Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 25 February 2011 00:00
Ellen Meister has been so busy promoting her book that she almost forgot to tell the audience at a book signing at Book Revue in Huntington on Feb. 18 about a particularly exciting development; the fact that her new novel, The Other Life, is now in the running to become an HBO series. While nothing is certain in the world of television, it’s possible that the same network that produced landmark shows like The Sopranos will soon play host to the witty Jericho writer’s latest creation.
The novel, which chronicles the life of a woman, Quinn Braverman, who can step into another world where her life has taken a very different route, has been garnering rave reviews for its daring premise and emotional poignancy. While Quinn’s ability to jump through a portal may sound like a science fiction concept to some readers, Meister explained that she wasn’t interested in taking the science fiction angle and explaining how the mysterious portal worked; instead, the portal is a magical device to enable the exploration of everyday possibilities. What if a married woman with a child on Long Island could see what her life would be like as a trendsetting single, living a glamorous life in Manhattan instead? Which world would she chose?
Meister, who had previously written two novels that she considered lighter fare (Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA and The Smart One), said that she took a risk with The Other Life, not sure if she could pull off the multiple worlds premise.
“The problem with this concept was that it was so different from anything I had ever written before, I didn’t know if this was going to be okay,” said Meister. Fortunately, her agent approved, and Quinn’s worlds (both of them) came to light.
However, if the TV series comes to fruition, it’s unlikely that Meister will be tapped to pen any of it, she noted- novel writers usually aren’t contracted to write adaptations. “My primary job with the HBO thing is to cash the checks,” said Meister with her typical blend of honesty and self-deprecating humor.
After explaining the exciting prospect of a TV series that could change her career forever, Meister took questions from the audience about her background and writing process. Though she wanted to be an author from an early age, her career as a novelist almost didn’t happen- for a long time, her job in marketing took priority. “I was better at procrastinating than I was at writing for a very long time,” she said. “I was an advertising copywriter, so I was able to tell myself that I was a writer and kept putting off my novel-writing dream for decades.”
Now, that marketing background comes in handy, as Meister uses blogging and social networking sites to aggressively self-market her books.
Another asset Meister has at her disposal, unsurprisingly, is her family; the author said she talked to her three children about her idea for The Other Life before sitting down at the computer to write the tale. While she didn’t let her kids read her first two books (Meister felt they were too raunchy), her then-12-year-old daughter not only read The Other Life before publication, but found a typographical error all of the professional editors and copywriters had missed.
For something completely different, the author’s next book will focus on Dorothy Parker. Meister said she got the idea for the book, tentatively titled “Farewell, Dorothy Parker” after seeing just how many books were based on Jane Austen and her characters. “I thought to myself ‘Wow, you know there’s a lot of Jane Austen fans out there…somebody should do that with Dorothy Parker.’ And I went “Oh! Me!” Meister revealed to the audience at Book Revue that she had recently completed the first draft of the Parker book, and the novel would hopefully see print in 2012.
However, even with a new book on the horizon, the potential TV series is the most exciting development in Meister’s career right now. “There wasn’t anything my agent could have said that could have thrilled me like HBO,” said Meister. “HBO is bigger than I could have dreamed.”
It will be a while before Meister knows for sure whether or not the TV series will be green-lighted; however, even if it’s never produced, she could write another book about an alternate reality where things worked out differently. Quinn would probably approve.
For more information about Meister’s books, or to read her blog, visit www.ellenmeister.com.