Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Orson Wells, Kiefer Sutherland and the Philosophies of Men

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was watching an interview with Kiefer Sutherland recently (he's the star of the television series 24, currently starring in the movie The Sentinel with Michael Douglas, and he's a fellow Canadian!) and he said some things that were quite profound and really struck me at how similar we are. (Not really, he's a millionaire and some Hollywood eye candy with a velvet voice, but hey, you know what I mean. Someone did tell me that my books remind them of the show 24.)

Okay, back to the profound things he said. I usually don't expect profound things out of an actor's mouth, but he quoted Orson Wells when he said, "A film is never finished, it's just abandoned." Well, for some films, you're grateful that they're abandoned because they're excruciating to watch, but you could really say the same thing about books. Are they ever really finished for the author? When I finish one of my manuscripts, I love doing the revisions to it. It's fun to go back and flesh out characters, make motives more clear, beef up the setting, it just gets the adrenaline flowing for me. But I need to have that publisher's deadline so I know when to stop. That's the hard part. Knowing when to abandon it, to call it good, and go on. Rachel Nunes recently put the first chapter of the book I'm currently working on, on her website and even now I'm still thinking of possible revisions, but it's there, and I let it go and I'm proud of myself. If you want to see it, you can at

The next not-so-profound thing Kiefer said that stuck with me was when he was describing how his character was supposed to vomit on the television show, and the fake vomit was actually warm cream of mushroom soup and he had to do the take several times in 120 degree Los Angeles heat. (Ick! I hope none of you were eating while reading this. Sorry!) Not that I have any experience with pretending to throw up soup time and again (I have some morning sickness stories, though, that would make even the hardiest of men turn green, but I'll spare you), but that's exactly how I feel about some scenes in my books. Here I am trying to get the story inside my head out of me and type the words out onto the computer screen, but all that's coming out is equivalent to vomit. I am forced to revise it over and over again, have editors, friends, and perfect strangers critique it so I can do it again and again until it's right, whether or not it's distasteful, a really stifling day or I just want to stop. After the process is over, then, finally, mercy shines upon me and it is declared a perfect scene–the publisher loves it, the readers love it, and there is no more Cream of Mushroom soup anywhere to be found, much to the chagrin of the soup company. (Wouldn't Chicken Noodle be more realistic?)

Kiefer then said he doesn't re-watch his work because he always sees a different angle or a different way he could have played it, but that's what he was feeling in the moment and that's what's there. Same thing with me and my books. I haven't read my first two books in a really long time, not only because I was sick of looking at the manuscript by the time it had finally gone through the publishing process, but that's what I felt at the time, that's the work that was there, and that's the final product. Plus I know I'll make myself crazy if I read them again and see where I could have played it different, been better, whatever. As writers, I believe every book, every manuscript, makes us better writers generally, because we learn more about our craft and how to do it better.

Finally Kiefer talked about the people he worked with and how much he enjoyed the friendship not only of the other actors, but also the director, sound guys, extras, you get the picture. Eva Longoria, Michael Douglas, and Kiefer went to some special Secret Service training for the movie, The Sentinel, and Eva outshot all of them and ended up in the top 5%, shocking both Kiefer and Michael because she is a very small person and you wouldn't expect that out of her. So the moral of the story is, don't judge a person by their outside, Eva Longoria would be a good sniper, and when you're doing something you love, surrounded by people who also love it, life is good. The editors, publishers, marketers, everyone who helped get my book perfected and on the shelves make my life better, stretch me as a person, and help me learn to do it better. (You guys know who you are, thank-you!)

So there you have it. Actors and writers are similar creatures and Kiefer Sutherland and I have a lot more in common than I thought! (If I named a character in my book Kiefer, would anyone think less of me?) Well, I'm going to take the advice of Orson Wells and abandon this blog now. Maybe I'll go have some soup for lunch!


At 5/04/2006 2:32 PM, Blogger Clark Goble said...

She grew up on a farm in Texas. She probably grew up shooting.

At 5/04/2006 7:36 PM, Blogger KB said...

Read your chapter. Good cliff hanger.


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