Monday, December 8, 2008

My Life in Publishing Hell, Part VI

Painting Tacoma

The End of the Dead End Street

Already beset by the challenges of trying to get the publishing industry to open itself up to POD titles, my publisher John Rutledge was increasingly eager to fish in the Hollywood pond instead, and went to the extent of publishing my screenplay adaptations of Gabriella's Voice and Frosted Glass. The adaptation process surprised me. Unlike many authors, I absolutely relished the process of re-forming my stories into the visual language of cinema, and had no problem hacking and slashing wherever it was called for. We had some serious nibbles. Sam Waterston of Law & Order fame expressed interest in Glass, but had to beg out due to scheduling conflicts. Gabriella drew an offer from a small filmmaking group in New York. After reviewing the contracts, John decided that the group wasn't up to snuff, and turned down the offer. That's a decision I have grown to regret. Since I had no real name built up, I think we should've taken the chance.

Into this rather dismal atmosphere came Painting Tacoma, based on my relationship with a born-again Christian woman with bipolar syndrome. I thought the issues of cross-faith romance (I'm an atheist) and mental illness - along with the setting in my adopted second hometown - would be enough to carry the book, but John had been hoping for something a little "sexier," something with the grand storytelling impact of a Gabriella or Frosted Glass. On the up-side, my writing process had attained the point of near infallibility. John seemed almost disheartened that there was no real editing to be done. Knoll Gilbert came up with a magnificent cover design - blending the paint of the title with fantastical colors reflecting the hallucinatory stages of bipolar episodes - and we put out another beautiful book.

Faced with the continuing frustrations of the bookstore-distribution process, however, Painting Tacoma never had a chance. Many of my own energies were, ironically, being taken up with a resurgence of the very romance I had written about, so I lacked the strength to beat my head against that brick bookstore wall. In the end, the book that would prove to be my last with Dead End Street died a quiet death.
Find Painting Tacoma at

Next: Rhyming Pittsburgh and a dive into weirdness.


... Paige said...

That is a beautiful cover. One of my daughters is Bi-polar. For the most part she is not as bad as some and is on an annual cycle from Nov 1 to mid Feb. funny how I can see that even in photos.

Thanks so much for sharing your stories.

Michael J. Vaughn said...

Thanks so much! I have had tremendous good look with covers, and this one really blew me away. I guess one reason I wrote the book is that bipolar has many lesser-known and intriguing aspects to it. As you probably have learned, the episodes can be strangely beautiful experiences, which is why it's so hard to stay on the meds. The character in the book would go into a hyper-religious state, a kind of heaven-bound ecstasy. But this would also cause her to stop eating, thinking she could "live on Jesus alone," and to drive through red lights, thinking that God would protect her. She's doing quite well now, having found a way to work with the meds, and has achieved a teaching career.