There are lots of reasons why I write mystery novels and thrillers… To entertain myself. To make a living. To tell a story. But sometimes it’s not easy to put my butt in the chair and write. But then I come across a Goodreads blogpost like the one from author Richard Wheeler…and it’s a big motivator.
Each day I read to my wife a couple of chapters from one of Lee Goldberg’s Monk novels, based on the TV series about the obsessive-compulsive San Francisco detective Adrian Monk.
My wife, Sue Hart, is in an assisted living place three blocks from my home. She spent half a century as an English professor, specializing in Montana literature and other fields, before her short-term memory began to fade.
She loves the Monk novels. She had been unfamiliar with them until I started reading them to her in her room, and now she laughs and smiles right along with me, as I spin out the story for her.
There is a genius to the Monk novels. Mr. Monk is crazy and outrageous– but we don’t laugh at him, because there is the pathos about him, and what we feel is tenderness toward him, no matter how peculiar he seems.
These reading sessions, which light up my wife, have made me aware of how gifted Lee Goldberg is as a novelist and storyteller. There is something about reading a story out loud, and catching the response, that tells me more about the work than if I had read it silently to myself. And it is telling me that Lee Goldberg is a splendid storyteller with a great sense of the human condition.
I am touched, and very flattered, by Richard’s post. I’ve received quite a few letters from people who read my books while going through chemotherapy, or healing from an injury, and they tell me how much the laughter, or the mystery, or the adventure has helped them deal with, or forget, the pain. That’s just amazing to me. So now I think of those people whenever I sit down to write.
The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (www.iamtw.org) has announced the nominees for the 2014 Scribe Awards, recognizing the excellence in the field of media tie-in writing… the best thriller novels, mystery novels and science fiction novels based on movies, TV shows and games.
The winners will be announced, and awards presented, in July at the San Diego Comic-Con.
The 2014 Scribes Nominees:
Best Adaptation (Noveliization)
Man of Steel by Greg Cox 47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine
Best General Original
The Executioner:Sleeping Dragons by Michael A. Black Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by Donald Bain Leverage: The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox Leverage: The Zoo Job by Keith R. A. DeCandido Mr. Monk Helps Himself by Hy Conrad
Best Speculative Original
From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson Supernatural: The Roads not Taken by Tim Waggoner Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Best Short Story
“Savior” by Michael Jan Friedman
“Redemption” by Robert Greenberger
“Locks and Keys” by Jennifer Brozek
“Mirror Image” by Christine M. Thompson
“So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
“The Dark Hollows of Memory” by David Annandale
Best Young Adult
Kevin by Paul Kupperberg Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 by Stacia Deutsch The Croods by Tracey West
Dark Shadows – 33. The Phantom Bride by Mark Thomas Passmore
Dark Shadows – 37. The Flip Side by Cody Quijano-Schell
Blake’s 7 The Armageddon Storm – by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
I get lots and lots of questions asking for career advice from readers. Here are a few that came in recently.
Q: Wanted to ping you for some advice, if you don’t mind. I think I’m ready to live by my pen/keyboard starting this summer. My house is already paid off, I’ll have about a year’s worth of savings in the bank, and I’ve figured out the costs of healthcare and retirement already. This is a new world for me, as I’ve been in a stable job in corporate America for the least 22 years, so it’s a big jump and one that I’m excited about but also nervous as well. I’d like to make sure I understand all the pro’s and con’s to be sure my exit plan from Intel is solid. From your perspective, what are the risks/benefits and if you were about to make a decision like this, what are some of the things you’d want to have in place prior?”
I’ve been doing this my whole life… so I am probably the wrong guy to ask for transitional advice. The pros and cons are basically that you have to be entirely self-motivated and relentless about generating work & opportunities for yourself. You have no boss to drive you…and no company’s resources to back you up. It’s your own time and money. You’ll need to surround yourself with top professionals … lawyers, accountants, agents, copyeditors, etc…. that you can trust to handle your business affairs. And you will have to be a harsh task master on yourself to keep churning out material and drumming up new business. Don’t expect to succeed overnight. It’s going to take a while.
Q: Since you’re a Tv producer cant you view my Tv show script and break it into the Tv biz? I mean I’m just carious.”
No, I can’t.
Q: I’m 42 years old and live in NYC. Because of some personal issues I dealt with in my twenties and thirties, I’m a late bloomer. […] I would appreciate it if you could give me some straight talk about whether or not I am too old to consider a career in TV writing. I work as a copywriter, and I understand the next step is to work hard on specs for my portfolio. However, if the opportunity has passed because of my age, I would rather let go and focus on something else.”
Age has nothing to do with it if you write an incredible, kick-ass spec screenplay and episodic sample. But I would be deceiving you if I said ageism isn’t a issue in TV. The networks and studios do favor the young, so if you’re good, but not great, your age will knock you out of the running. But if the development execs love your scripts, they will look past a few gray hairs.
I just discovered you while browsing on Amazon! I read an excerpt from “Watch Me Die” and was amused enough to put it on my wish list. Which is a pretty big deal, really. It takes a lot to shove the mouse allllll the way up to the corner and click “add” when I’m smoking, drinking coffee and coughing on cue when work calls. Whew! Luckily, I can multitask like an octopus on crack so you made it into my wish list! However, before I start my Lee Goldberg journey, I’m wondering if there is a chronological order to the books?
Not all of my books are series, so it’s not necessary to read them in chronological order. But here you go, Lynn, the Lee Goldberg Books in Chronological Order:
The Monk Series (2006-2013) Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii
Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants
Mr. Monk in Outer Space
Mr. Monk Goes to Germany
Mr. Monk is Miserable
Mr. Monk and the Dirty cop
Mr. Monk in Trouble
Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out
Mr. Monk on the Road
Mr. Monk on the Couch
Mr. Monk on Patrol
Mr. Monk is a Mess
Mr. Monk Gets Even
I got two very similar emails today asking, basically, the same question about tie-ins. Here they are:
I’m seeking guidance on writing a novel series for a past TV franchise that continues to hold a loyal fan base. You had accessibility to writing the Monk novels from your freelance work on the show and your established relationship with the creator. Any suggestions on who would be the appropriate contact to query regarding rights from a past dramedy for which I am interested in writing a novel series? Would it be the creator via his agent or someone else?
And here’s the other one:
wanted to let you know that lately I’ve read several of your Monk novels and have enjoyed them greatly. I wanted to ask you how would someone approach studios regarding writing novels based on existing shows? I’ve a Doctor Who novel and was wondering if you had any pointers on how I should approach publishers. Who do I approach – do I approach BBC Books direct or do I approach the TV company, copyright holders?
The simple answer is that, in most cases, TV tie-in books are publisher-generated and do not come about because of an author’s interest in the property. The way it usually works is that either the rights-holder (usually a studio) with a hot series property auctions the publishing rights to the highest bidder…or a publisher approaches the rights-holder (usually through the licensing department of a studio) about licensing the publishing rights to a property. Either way, the publisher will pay the rights-holder a license fee as well as a percentage of the sales. The rights-holder also maintains creative control of the project and provides photos, logos, and other marketing materials related to the show. Once the rights are secured, the publisher then seeks out authors to write the tie-in books…usually going to established professional writers who they know can work within tight guidelines and deliver a strong, clean manuscript in very little time.
As unproven authors, you really have nothing to offer the rights-holders of a classic, or hit, TV series that would motivate them to license the novel rights to you. If a publisher is already producing books in a tie-in series…like, say, STAR TREK or DOCTOR WHO, you could contact the editor and pitch yourself as someone to consider to write one of the books, but the chances of that approach succeeding are, to be blunt, nil.
So the bottom line is there’s really no way for you to interest a studio in letting you write novels based on one of their shows unless you approach them with a publisher attached…or you are already a big name in your own right and having you attached to the book would guarantee significant sales and publicity. You can learn more about tie-in writing, and how the tie-in biz works by reading Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-in Writing
Here’s a sampling from the mailbag this week. I got this note from a Diagnosis Murderfan:
please put diagnosis murder back on youtube it is one of my favorite tv shows in the wide world and also airwolf is one of my favoritew shows as well i miss diagnosis murder very much i watch it almost all day long signed a upset fan of the show anna
I have nothing to do with any Diagnosis Murder episodes that are posted on YouTube. That said, whoever posted them as violating the copyright and the studio probably had the videos yanked. The good news is that the entire series is coming out on DVD later this summer…and I wrote the liner notes for the seasons that Bill Rabkin and I worked on. More on that soon.
I just love your Monk Books, and when it was on TV, the show too.
I was noticing in my iTunes there is an author who has written some Mr. Monk books by the name of Hy Conrad. Is this a pen name or is someone actually writing Mr. Monk books and why aren’t you?
I have bought all of Mr. Monk books by you either through stores or in my iTunes.
I would appreciate it if you could email me and let me know the reason for the change in authors.
Thank you for your kind words about the book. I decided, after 15 books, that it was time to move on to other things. Hy Conrad is, indeed, a real person and he’s picked up where I left off. His first book, Mr. Monk Helps Himself, just came out. You can read more about it here.
After reading THE HEIST I have read most of your work and enjoyed it a great deal.
Wondering if we will indeed see Tom Wade …..or even Harvey Mapes again ( the references to Travis McGee and Spenser et al hilarious….and prompted me to reread a couple of old John D McDonalds..great fun)
And why are you not in ibooks?
Thank you for your work!
I will definitely be writing a King Citysequel, but I’ve got the sequel to The Heist to do first! King City was published by Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer imprint, and I believe iBookstore refuses to carry Amazon titles. As for my backlist titles (Watch Me Die, The Walk, etc), I have an exclusive agreement with Amazon to publish and sell those books…at least for the time being.
Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants (2007) This book is unrelated to the MONK episode that brought back Sharona, which came several years after this book was published.
Mr. Monk in Outer Space (2007) Some characters in this book might be familiar to readers of my novel Dead Space (aka Beyond the Beyond). Monk’s brother Ambrose also has a significant role in this novel.
Mr. Monk Goes to Germany(2008) Several of the “assistants” that Natalie meets with in this book were originally introduced in Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu. Monk’s adversary Dale the Whale makes an appearance in this novel.
Mr. Monk is Miserable(2008) This book is a direct sequel to Germany and picks up right where the previous book left off.
Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop (2009) – There is a call-back in this novel to the MONK episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather,” which I wrote with William Rabkin. There are also some in-joke references to the TV series Mannix and Murder She Wrote.
Mr. Monk in Trouble (2009) There are many, many in-joke references in this book to western authors, television series, and movies, and even radio shows. An excerpt from the book was published as The Case of the Piss-Poor Gold in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 2009
Mr. Monk on the Road (2011) This is the first book set after the final episode of the TV series and features Monk’s brother Ambrose in a big way.. Excerpt: Mr. Monk and the Seventeen Steps, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2010.
Mr. Monk on the Couch (2011) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Sunday Paper in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 2011
Mr. Monk on Patrol(2012) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Open House in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in December 2011. This book features the return of Sharona and Randy Disher.
Mr. Monk is a Mess (July 2012) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Talking Car, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine May 2012. There is another call-back to the TV episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather” in this novel.
Mr. Monk Gets Even(January 2013) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk Sees the Light inEllery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2012. Dale the Whale and Monk’s brother Ambrose return in this book, which was my final novel in the series.
Mr. Monk Helps Himself (June 2013) This is the first book in the series written by Hy Conrad and picks up where my books left off.
It wasn’t easy for me to walk away from writing the Monk books. After 15 novels over seven years, I’d become very attached to the characters. Monk, Natalie and the rest of the gang were always on my mind because I was always writing the books. But I decided it was time for a change (little did I know I’d soon be writing THE HEIST with Janet Evanovich!) And when I let my publisher know I was leaving, they told me they’d like to continue the series without me. They asked if I could recommend someone to pick up where I left off. I strongly recommended my friend Hy Conrad, a writer-producer on MONK and a terrific mystery plotter. He already knew the characters inside-and-out and had written some of the most beloved episodes of the TV series. I knew the characters would be in very good hands with him, no matter what direction he decided to take the books. And that, of course, was the first, fundamental issue he had to deal with, as he explains in this guest post…
When it was announced I was taking over these novels, Monk fans started contacting me in droves, all asking the same question. Was I going to reboot the series, like a Batman or Spider-Man franchise, or just pick up where Lee Goldberg left off?
To be honest, I never thought of rebooting. To me, the Monk characters are real. On the show, the other writers and I took Monk and Natalie to a certain place in their lives. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Lee continued to expand them, smoothing out little bumps and creating new ones. I didn’t want to mess with that reality.
In the new books, some things will naturally be different, because Lee and I are naturally different. For example, his Natalie knows a lot about architecture. Mine, not so much. His Monk is more obsessed with numbers and symmetry. Mine is a little more phobic. I tried to insert some pop references into Natalie’s voice. But the show never did many pop references and it doesn’t come naturally to me.
In many ways, Lee strengthened the Monk franchise. For one thing, he knows San Francisco and the wonderful character of the town. We wrote the show in Summit, New Jersey, and, while we did have a San Francisco map, it was pinned on the far wall and no one wandered over there very often. I’ll try to do improve on our atmospheric quality, I promise.
The same goes for forensics accuracy. Lee had called on a cadre of experts to make sure his details were right. Despite our own police consultant, the Monk writers tried not to burden ourselves with too many facts. At one point, the production team called to tell us our formula for bomb making was ridiculous. We replied, “Do you really want us broadcasting how to make a bomb?” That shut them up.
The good news is that we were sticklers for logic. We may not have known bomb making, but we insisted that the logic of every story always worked. For example, when Monk was in a life-threatening predicament in Act Four, which he usually was, we knew we had to send Stottlemeyer in there to save the day. In a lot of TV shows, the writers never ask, “Well, how did Stottlemeyer know Monk was in trouble?” We did. And sometimes it would take us a full day to answer the question.
The other good news is that I was with the show from beginning to end, for all eight years. I was the mystery guy, while everyone else had come from the world of comedy. Along the way, I think I had some influence on the way Monk talked and interacted. In other words, he wound up a little bit like me, which makes writing for him a pleasure.
When I first told Monk creator/executive producer Andy Breckman that I was doing this, his response was, “Great. You can use some of the Monk stories we never got to do.”
Mr. Monk Helps Himself is one of those stories. I brought it into the writers’ room during season six. We played around with the idea until it morphed into something totally different—Mr. Monk Joins a Cult, guest-starring Howie Mandel. That’s how it happens in a roomful of writers. There are dozens of great plots, half thought through, buzzing around in our collective memory.
I have to admit it’s nice to finally have the last word in what mysteries Monk solves and how he reacts. I’ll try not to abuse the power.