rights. Audio rights. Playrights. Film and television rights. Novelizations. Screenplays. Teleplays.

Sure some of us think about foreign translations and ebooks sold globally, but when you think about an opera or a theater musical being made of your book, it opens your eyes, doesn’t it?

Not only that but as technology advances and more venues come into play, such as “streaming” rights, what will our futures hold? Holographic rights?

The bottom line for us is that all this wonder starts with a book. The BOOK is the parent of a myriad of industries, jobs and dreams fulfilled for more of our talented artist friends. In speaking with the musicians, the artists, the stage managers, prop masters, even the woman who worked the refreshments at the theater---there was still that respect and gratitude to Zane Grey for his vision of the West he lived in and loved. His stories were “contemporary” at the time. He wrote what he saw, lived and experienced.

Riders of the Purple Sage is a love story. No way around that one. The issues of women’s rights, guns, fundamentalist religion and finding a real home, sound like our Heartwarming storylines. All I can say is that our roots go way back and deep.

In the story----Jane Withersteen’s father died leaving her the ranch, cattle., house and a very lush fresh water spring. She’s a devout Mormon, but a couple powerful Mormon leaders, the Bishop and the evil Tull, want Jane’s land and that water –at any cost. When she refuses to marry Tull, he sets out to kill her.

In the meantime, famous gunslinger, John Lassiter, shows up looking for the grave of Milly Erne and to take revenge on the preacher man who stole her from her family. Jane begs John not to kill anyone, but he refuses.

Jane’s right-hand man and “rider” for her herd, Bern, shoots the infamous “masked rider” during a cattle rustling incident. The masked rider turns out to be a girl, Bess, whom he falls in love with. Yet another romance going on.

I’m not going to spoil the story for you. Of the five filmed versions, two are silent and my favorite is the Ed Harris version with Amy Madigan. The Opera puts a slight twist on all the performed arts’ versions of the story in that Jane is front and center and is the lead, not Lassiter.

I find that even more contemporary and in the Heartwarming vein.

In case you’re interested, here’s a UTube video on the Opera. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18wFLp42ZD4

It is 105 years since Zane Grey published Riders of the Purple Sage. I’m sure that in his wildest dreams he never imagined that his love story, set against the eye-shattering beauty of the Arizona landscape would spawn an opera.

It’s simply too incredible to imagine. YOUR story making it to the live stage in an opera. Isn’t it? Or is it?





Executive Producer Judd Herberger and Catherine Lanigan
Though it’s not till April, I have my next SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE STORY coming out. I think it’s ironic or synchronicity that my cover has all the fire and blaze of an Ed Mell landscape painting. 



Join my Prism Book Tour starting March 26-April 7. http://www.prismbooktours.com Yep. Great posts. Fun interviews, prizes, giveaways. Chocolate. What more could you want?

Follow announcements on my Twitter @cathlanigan or on my Facebook Page!

My question to my sister Heartwarming authors is---Is there one or more of your novels that you have envisioned making a good film? A stage play? A musical?

20 comments:

  1. I think I always have a little movie going on in the back of my mind, some stories more than others! This was an interesting post, Catherine, and I'll bet it was a fun weekend.

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    1. Liz,

      It was just fabulous and I felt I was part of history being made. I just hope the opera goes to other cities where folks can enjoy it.

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  2. Catherine, this post was written as masterfully as one of your beautiful novels. It pulled me in right from the start, it grabbed hold and made me feel a little sad when it ended.

    I would love to see one of your Heartwarming stories made into an opera . . . or at least a movie.

    Best wishes with your upcoming release!

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    1. This was so bizarre writing it in one airport, re-write on the plane...worst landing in my life due to high winds in Chicago, then sending the post to Rula, bless her heart, to put the post together from the airport in Chicago..then trying to hook up my laptop and cell phone on the bus...which was three more hours to get home. I felt like a RIDER OF THE PURPLE SAGE myself!
      But I wanted to share. The Ed Mell backdrops were phenomenal. So stunning that I dreamed about them all night!

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  3. Catherine, thank you so much for this story of Zane Grey's "Riders of the Purple Sage" and its transformation to opera. How wonderful! His writing has definitely withstood the test of time and his books remain classics. I like your idea of imagining our novels as future movies (yep, have done that!) or operas - wow! Sounds like you had a terrific time and thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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    1. Thanks, Janice. I just think that in the future there will be so many things we can't even comprehend where our books will go!

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  4. I still have many of Zane Grey's books on my book shelf as I started reading his stories around the age of 12 and must say that his books were part catalyst for me to one day want to live in Arizona and write books set in the west. His Code of the West, and Man of the Forest I love, too. And a story in our family is that my grandfather took Zane Grey on his mail boat down the Rogue River in Oregon (where I grew up) and Grey wrote Rogue River Feud after that trip. Catherine, I hope your wonderful work gets made into a movie or opera. That would be so cool.

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    1. Hi, Roz! Thanks for stopping by. Prior to going to the opera, a friend sent me a history book of Zane Grey's early trips, hunting,etc, and the first time he saw the awesome colors of Arizona...down to the building of his cabin up on the Rim where he wrote dozens of novels. My friend actually went to that cabin back in the 1960's though now it has burned down. In Flagstaff is a museum of every one of his books and movie posters. What an incredible talent he was. And apparently a good shot as he bagged several bear.

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    2. Yes. He had a lodge on Catalina Island. We've stayed in it several times. Harold Bell Wright was another of that era.

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  5. Hi Catherine, Fun and interesting article. I love Zane Grey. I grew up on Zane Grey novels. And now I live in Zane Grey territory. How interesting that you discovered his book to be like a Heartwarming. Guess that's why I love Heartwarming books. smile

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  6. Hi, Sandra,
    I love that you live in that exciting and breathtaking part of the country! And I'm glad you like Heartwarming. Me, too!!! A lot!!

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  7. Catherine, this is absolutely fascinating! I've read a few Zane Grey books myself but not for many years. I'm going to read this one now. How wonderful that you were able to attend this performance. I'm in awe of the vision that it must have taken to see this story go from book to opera. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  8. Carol, Hi! I've just been so fascinated with all this as you can tell. I read Zane Grey when I was a kid, but this opera put a whole new perspective on the story, and then with the music---I was floored and it really made me think about all that we do as authors. I mean 105 years later???? That's amazing.

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  9. How exciting. I'm definately watching that video when I get a chance, and I'll have to read the book as well. Interesting that you compare it to a Heartwarming. I guess it shows great themes are timeless. And yes, I can picture my story coming out in August as a movie, especially the whitewater rafting scenes. Can't quite see it as an opera, though.

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    1. Hi, Beth! I know...isn't that something? And Zane Grey was considered a man's writer...adventure and westerns. Yet, many of his themes were women's rights and certainly had romance. Hmmmm. Makes you think, right?

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  10. I must revisit Zane Grey's books. I'm so excited about the opera and think our Heartwarming Stories would make wonderful movies or operas! This post was so interesting, especially what you went through to get it up. :-)

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    1. Hi, Patricia, Thanks for thinking of me. It was 11 hours of travel by the time I got home. Brother....I felt like I could have done better on horseback!

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  11. Great post, Catherine! I love AZ--if only I could convince my husband to move. For now, I have to make do with visits to family there. As authors, we should all make sure that these numerous rights for our books are protected for posterity. Because, well, you never know. I'd like to see an older book of mine, Heartsong, made into a movie--or an opera. The heroine is a singer.

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    1. Leigh, I love that title. Heartsong. Good movie title. Anyway...keep visualizing Arizona and you'll get there!

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  12. You always come up with the most interesting things to write about! Sounds like you had a great weekend.

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