With Father's Day coming up, I can't help but think of a story about someone else's father. They say that you should write what you know. Sometimes, we don't know what we know.
After seeing me speak at Southwest Writers a few years ago, I got a call from a strange woman with a New York accent. She told me about her great idea. She wanted me to write a screenplay based on her manuscript about her father. I had no idea who she was but I decided to meet her anyways.
When I arrived at the Grove restaurant, I was surprised to see a seventy-something woman sitting at a table by herself. She beckoned to me, pointing to a large pile of papers sitting precariously close to an overfilled glass of iced tea. She didn't even wait for me to order before she started. "My book is about my father during the Great Depression."
The Great Depression is not the Great Gatsby. "Is your father someone famous?"
"Not really," she said. "He ran a chain of dry cleaning stores."
I expected to hear a business "how to book," but her father's "chain" was three stores at best, and usually two. Other than his advice to "Buy low and sell high," and "Keep your promises to customer," there was nothing about him that screamed best seller.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"I suppose it depends on your writing," I said, politely. If it was well-written, it still might be viable. "Are you finished with it?"
"Unfortunately, no," she said. "I just got back from China."
"China?" I asked. This seemingly ordinary woman had been to China?
"Yes, I worked for a defense contractor and fell in love with my translator. He was arrested by the Chinese government and we went through lengthy court battle before he escaped."
"Escaped from a Chinese prison?"
"Yeah, we smuggled him out." She then talked non-chalantly about an international tale of espionage that had elements of "Eat Pray Love" spiced with James Bond and the Joy Luck Club. It was a surefire best seller, and a movie that could star Meryl Streep.
Wow. "Ummmm.....maybe we should write about that instead."
I think she was insulted, we didn't talk much more over the course of the meal and I never heard from her again.
I don't know if she ever finished the book about her father.