I have not written on this blog in over half a year. Now that's not to say I haven't been doing anything because I have. I wrote, acted in, directed, and produced a short independent film with my wife and local church. I'll embed the teaser and trailer. I've also been editing the third and final book in my Scar of the Downer Series. I've taught college and homeschooled my children. Yes, this summer and fall have been quite busy.
I was planning on writing a new blog post a few months ago when something unexpected happened that stole my focus. My wife had developed skin cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer didn't look like textbook cancer and so it went undiagnosed for some time. This allowed the cancer to "break off" with satellite spots. Has it reached her lymph nodes? We don't know yet. We are still waiting on the results of the biopsy.
What has been difficult about this more than just the typical cancer fears and worries is that she had to have major facial surgery to remove the cancer. This has come with months of bandages on her face and quite drastic facial reconstruction that has been stressful and painful for her. Even her smiles have been affected. (They're more like smirks now.) We have also made many trips to Philadelphia so that she can have the best care this country has to offer.
All this to say, this gigantic hurdle has made many of the things I once cared about seem pointless and inconsequential. While autumn is typically my favorite season, I'll be honest and say that it has been difficult to find the motivation to complete the mundane. It has been almost impossible to care about the things that had made me love this time of year. I've allowed cancer to rob me of finding happiness in the small things such as hanging up Christmas decorations or writing a blog post, or even reading a book. I've allowed the fears of this disease to steal small moments of my life, moments I cannot get back.
But it has also made me realize with even more certainty why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why I can't give up or give in. This battle has made me understand how world-changing a game of Monopoly with my wife and children can be; how a simple dinner with my daughters can turn into a lifelong memory; how the quiet moments with my wife can be a reminder to her just how much I love her.
It will change you whether you want it to or not. In fact, Liz asked me if I think things will ever be the same again, and the simple yet difficult answer is no. Our lives have been forever altered - emotionally, spiritually, and physically (she has the scars to prove it). That, however, doesn't mean that it has to be all bad. Things like this can return one's focus to what matters in life. It can renew and test the bounds of faith in God. It can open a closed heart and make an ungrateful one thankful.
I'll admit that I've always struggled for happiness, for smiles. In a sense, it has been like my white whale - something that has eluded me. I've understood that about myself. It has been a thorn in my flesh that I've struggled against all my life. Smiles have always been rare to me. Many people have commented on it in my life. That is yet another thing that I've realized. Just how powerful a smile can be, especially to my four daughters in a time like this. But what my family has fought in these recent weeks has made the battle for a smile all the more difficult, and yet, all the more necessary.
I am now in the first round of edits. My editor has gone through my book and raised a lot of good questions and had very insightful comments. I’ve also been doing a lot of revising, and I’m starting to become a little happier with my writing. Getting this book finished was really difficult for a few reasons, and so I’m glad I’m at this point in the process now.
But not everything is a grind… On Saturday, May 12th, I will be at the mall to participate in “Ready Set Fun,” hosted by the local PBS station. It is a great event that encourages kids of all ages to read. You can check out their website here.
So, if you have teens or little ones, come to the mall on May 12th. They’ll have lots of interactive booths and authors to meet. Last year, I also participated and we took all of the girls and they really had a good time. The PBS characters walk around and you can take pictures of them, and they have a lot of freebies from different companies and groups.
Finally, as I move forward with getting this third book out, I have, with tremendous help from my wife, refocused on my website and included some new sections that may be of some interest to you.
The first section is my “Press & News” section (look in the tabs at the top). There, you can find articles, blog posts, reviews, and interviews about me or my books.
I also have another section titled, “Events,” which you can see all the events I’ve participated in or will participate in. This is still ongoing and not yet completely updated (I’m getting older, so it is more difficult to remember everything I’ve done.)
Forgive me if it seems a little vain. That is not my intent. This website is a lot like a resume, honestly. When I apply for jobs or try to land some marketing events, those folks will naturally go to my website to see what I’m about. So, I’m trying to make it as comprehensive as I can.
Spring is finally here where I live, and it’s a time for new beginnings and fresh starts. Just like the pruning that’s happening out in our yard, any editing or shaping of the book and the site will hopefully be an improvement and make things better in the long run.
What makes a good book a good movie? What makes a good book a bad movie? These are two questions that many people (especially those in the movie making industry) would probably like a clear and concise answer. Unfortunately, everyone knows that there is no clear, concise answer. In some ways, it’s a guess, a spin of the roulette, if you will. A gamble.
While this blog post doesn’t answer this question (how could it?), I will give my opinion on the subject, since everyone else does. Besides, I need to write about something. It might as well be this.
The movie, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which is a book I’ve read more than once, was recently released.
Now, I’m not going to delve into the reasons why this movie didn’t do well. Others have done it better than I could. I have also yet to watch the movie, so I can’t truly comment on it. This, however, brought up the question: why do some books make good movies and why do other books-as-movies fail?
I have a few ideas about why this happens. First, I’m going to look at a book that has done well as a movie (or three).
The Lord of the Rings – Peter Jackson and his team turned this book series into a rather successful series of movies. Though he couldn’t put every character and plot that was in the book into the movie (Tom Bombadil, where were you?), he did keep the spirit of the movie and characters. Not to mention, there were dramatic moments in the book that transferred well to cinema.
Now, to be honest, not everyone thought it was going to be successful. I remember reading one critic that said it was going to be the most expensive made-for-television movie ever made. Obviously, they were wrong.
But what made it successful?
I believe one of the most important things to do is to keep the spirit and theme of the book. When a director turns a beloved book into a movie, it is not for them to make it as they wish. Yes, they may have the right, but that is not what I’m talking about. Many directors have taken a book and put their own spin on the themes contained within. This was one of the most pointed arguments against “A Wrinkle in Time.” The themes and spirit of that book were abandoned. (Again, I can’t really form my own opinion as I have yet to watch the movie.)
This seems like commonsense. People who are fans of the book are more than likely going to watch the movie. You may or may not attract others. If you change the movie (not just the plot), you are going to make a lot of that fan base angry. If you can’t rely on fans of the book, then who can you rely on?
There is another book series that turned into a successful movie series.
The Harry Potter Movies – Again, when you read the books, the movies capture the same tone, spirit and themes of the original story. The Harry Potter in the book was the same Harry Potter in the movies, even if other elements were altered. So, when people went to see the movie, they were familiar with the characters.
In my opinion, it is rather disrespectful to change certain elements when creating a movie from a book. Now why do some directors do this? I have a few reasons. One, I think they are trying to capture an audience already in place. They are using the name of the book, but that’s about it. They don’t truly care about the source material. If they did, they wouldn’t make such drastic changes. Another reason may be less nefarious and more self-serving. They change the themes simply because they can. It is an arrogance. Another reason may be just to “put their stamp on it.” Now, I understand that some elements in a book don’t transfer well to cinema. Unfortunately, that is not why things typically change. It is also not the type of change I’m speaking about.
More than once, I’ve seen a movie diverge from the book and asked my wife, “Why did they change that?” If the reason isn’t obvious, then perhaps it should’ve been left in. That’s just my opinion. I’m sure directors have reasons, though not all reasons are legitimate.
Another reason (and the last one for this blog) why I think some books fail as movies is the lack of the visual, lack of the dramatic. This is true especially for the types of movies such as the ones mentioned above. Directors sometimes try to build those scenes into the adaptations of the book, but if they aren’t there in the original reading, it’s going to fall flat.
I think those types of stories, fantasies, need the climactic-worthy scene. Something that will evoke the emotion in the viewer. Some books don’t have that in their stories, and that’s fine. It doesn’t take away from the book. However, maybe it is not a movie-type of book, which is fine as well. In the end, some books lend themselves to be movies, while others aren’t. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of the book at all.
To quote a “popular” saying, “It is what it is.”
On Valentine’s Day of this year, I finished book three of my Scar of the Downer series. Though I have yet to come up with a title and have some editing left to do, I now see the light at the end of this tunnel.
It has been a long journey, one that I’m not quite finished with yet. Nearly thirteen to fourteen years ago, the idea of Crik first came to me. I didn’t know him by that name then, but the character was still the same, and so was the story. From the beginning, it was always going to be about a group of runaway slaves yearning to live free.
When I originally wrote the very first draft back in 2007, the three books were all in one 120,000-word volume. Over the course of several years, as the world in my story expanded, I decided to break the book up into three separate, yet smaller, novels. No one was going to publish a young adult novel that large from someone unknown, someone like me. It’s difficult enough to get a book published at all.
I can honestly say that from the very beginning, I always knew what the end of the story would look like. I always knew where my characters had to go.
I’ll be honest, it felt strange to write what I wrote this week. Some of you may understand, some of you won’t. I’ve talked about this moment for years with my wife, and now it is here. It’s one thing to read a book and come to its ending. Sometimes it happens in days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. I’ve never experienced something this massive. Nearly thirteen years of life dedicated to this one story. But now, now it’s coming to an end.
For these past years, I’ve lived it.
There hasn’t been a day that I have not thought about Crik and his plight. Though most people in this world have never heard of this book or this series, let alone have read it, it is a part of me. If people don’t know this about me, they really don’t know me.
How can this story not be that interwoven with who I am?
Besides God and family, I can think of little else that has occupied my thoughts more than this book, more than these characters. To most people, understandably, these characters have little to no impact on their lives, but for me, they’re as real as unreal people can get.
How do you say goodbye to something like that?
The short answer is you don’t. I doubt any other story will stay with me as long as this one has. It has been a project that has been with me before my oldest daughter was even born.
I know this sounds melodramatic to the reader, but this is a chapter that is closing in my life. I will be moving on to other projects, perhaps never to write about Crik again. Never to talk about what he will do, only what he has done. It is a bittersweet thing.
Like time, however, stories march on.
Scott Keen is the author of two young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers and Rise of the Branded. His third and final book of the Scar of the Downer Series should be released sometime this year.