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?
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?
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?