Noah Hawley
“We live in a world of surveillance.”
A Conspiracy of Tall Men
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I just closed a deal to adapt the Coen Brothers classic film, Fargo, for FX.  Read the story here.

Same book, only softer

I’ve gotten a lot of email lately from readers of The Good Father.  Most of them from readers with adult children, often writing openly of their own torment and heartbreak about the path their kids have taken.

The book, for them, was not enjoyable, per se, but felt desperately personal and cathartic, as if I wrote it just for them.  This is the weight we carry as writers.  In the search for the truth of things it’s important to remember that what the writer think of as invention is, in fact, painfully real for some readers.

A 70 year old man wrote of his adult son accused of sexual assault.  The mother of a 21 year old boy wrote of her paralysis in the face of her son’s destructive drift.  This is a book about what it’s like to lose someone close to you, to see them vanish right before your eyes, all the while ignoring your outstretched hand.  It is the fear of all parents.  What if our best isn’t good enough?

I have no answers, I tell them.  But I share your struggle.  We’re all in it together.

In the U.S., The Good Father comes out in paperback on January 8, 2012.

Development Season 2012

I team up with Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci on a big, high concept new show at ABC, called Players.  Here’s the Deadline Announcement.

I’ve joined forces with Producers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci (Star Trek, Transformers) on a new pilot for ABC.  The details are “top secret,” but here’s the story.

Echoes of DeLillo

The Good Father by Noah Hawley

A gripping novel, with echoes of Don DeLillo, about a father’s reaction to his son’s act of homicide

If it is every parent’s nightmare to watch helplessly as a child goes bad, then Paul Allen, the anguished narrator of Noah ­Hawley’s gripping new novel, is living that nightmare in front of millions of spectators. Not only has his 20-year-old son Danny been accused of shooting a man in cold blood, but the victim also happens to be the beloved front-running candidate for President of the United States.
Allen, an esteemed New York physician, reacts to the appalling news by coming down with a powerful case of denial. Before his initial shock even wears off, he sets out to prove his son’s innocence. It is a daunting task, given that the crime took place as the cameras rolled in a crowded California auditorium. Allen, however, believes he can use his celebrated diagnostic skills to look beneath the skin of the crime. Is his son’s apparent guilt a case of mistaken identity? Was the profoundly alienated young man, who had been wandering the country after dropping out of university, brainwashed by former Special Forces operatives disguised as fellow hobos?

Allen’s investigation soon turns into an obsession. It threatens not only his job and his hard-earned standing in the community, but also comes close to destroying the new family he fathered after abandoning the seven-year-old Danny and his neurotic, unreliable mother. “The more my son became a villain to others, the more he would become a cause to me,” he claims. “His vindication would be my grail.”

The father’s quest for answers, aided by an eccentric attorney who might not always have his client’s best interests at heart, is not without incident and revelation, including a gripping late-night encounter at an empty airport with a shadowy figure sprung straight from the darkest recesses of America’s intelligence services. Hawley employs a deft ironic touch as he renders the paranoia that saturates contemporary American life. “They say nature abhors a vacuum,” Allen thinks as the media closes in on him, “but CNN hates it more.” The nation’s ­continuing fascination with lethal madness is memorably symbolised when Danny, aged 19, finds himself caught in a tornado as he wanders Iowa in search of answers to his growing confusion. “He saw his first funnel cloud on July 16, God’s evil finger reaching down and stirring up the American anthill.” Not long after, he learns how to fire a gun.

Allen ultimately realises that the prime cause of his son’s descent has a more ­specific cause — his parents’ messy divorce. Perhaps Danny’s chief instigator is not some rogue operative, but rather his absent father, who chose the relative ease of 60-hour working weeks over the tough slog of looking after an overly sensitive boy. For all the energy Allen devotes to sitting on planes or knocking on doors, he learns no greater truth than that a “boy whom you spend less than 30 days a year with is not your son. Not in the same way as a boy you have tucked in every single night of his life”.

Even more effective than the author’s portrait of this harrowed father is his depiction, in Danny, of that deeply familiar but ultimately mysterious figure — the American assassin. At his best, ­Hawley’s work echoes Don DeLillo, an author he clearly admires. Danny comes eerily to life as his father’s story unfolds. Like all proper political killers, he gives himself a third name, transforming from bland Daniel Allen into the folksy, mythical Carter Allen Cash. His thinking devolves from worrying about schoolwork and girls to wondering whether he is a “sheep” or a “wolf”. Contributing traumas are vividly detailed, such as the near crash of an aeroplane on which eight-year-old Danny was flying while being shuffled between parents, or the lecherous glint Danny catches in the eye of his Kennedy-like victim upon spotting a pretty girl. In the end, however, perhaps nothing better explains Danny’s motivation than a simple fact that fellow assassins such as John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald learnt, one that says as much about America as it does about its gunmen. “The gun was the truth. The gun could not lie. It said what it meant, every time.”

Or where did all the reviews go?

On Friday The Good Father will have been out in the U.S. for 1 month.  In that time I have been humbled by dozens of amazing reviews.  And yet aside from a few traditional media outlets - People Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Austin American Statesman and The Denver Post to name a few - most of the reviews have been online. 

To date, newspapers in most major urban markets, including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Boston, have yet to review the book.  Why?  Is the absence of a review a statement about the book, or is it simply a testament to the decimation of coverage newspapers give to books these days?  Should I take it personally, in other words?

It’s no secret that most national newspapers have greatly reduced the degree of their book coverage.  Many have done away with book review sections entirely.  Meanwhile, publishers release more and more books each year.  More books and less book coverage.  The math here doesn’t work out in the author’s favor.

The New York Times reviewed my first novel (A Conspiracy of Tall Men) in their Fiction in Brief section.  It was the first and last time the Times has reviewed a book of mine (though they did include The Good Father in their new and noteworthy section earlier this month).  Other People’s Weddings received (I seem to remember) a total of one (1) review in a national newspaper.  The Punch didn’t do much better.

As artists we all want to be judged on the merits of our work, and yet these days the biggest disappointment an author endures is not an avalanche of bad reviews, it’s silence.  Instead of being judged (on our merits or by any other criteria) we are simply being ignored.

I had hoped, given the higher profile The Good Father has enjoyed (due to both an increased publicity budget and a greater sense of buzz overall) that The Good Father would break my apparent review curse, but I’m beginning to think it won’t.  After all, in our flash-in-the-pan culture, how long is an author supposed to wait for reviews in New York or Boston or Los Angeles before admitting that the world has moved on to the next wave of novels?

I don’t write these words out of bitterness.  The response to The Good Father has been, across the boards, humbling and deeply gratifying.  I ask these questions as part of a larger question, if traditional media outlets have turned their backs on books, how can books survive?

Simply put, the answer is you.  I’ve been astonished and heartened by the sheer volume of book related blogs that have reviewed the novel. Similarly inspiring has been the passion of independent booksellers.  As marketing dollars and review column inches for books have shrunk it is becoming even more incumbent upon book lovers to fill the gap.  Especially in the world of fiction, publishing is now the domain of the keener (to use a Canadian term).

In a year in which the Pulitzer Prize committee has decided not to give out a fiction award at all, it is more important than ever that those of us who still love to read spread the word about the books we think are worth reading.  This is the age of social media, after all. 

Want to help your favorite author?  Tell the word about his or her book.

The Book Trailer

Because now I can, here’s the Good Father book trailer.

Are you?

Things I want to cover in this blog

- Oxford, Mississippi and the surprisingly good bagel I had there.
- My joint book event with Heidi Julavits who’s as adorable as a basket of darkly urbane and sweetly sardonic kittens.
- My Soho House book party at which there was a surprising amount of cured meat.
- My gratitude to Amazon for hyping The Good Father by running and rerunning my guest blog and putting me on the cover of their newsletter.
- how I did the Nervous Breakdown podcast, and how it was my first go-to-a-stranger’s-apartment-in-west-hollywood-in-the-middle-of-the-day-and-record-an-interview-while-an-18-month-old-slept-in-the-next-room publicity event
- Cheese
- What it feels like to be on a book tour while renovating a house and moving from rental to rental like Salman Rushdie in the nineties.
- How I don’t have time to write a whole blog, and am stuck jamming what I want to say into bullet points (sorry)
- Miss you
- Bye

On waiting

The novelist’s job is to take his (or her) time.  Reporters write stories in the immediate aftermath of an event.  Magazine journalists draw conclusions in the weeks and months that follow.  Meanwhile, the novelist mulls.  He clips an article, puts it in a file and waits.

Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on this day in 1968 by a man named James Earl Ray, one of our nation’s premiere Lone Gunmen.  Fifty-six years later, in Oakland, One L. Goh walks into a school and shoots ten people.  Journalists scramble, looking for answers.  Why did he do it?  What does it mean?

When Don DeLillo wrote Libra it felt like an act of alchemy.  He took the mystery, the chaos of the JFK assassination and turned it into something meaningful.  You could tell as you read it that this was a book he had been waiting to write his whole career.  He just needed more time, more distance, more perspective.

I’m aware, as I write this, that it is a blog, a daily download of rookie thoughts, young and reckless.  It is a reaction, a dispatch written from the moment.  And yet what do any of us really know in the immediate?  Doesn’t wisdom come with age?  When we say this we think it applies to our age, but isn’t it also the age of the idea?  You form an opinion and wait.  If it’s still the same in a few months, a few decades, then it is what you truly believe.

But violence is impulsive.  A man feels wronged.  He buys a gun and before he knows what’s happening he has murdered a room full of people.  He crouches in a window across from a motel, looking down the barrel of a rifle.  In the blink of an eye another man lays dead.

We could all use a little more time, don’t you think? A little more watching and waiting.  Perspective.

I fly to Memphis in the morning, before dawn.  I will let you know how it feels, but don’t be surprised if the real dispatch isn’t ready for another decade.

Hi there

So I’m remodeling my house, which means I’m not living in my house, which means that every time I come home from the book tour I don’t come “home” in the literal sense.  Right now there are walls missing and half a bathtub.  It’s like what happens to houses after a disaster, except in this case the disaster is us.

The good reviews continue to pour in.  Stuff in the Chicago Tribune and Huffington Post UK.  I’ve been on tv in England and done a lot of radio.  No idea if it’s translating into books sold, but I’m grateful for the recognition.  In TV you can be a critical hit and get cancelled after two episodes.  I know because I lived it.

Of course, in Network TV, even a show no one is watching is seen by over 4 million people.  If I sold four million books I’d be able to buy my own island.  Try living with that math and not going out of your mind a little.

Anyway, I go to Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday, which is fun because I’ve never been to Mississippi.  And then LA on Friday for a couple of weeks.  I’m reading on the 6th at Skylight Books with Heidi Julavits, which I’m excited about.

The place I’m staying in Austin right now is a kind of magic compound where everything is painted in primary colors.  It’s kind of a DIY retreat, like the kind you find in Costa Rica.  My daughter loves it, which is critical.  You realize when you’re a parent, that as long your child is happy you can be happy.  If they’re not happy, you’re going to live a lot of very long days.

It’s getting hot here.  No.  I know.  I’m not happy about it either.  It was 90 degrees the other day, and it’s only April 1.  So prepare yourself.  It’s going to be another long hot summer, and I’ve got that heat rage thing that creeps up on me when I get too hot.  A kind of claustrophobic lashing out gene that gets activated, which my wife really likes. (she doesn’t like it at all) 

So the book tour is nice, because I get to go places that aren’t 90 degrees for a few more weeks.

Some exciting TV deals in the works.  I hope I can tell you about them soon.  Enjoy the rest of your day.

N

It's an election year

I’m reading two books at the same time.  The first is Game Change, a non-fiction account of the 2008 presidential election.  The second is Storm of Swords, the third book in the Game of Thrones saga.  The similarities (once you take out all the sword fighting) are fascinating. 

I posted a link to Tim Parks’ thoughtful piece in the NY Review of Books yesterday that asks the question, do we need stories? (http://bit.ly/H5bqMe)  My feeling is we do, or more clearly, for whatever reason, stories are how we learn.  I see this with my daughter.  It’s all about repetition, about hearing and seeing the same stories over again.  Tell me again about the time we did that thing.  Why did we do that?  What did you do next?  Why did I say what I said?  Events recounted in a linear order about people.  It’s how human memory works.  We tell ourselves stories.

At the same time, we want our stories to have a hero.  A central protagonist we can relate to, an avatar that becomes a stand in for ourselves.  This is true in fiction and non-fiction.  Who is the candidate we vote for, if not the one that we believe is closest to ourself?  The person who holds the same beliefs, the hero we would like to be?  Millions of people went crazy for Sarah Palin because they thought she was just like them, a hockey mom with lipstick. 

Political campaigns spend months perfecting a candidates story.  Bill Clinton was from a Town Called Hope if you remember.  The campaign understand that it’s the story that gets the vote.  The ins and outs of politics is too complicated.  Not that it isn’t fascinating to dive down deep into the way that our government really works (as it is in Game of Thrones), but behind-the-scenes politicking doesn’t make for a good story in an election-year sense.  We need simplicity.  Heroes and villains.  Men overcoming obstacles and bureaucracy.  Women who saw a problem and fixed it.

I’m excited for the second season of Game of Thrones to start up again this Sunday.  My advice when watching is to remember that it’s an election year.

In which I talk about moving around

Last night was Austin, my home crowd.  Although, for me, San Francisco will also be a home crowd.  As will New York.  And LA.  I’ve lived in so many places in the last ten years.  City after city.  Street after street.  Maybe London’s next. 

When I read I feel it’s important to tell the audience a story.  It’s a performance, after all.  People don’t want to see you just read the words out loud.  They want a sense of narrative, a beginning, middle and end that invests them in characters, in theme.  The reading is another script you have to write, in other words.  But then that’s the job.

Afterwards, I went home to the house we’re staying in.  Our house is being remodeled and so we’ve been moving around the neighborhood from rental to rental.  My daughter seems fine with it, a new room every few days, but it’s tough to focus and get the work done when you move around so much.  I always used to say I can write anywhere, under any conditions.  And it’s true (mostly).  It’s one of my strengths, I like to think.

Certainly, when you’re running a television show the one thing you don’t have is the luxury of time.  There’ll be a two hour window and you’ll have to use it to rewrite a script.  Maybe you’re on a plane.  Maybe your wife’s asleep in the next room.  You can’t be precious about it.  TV is about doing the best you can in the time allotted.  You have to be a great first draft writer, cause that’s usually all you get.

In San Francisco I was part of writers’ collective called the Grotto.  Our offices were in an old converted dog and cat hospital.  I had a narrow room with two doors.  One to the hall.  The other to the roof.  I wrote two books there, four movies, three television pilots.  In LA I spent my first few months in a sublet during staffing season.  I took a job on Bones and rented a bungalow in West Hollywood.  Later I bought a house.  Ten months after that I moved to New York to run The Unusuals.  Then on to Austin and My Generation.  And then the ping ponging between cities began in earnest.

When I was in London I thought, I could do this.  Live here.  It’s a city the way that New York is a city, full of neighborhoods you walk through.  Urban and history-rich at its core.  LA is a car city.  Austin is both a car city and a walking city, but also not really a city at all when compared to New York or London.  Which is what makes it so livable.  There are trees and rivers and millions of birds.  You can hear yourself think.

What’s going to happen with this book, The Good Father?  So many books are published only to disappear without a trace.  When I tweet the good reviews or interviews, it’s not that I’m bragging.  I’m trying to force the book to have impact, to grab hold of the fabric of our world and last.  Nobody writes for the trash heap.  We all want to be remembered, to make a difference.  The problem is there’s no recipe.  Success is as much of an accident as it is a plan.

So we keep moving.  City after city.  A new book, a new show, a new film.  There are things to say, but there is also a quest we’re on, to make our marks before it’s too late.

That’s it.  San Francisco on Thursday 3/29 at 6PM @bookpassage.  MS and LA next week.  Have a great day.

On the morning of the Good Father tour

It’s starting to get hot here, mid-eighties in the late afternoon hours, but it’s not the heat that’s noteworthy.  It’s what the heat implies, which is that soon it will be much hotter.  Last year in Austin we had five months of temperatures between 100 and 112 degrees.  So now, when the sun, starts to beat down your mind goes straight to the worst case scenario.  Which is a post traumatic stress response, I think.  But then again, I’ve never been a heat person.  I’d rather be cold than hot.

I did an interview for KUT radio this morning.  The station is located on the UT campus and walking there I found myself surrounded by college students in shorts and sweats on their way to class.  A zone outside vanity, outside fashion.  They’re in the slog of it, these kids, feeding their brains, cementing their identities, separated from what the rest of us would call the “real world.”

Speaking of which, I watched Tiny Furniture last night, which is a movie written and directed by (and starring) Lena Dunham.  People really liked this film when it came out, and Lena got an HBO series off of it called Girls, produced by Judd Apatow.  I found the movie kind of depressing.  It’s about a twenty-one year old girl fresh out of college who moves back in with her successful photographer mother and high school age sister in a fabulous NYC loft.  It’s about how “hard” it is for the girl to adjust to the real world and what’s expected of her and what she wants from life, which would be fertile ground for drama (and comedy), except the young woman has this enormous safety net and this rich mother who indulges her every whim, but who Lena’s character yells at a lot for no good reason. 

When you’re a parent you spend a lot of time worrying about how you can raise your child so he/she becomes an adult who is driven and responsible.  You want to equip them with the tools to thrive when it’s time for them to forge off on their own.  Teach them how the world works, how to change a tire and save money, how to go after the things they want, but to always be respectful of others - to name just a few.

So, I suppose, for me it’s almost impossible to watch a movie like Tiny Furniture, without critiquing the character’s parents.  Without thinking - my God, she’s so spoiled.  So vague.  Why didn’t her parents teach her how to face the world.  It’s okay not to know the answer to every question when you get out of college, but at least you should know the right questions to ask.  Instead, Lena’s character just seemed to be casting around with this very mild (everything in the movie felt mild) ennui. 

I guess this is ultimately a conversation about dramatic narrative.  People in Hollywood like to use the word “stakes,” when they talk about stories.  What they’re saying is - the story you’re telling has to feel like it matters.  There has to be some risk to it, a cost to failure that makes the viewer or reader invest in the character’s struggle for success.  If there is no down-side to failure, than why do I care if they figure out what they want or they don’t?  And that was ultimately my problem with Tiny Furniture.  I wasn’t invested.  The stakes of the story weren’t there.  It didn’t matter, other than on the most ethereal level, whether this young woman got her act together or not.  I mean, eventually she would.  Maybe not now.  But later.  Most people do.  So, okay, just, I guess come back in a few years and see where she’s at.  That was the takeaway of the movie for me.

When I graduated from college I was determined to be a professional musician.  I had a band and we rehearsed constantly and hustled for gigs and tried to make connections.  It was the opposite of what you think the life of a post-grad rock star wannabe would be like—all sleeping late and drinking and trying to get laid.  There just wasn’t time for ennui.  We were working too hard.

Ultimately, I think there’s this stereotype of a life in the arts, which is that it’s mostly about sloth and naval gazing and waiting for inspiration to strike, when really what you have to do to make it is work your ass off, because having a career in the arts is almost impossible and doesn’t happen by accident. 

Now I’m not saying I had all the answers at her age.  I was definitely guilty, at 21, of a certain amount of casting around life-wise, as far as day jobs and girlfriends and apartments, etc, went.  But I wasn’t living in my mom’s amazing two story Tribeca loft.  I was also saddled with student loans and struggling to support myself.  The questions weren’t esoteric, in other words.  They had stakes.

Plus, and this is the last thing I’ll say, Lena Dunham herself suffers from none of the things she portrayed in the movie.  Rather than floating on a sea of ennui and entitlement, she writes and directs movies.  She landed a TV show produced by Judd Apatow.  She is, in other words, doing exactly what I was doing at her age - working her ass off.  So why couldn’t she make a movie about that?  About young people who care passionately, who are struggling to make a name for themselves under the most competitive circumstances. 

Anyway, it’s a comedy, so I guess maybe I just didn’t “get it.”  But there you go.

The book tour starts today.  I’ll be at Book People in Austin at 7pm.  Thursday I’m in San Francisco at Book Passage in the Ferry Building at 6.  See you there.

How we know who we are

Apparently, it’s not sunny here all the time, but it’s been beautiful this week.  I like traveling for work instead of as a tourist.  You get to see the real city.  Right now outside my window there are men digging up the street.  This afternoon I get to wander.  I may go to the neighborhood my parents lived in for a couple of years.  They’ve both passed, and those are the kinds of nostalgic yearnings I get.  Whenever I’m in New York I seem to find myself across from the house I lived in.  Think of it as an affirmation.  This is me.  This is where I come from.

Part of what does Daniel in in the book, I think, is that he gets so far from the familiar.  He is a twenty-year-old boy with a faulty sense of direction who needs structure.  But instead he sets off into the wilderness.  He drifts.  In America it’s easy to get lost, and he does.

I’m a city person.  I like landscapes and beaches, rivers and mountains, but I need to feel concrete under my feet.  I need the energy of it because it reminds me of who I am.  When you get older you realize these things.  You’ve experimented.  You’ve traveled.  And you know what works for you and what doesn’t.

I’m staying in Soho, and the streets are packed all day and night.  People come here searching - for food, booze, clothes, sex.  They walk fast, which is what you do in cities.  You rush from place to place, because somewhere something is happening.  In cities you live for what’s next, whereas in the country I think you live more for right now.  Maybe that’s why I like Austin.  It’s both a city, and a refuge from the city.  There I walk my daughter to school every day.  I know my neighbors.  But I can get my urban fix when I need it.

Next week I start the U.S. book tour.  Austin on Monday.  SF on Thursday.  Check my website or www.facebook/noahhawley1 for details.

That’s it.  Off to explore.  Be good.

Who can sleep?

Spoke to the Irish today via radio.  Signed another 200 books.  Lunch with journalists.  I’m staying in Soho and the noise outside my window goes all night long.  It’s not a problem really.  I grew up in New York, but I don’t understand why everyone sounds so angry at 3 am.  Also, I know it’s my street when I’m going back to the hotel when I see the mannequin with the ball gag in the shop window.

I forget sometimes that I’m in a different country.  This is a city filled with people who look a lot like me, who speak my language.  But then I go to plug something in or cross the street and suddenly it all comes back to me.  I flew across an ocean.  How is that even possible?

Things are going great here and I feel relieved.  Not for me, really, but I want my publisher to be happy.  Everyone has worked so hard.  They believe in the book.  I couldn’t stand for such nice people to be disappointed by the response something I wrote.  Life is hard enough.

Talking to the family is tough.  But it’s amazing how fast one can settle into a routine.  I’ve been here three days and already I have a breakfast spot and a place I go for dinner.  They recognize me at the front desk.  Human beings are remarkably adaptable, like my dog who only has three legs now, but was going up and down stairs two days after the surgery.  She has no higher reasoning.  The fact that we had to amputate her leg doesn’t mean anything to her.  It’s just the way it is now.  Which is called acceptance, and it’s a big component of The Good Father, the idea that accepting the things we can’t change is the only way we can get on with our lives.  That’s not AA advice.  It’s just common sense, I suppose.

Tomorrow I do television.  Thursday is more radio.  I was going to go to Manchester on Thursday, but that changed.  I’m sneaking in some TV meetings as well.  BBC, SKY TV, some producers.  Don’t tell anyone.  Think of it as an adventure.  They make such good shows over here, part of me just wants to go by and say, nice job.  Thanks.

Anyway, I thought I’d beat the jet lag but I was up half the night last night, so I’m going to bed.  It’s probably not bed time where you are.  So you’re going to have to stay up for a while longer.

Think good thoughts.

N

On the eve of the tour

Bands tour in a bus (well, they start out in a van).  Actors do junkets, flying first class.  And authors ... Tomorrow I head to London for the first leg of The Good Father publicity tour.  This week has mostly been about SXSW.  I did some mentoring for the film festival and then saw a lot of great music.  That’s the upside of living in a town with two big music festivals, two film festivals and a growing book festival.  You don’t have to travel.  The world comes to you.

As I write this two young men in slacks and ties are going door to door on my street.  They are selling religion, I’m afraid, which is different than being religious or community-minded, or just plain neighborly.  I’m sitting on the porch and it’s a beautiful day and in a few moments I will have to stop writing and try to dissuade them from doing their sales pitch. I want to be neighborly.  I am community-mided, but I’m not interested in cold calls.

I hope you read the book.  Take it out of the library if you have to.  Writers just want to be read.  I mean, buy the book please, but if not then borrow it from a friend.  And if not my book, then read another book.  Just read, I guess is what I’m saying.

Okay, sale time.  Be good, okay?

More good news for the Good Father

@Goodreads says read The Good Father in March.

WSJ on March Books

The Wall Street Journal calls The Good Father “an agonizing but irresistible look into the souls of a killer and a man who always thought he was a good, or good enough, father.”

Here’s the official book trailer for The Good Father.  I wrote, directed and edited it myself.  That’s also me doing my best This American Life voice over.  The music was written by Jeff Russo, who was the composer for both My Generation and The Unusuals.

The book comes out March 20, 2012 from Doubleday (@doubledaypub)

Booklist calls TGF "Powerful Reading."

“The more elusive the answers are . . .the more humbled Paul becomes, until, in a moving and transcendent conclusion, he finds himself finally able to bear the unbearable.  Hawley infuses his emotionally harrowing story with compelling questions about the age-old debate over nature-versus-nurture.  Powerful Reading.”—Joanne Wilkinson.

Another great blurb

“It is rare that a novel so considered is also so gripping. Intense and utterly humane, THE GOOD FATHER is a book, the moment you finish it, you just know you will want to read again. A tremendous achievement.”

Did you say free?

Doubleday is giving away copies of my new book.  What?  That can’t be true.  Yes.  yes, it is.

It's an election year

Noah Hawley taps into Lionel Shriver and Jared Lee Loughner for The Good Father, which tracks a man’s descent into the mind of his son, arrested for killing a presidential front-runner.

Coming in March

Here’s a mock-up of the British edition cover.  What do you think?  Hit me up at @noahhawley

Publisher's Weekly

The Good Father
Noah Hawley. Doubleday, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-53553-3

The father of a man who assassinates a presidential candidate tries to make sense of his son’s crime in Hawley’s gripping new novel. Dr. Paul Allen is a successful rheumatologist happily living with his second wife and their twin sons in a chic Connecticut enclave. Contact with Daniel, his aloof son from a previous marriage, is sporadic, and when Daniel drops out of Vassar in his first year to “see the country,” Dr. Allen shrugs it off as a youthful foible; he believes that shuffling between parents turned the boy into a “teenage gypsy.” Dr. Allen had seen him only once since then, a year ago in an Arizona coffee shop, so the Secret Service agents who appear at his door are a great surprise. Daniel, aka Carter Allen Cash, has shot and killed the Democratic presidential front-runner one warm June evening at a rally in downtown Los Angeles (not far from where Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968). Despite the overwhelming evidence against Daniel, Dr. Allen won’t believe that his son is guilty (he remembers his son as a member of Greenpeace and a liberal Democrat) and becomes convinced of a conspiracy involving a second man. His myopic attention to every detail of his son’s case, and to the cases of other famous assassins, puts everything he’s worked for—both professionally and personally—at risk. With great skill, Hawley (The Punch) renders Dr. Allen’s treacherous emotional geography, from his shock and guilt to his growing sense that he knows far less about his son than he thought. Initially privileged and priggish, Dr. Allen is humanized by his attempts to piece together the missing months of Daniel’s life; although not a good father in a conventional sense, Hawley’s complicated protagonist is a fully fathomed and beautifully realized character whose emotional growth never slows a narrative that races toward a satisfying and touching conclusion. Agent: The Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Look, it's iPad!

So we got an iPad App. And trust me. It’s awesome. Run it while you watch the show and it syncs with each episode and provides additional content, as well as the ability to interact live with other viewers as they watch the show. This is cool for several reasons, and not just because I now get to say I have my own App. It’s cool because it turns the television show into a social network. Once a medium you watched alone or with your family, this app begins a critical transformation that will turn watching television into a truly interactive experience.

The flip side of this, of course, is that it encourages viewers to multitask as they watch. And as we all know, people who do several things at once don’t really pay full attention to anything. As a story teller this is, of course, a concern. I want viewers to focus and invest, to be pulled in by the stories I’m telling. At the same time, as a person alive in the 21st century, I recognize that this is how we live now. When I watch television I usually have at least one other piece of technology sitting next to me, so who am I to point fingers at others who want to go online and watch TV at the same time?
The other reason this is cool, is that I have always pitched My Generation as the first real television show of the internet era. Watch it and you’ll see—it’s a mash-up of scripted content, real news footage, repurposed content, etc. My goal for the show is to reflect the way people live today. And people today live online. So there you go.

Given ABC’s embrace of technology and social media as a tool for promoting the show, I can only hope also the first show where live TV ratings become a small, but important, piece of how the network measures viewership. If we’re going viral, let’s go viral. As we’ve seen over the last few years, Television is evolving. It is leaving the box that sits in your living room and becoming a medium that exists across all platforms. To support this, we must allow viewers to build new habits. This can take time, but the reality is that viewers, especially young viewers 18-34, have been fleeing network television for over a decade. We cannot get those viewers back until we convert the medium into one that they want to watch.
So Merry Christmas. I have a new iPad app. But it’s also an important tool in the war to keep television relevant.

PS - Take a walk today. You’ll feel better

Predictable implosions

So here’s how it works. When you get within four weeks of launching a network television show people start to lose their minds. There is this pressure that builds, like an airplane descending too fast. Inside two weeks your teeth start to itch. People stop sleeping. Every decision that has been made, that has been cheered and embraced, gets second guessed. We are soldiers before a battle, sweating in our armor, imagining the enemy hordes.

I’m fine, by the way. I feel like everything is working 110%. We’ve made great choices. The scripts are good. The actors are bringing it. The show just works. So I don’t know what all the fuss is about, except I do know. It’s about nerves. it’s about waiting. I’ve decided there is a direct billboard to note ratio. Every market dollar spent yields a creative note from a network or studio executive. They note because they care. They care because the stakes are so high. After having been an after thought with the Unusuals, a mid-season show tossed onto the air with little fanfare, I can tell you that this is different. To be, with No Ordinary Family, the ABC flagship show for the fall season, means an increase in pressure. An increase in scrutiny.

ABC is like a high school girl on her first day at a new school. She can’t sleep the night before wondering, will people like me? Will I make friends? What will the 18-34 demographic think? What will the numbers do in the half hour, go up or down? Will people come back the second week?
Robert Bianco at USA Today wrote my favorite review of My Generation to date. He said; “Give My Generation credit: It can’t have been easy to work so ideas into one show. Start with the central mockumentary structure. Throw in the new season’s most annoying characters and most ludicrous script, and you get the worst new show of the season. So why didn’t ABC do the math?”

I feel like someone should give Robert a hug. Somebody should tell him it’s okay. No one is trying to pull a fast one on him. I know a lot of television feels like a scam, a calculated ploy by advertisers to pull dollars from your pocket, to manipulate your emotions to sell soap, but that is not our intention. All we want to do is tell stories, to look at the lives of nine people, and figure out how they’ve changed in ten years, how the world has changed them, as it has changed all of us. We want to be funny. We want to be dramatic. We try to be relatable. We don’t solve crimes every week. We don’t save lives. These are just people doing their best, making their way. Everyone grows up. Everyone rides the rollercoaster of life. Look, we’re saying, us too.

At the TCAs I told the actors, “everyone else is here for business. We’re here for love.” Am I crazy? They knew exactly what I meant though. We are trying to get to the heart of something real. Our motto is “imperfect is perfect.” We have designed our entire production machine to create a fail-safe environment for the actors, the writers and directors. We are trying to make something organic, something intimate. We know that that can produce feelings of dislocation, of vertigo. Sometimes it won’t work. Sometimes it will be messy, imperfect. But when it does work we think it will be beautiful.
So, we’re sorry if you find that annoying. We will try harder to make a show you like. That is our pledge. To do better next time. Thank you for your time.

Gazuntite!

In Austin the dog days of summer are almost over. The heat remains, but the humidity has broken, so that now it is hot in the sun but less so in the shade, which is what heat should be. Children run through sprinklers, and eat ice cream, storing up for fall. The drag queens of Austin are starting to accessorize again. The bikers are wearing t-shirts under their leather vests. Fall is just around the corner.

Episode 106 started shooting today, which is a testament to the speed of our process. The upfronts were three months ago, three (3) months, which makes us young, so young. When my daughter was three months old she could only see things that were close enough to touch. And yet here we are, six episodes in - babies born, wars ended, a wallflower transformed.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling. It is a uniquely human act, to convey information through narrative. My friend Po used to say of his wife, “she thinks shopping is a story.” What he meant was that his wife would come home from Barneys or Nordstroms and relate in precise detail every shoe and dress she tried on. To her, this was a story. A hunting yarn. The shoes were a bison or bear. To him it was a list of brands with no verbs. It lacked the elements of good narrative: compelling characters, emotional stakes, a great villain.

People look for different things in their stories; romance, humor, space battles. They watch horror movies, wanting to feel fear. What they are really looking for is themselves. They want to see themselves reflected in stories that resemble their own lives. But they also want to travel, to out of airplanes and (apparently) solve 3.2 murders per week.

I am constantly amazed by the flexibility of this new medium we are inventing in Austin and LA. It is interesting watching directors and editors grapple with it. To say to them this is the show - it is a naturalistic, verite-style documentary, but it is also a modern, stylized pop culture mash up. A fast paced montage of scripted material, news footage, and repurposed content that - at the same time - wears its heart on it’s sleeve. That makes real life dramatic. That strives for sentiment without sentimentality. Oh, and it should have a great soundtrack, and cool graphics and six commercial breaks.
Piece of cake. Now go do that 22 times a year, starting fresh every eight days.

In Austin you can get meat in a cone. You can swim with blind salamanders and line dance at an historic country music bar. Maybe more than one. Yesterday, I watched Mehcad Brooks learn his daughter had been born on iChat. His best friend since he was eight years old told him. And he cried so hard he started laughing. It is not the hardships we face. It is the kindnesses we do. People don’t mind working hard. They like to work hard. As long as it’s not for nothing. They don’t mind sadness. They know sadness is part of life. But they want hope. They voted for hope. They put the bumper stickers on their cars. They bought the t-shirts.

Tomorrow, in Austin, it will be 99 in the sun. So stay out of the sun. If only everything in life could be this simple.

What don't we have to do today?

Here’s the thing: TV moves fast. We shot the pilot for My Generation in March, edited through April, got picked up in May and had to deliver a series overview by June. Writers were hired, directors, etc. By mid-July we were shooting episode 102. Today, as I write this, we are shooting 105, and I have scripts through 107.

In television there is literally no time to think. Or, to be fair, your first thought, your first instinct for stories and characters, has to be the right one. This is why so many TV shows don’t live up to the promise of the original conceit. When you have three weeks to map out twelve episodes of television and then approximately four days to write each script you had better be good, fast. I literally wrote an entire script on Saturday, and sent it out the door on Sunday. To survive in this business, your first draft has to be as close to genius as TV gets.

This has a lot to do with why TV is so much fun to make and so satisfying creatively, because there is literally no down time. You are constantly creating. At the same time, you have a giant corporation questioning everything you do, which makes the process more stressful than it has to be.

As a showrunner, I am the CEO of a $60,000,000 company. I have over 200 employees. I spend a lot of my time talking about logistics and budgets and personnel issues. But I am also the sole visionary for the creative content, ie the television show. I rewrite every outline and script. I am in every production meeting, and deal with set questions multiple times a day. I also sit with the editors for hours at a time on every episode to refine the final product, and work with the composer to create just the right moments.

In other words, time is something I don’t have a ton of. makes the process of creation that much more complicated, because without the time to reflect, to think, how do we do our best work? Plus the fact that in success you make 22-24 of these a year, then take two weeks off and start the whole process again. I like to use the word “challenging” to describe the work. What would you call it?

What we talk about when we talk about TV

When I talk about network TV, I usually say the same thing. There’s only one note you get in network television: clarity. The biggest fear in a network environment is that something will happen on a TV show that will not be 100% clear to even the most obtuse or distracted viewer.
The problem with this, other than the fact that it rewards less intelligent viewers and punishes the majority who have a brain—or are, at least, watching the show closely—is that it forces us, as writers and filmmakers, to strip our work of subtlety and nuance.
I am going through this right now with a character on My Generation, who, as an isolated person, someone whose very issue is his/her disconnection from the people around him/her, suffers from the distinct lack of someone to talk to—talk being the thing that characters on network TV are forced to do constantly—talk about their feelings, their fears and goals, until it is absolutely clear to the audience why they are doing every single thing they are doing. As a result of their isolation, this character, then, is unable (for the majority of the episode in question) to talk to anyone about his/her feelings. The audience is thus required to interpret the character’s behavior, their actions, to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. I am getting, as you would expect, a lot of notes on this episode.
The biggest problem, is that in addition to being weak storytelling, chronic exposition makes for boring TV. It is also 100% artificial. Not only don’t people constantly talk to each other in real life about they’re feeling, they often don’t know themselves. Or the emotion/fear they believe they’re feeling is really a mask for a deeper problem.
The heart of the network TV problem, in my mind, is the following equation: network television executives, as a general rule, believe that every beat in a story exists for informational purposes. Every scene, every joke, every visual is meant to explain the characters and plot in a way that adds up to an irrefutable conclusion. A question is posed at the top of the show (who killed X?) and answered without a doubt by the end. A satisfying resolution is everything.
This works okay on a procedural, where each episode is about solving a crime or saving a life, but on a straight character-driven drama, this procedural mindset detracts from the emotional impact of the show. Mainly because, I believe, that emotions are, in and of themselves, information. To see a character behave in a certain way, demonstrating certain feelings, tells you a lot about them. To watch the choices they make—choices that may at first seem unusual, but which gradually reveal themselves to be motivated by something specific—while building toward a dramatic reveal later in the show (where motives become clear) creates tension. It pulls a viewer in—what’s up with X this week?—and creates a true character mystery.
At the heart of this information-oriented agenda is fear. Fear that if viewers are not oriented and informed at every moment they will turn the channel. Networks have zero faith in their shows, or in their audience. The counter argument, of course, is that viewers who are truly engaged in a show (because the stories are well told and the characters rich and multi-dimensional) aren’t going anywhere. And viewers who are bored by chronic exposition and constantly telegraphed plotlines, aren’t really watching the show in the first place. They’re mostly just leaving it on for companionship, happy to flip between any number of shows that share the same informational mindset. What they’re actually doing is looking for something good.

It's Tuesday. How are you?

We’re shooting in a hospital today. TV shows do this a lot. Shoot in hospitals. People get sick. They get hurt. They have babies. Big drama lives in hospitals. Which is why they’re on TV all the time. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals in my life, visiting people I cared about. I am not a fan. But some people believe that life keeps bringing you back to certain places, trying to get you to work through your issues. So we’re at the hospital today, shooting.
On The Unusuals, I did a hospital episode, where a detective (played by Monique Curnen) was shot, and another detective (played by Jeremy Renner) hated hospitals, and so he sat in his car in the parking lot outside and the nurses and doctors came out and gave him updates. I liked that story.
The key in doing a hospital episode, is to fight against the melodrama. What’s the least we can show? Where is the comedy? Etc.
Today we send the first cut of episode 102 to the studio. I like to make a joke when people tell me something is good and say “This isn’t a hobby. We do this for a living.” The meaning is we’re professionals, and greatness is our job. But with this show, I do believe there is a quality that exists outside work. Before the TCA panel I told our amazing cast “everyone else is here for business. We’re here for love.” And that’s the difference.
44 days to go. Wish us luck.

A funny story about a sad story

Monday in Austin, TX. Expected high around 100. Humidity makes it feel like 105. President Obama is in town today, speaking at UT. Conan O’Brien is also here. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but it’s too hot to think about.
I saw the first cut of episode 102 last week. This is what I’ll say about i—the experiment is working. A new show is always a leap of faith. What works in a pilot doesn’t always translate to week in, week out. And for a show like this—which is a deconstruction of television—the question is always, will it work? Will people invest in these characters? In the premise as a whole.
We have great main title music, written by Jeff Russo, our composer. The network calls the main titles the “saga sell” now. It is that 45 second piece at the top of the show that tells you the premise of the show, so they don’t have to do a “previously on,” but it is, for all intents and purposes, a main title.
The music Jeff wrote, I was saying, is also a leap of faith. I defy anyone to hear it and not find themselves humming it an hour later. It is a joyous, guileless melody, the opposite of all the calculated techno network themes. There’s whistling. That’s all I’ll say.
You look really nice today. Did you lose weight? I had homemade rocky road ice cream this weekend. It was good. In Austin I wear a dress shirt with shorts. It’s like a business mullet. Professional on top, party on the bottom.
Have fun out there today. Your best days are still ahead of you.

These are the things we talk about when we talk about things.

So it’s Friday again, which is a meaningless word when you’re launching a new show—like “sleep” or “relax.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between a moment in time and a story. In writing a “documentary,” you have to think more like an editor, less like a writer. A documentary film maker shoots hours of footage, then goes through the film looking for great moments. Then, from those moments, he or she tries to build a narrative.
This is very different than sitting down and writing the precise scenes that tell the perfect story. I got a network note recently regarding something a character did in an episode. The executive didn’t understand why the character had gone where he’d gone. Why he was doing what he was doing. And I said exactly. This is what it’s like to be an outsider, to try to understand someone just by watching them. It creates tension—why is he there? What is he thinking? People make choices that often even they don’t understand. The job of the documentarian is to try to build enough evidence to discern motive. It is the opposite of spoon-fed story telling.
When you’re telling stories in two time periods, you look for that moment in the past that (in and of itself) is not particularly noteworthy, but when contrasted with a moment from the present takes on true significance. A child’s visit to the doctor is unexceptional, except if that child grows up to be a doctor himself.
This is how we remember things. Not a fully formed story, but an image, a fleeting thought. In network television is a belief that every scene exists for purposes. I would argue that in looking back at our lives it is the emotions we remember, the feelings, not the plot.
PS - We got these cool t-shirt. One for each character. Hopefully, one day you can buy them.

Sorry for the long absence

Welcome back. Sounds like you’ve been busy. What? You have a new television show premiering September 23rd at 8PM on ABC? And you had six weeks to hire writers, write scripts, build sets and launch a publicity campaign? Wow, no wonder you look thin. No. I mean, it looks good on you. All I’m saying is, you must not have time to eat. Me? You know, not much. I’m learning to macrame. Excited about the new Jonathan Franzen novel. If you feel like it you can follow me on Twitter. Here are some other things I like—The Rumpus. This trailer for The Social Network. This Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons Album.

Welcome to Pilot Season 2010

January 19, 2010 This is the waiting. It is not for the weak of heart. It is a full time job, day and night. There is no minute during the waiting where you are not doing the job. There are no bathroom breaks, no time off to exercise or take a shower. It is waiting, much like breathing is breathing. The stakes when you think about them are both high and low. High because there is money at stake, a lot of money. And your career. This is, after all, what the waiting is for – to see if and how your career will advance. This is also why the stakes are low, because what is career, really? It isn’t health or safety. It isn’t family or happiness or love. It is food in your children’s mouth, sure, but food can be put in your children’s mouths any number of ways – though not as much food, and possibly not of the same macro-biotic, all-organic, grass fed, 70% cocoa variety. So the waiting is important and unimportant at the same time. Which is why you feel so stupid about letting it get to you. For the way it makes you snark at your wife or lose your temper with friends. After all, this waiting time is free time. There is nothing for you to do. The scripts are in, the lobbying complete. You are literally without work. So go play with your kid. Go hiking with your wife. But then you remember, you are not without work. The waiting is the work. This, you realize, is ultimately about control. Because waiting, by its very nature, is a byproduct of impotence. You are not in charge of this. You are waiting for others to decide your fate. Waiting to be told what the rest of your life looks like. You are waiting for direction, for guidance, for orders. But you are not the “give me the strength or serenity” kind of Which is why the waiting gets to you. But knowing this does not make the waiting easier. It is not a cerebral endeavor. There is no mental off switch, no way to think it away. It is like a river, a surging current that takes you where you do not want to go. It is safe to say the waiting has you, the way a shark takes you in its teeth and dives for deeper water. And the worst part is – you volunteered for this. It is your reward for all the hard work you’ve done. So enjoy it. Stop fighting and go limp. This is the waiting, after all. It can’t last forever. It will be over soon, one way or another.

On time I have spent outside Los Angeles

New York is over. New York is done. Five months after we stopped production on The Unusuals, five months after the sets were struck and the actors returned to their California lairs, five months after the crew was put out of work and the writers took jobs on new shows, I have still not returned to Los Angeles. I am MIA from the typical Hollywood lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong. I have been to Los Angeles several times in the last five months. I fly back for meetings. I sit on airplanes sculpting pitches and practice my smile in the bathroom mirror. I have two pilots to write, features in the works, a book to sell, but I don’t live in Hollywood right now. After the show shut down I needed a detour, a place to work outside the commercial zone. Hollywood is a place where one’s sense of self-worth is directly tied to the worth assigned to one by “the business.” You are hot or you are cold. You are a genius or you are a failure. It is an industry based entirely on creativity, but, at the same time, it is an industry that would be far happier if all that creative thinking could be done by machines. Traditionally in Hollywood a lot of leeway was given to the temperamental artist, the megalomaniacal director, the movie star diva, the gonzo writer. But since the corporate takeover of Hollywood in the 90s (and even more so in the last 12 months) the business has signaled loudly that it has no more patience for the “creative personality.” TV networks and movie studios have made it clear that they expect their artists to act like professionals - in other words, they want their creative types to behave like accountants. This, of course, what happens when a creative field is taken over by uncreative people. If you’ve watched this season of Mad Men, you’ve seen how “the creative’s,” with their three-martini lunches and myriad distractions have struggled against the constraints put on them by a new corporate master, one that doesn’t understand that the creative process requires varied and unpredictable sources of inspiration. These new corporate masters expect the same level of imaginative brilliance, but want it delivered during normal business hours by industrious professionals. There has always been a cultural divide between right brain and left brain types. This divide engenders a lack of understanding and respect, usually on both sides. But to work to its full potential, the Hollywood model requires a certain type of managing executive, one who, while working tirelessly to turn creativity into profit, understands that creativity requires indulgence. Artists need to be nurtured. They are not interchangeable. They cannot be reduced to the box office sum of their opening weekend. All the great moguls of Hollywood have understood this, though not all have embraced it. But the recent economic collapse combined with lingering resentment over the writer’s strike has destroyed this fragile dynamic, possibly for good. The new Hollywood is a modern assembly line, where creativity is restricted to in-house brainstorming sessions carried out by studio executives browsing through back catalogues. As a result, writers are being replaced by brand managers. The writer who succeed today is one who can harness the power of comic books, and video games. One who can remake yesterday’s hits into tomorrow’s blockbusters, and who can do it on time and on budget with no excess of personality. And yet, if you think about it, this repurposing of proven brands is not writing. It’s marketing. This is the dirty secret of Hollywood. Writers are being replaced by publicists. This, of course, is a phase, the way that the age of independent cinema was a phase. But this particular phase makes for a toxic atmosphere. It is an environment that punishes the people who try to work in it. Creativity, imagination, inspiration, all are unquantifiable and unpredictable factors in a business that increasingly demands predictability and mathematical hierarchy from its employees. In this new version of Hollywood, the creative is no longer an asset. He has become a liability. So I am not living in Hollywood right now. I am spending time in Austin, a town that still embraces the quirk and inspired madness of artists. But I’ll be back.

A short note about an article in the Atlantic Monthly

There’s an interesting article in this month’s Atlantic Monthly about why all of our enormous media conglomerates are failing to thrive. In the article,Bruce C.Greenwald,Jonathan A.Knee and AvaSeave theorize four reasons for the turpitude of companies like Fox, Time Warner and Vivendi. One of the most interesting points they make is to debunk the idea that Content is King, meaning that the film studios or television networks with the best programming will rise to the top. They write:
“But content cannot be king, because the talent required to create it cannot provide a sustainable competitive advantage. Even if the ability to produce compelling content perennially inhered in certain individuals or groups, there is no efficient way to monetize this skill for the benefit of shareholders rather than for the producers themselves. Big media companies may consistently exploit some creative artists, but over time, that exploitation does not produce superior corporate value. For starters, where the media companies have executives clever enough to consistently exploit the talent, these executives are typically clever enough to ensure that they are paid enough to reflect that skill. Furthermore, when particular brands seem like sure things, as in the case of a popular film franchise, more often than not a well-represented creative artist essential to that level of certainty ends up appropriating much of that value.
A number of highly profitable media companies provide so-called must-have content to professional markets, like the legal, medical, or financial communities. even here, the actual content rarely creates the competitive advantage. Indeed, much of the content is not even owned by the media company—for instance, public legal decisions, or the price at which two parties trade a security on an exchange. The barrier to entry raised by these companies comes instead from how they integrate, analyze, and deliver multiple sources of diverse content, much of which is widely available. Put simply, the core of any competitive advantage more often than not derives from the manner of aggregation rather than the creation of content, continuous or otherwise. It is no coincidence that Google, the most profitable and successful new media company, is an aggregator, not a content creator.”

I did an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last week about the deal I just closed with ABC Studios. The article appeared today. While we haven’t heard officially from all cable networks, I’d say the lack of a timely response means the chances of The Unusuals continuing on are slim. So I’ve taken the next step toward getting a show back on the air next fall. I closed a deal with ABC Studios to develop two shows over the next few months. I’m excited to explore in greater depth some of the storytelling devices and tonal shifts I feel we perfected on The Unusuals.As to why stay in business with ABC after they cancelled the show, I’d have to say my relationship with the network was always very positive, and despite the fact that they cancelled the show, they were great supporters of me and my vision for it. I do believe that partnering with ABC Studios to develop shows for the network will put me in a stronger position, and give whatever shows I develop from here on out a better shot at success.As I wrote in my last blog, so much of the TV game is decided at the corporate level. By partnering with the ABC at both the studio and network level, I hope to remove some of the business/political obstacles that doomed The Unusuals.So check back here for updates on what comes next, and, as always, thanks for your support.

Only four (4) episodes left

Well, the axe fell Friday night. ABC called to say they weren’t picking us up for a second season. It’s disappointing, if only because I feel we never really had a chance. Launching a show in April is difficult enough, let alone at 10pm after Lost. And then to air only five episodes before making a decision, well, it just isn’t enough time to find an audience. Castle’s ratings didn’t improve until its 9th week. I guarantee, had we been on for our full 10 weeks, we would have seen a ratings spike as well. That said, the audience was starting to find us. Our critical 18-49 demo numbers we’re rising. We were the 3rd most watched ABC show online in April. “Chuck” and “Dollhouse” were saved because Fox and NBC realized that ratings aren’t just about live TV watchers anymore. The real number to watch is the combination of live TV with DVR and online viewership. Because that’s the future of TV. Not to mention, online is where the most passionate fans live. And our fans are passionate fans. They’ve been writing by the hundreds to express outrage that the show has been canceled. But again, five weeks just isn’t long enough to establish a grassroots “save the show” movement like “Chuck” or “Dollhouse,” if only because people are just being introduced to the show. They don’t realize it’s in danger of disappearing until it’s already gone. Nor did we have time for critics to champion the show. We had strong reviews starting out, but low numbers early on became the story, even though we did better at 10pm Wednesday after Lost than any other show on ABC. Had we been on the air for ten episodes I think critics would have given the show a second look. They would have written articles about nobody’s watching.” How could they not after watching the magic that is Adam Goldberg and Harold Perrineau? After seeing the rapport between Amber and Jeremy, or the genius of Kai Lennox as Eddie Alvarez? They would have realized we weren’t just a comic police show, but a dynamic character-driven cop drama that was also funny. Josh Friedman, creator of Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles (recently canceled), wrote a final message to his fans, telling them not to be mad. He said “[Fox] supported the show, they supported my vision of the show, and they gave it plenty of time to find an audience.” Ultimately, Terminator just couldn’t find a big enough audience. That show had two seasons to find that audience. We had five weeks. If you were on vacation or had the swine flu, you never even knew our show was on. Anyway, those are the breaks. We have four episodes left to air, and they are the best episodes of the bunch. I still believe we have the best cast on TV, and these last episodes really show their strengths. The characters are deepening. The rhythms of the show are established now. Some of the most dramatic, and also some of the funniest scenes we’ve ever shot are still to come. Will Banks live to see 43? Will Delahoy survive his brain tumor? Will Amber’s secret come out? And what’s with all the porn? It’s sad really. We were only getting started. I had Unusual stories to tell for years to come. But this is the nature of the business. Looking at the fall line up for all the networks I’m trying to wrap my mind around how one tells interesting, meaningful stories in a network television environment. I’m not sure. Television is a pliable, powerful medium. After writing novels and films, I can safely say TV is the only medium where the audience lives with your characters for years. People tune in every week to see what’s going to happen to them. They invite you into their homes. The bond is intensely personal. Great TV shows use the medium to go deep, to unravel their characters. They mix drama and comedy. They’re cinematic. They use music in powerful ways, not just as backwash. This is the kind of show I tried to make with The Unusuals. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks to an amazing cast, a great crew, and my stellar writing staff. And thank you all for watching. You look nice today. Is that a new shirt?

Updates

So a few weeks have passed since my last updates. We’ve aired five episodes of The Unusuals so far to great reviews and mediocre ratings. Hard to launch a new show in April, and at 10pm, which used to be a coveted spot, but is now more of a procedural wasteland. Not sure NBC has the wrong idea giving up on scripted programming, though I doubt Jay Leno is the answer to why people aren’t watching network TV at 10 o’clock. I think it has more to do with people going to bed at 10:30, confident that their shows are being tivo’d.

This week’s episode is called “The Circle Line” and it’s one of our best. A great stand-alone episode that delves deeper into Delahoy’s past and explores his current medical condition.There’s also a fun “After Hours” style case that Walsh and Casey have to solve. After this episode we’re on hiatus for two weeks, with the remaining four episodes to air starting May 27th. Of course, on May 19th we learn whether the show will get a second season, so it may be moot.

If you’re looking for daily updates, check out my Twitter page @noahhawley. Also The Unusuals has a Facebook page. I’m finishing our last three episodes as I write this, and hoping for a second season pickup. I am not, in any way, done with these characters yet.

Reviews, articles, etc

The reviews and write ups continue to roll in. The Hollywood Reporter calls our cast “unparalleled.” New York Magazine writes “Quirky feels like a curse word, tainted forever by the legacy of David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, etc.), but The Unusuals might actually turn the word back into praise.” The Daily News has an article about our police consultant, who says, “There are a lot of good shows that in some aspects are close to reality,” he said. “But this show captures what I think is the most important aspect of the job, which is that police work is very serious but you don’t have to always be serious. For this type of work, you need to have a sense of humor.”

Countdown = 3 days

It’s Monday morning. The articles have been written. The reviews are coming in. Talk show appearances will be made. Wednesday is Passover, and the question is apt, why is this night different from all other nights?I had the original idea for the show exactly two years ago, April 2007. I went through the process of network pitches. I wrote a script. The strike kept us from shooting until summer of 2008. We edited all through the summer and got the series pickup in September. And then I hired writers and moved to NYC, and started writing. We started shooting just after Thanksgiving. 10 episodes, including the pilot. We wrapped production last Monday. And here we are, three days from our premiere. Will anyone watch? Does it matter? What I’ve learned as an artist is that all you can ask for is to be proud of the work you do, to realize your full creative potential. And that is definitely what I’ve done here. I may never again have the opportunity to work on a show as magical as this one. The cast has been a dream, and the stories have all come out just right. But in the end the numbers tell the story, so stay tuned.

Time out interviews Amber Tamblyn.

As we close on our premiere date cast interviews are popping up all over the place. Watch for them on your TV screen, as well as newspapers and magazines, like this one in Time Out.

book

It's an election year

Publisher’s Weekly
The Good Father
Noah Hawley. Doubleday, $25.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-53553-3

The father of a man who assassinates a presidential candidate tries to make sense of his son’s crime in Hawley’s gripping new novel. Dr. Paul Allen is a successful rheumatologist happily living with his second wife and their twin sons in a chic Connecticut enclave. Contact with Daniel, his aloof son from a previous marriage, is sporadic, and when Daniel drops out of Vassar in his first year to “see the country,” Dr. Allen shrugs it off as a youthful foible; he believes that shuffling between parents turned the boy into a “teenage gypsy.” Dr. Allen had seen him only once since then, a year ago in an Arizona coffee shop, so the Secret Service agents who appear at his door are a great surprise. Daniel, aka Carter Allen Cash, has shot and killed the Democratic presidential front-runner one warm June evening at a rally in downtown Los Angeles (not far from where Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968). Despite the overwhelming evidence against Daniel, Dr. Allen won’t believe that his son is guilty (he remembers his son as a member of Greenpeace and a liberal Democrat) and becomes convinced of a conspiracy involving a second man. His myopic attention to every detail of his son’s case, and to the cases of other famous assassins, puts everything he’s worked for—both professionally and personally—at risk. With great skill, Hawley (The Punch) renders Dr. Allen’s treacherous emotional geography, from his shock and guilt to his growing sense that he knows far less about his son than he thought. Initially privileged and priggish, Dr. Allen is humanized by his attempts to piece together the missing months of Daniel’s life; although not a good father in a conventional sense, Hawley’s complicated protagonist is a fully fathomed and beautifully realized character whose emotional growth never slows a narrative that races toward a satisfying and touching conclusion. Agent: The Susan Golomb Literary Agency. (Mar.)

An excerpt from The Punch

Family [pham-i-lee] n. 1) a cage or similar restraining device often used in the practice of torture: e.g., Senator John McCain spent seven years in a Vietnamese family, eating bugs, while all feelings of self-worth were beaten out of him by his parents (see parents). 2) a highly debilitating congenital disease, slow acting, but almost always paralyzing. Symptoms include but are not limited to: mood swings, irritability, an inability to form close bonds, neediness, increased emotional stupidity, unexpected spikes of intense anger, shortness of breath, feelings of worthlessness, feelings of moral superiority, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment, increased promiscuity and/or frigidity, an unnamable, unstoppable yearning, an unnamable, unstoppable dread, unexpected periods of intense desire followed by unpredictable decreases in caring, a simultaneous desire for and hatred of small children, puppies, and seals, illogical feelings of self-pity and resentment, and a deep seated desire to be held.

An excerpt from The Punch

When they arrived, when seven burly firemen in heavy, all-weather gear, carrying oxygen tanks and axes, burst into her room, they found it empty. They were accompanied by the hotel manager, a fastidious man in a designer suit, who rung his hands and fretted. He told them to be careful, please. The drapes were delicate. The furniture was antique. The firemen checked the bathroom, looked under the bed, but there was no sign of Doris Henry, the guest who had checked into Room 314 this evening, accompanied by her eldest son. It was the hotel manager who noticed the thin plastic line leading from the boxy oxygen machine as it thread across the brown Burber carpet and into the closet. It was the hotel manager who stepped forward, calling Mrs. Henry? Mrs. Henry? and opened the door to the closet, only to find Doris Henry crouched down behind the ironing board, wide eyed, terrified, her oxygen line looped over her ears and under her nose. She had forgotten she was wearing it, had lit a cigarette an inch from the flow of pure, flammable air. Dumb luck was all that had kept her from going up in flames. Dumb luck and the strong, dispersing wind from the air conditioner. Gazing up at the gang of hulking firemen, Doris Henry was convinced that they were the gatekeepers of hell sent to bring her down. As they reached in to help her up, as the paramedics stepped forward to check her vitals, she told herself that these men had come to kidnap her, to take her hostage. She was certain her sons had called the authorities and had her committed, that her life from here on out would be lived in institutions. Doris Henry had left the confines of was born again into a world of confusion and paranoia. All the recognizable markers had been removed, and she was, for the first time in years, at sea, truly unmoored. And everything that came after threatened to be unrecognizable.

An excerpt from The Punch

Scott Henry is an expert on the complexity of life’s decisions. In his job, he hears a lot of waffling. Scott is a spy. A corporate mole. When you call customer service for any one of a dozen companies, he is the one who monitors the calls. Quality assurance, they call it. Day after day he sits in a cubicle in Emeryville, California, surrounded by other spies in cubicles. They all wear headsets and listen in real time to the conversations of others. Standing in that room, surrounded by bodies, one hears nothing but the collective breathing of a hundred eavesdroppers.

Right now Scott is at the Oakland airport waiting to board a flight to Portland, Oregon. He is going to see his mother. This is the first stage of his dad’s final trip, the four-city tour (like his father’s ashes are some kind of rock band: Hello, Portland! Hello, Los Angeles! Hello, Madison Square Garden!) that will put to rest his father’s physical remains. Scott wants to do this as much as he wants to take an electric drill and bore a hole in his head. He remembers reading an article about people who do that, who drill holes in their heads. The rush of air on their exposed brain tissue is supposed to get them high. He wonders if any of those people ever called customer support while he was listening. If, as they were on hold waiting to speak to a friendly, conscientious salesperson about a faulty microwave they bought online, they reved up the old Black & Decker and set the drill bit to their temples. It wouldn’t surprise him.

An excerpt from The Punch

David knots his tie, unravels it, knots it again until the dimple is perfect. This is what he needs, for everything to be perfect, to be just so. But the truth is, David’s life isn’t perfect. Far from it. In fact, he has a secret. A big one, and the secret is this: He has a second wife in New York City. He never meant to have a second wife in New York, or anywhere else for that matter. It just sort of happened. He met a girl on a business trip last year (Joy. Like how could you not fall in love with a girl named Joy?), and had a fling, and somehow she got pregnant. She wasn’t supposed to get pregnant, but she did. And when she told him, he found himself asking her to marry him, heard the words coming out of his mouth, even as this polite, semi-English-sounding voice piped up in his head and said, Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you already married? Like a butler was reminding him of some minor engagement he was late for, instead of the reality, which was HE WAS ALREADY MARRIED. He had two kids and a third on the way. He couldn’t get married again. There were laws against that kind of thing, not to mention all the moral implications. And yet there he was, proposing. And the next day he and Joy went to City Hall and stood before a justice of the peace — a foppish man with a comb-over — and Joy floated an inch above the floor, beaming, while David swayed on his feet, sweating, tugging at his tie. And now there is a baby boy, also named Sam. (He tried to stop her. Sam was, coincidentally, Joy’s father’s name. Like what are the odds?) And so in just twelve short months, David has turned into one of those Montel Williams Show subjects (Next up on Montel: Bigamy!). not his fault. He swears. He never meant for any of this to happen. Things just kind of … escalated.

An Excerpt from The Punch

Joe Henry is dead. In his prime he was a tall man, fat around the middle, with a red beard. He had a smile like a pirate. Now his ashes are stored in a garage in Portland, Oregon, zipped up in a plastic bag, sealed inside a cheap wooden box. He lived for sixty-five years, which in the age of the pony express and the steam engine would have seemed like a good long time, but now, with our modern medicine and cutting-edge technology, seems like a jip. Joe was born in Ohio and died in Oregon. He spent most of his life in New York City. He was a soldier in the army during the Korean War (though he never fired a shot). At different times in his life he was a copywriter, an industrial filmmaker and a salesman. And for the last seven years of his life he was a very sick man. He had what the literature refers to as multiple organ failure — heart, liver, kidneys. Because of this, he went to dialysis three times a week for four hours a day. There they literally drained the blood from his body, stripped out the toxins, and fed it back to him. What a thing to watch — your own blood flowing out of your body into a machine, the sight of it, hot and red, draining from your arm through a clear, shallow tube (does the machine suck it out, or is there a discomforting feeling of evacuation, of your blood rushing out, escaping?). It is as if something fundamental about you is being rewired right before your eyes. How many days did he sit there wondering: Am I still me without my blood, without the impurities they strip out?

Comic dilemmas and savage wit

David believes that at heart, people are inherently rotten. Scott, his brother, believes that his life is going to fall apart, and that everyone he loves will leave him. Doris, their mother, believes that she has nothing to lose by revealing a 60-year-old family secret. This hysterically biting and ultimately redeeming novel by Noah Hawley proves them all right—and wrong—while answering some of life’s biggest questions. Like, how did Scott end up with two wonderful wives simultaneously? And why can’t David manage to keep even one dysfunctional relationship going? It all comes down to love and families and what you believe in—and, maybe, forgiveness.

“The Punch will knock you out with its brilliant style, comic dilemmas, and savage wit. Everyone with a less-than-perfect family will relate.”Po Bronson, author of Bombardiers: A Novel and What Should I Do With My Life?

“Noah Hawley writes irresistible fiction. I devoured The Punch in three hours flat, stopping only to marvel over the freshness of a phrase or the effortless wit of a line of dialogue.”Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Bonk

“Like an American Martin Amis, Noah Hawley expertly rides the line between hilarity and horror and deftly mines his characters’ secret longings—their shame, hope, and desire. At times the story is so exquisitely uncomfortable you’ll put your hands over your eyes, but you’ll end up peeking between your fingers because it’s so wickedly good.” Tom Barbash, author of The Last On Top of the World

Linus is afraid of money.

Not the smaller bills, the Washingtons and Lincolns, the Jacksons and Grants, but the larger sums, the cashier’s checks with multiple zeros, the stock portfolios and escrow accounts, afraid too of what they buy, the new cars with their leather stink, the first-class seats on airplanes, the cellular phones and fax modems. He is afraid of office towers, where currency is acquired, afraid of suburban mansions and large screen TVs. He is alarmed by purebred dogs. Expensive suits make his teeth chatter, shoes that shine, organic fruits and vegetables purchased at gleaming, politically correct supermarkets, monogrammed handkerchiefs, pipes and cigars, flat platinum credit cards, symphony tickets, bread machines and espresso makers, ski weekends and barbecues with salmon and free-range chicken, bed and breakfasts, four wheel drive vehicles owned by anyone not living on the side of a mountain, laser disc players, multiple CD changers, summer houses and winter houses, spontaneous weekend getaways, the games of tennis and golf, penny loafers, angora sweaters, dry martinis and ten-year-old scotch, bay windows that don’t look out over parking lots or weed cluttered yards, but over real bays, Jacuzzi bathtubs, all of Western Europe (especially France and Switzerland). He is suspicious of comfort, not to mention luxury. He equates financial success with a certain soullessness.

“Orwellian echoes haunt this provocative, tongue-in-cheek debut chiller … A suspenseful, cerebral, satire.”Publisher’s Weekly

“Hawley’s true He speeds it up and slows it down in just the right places.”San Francisco Chronicle

“An engrossing debut … energetic and funny.”The New York Times

Byron Alexander has a giant head. Seem through the wide angle lens of my Leica it looks like a lie, a doctored photograph clipped from a supermarket tabloid: LOCAL MAN’S HEAD SWELLS, PREPARES TO BURST. He is wearing a black tuxedo, a vintage bow tie. His bride-to-be, Candy Newell, is standing beside him in front of a trickling stream, ready to commit to richer and poorer, sickness and health. Her cheeks are like shiny red apples. It is a startlingly blue August day and hot, stifling. We are shooting the formal portraits before the wedding begins, the glamour shots, the mantelpiece collection. I am using a high speed black-and-white film and a small white bounce to light their faces. A half dozen in-laws are standing by, reading to slip into the shot, ready to tamp down their lipstick and suck in their bellies. Everyone is giddy, tense. Somewhere on the other side of the gazebo a crowd is building, row after row of relatives in formal dress praying for a breeze. I check my watch. It is important to stay on schedule, but at the same time you’ve got to keep things calm.

“Other People’s Weddings isn’t the lighthearted romantic comedy the title suggests. Yes, it does have romance. And yes, it does have snappy one-liners. But it also has a dark side that exposes our fears and love, trust and commitment. I loved this novel, but buyer beware: You’ll ache for the heroine, even as you applaud her wit and indomitable spirit.”
Jane Heller, author of Lucky Stars and The Secrete Ingredient.

Courtroom 302

Hollywood Reporter 9/20/11

My Generation creator Noah Hawley has sold a drama project to ABC. Courtroom 302, from ABC Studios, is billed as more than just another “case-of-the-week” show and offers an in-depth look at the dramas and personalities of the U.S. District Court of New York City. Episodes of the project would take viewers on a compelling, often irreverent tour of some of the nation’s most important legal cases, from the holding cells through the heights of the judge’s chambers.
Grey’s Anatomy’s Mark Gordon is attached to executive produce the project, his second deal of the day with ABC and the latest in a long string this development season through the Mark Gordon Co. Hawley will pen the script and executive produce alongside Gordon.
Hawley, repped by CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead, wrote, created and executive produced My Generation, the 2010 short-lived hourlong dramedy that ABC axed after two episodes. Gordon is repped by ICM.

Snack foods don't get a lawyer.

This is a comic police drama about the Robbery/Homicide Detectives of the 2nd precinct in the Lower East Side of New York City. Inside the NYPD, the previous day’s crime reports are called the Unusuals. The show stars Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner, Adam Goldberg, Harold Perrineau, Kai Lennox, Monique Curnen, Josh Close and Terry Kinney.

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The Knight on the Grid

November 20, 2007
The body of an archbishop is found by some construction workers. The archbishop’s kneecaps were surgically removed, which prompts the team to return to the Widow’s Son case. Buy the episode from iTunes.

The Man in the Cell

January 31, 2007
Booth and Brennan are ordered to the cell of serial killer Howard Epps to identify the remains of an inmate. To their surprise the charred remains don’t belong to Epps. It’s soon learned that Epps has escaped and is on a revenge path, which involves Booth’s young son, Parker. Due to the danger of the case, Brennan must get FBI protection. Cam inhales a toxin while performing an autopsy, which puts her life in danger. Buy this episode on iTunes.

The Blonde in the Game

September 20, 2006
After digging up the skeletal remains of a young girl, it becomes clear to Booth and Brennan that they’re not dealing with a normal case. It’s confirmed at the lab, when they discover that the cause of death points to a convicted serial killer on death row who they’ve captured in a previous case. A clue is found on the body that leads to another victim - this one only a week old. Brennan and the team must decipher cryptic clues to find the serial killer’s accomplice. Things get worse when the team finds out the next victim is still alive. They have to test their limits, racing against the clock, before the young girl becomes the next victim. Buy this episode on iTunes.

The Man in the Morgue

April 19, 2006
Brennan takes a vacation down to New Orleans to help identify victims of Hurricane Katrina. While at her hotel, she wakes up the next morning bloody and beaten, with no memory of what happened. Booth comes down to try and help her figure out what happened. When the local medical examiner is found murdered, Brennan becomes the suspect. Their investigation leads them into the world of voodoo.

A Man on Death Row

November 22, 2005
The attorney of a death row inmate asks for Booth’s help to prove his innocence before he is executed. Booth agrees and asks Brennan and her team to help him out. Buy this episode on iTunes.

The Woman in the Car

February 1, 2006
When a woman’s burned body is found in a car with signs that her child was kidnapped, Brennan and Booth suspect the father, Carl Decker. But things get complicated when Decker turns out to be in the witness protection program. Buy this episode on iTunes.

The confidence man gets a slick makeover in "Lies & Alibis."

The confidence man gets a slick makeover in"Lies & Alibis.“In a role with a distinct whiff ofCary Grant, Steve Coogan reveals yet another side of his engaging screen presence, playing a reformed grifter who provides cheating spouses with the perfect cover for their affairs. Delicious cast and a love of past capers lend the pic an entertaining fizz, pointing to good Stateside numbers for this planned fall release following current international openings in East Asian and Euro territories.Coogan’s Ray Elliot confides in the aud, via voiceover, about the ins and outs of his Los Angeles-based firm, which he not inaccurately terms a risk assessment and management company. Noting that four in 10 husbands cheat on their wives, Ray details his services (viewed in cleverly edited montages) that allow the cheaters to carry on without leaving a paper trail.Ears for much of this exposition, laid on with a light hand by tyro screenwriter Noah Hawley, belong to statuesque and smart Lola (Rebecca Romijn), applying for a top job at the firm.A seemingly minor job involving spoiled son Wendell Hatch (James Marsden) of longtime client Robert Brolin, in rare form), explodes when Wendell accidentally kills lover Heather (Jaime King) during a weekend fling. Soon, assassins and the fearsome Mormon (Sam Elliott) are on Ray’s tail. To turn the screws tighter, Heather’s ex-con b.f. and Robert’s driver, Hannibal (John Leguizamo), violently extracts from the typically tight-lipped Ray the truth about Heather’s death as no-nonsense detective Rebecca Bryce (Debi Mazar) enters the picture, suspecting everyone.The machinations lead to a superbly staged and edited climactic sequence at a trendy Westside hotel where all the pic’s players converge.The one pulling the strings onscreen is Ray, but the real manipulators are co-helmers Kurt Mattila and Matt Checkowski, who obviously know the rules of good farce and alluring capers. Pacing is crackerjack, and it’s a pleasure to watch the colorful thesps mix it up (particularly Coogan, with Elliott, Romijn and Brolin).Low-budget origins are cleverly concealed in a shiny package adorned withEnrique Chediak’s gleaming lensing andJerry Fleming’s mod production design. ComposerAlexandre Desplatextends his versatility with a score in the mode ofHenry Mancini.

schedule

Coming Soon

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Support your local bookstore or buy it here.

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reviews

SF GATE

Hawley delivers an intense, psychological novel about one doctor’s quest to unlock the mind of a suspected political assassin: his 20-year-old son. Told alternately from the point of view of the guilt-ridden, determined father and his meandering, ruminative son, this work is a powerfully emotional page-turner.

Book Page has this to say about TGF

A SON’S CRIME, A FATHER’S GUILT
REVIEW by ARLENE MCKANIC
Screenwriter Noah Hawley’s latest novel, it must be said, does not join the list of novels and movies about “demon seed” children who cause unspeakable mayhem. Though The Good Father is narrated by a parent, the miscreant here is a grown man when he commits a senseless act of violence. Still, the tale of Daniel Allen, aka Carter Allen Cash, is no less harrowing for that.

Daniel’s father, renowned rheumatologist Dr. Paul Allen, simply refuses to believe that Daniel has murdered an aspiring and inspiring presidential candidate—a cross between Barack Obama and John Edwards. For the longest time, Paul, logical as he is, dismisses the mountain of evidence against his son; the reader can’t blame him but will grow more and more exasperated by his blindness.

The question that haunts this suspenseful novel is why Daniel did what he did. Was it because he worked for the candidate at one point and saw him looking lecherously at some girl’s cleavage? Was it an explosion of pent-up rage over his parents’ divorce? Paul keeps wondering whether he was indeed a good father to Daniel. If he was, how could this have happened? And if not, is he being a good father to his young twins now?

In the background of Hawley’s heartbreaking book, the reader senses the anxiety of a class of people who believed that their lives were predictable and comfortable, only to find those lives suddenly and inexplicably upended. While others endure unemployment, underwater mortgages or catastrophic illness, Paul Allen has a political assassin for a son. You can run, The Good Father tells us, but you can’t hide.

WSJ on The Good Father

The Good Father by Noah Hawley (Doubleday, March 20).

A successful and respected suburban doctor tries to understand what may have led his 20-year-old son, troubled but with no history of crime or violence, to assassinate a presidential candidate at a campaign rally. As a loving father, Paul Allen wants to prove his son innocent. As a professional diagnostician, he wants to understand how Danny came to be a killer. In his determination to acquit his son, and himself, Paul nearly destroys the rest of his family. This is an agonizing but irresistible look into the souls of a killer and a man who always thought he was a good, or good enough, father.

Cynthia Crossen @ The Wall Street Journal

Booklist calls The Good Father "Powerful Reading"

“The more elusive the answers are . . .the more humbled Paul becomes, until, in a moving and transcendent conclusion, he finds himself finally able to bear the unbearable.  Hawley infuses his emotionally harrowing story with compelling questions about the age-old debate over nature-versus-nurture.  Powerful Reading.”—Joanne Wilkinson.

Borrow this book

In the first two pages of The Good Father, a novel in the form of a father’s memoir by Noah Hawley, Dr. Paul Allen summarizes, as if for a case study, the activities of his twenty-year-old son Daniel in the months prior to the shooting death that is the catalyst for this book. Over the rest of the book, he attempts to make sense of the shocking crime Daniel is accused of committing.
A rheumatologist, Paul thinks of himself as a “medical detective” – the clinician who is called in to review test results, scans, and every detail of a patient’s symptoms when a diagnosis remains elusive, and who puts the pieces of the diagnostic puzzle together. So he painstakingly reconstructs the chain of events in Daniel’s history, tries to uncover symptoms (anger? depression? neurological disorder?) that he missed, busy as he was with his own career and new family. What part of Daniel’s upbringing or psyche put him on the path to being accused of the assassination of a beloved politician? How much should Paul blame himself, for divorcing Daniel’s mother and moving to New York when Daniel was only 7, leaving him to fly for so many years – an unaccompanied minor – back and forth between him on the East Coast and his ex-wife Ellen on the West Coast?
Paul throws himself fully into his son’s defense, hiring a high-powered attorney and trying to understand the person that his son has become – a lone gunman, a drifter who calls himself Carter Allen Cash and who is seen as some sort of monster. He pores over investigative reports and witness statements, imagining scenarios and reconstructing the events of his son’s life that led him to that watershed moment when he was caught on video holding the gun.
Though not as explosively as Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin (which was from the point of view of a mother whose child committed a heinous crime), The Good Father builds up tension steadily as details are uncovered and facts are revealed; a psychological profile of Daniel as a directionless young adult emerges. Paul’s obsession with proving his son’s (and, correspondingly, his own) innocence starts to jeopardize life with his new family – wife Fran and their twin 10-year-old sons, Alex and Wally, who are now the bewildered half-brothers of an accused murderer.
Career-driven and sure of himself, Paul is not an entirely sympathetic character at first. He is arrogant and imperious with his son’s arresting officers, confident that he can fix things for his son. But these hard edges quickly erode, and, except for one scene in a men’s room that reminded me of The X-Files, The Good Father is a pretty realistic portrayal of a father might react to the implosion of his son’s life and the derailment of his own. (Remember Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files? He has a book out. Or, I should say, the actor who played him on TV does.)
The fourth novel by Noah Hawley, who is also a screenwriter and producer, The Good Father will be released in March 2012.

Huffington Post UK

Huffington Post UK

2012 isn’t all about reemerging titans, however. Noah Hawley, to date better known as a TV producer and script writer, is on the cusp of being taken seriously as one of the great emerging talents in American literature when The Good Father hits the UK, while Lionel Shriver is seeking to capitalise on her new audience since 2011’s successful film adaptation of We Need To Talk About Kevin with her next novel The New Republic.

Publishers Random House have high hopes for this story of a man who one day discovers his estranged son has shot a presidential candidate - and with good reason. Ostensibly a crime thriller, in American screenwriter Noah Hawley’s hands it plays out more as a meditation on fatherhood with a subplot that brilliantly subverts the romance of the American road trip. The Good Father is sure to be a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Online review of The Punch

Though I’m l leery of how the press materials refer to Hawley as a television writer (is it just me, or ew?), I’m impressed with the tight control of language in “The Punch”. It’s a story of two brothers and their frail but drunk mother coming to terms with the father’s death as they transport his ash box to its final resting place. The older brother is a tightly-wound money man obsessed with his perfect LA family…and who has also inadvertantly started a second family in New York. The younger brother is a hipster n’er-do-well with a chip on his shoulder and an infantile need to be loved. The mother is on oxygen after a lifetime of smoking and drinks herself into a daily wine-stupor. This set-up is Franzonianly familiar, and Hawley seems to have a wet-behind-the-ears over-estimation of tragedy (middle aged guys whose dad dies? Sad and poignant, but not a shock). But halfway through, I have to say Hawley has the irony nicely on cruise control and balances the snark with humanness in a way that makes the story feel like more than an “aren’t I clever and outrageous” exercise (which believe me I’ve read enough of).

Hawley sucks you in with his vivid, direct writing. His portrait of a dysfunctional family is at once insane, tender and hilarious.

Conspiracies have long been the lifeblood of the thriller. For his debut novel, San Francisco author Noah Hawley has thrown an intriguing element into this time-tested formula: His innocent bystander is himself a conspiracy theorist. In “A Conspiracy of Tall Men,” Hawley proves himself an agile writer whose words, at his best, have a lyrical quality. He also knows his way around a plot, but Hawley’s true gift is for character. His protagonist, college professor Linus Owens, is an uncomfortable man. He’s 35 years old, the product of humble roots, suspicious of wealth and disdainful of the trappings of modern life. Yet he lives in an upscale area of Berkeley, enjoys a good glass of Kendall Jackson now and then, and has a beautiful wife who’s become a well-compensated player in the advertising business.

Linus spends his days teaching conspiracy theory at Modesto College in San Rafael. He’s a believer. His students get magic-bullet postulations, lectures on how an Apollo moon landing was faked, warnings about the secret agenda of the Freemasons.

He’s a man pursuing a passion that naturally pits him against the government and corporate America, yet his bourgeois lifestyle forces him to support and, in some cases, rely on those same powers. It’s a conflict that has started to strain his marriage. His wife, whom he dearly loves, wants him to stop playing games and get serious about life.

Then Linus’ world collapses. His wife, Claudia, goes down with 143 others on a flight from New York City No one survives. All the evidence points to a bomb stowed in an overhead compartment as the cause of the crash. From the get-go, Linus sees a conspiracy. He doesn’t know what his wife was doing on that flight. She was supposed to be in Chicago visiting her mom. Worse, Claudia was seen boarding the plane with a man. The two were holding hands.

Determined to uncover the secret behind the crash, Linus sets out on a painful personal odyssey of redemption and revenge that takes him from remote desert hideouts to New York skyscrapers to the Tiburon ferry. During this trek we come to know Linus and recognize the depth of his love for his wife. Hawley shows a fine eye for tender details. In flashback we see the two in courtship, in the first few years of marital bliss and toward the end, when it becomes apparent that Linus still loves a woman who has grown beyond him.

It is also here, unfortunately, that Hawley’s story shows some cracks. Linus’ search for answers leads him into a bewildering array of possibilities—the pharmaceutical industry and a rogue CIA agent loom as the biggest villains—that put believability to the test. But after all, this is a conspiracy thriller, so Hawley deserves a little slack.

Another problem is his cast of secondary characters. Almost every one of them comes from a tormented background, which gets old after a while, particularly with characters who have little bearing on the story. One FBI agent, we learn, was sodomized by his brother and has since developed a revulsion for scallops and oysters. Rather rich detail for a character who comes and goes in one paragraph. More attention to editing could have solved these problems.

Quibbles aside, Hawley shows great promise in “A Conspiracy of Tall Men.” His writing is vivid and muscular. He speeds it up and slows it down in just the right places, and the portrait he paints of Linus is memorable. He also manages to stay away from a hackneyed ending. The book is well researched, obviously the product of a lot of time investigating various theories and keeping a close watch on the conspiracy movement.

Hawley, 31, has knocked around at an assortment of odd jobs—musician, paralegal and database operator for a San Francisco law firm. To judge from “A Conspiracy of Tall Men,” he seems to have laid the foundation for a solid writing career.

Sunday, July 26, 1998, page RV - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Linus Owen teaches conspiracy theory at a small college in northern California. But despite his belief in an array of Government cover-ups, he leads a fairly normal life: his wife, Claudia, is an advertising executive, and though he hobnobs with fellow “paranoid intellectuals,” Linus does at least manage to entertain them at dinner parties. He’s even considering the purchase of an expensive Italian suit. Linus’s veneer of middle-class normality is abruptly stripped away, however, when two F.B.I. agents arrive to inform him that Claudia, ostensibly in Chicago visiting her mother, has died in the crash of an airplane flying from New York to Rio. Overwhelmed by grief and fearful that his wife might have been running away with another man,

Linus sets out to uncover the truth behind the destruction of Flight 613. Naturally, a lifetime of suspicion proves helpful in this endeavor, and he soon sniffs out a trail leading to, among others, his own brother, an incendiary radio talk-show host, a major pharmaceutical company and, of course, the C.I.A. As the plot progresses, it becomes increasingly farfetched and difficult to follow, but the novel manages to gather enough early momentum to keep readers turning the pages. In this, his first novel, Noah Hawley’s prose can be spotty: sometimes full of redundancies, jarring shifts of perspective and unfortunate turns of phrase; at other times surprisingly energetic and funny. Luckily, that energy prevails, making “A Conspiracy of Tall Men” an engrossing debut.

Reviewed by Emily Barton
NY Times August 23, 1998

Salon.com reviews the Unusuals

Compared to a quirky detective show with a female lead set in Botswana,“The Unusuals”(premieres 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8) might look like just another cop show starring that girl from “Joan of Arcadia.” Look a little closer, though, and what you’ll find is a truly strange cop dramedy with lots of sharp dialogue, jocular banter and offbeat scenarios.Our escapade begins with Detective Casey Shraeger (Amber Tamblyn) who’s working undercover as a prostitute when she’s unexpectedly transferred to the homicide unit and assigned to be the new partner to tough-guy Jason Walsh (Jeremy Renner), whose former partner was recently murdered. Along with investigating the murder, Walsh immediately sets about cleaning up the mess his partner left behind, from disposing of the drugs and porn magazines in his locker to paying an unannounced visit to his mistress’s apartment:

Walsh:There’s gonna be a funeral in a few days. You’re not going.

Sleazy Girlfriend:But we were in love.

Walsh:Uh, no you weren’t. He had a churchgoing wife with real breasts who doesn’t need to know about his husband’s extras.

Sleazy Girlfriend:Don’t look at me like that. I go to church, I got a mother, I’m not some home-wrecker.

Shraeger:Vera, right? Looking around your apartment you a pair of heels lower than three inches, you answer the door for the pizza guy in a pair of panties. I don’t want to ruin your day, but in my book, you are definitely the mistress, and you’re not going to the man’s funeral.

Walsh and Shraeger appear likely to share a semi-flirtatious cop-effectiveness one-upmanship game moving forward, which immediately lumps them in with Tim Roth and Kelli Williams of “Lie to Me,” Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic of “Castle,” and Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz of “Bones,” demonstrating once and for all that “Moonlighting”-inspired investigative teams have reached critical mass. That said, “The Unusuals” keeps our attention with its clever banter, moves along at a nice clip, and has plenty of flair to spare. Although most of the story lines are serious, like “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,”

“The Unusuals” puts its comic sensibility front and center in almost every scene. The show is like a deranged blend of “Life on Mars” and “Veronica Mars,” with a little “Barney Miller” thrown in for good measure. The scene where a guy dressed like Ronald McDonald yells from his jail cell, “Don’t I get a phone call?” to which a cop responds, “Who you gonna call, the Hamburglar?” feels like a page straight from the Hal Linden playbook. In another scene, we hear an operator on the police radio saying, “Be advised that dispatch is cranky today and will be accepting no guff or lip from anyone.”

Likewise, most of the cops in homicide are certifiable nut jobs. Eric Delahoy (Adam Goldberg) is trying to kill himself while his partner Leo Banks (Harold Perrineau) won’t take off his bulletproof vest. Detective Ed Alvarez (Kai Lennox) talks about himself in the third person and shamelessly self-promotes to climb higher in the ranks. And then there’s Sgt. Brown (Terry Kinney), who accepts no guff or lip from anyone:

Sarge:Some city councilman’s daughter was attacked. First thing tomorrow morning I need you to go there, take a statement.

Leo:With all due respect, Sarge, we’d rather work Kowalski.

Sarge:And I’d rather my son didn’t wear his mother’s underpants. Be there.

Despite its strengths, “The Unusuals” occasionally devolves into predictable zaniness, from Delahoy and Banks pursuing a catnapper on foot through New York city streets over a madcap chase soundtrack to the detective who leads the group in a not-so-solemn prayer for their fallen comrade, Kowalski. Ultimately, though, “The Unusuals” will depend on a pretty high level of comedy and story lines to succeed. What with the glut of detective shows already crowding the small screen, if it doesn’t outperform each and every episode, viewers may deem it not that unusual after all.

A great review of The Unusuals in Details

The last thing TV needs is another overwrought police procedural.  Fortunately, ABC’s The Unusuals lives up to its name: Nothing is ordinary in the NYPD’s 2nd Precinct.  Detective Banks is so sure his days are numbered that he wears bulletproof pants.  His partner, Detective Delahoy, has a death wish, but just can’t seem to get hit by a stray bullet or a subway train.  And Detective Shraeger is a vice-squad transfer trying to keep her Park Avenue upbringing under wraps.  While this is not another Law & Order, it isn’t Police Academy either—instead think Hill Street Blues Redux.  The quirky characters, the sight gags, and the radio calls for suspects wearing only capes make the dramatic plot twists - the homicides, SWAT busts and even missing-cat-cases—all the more potent.

A Washington Post feature story by Amy Amatangelo

A show runner is the ultimate boss. They describe their multi-faceted, multi-task job as a combination of air traffic controller, chief executive, cheerleader and nurturing parent. Everything—from a character’s costume to the music to what a set will look like—gets their input and final approval.They oversee the casting of the smallest one-line part, respond to network concerns and decide on the direction of their characters. The proverbial buck, and pretty much everything else, stops with them.

“When the writing room breaks up for the day, everyone else gets up and gets to leave, and the show runner sits there staring at the board with all the stories,” said Tom Hertz, show runner for CBS’s “Rules of Engagement,” which returns for a third season Monday at 9:30 p.m. “The show is always in the forefront or back of your mind, 24 hours a day.”

Noah Hawley, whose ABC detective drama “The Unusuals” is slated to debut in April, agreed. “The bottom line is, it’s about keeping the creative vision for the show in clear sight at all times,” he said. “At any one time you are shooting an episode, prepping another episode, editing the last episode, breaking stories for future episodes. It’s a lot about keeping the big picture of the show in your head.”

John Coveny was an advertising executive before working on “The Closer” and creating and running the new TNT series “Trust Me” with his friend Hunt Baldwin. Running his own show, he said, his respect for shows that succeed.“As soon as you finish a script you’re on to the next one. It’s hard to do a great show with a great script week in, week out,” he said. “It is a challenge to balance so many pieces on a train that just doesn’t stop.“Show runners also try to ensure everyone on the set is happy. “Everybody wants to feel heard, and everybody deserves the right to be heard,” said Katie Jacobs, who runs the Fox hit “House” with David Shore.

Rina Mimoun, who worked as a producer on “Everwood” before creating and running CW’s “Privileged” this season, said it’s about making people feel as though they are the most important piece of the show because, in some respects, they are. All of the show runners interviewed said there’s pure joy—and utter angst—that comes from bearing the ultimate responsibility for a TV series.

“With ‘Everwood’ I was doing all the same stuff, but at the end of the day I was always thinking of it in terms of making sure Greg Berlanti would like it,” Mimoun said, referring to the “Everwood” show runner. “Now it’s just me. . . . In some ways it’s easier when you are trying to please somebody else and making sure you’re sticking with their agenda, because it’s that last piece of you that you don’t have to put in there.”

Hawley was a producer on “Bones” before creating and executive producing “The Unusuals.” “There’s such a great pleasure that comes from having your creative vision fully realized, which in Hollywood is so rare,” Hawley said. “At the same time, you also have all the responsibility.” As he awaits his show’s premiere, Hawley feels as though the success or failure of “The Unusuals” is on him.

Hertz is used to that kind of pressure.“Some episodes may stink, but it’s my stink,” he joked. “Hopefully, if you do the show right, the show will be a reflection of what you want it to be.” And it doesn’t necessarily get easier the more shows you do. J.J. Abrams, show runner for “Alias” and “Felicity” and an executive producer on the current dramas “Lost” and “Fringe,” said it becomes more challenging to make yourself happy.“At first you’re just thrilled to get an episode out,” Abrams said. “Episode 3 of ‘Felicity’ was like a celebration. But on ‘Alias’ or ‘Lost’ or ‘Fringe’ you work on a episode and it’s not about getting it out. It’s about trying to make it right and trying to make it something you’re proud of.”

Chuck Lorre, whose previous series include “Dharma & Greg” and “Cybill,” is the show runner for two CBS hits: “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory.”“At times it feels like it’s getting harder,” he said. “I don’t want to settle. We can’t take this for granted. There’s too many reasons not to watch any given show. . . . Any episode could essentially lose audience and could have people turn off the show and never turn back.“It’s much like going to a restaurant and having a really bad meal, he said. “You don’t go back. I think that can be the same with a television show.”

Huffington Post UK

Huffington Post UK

2012 isn’t all about reemerging titans, however. Noah Hawley, to date better known as a TV producer and script writer, is on the cusp of being taken seriously as one of the great emerging talents in American literature when The Good Father hits the UK, while Lionel Shriver is seeking to capitalise on her new audience since 2011’s successful film adaptation of We Need To Talk About Kevin with her next novel The New Republic.

Publishers Random House have high hopes for this story of a man who one day discovers his estranged son has shot a presidential candidate - and with good reason. Ostensibly a crime thriller, in American screenwriter Noah Hawley’s hands it plays out more as a meditation on fatherhood with a subplot that brilliantly subverts the romance of the American road trip. The Good Father is sure to be a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

A Hollywood Reporter article about my new deal.

Hawley pacts with ABC Studios ‘Unusuals’ creator to pen two projects in new deal. By Nellie Andreeva July 5, 2009, 11:00 PM ET

ABC is staying in business with “The Unusuals” creator Noah Hawley, who has inked a blind deal with sister ABC Studios to write two new projects.Not too bad, given that TV writing is Hawley’s fourth career choice.First off, the New York native joined a rock band as a singer-guitarist and did a series of gigs on the East Coast.

“I was gonna be a rock star but got tired of living in a van with three filthy, penniless men,” he said.Disillusioned with the music business, where success has “so little to do with the quality of the music,” Hawley, who was also the band’s songwriter, decided he wanted to write more in-depth stories.

So he switched to books, publishing his first novel, “A Conspiracy of Tall Men,” in 1997. That was followed by two more, “Other People’s Weddings” in 2003 and “The Punch” in 2007.In between the first two books, both of which were optioned by Paramount, he wrote a feature script that became the 2006 film “The Alibi” starring Steve Coogan.Having migrated from music to fiction and then feature writing, Hawley said he started pondering, “What else can I get away with?”

“I got in television,” he said.  Hawley penned four pilot scripts: two for FX, one for CBS (which got him staffing job on Fox’s “Bones”) and one for ABC, which became “Unusuals.“He reflected on the experience of trying to do on network TV what he said essentially was a cable drama with comedic elements in the vein of FX’s “Rescue Me,” whose creators Peter Tolan and Denis Leary were executive producers on the ABC series.

While he admits it wasn’t easy, “other than the show not being picked up for a second season, I couldn’t have had a better experience with ABC,” he said.Indeed, “Unusuals” enjoyed strong support among ABC brass, who placed the Sony TV-produced midseason series in a plum time slot following “Lost” and gave it a sample airing behind “Dancing With the Stars.” They ultimately pulled the plug because of low ratings.Soon, ABC Studios approached Hawley about a deal.

For his encore Hawley is looking to employ some of the storytelling elements he used on “Unusuals,” where stories with different characters often intersected in unexpected ways. Also, he plans to continue mixing comedy and drama.

On the feature side, Hawley, repped by CAA and McKuin Frankel Whitehead, has two feature scripts he wrote with his twin brother Alexi—“Dead in the Water” and “Home Free”—in contention at Touchstone.

Here’s a link to a profile in Hollywood Scriptwriter.

A News Tribune Article on what it means to be a TV showrunner

Here’s a link to piece about the job of showrunner.  I was interviewed and am quoted extensively.

USA Today on Bubble Shows

A link to a USA Today piece focusing on late premiering shows.  I was interviewed for it, and am quoted extensively.

Variety follows showrunners

From Variety
News from this week’s network upfronts has been emerging in 140-character chunks—thanks to the exploding popularity of Twitter. As a result, it’s no longer newspapers or blogs breaking news of series orders or cancellations. Quite frequently, it’s producers and stars themselves who are sending out the info first. When Fox and sister studio 20th Century Fox TV finally came to a deal on a two-year renewal for “Bones,” neither side would confirm the deal. But it didn’t matter: Exec producer Hart Hanson had beat them to the punch anyway via his Twitter account.“Just got a call from ‘Bones’ Fox exec James (‘Don’t call me Jimmy”) Oh with an official unofficial pickup,” Hanson told his Twitter followers on Saturday morning. ” ‘Bones’ is back for Season V!“Stories about the “Bones” renewal started appearing soon after the Hanson tweet, and although the network and studio still wouldn’t officially confirm, they also wouldn’t deny what Hanson had just shared with his nearly 3,200 followers. On the flip side, “The Unusuals” creator Noah Hawley had to break the news to his Twitter readers that ABC had passed on a renewal.“Friends, just heard ‘The Unusuals’ will not be back for a second season,” he tweeted. “Thanks for all your amazing support. Last 4 episodes start May 27.” At the same time, “Castle” star Nathan Fillion got some better news: ABC had picked up his show—something he couldn’t wait to tell his 51,000 followers.“I can’t remember the last time I had a second season of ANYTHING,” he typed. “I don’t know if I remember what to do. Step one: go to Canada. Relax.” All of this adds a new wrinkle to the jobs network and studio PR teams, who don’t have much or any say when it comes to what their stars and producers opt to share. (Of course, some of those PR execs are tweeting about series pickups—or at least, strongly hinting at the news—themselves.) The irony is that some of those same producers are tweeting only because the studio and/or network asked them to join Twitter to keep fans updated on news of their shows.“Yes, it can be difficult to both control the flow of information and to ensure that the information that does get out is accurate,” said one TV PR vet. “But it’s the new-media world that we live in now.”

How to build a fan base.

Here’s a piece from Ad Age Magazine about how we’re using online content to build an audience for the show.

September 9th Hollywood Reporter article

Bob DeLaurentis has joined ABC’s new series “The Unusuals” as showrunner alongside creator Noah Hawley.The duo will serve as showrunner/exec producers on the series from Sony Pictures TV. The ensemble dramedy, set in a New York police precinct, co-stars Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner, Terry Kinney, Harold Perrineau and Adam Goldberg.“Unusuals,” which was given a series pickup last month, marks Hawley’s first show as a creator.DeLaurentis’ credits include serving as exec producer on Fox’s “The O.C.” and executive producer/showrunner on NBC’s “Providence.” He is repped by Endeavor.

The Bay Area attracts its own cadre of talented writers.

Michael Chabon writes best-selling books in his Berkeley backyard. Isabel Allende has been known to steam up chai on busy days at the Book Passage Cafe in Corte Madera.

Writers as diverse as Danielle Steel, who writes about the ripping of bodices, to former Polk Street hustler JT Leroy, who occasionally wears one, call the Bay Area home. And it’s not just established authors who can be spotted browsing the aisles at Green Apple Books or ordering dim sum out in the Avenues. More and more, new writers are appearing on book jackets above the bio, “the author lives in Northern California” - privacy-protecting code for the Bay Area. Sometimes it seems you can’t spill a latte in a local cafe without splashing a writer.

It’s easy to think of reasons why writers wouldn’t thrive in the Bay Area. The cost of housing here makes it next to impossible for a writer working a 20- hour-a-week-in-order-to-have-time-to-write job to afford desk space, much less the requisite “room of one’s own.” And San Francisco isn’t even in the same time zone as the gang at the New York Times Book Review. So why is it authors multiply here like cheap noodle restaurants?

One reason Bay Area is such a good place for writers may be the same reason it’s such a good place for and podiatrists - it’s a terrific place to live.

Dave Eggers most of the time period he wrote about his “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” in San Francisco. He and his brother Toph moved to New York so that Toph could go to high school there.

“Toph and I were living in a tiny apartment on the upper West Side, with two small windows, each facing stone walls,” recalls Eggers. “I missed California so much, missed seeing the sky, missed the bridges, the ridiculous views every time we’d go to 7-Eleven, missed, probably more than anything, Black Sands Beach.”

As soon as Toph graduated, Eggers returned to the Bay Area. “I never even got a New York driver’s license - I kept my California one to remind myself I was coming back.”

Chilean writer Isabel Allende, whose most recent book, “Portrait in Sepia,” is partially set in the San Francisco of the late 1800s, says she moved to the Bay Area for sex. “I fell in lust with a guy, and moved into his house without an invitation.”

One reason she stayed here - besides the guy, who is now her husband, Willie - is the Bay Area’s tolerance for weird behavior. “Nobody really cares how you look, what you do, as long as you are politically correct and you don’t go around chopping trees.”

Best-selling author Richard North Patterson likes living in the Bay Area because “I’m always bumping up against the kinds of interesting real-life situations I like to put in my books.” Patterson’s theory is “if you retreat to a cabin in the woods, sooner or later you wind up writing about the cabin in the woods.”

While it’s true the Bay Area is a terrific place in and of itself, it also has the distinct advantage of not being New York.

Conventional wisdom has always been that ambitious writers need to live in New York, where they can lunch with editors, and hang out with the staff of the New Yorker. But living in the pulsing heart of the publishing epicenter is not always the best thing for a writer.

“I moved to New York because New York was the center of everything literary.

And I moved away from it for the same reason,” says Daniel Handler, who, under the name Lemony Snicket, has written a series of children’s books that share space with Harry Potter on the New York Times best-seller list. “I wanted to work someplace where I wasn’t attending a release party for every book written by everybody I knew.”

Handler, who went to Lowell High School (his adult novel, “The Basic Eight, ” is set in a Lowell-like school), also wanted to avoid becoming the kind of writer who winds up writing about writers in New York. “There are all these books about young people in Manhattan. I think because San Francisco doesn’t have a notion of itself as the center of the world, you’re more likely to write about something else that interests you.”

Herb Gold, whose most recent book is “Daughter Mine,” moved from New York to San Francisco in the 1960s. One of the reasons he left was to get away from an East Coast competitiveness that had authors comparing the size of their publicity budgets and ranking each other by how much space they got in Publishers Weekly. “I was taken to dinner by a famous writer,” recalls Gold, “and he was really throwing the money around. I looked around the table, and the other writers were growing green fangs, and there was saliva coming out of the corners of their mouths, and hair appearing on their knuckles. Everybody was ferociously jealous.”

Does this mean that Bay Area writers have mastered a Zen-like detachment that keeps them from experiencing painful stabs of jealousy when they hear about Amy Tan’s latest advance? Handler thinks the explanation is simpler than that. “There just seems to be a sense that compared to New York, there’s so few of us, we might as well stick together. It’s a little like being in the umbrella business.”

Local literary agent Amy Rennert also believes authors might not be relegating their latest work to the remainder bin by living on the opposite coast from the publishing world. According to Rennert, publishers look to California for fresh ideas in both fiction and nonfiction. “So when I go to New York with the manuscript of a West Coast author, everybody wants to see me. ”

Being out of the writer-eat-writer world, where authors can be snubbed if they rated merely a mention in Books in Brief rather than a full-page review, definitely has benefits for writers. The biggest being a sense of community that doesn’t happen when writers are busy comparing their Amazon rankings.

Most people think of writers as a subspecies of hermit, recluses who choose to spend their days in solitude. But the reality is that too much solitude can turn even the most well-balanced writer into Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” maniacally typing the same sentence over and over.

The best-known, and best-working, writing community in the Bay Area is the Grotto, a group of local writers who share office space in an old cat and dog hospital on Fell Street.

The Grotto was started in 1994 by Ethan Canin (“Carry Me Across the Water”), Po Bronson (“The Nudist on the Late Shift”) and Ethan Watters (“Therapy’s Delusions: The Myth of the Unconscious & The Exploitation of Today’s Walking Worried”). The three wanted a place where they could write together. Especially Canin, who was exchanging working as an emergency room doctor for what Bronson calls “sitting in an extra bedroom staring at the wall.”

The first Grotto was a six-room Victorian flat on Market Street. “We were incredibly scared that we wouldn’t find three other writers to cover the rent, ” recalls Bronson.
In the current building, the Grotto has 21 offices, high-ceilinged rooms where cats and dogs once had their nails clipped and reproductive organs removed, and now writers turn out novels and screenplays and magazine articles.

None of these offices stays empty for long. “It’s not like there’s an application process,” explains Bronson. “It’s more, Oh’s - - -, somebody left and there’s no money in the bank account. Who can we get?’”

The atmosphere at the Grotto is informal. Most of the writers have lunch together on the roof, surrounded by bicycles and junky patio furniture, and across from the former dog kennel where Bronson locks himself in a closet to write. Offices at the Grotto are decorated with personal items - a Mr. T bobble-head and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Potato Disorder Identification chart. The writers have personal reasons for being part of the Grotto, too.

“So much of writing is thinking you’re insane, or stupid, or some combination of the two,” says Todd Lappin, a freelance magazine writer. “I find the fact that other people share your insanity incredibly comforting.”

“I wanted to give my writing a place I could leave it,” admits Bronson. “I’d hurt my relationships and my life by writing too much, by having it right there.”

“There’s so much going on here that it opens you up,” explains Laura Fraser, author of the Bay Area best-seller, “An Italian Affair.” “I wouldn’t have written my memoir if it wasn’t for the people here who said, ‘Oh gee, those travel pieces you’re doing could really be extended.’” Besides the use of the rooftop handball court, this ability to knock on somebody’s door and get a second opinion may be one of the biggest advantages of being a Grotto writer.

Bronson describes how it works. “Yesterday, Noah Hawley (author of ‘A Conspiracy of Tall Men’) had an afternoon pitch meeting for a screenplay, so he sat down and told us the whole story, and it was brilliant, and we didn’t have to say too much, but he got to practice saying it out loud. I’ve been writing a book and David Duncan (‘Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year’) came in and grabbed the first 15,000 words, because he knew I really needed help and didn’t want to ask. And he gave me feedback this morning. I wrote a piece for a magazine last night, and got comments from Ethan Watters this morning. And now I’m just writing.”

Bay Area writers turn out to be exceptionally good at finding community. Maxine Hong Kingston, the author of “The Woman Warrior,” and the forthcoming “Fifth Book of Peace,” found hers at VA hospitals and Buddhist centers. “The only copy of my manuscript burned in the Oakland hills fire,” Kingston explains, “and the only way I could regain my creativity was to write in community. My book was about war and peace, so I gathered together a group of war veterans who wanted to write. Very few of them had published anything, but in their hearts they were writers.”

That was almost 10 years ago, but Kingston’s group of veterans still meets “once a season, to read and write and meditate.” And some of the veterans have now become authors, including John Mulligan, who published “Shopping Cart Soldiers.”

JT Leroy (“Sarah,” “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things”) is the poster boy of what having the support of other writers can accomplish. At 15, Leroy was turning tricks on Polk Street. “When I was on the street,” he says, in his soft Southern-accented voice. “I always put things in metaphors. I would say, ‘It’s like such and such.’ And tricks would tell me, ‘Oh shut up.’ ”

It was a therapist who got Leroy to start writing, and a trail of other writers who got his work in front of an editor. “I had a book deal before I even had a place to live,” Leroy says. But it was Mary Gaitskill (“Two Girls, Fat and Thin”), who was living in San Francisco at the time, who turned Leroy into a writer. “Lots of people had kid gloves on when they were handling my work, because they knew I was kind of fragile around it. She took those gloves off. If something warranted being knocked upon my head, she did it.”

Gaitskill also made it possible for the clinically shy Leroy to have book readings. “I did one reading,” Leroy remembers, “and I took enough drugs so I thought I could read. But my hands were shaking so hard the words were blurry, and then I threw up. I’m standing there like Carrie, covered in vomit, and people thought it was performance art and applauded. I just ran.” In order to avoid future incidents of public regurgitation, Gaitskill had the idea to have other writers read Leroy’s work for him, starting with herself.

Local authors don’t just rely on each other to help take a book from proposal to New York Times Notable, they also get a big push from local independent booksellers. And in the Bay Area, that’s a pretty big group. Type a San Francisco ZIP code into the BookSense Web site search engine, and you’ll wind up with 91 local independent bookstores. That’s more than you’ll find in most states. And the booksellers here are so attuned to local authors, it’s almost creepy.

“I was walking on Fillmore Street,” recalls Laura Fraser, “and the manager of Browser Books ran out of the store and said, ‘Laura, would you please come in and sign some of your books?’ She’d never met me before, she just recognized me from the photo on the book jacket.”

Terry Ryan, whose memoir, “The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio,” was recently optioned by film director Robert Zemeckis, was so terrified of doing her book tour, she begged Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage to give her a job at the bookstore, so she could see as many author events as possible. “On my first day,” Ryan remembers, “I didn’t ring up one copy of a $12.95 book, I rang up 123. The bill came to about $16,000.”

In spite of her inadequacies as a retailer, Ryan’s stint as a bookseller paid off. She got over her stage fright when she realized that the people who come to author events “really want to hear what you have to say.”

This story is just one example of why Elaine Petrocelli turns up in so many author acknowledgments, next to the agents and editors who must be thanked. Petrocelli is a kind of patron saint for local writers. Isabel Allende brings the translated proofs of her new novels to Petrocelli to read. Even Book Passage’s popular writing classes were started because Anne Lamott needed the money. “Annie was working as a waitress,” remembers Petrocelli, “because her publisher kept forgetting to send royalties. So we came up with a class that she could teach.”

Now Book Passage has classes almost every night and weekend. And not all of them are taught by writers who need money. Past instructors have included Frances Mayes (“Under the Tuscan Sun”), Arthur Golden (“Memoir of a Geisha”) and Mary Morris (“Nothing to Declare”).

All of these local writing classes are a good thing for Bay Area writers, and not just because they’re so effective in helping writers conquer an overdependency on adverbs. Writing classes also give new writers the chance to form community.

Jane Underwood, who runs The Writing Salon in San Francisco, says, “I can’t stress enough to all the teachers how important the break times are. It’s like a mini-party, everybody just jabbers away. And they leave jabbering in twos and threes, and you know they’re finding writing partners and creating writing groups.”

Going to the Writing Salon is like taking a writing class in your grandmother’s house. Sessions are held in a cluttered Bernal Heights cottage where students sprawl on overstuffed couches and are fed cookies at break time.

Occasionally, the students get especially relaxed. “We offered a class called ‘In the Realm of the Senses: Understanding & Writing Erotica,’ ” remembers Underwood. “The teacher brought a decadent chocolate cake and a couple bottles of good Champagne. She turned the lights off in the room, and lit candles. When I went down to see how things were going, everyone looked as if they were having the best time, all flickering in candlelight, and just happy as little larks in this world of sensuality.”

Adair Lara, Chronicle columnist and author of the memoir “Hold Me Close, Let Me Go,” also believes that writing classes are a good way for new writers to form community - even if it’s only a community of two. Lara holds classes in her Upper Haight Victorian - no Champagne, but plenty of Calistoga and Diet Coke. “I’ve always been that kind of kid who likes to mark up other people’s papers,” Lara says. “In my secret other life; I’m a high school English teacher.”

Lara pushes her students to form writing clubs, groups of two who promise to exchange 500 words every day. They don’t have to be good words, students can copy them off a cereal box if they have to, as long as they write something. “The writing club was how I started at the beginning,” says Lara. “I was the kind of writer everybody is for years, where you have an idea and you write two or three pages, and then you sit down and decide that wasn’t very good. What I needed, what I still need, is somebody else’s voice to say ‘Keep going, that’s not so bad.’”

Besides classes that keep writers from coming up with embarrassing dialogue and booksellers who commit the photos of local authors to memory, the Bay Area provides something less tangible, but just as necessary. “There’s a pioneer spirit here,” says Ryan, “that makes us feel we can do any crazy thing we want, like write a book.”

Or publish one. Recently, a group of about a dozen local female travel writers who call themselves the Wild Writing Women self-published a collection of their stories. Stories that New York editors might not have known what to do with.

“One of the problems with the publishing industry is that they try to put these little marketing handles on everything,” explains Linda Watanabe McFerrin, a Wild Writing Woman whose latest book is “The Hand of Buddha,” and whose contribution to the anthology is an erotic story involving mascarpone cheese.

The Wild Writing Women ordered an initial run of 1,000 books, and went from bookseller to bookseller trying to drum up interest. They sold every copy of their anthology before it was even printed. Then they took their book to Chicago for BookExpo America and shopped it to the big publishers. By the time the Wild Writing Women returned to San Francisco, they had five offers. They chose Globe Pequot.

“What I came away with,” says McFerrin, “is that it’s not really that hard to publish your own book.”

Kim Chernin, the author of “In My Mother’s House” and “The Hungry Self,” took the idea of self-publishing a step further. She did something no known writer has ever done - she gave back a large advance she’d received from publisher Penguin Putnam. Instead of publishing with a big New York house, Chernin decided to start her own Bay Area publishing company. “I just invited a group of friends,” she explains. “All writers I thought had something that couldn’t be cultivated in a purely commercial world.”

The result is Edgework Books, and this winter they’ll publish nine titles. Among them is Chernin’s own book, “The Girl Who Went Inside and Came Back,” which she describes as “a very radical experimental novel.” Edgework is also publishing “The Grasshopper’s Secret,” an adult fantasy novel the New York publishers could only see as a children’s book. “I think we’re going to have a big success with it,” says Chernin, “because we don’t have to obsess about fitting it into a category.”

Dave Eggers is so happy to be back in the Bay Area, he’s going to start publishing here as well. He’s just signed a lease on a building in the Mission from which he’ll “publish, have a small odd space where people can buy useless things, and most importantly, have a large writing lab for junior high and high school kids.”

While all the benefits mentioned above - a beautiful place to live, a thriving writers community, an abundance of bookstores, sex - are important to writers, the one thing every author who isn’t J.D. Salinger needs is readers. Which is why the biggest reason Bay Area writers thrive is Bay Area readers. “People here are serious about books,” says Eggers. “Serious in that they love books.”

A glance at any Sunday’s Bay Area best-seller list shows that local readers not only love books, they also have good literary taste. “At the supermarket, I ask the checker what he’s reading,” says Laura Glen Louis, an East Bay author whose collection of stories, “Talking in the Dark,” was published this year. ” ‘Blindness,’ he tells me, by Saramago, the Nobel laureate. It’s very good.”

And like Giants’ fans, Bay Area readers have a strong sense of loyalty to the home team. Michael Chabon, whose most recent novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” won the Pulitzer Prize, sums it up, “A writer’s living in the neighborhood is something for which he or she is given a small but tidy sum of credit. The implication is that anyone with the good taste to live here is worth reading at least once.”

Janis Cooke Newman
Sunday, November 25, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle

A Daily Variety Article

It felt a lot like May on Monday at ABC, which capped off an unusual pilot season with five series orders.
Among the pickups were two comedy-driven, New York-based police procedurals: the Nathan Fillion starrer “Castle” and ensembler “The Unusuals.”

ABC’s romantic comedy “Cupid” redux also earned a pickup. On the comedy side, the Victor Fresco-penned laffer “Better Off Ted,” which had been among the Alphabet web’s rumored faves, indeed scored an order, as did the Alyssa Milano sitcom “Single With Parents.”

Alphabet picked up a handful of new skeins in May—“Life on Mars” and animated half-hour “The Goode Family,” among scripted entries. But the net waited until its roster of pilots—delayed until summer because of the writers strike—was delivered in order to round out its series orders.
“It was worth taking the time to go through the pilot process to really do it right,” said ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson. “They’re perfect additions to our dominant core slate of shows. These are the initial pickups, but there are a number of other pilots we feel will also get the go-ahead in some form moving forward.”

Among projects that weren’t yet screened, because of a late shooting schedule: the fantasy-driven “Captain Cook’s Extraordinary Atlas” and the Detroit-set “Prince of Motor City.”

Net has said that other pilots that weren’t ordered to Monday, such as the Damon Wayans comedy “Never Better,” the legal drama from David Hemingson and the dramedy “Good Behavior,” could still be picked up at a later date.

As for the series that did receive an order, “Castle” stars Fillion as a novelist who helps the NYPD solve homicide cases. Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Susan Sullivan and Stana Katic also star in the comedic procedural from ABC Studios. Andrew Marlowe wrote the pilot and exec produces with Armyan Bernstein, Rob Bowman and Laurie Zaks.

“The Unusuals,” another comedy-laden hourlong set inside the NYPD, centers on a quirky precinct; Harold Perrineau, Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner, Adam Goldberg, Kai Lennox and Terry Kinney star. Sony Pictures TV is behind the show, and Noah Hawley exec produces. (Peter Tolan’s involvement is still to be determined.)

“Cupid” exec producer Rob Thomas hopes the second time’s the charm for the remake of his late 1990s ABC series. It again revolves around a man who claims to be Cupid (Bobby Cannavale) and the shrink assigned to his case (Sarah Paulson). Thomas, Danielle Stokdyk, Dan Etheridge, Bharat Nalluri and Jennifer Gwartz exec produce for ABC Studios.

Jay Harrington stars in “Better Off Ted” as the title character, an office worker attempting to move up the corporate ladder. Fresco exec produces the 20th Century Fox TV series. Portia de Rossi and Andrea Anders also star.

Then there’s “Single With Parents,” which stars Milano as a woman juggling her family, friends and career. Annie Potts, Beau Bridges and Amanda Detmer also star.

ABC Studios is behind the half-hour, which Kristin Newman wrote and will exec produce with Matthew Carlson and DreamWorks TV toppers Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank.

Projects will join a midseason bench that also include returnees “Lost,” “Scrubs” (new to ABC) and “According to Jim,” as well as newcomers “The Goode Family” and the untitled Ashton Kutcher/Tyra Banks reality project. Also to come: reality entry “The Bachelor” and ABC News’ “Primetime: What Would You Do?”

By Noah Hawley

As the writers strike enters its sixth week, and with bargaining stalled, the effects of these contract negotiations need to be viewed not just for their financial implications, but also for what they mean to the creative identity of writers in Hollywood. As multinational corporations have gained control of television networks and motion picture studios, writers have found themselves moving away from their role as creative partners and into the role of employees. This effect can be seen not only in the way writers are paid, but also in how they’re treated.

As a novelist I am used to owning my work. Though a publisher receives the lion’s share of revenue for each book sold, I retain the underlying copyright. This has never been true in Hollywood. As a writer for film and television I am required to sell the underlying rights to my creations. Whether it’s a feature film or a television series, when I sign a contract with a film or television studio I transfer all ownership rights to the work to the corporation. What I get in return for selling my copyright is money, both up front and back-end.

But what happens to my sense of authorship and ownership if that back-end money vanishes? If you stop paying me for the use of my material, am I still its author?

There is a reason these companies make us transfer copyright of our work to them. Ownership of has substantial value in Hollywood. Ask any writer who has created a tent-pole movie a blockbuster television series. The Bourne made Universal Pictures over a billion dollars worldwide. And what is “Grey’s Anatomy,” if not a major brand asset of Touchstone Television, a Disney subsidiary, valuable not just for the ad revenue it generates, but for the millions of dollars in foreign sales and DVD revenue it has brought in? Currently the authors of these works share in this revenue. But that will change if the back-end residual structure of our deals is eradicated.

To see how valuable our creations are, you simply have to look at the Disney Corporation’s recent fight to maintain its copyright of Mickey Mouse. In 1998 Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act, also know as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” It extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. The loss of Mickey Mouse would have cost Disney billions of dollars, and they used every tool in their political and financial arsenal to get the Extension Act passed. The corporations we are negotiating with understand only too well the full value of the scripts we write. This is why they are fighting so hard to keep the writers guild from gaining jurisdiction over material written for the Internet.

They can see the day when the television set and the DVD disappear. When first-run movies are released for purchase online the same day they premiere in theaters. On this day, all media will effectively be transmitted to your home by computer. There will be no such thing as a screenwriter or a television writer. We will all be Internet writers. And once that happens these media conglomerates will become, in a very real sense, the sole author and owner of our work, entitled to 100 percent of the revenues they generate.

Writers will find themselves moving into a very specific ghetto of the American business world: that of the salaried employee. It is an identity that once had prestige and promise, but now in the era of multimillion-dollar CEO salaries feels like a trap. We will receive a fee to write a script, and then our creative and financial interest in the project will be over.

It’s not the richest members of the guild who will suffer - the A-list writers and script doctors - it’s everybody else. Writers who earn their living staffing, or writing smaller films will find their incomes cut dramatically. The majority of writers in Hollywood are middle class. If the residual system as we know it disappears, we will see a writers guild that looks much like the rest of America, with one percent of writers controlling 90 percent of the wealth. This elite tier of creators will continue to realize huge profits, even in an Internet-only world, through a combination of giant script fees and profit sharing. But without residuals, without fair compensation paid each time their work airs, TV staff writers and the screenwriters of smaller movies will find themselves back in the corporate cubicles, just another employee punching a clock and dreaming of a better life.

The words we write have value. We can’t afford to sell them too cheaply.

Noah Hawley is a novelist from Los Angeles and writer for the Fox show “Bones.” His next novel, “The Punch,” will be out in the spring.

This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Aren't you a little young to be a police detective?

If the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants expelled one member, who would it be? [Phone disconnects; TONY calls back.]

We got cut off there, unless you hung up on me.  Didn’t mean to offend you! I will hang up at least three times during the course of the interview. It’s something that I like to do to create sexual tension. So, uh, prepare yourself.

Wow, so in-person interviews must get uncomfortable for you. Yes. And for the table.

I was asking you an offensive question about the Sisterhood. Right, who would get kicked out? The pants. We all feel equally that the pants can go.[Editor’s note: This is an extended online exclusive interview.]

I was getting a Grey’s Anatomy–with-cops vibe from The Unusuals. Does that sound right? I haven’t heard that combo before. I’ve heard NYPD Blue meets The Office. I’ve heard Twin Peaks meets Gossip Girl. That one is true!

You seem a little young to be playing a detective. Is she the Doogie Howser of detectives? How dare you! That’s something that was brought up, but she’s supposed to be 25, 26 years old. She dropped out of college to be a detective.I thought all detectives had to have three failed marriages and be old and jaded. Just wait till the season finale. [In a singsong voice] disappointed it wasn’t the Sisterhood of the Traveling Prada Shoes? I think we all wanted it to be called just The Sisterhood. Especially because the second movie really had nothing to do with the pants. Drop the metaphor a little bit! They did, a little, in the second movie.

They think girls won’t know what’s going on if there aren’t clothes involved. Yeah, that’s like an hour-long interview you and I should do for Ms. magazine. But not forTime Out.

So you have a budding career as a poet. I don’t know if anyone told you, but the pay for poets is kind of shite compared to that for movie stars. That it is. It’s something I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been acting. I had a poem published in the San Francisco Chronicle when I was 11, and that was the same year I started on General Hospital. Oh Christ, that sounds weird.

So, The Unusuals: Did they teach you how to shoot a gun for the show? I used to go to a shooting range out in Los Angeles, so I already was pretty familiar with shooting.Okay, so you’re a gun person. I am a huge gun person. Quote me on that. And put it in large text, so it looks out of context and makes me look like a scary Republican.

How do you fit in in New York City? I feel like I fit in in New York City because…because…hmmm. You’re gonna have to fill in the blank for that one. I got nothing. It’s nice and it’s hipster-free, unlike Los Angeles.

Wait, really? I’m being sarcastic.

In another life, would you be a hipster here, living off your poetry? Another life? What about this one?

I mean poor, living in a Williamsburg loft with seven other people. Running a company where I glue sea shells to my shoes?

And sell them on Etsy. Yes: “Shoes by Art.”

I’ll let you go—thanks for talking to me. Thanks, and do me a favor and go Google “the greatest answer of all time for why I live in New York City,” and just put that in the question you asked that I didn’t answer.

Maybe something from Dorothy Parker? Yeah, or oh! Go find or go look up some Proust, something that’ll make me look really interesting. Some Salman Rushdie, I dunno, maybe some Sexton, if you want to put a line of poetry in there? If you guys get sued, it’s not that big of a deal.

We could do someone dead that won’t sue us.
Yeah, Ginsberg’s good. I sound just like him.—Interviewed by Allison Williams

“It’s a sad day as a fiction writer when you realize the most widely read book is going to be read by fewer people than who go to see the least-watched movie.”

With a forthcoming novel, several film projects in the works and a writing credit on a hit TV show, author Noah Hawley is juggling just about every type of project known to fiction writers – not bad for a guy who didn’t study writing or have literary aspirations. The Skinny’s Jennifer Elks visited Hawley on the set of the Fox series, Bones, in Los Angeles, to uncover the secrets behind his success. Hawley, an easy-going guy with a wry sense of humor, moved from New York to San Francisco in 1994. While music is his first love – he is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter – the author says his disdain for the music business led him to try fiction writing. “I started writing fiction on the side because it didn’t involve carrying heavy equipment or living in a van with three filthy, penniless men,” Hawley says. “You do it by yourself and at the end of the day you have something to show for it, and it’s very creatively satisfying without the bullshit of the music business.” After settling in San Francisco, he soon befriended local author Po Bronson (Why Do I Love These People? [2005]), who invited Hawley to join the Writers’ Grotto, a collective of local writers and filmmakers. Hawley penned several short stories and articles, and three novels before finding a winner with his fourth, a paranoid thriller called A Conspiracy of Tall Men, published in 1998. When progress on his next novel, Other People’s Weddings, stalled in 1999, Hawley learned about screenwriting from Bronson, who was working TV and film projects. Soon, he felt ready to tackle the medium and quickly cranked screenplay, The Alibi, about a man who runs an alibi service for people who cheat on their spouses. Hawley soon got a film agent and sold the script to Summit Entertainment. Now called Lies and Alibis, the film stars Steve Coogan, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Selma Blair and James Brolin and will see limited release in June. Hawley says he hopes eventually to buy back the rights to his second screenplay, The Yes Man, which is buried in a “rights quagmire” after being sold in 2002 to a production company that has since closed its doors. It wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to direct. Hawley wrote and directed Being Vincent (2002), a short about identity theft, as part of Fox Search Lab, Fox Searchlight’s director development program. The film included original music written by Hawley. “Part of the process over the last five years has been thinking as visually as possible, and in directing for the first time, I learned a lot,” he says. “Half the time you don’t have to say anything at all – you just need the scene and the actors and the setting and where you came from and where you’re going, and the look or the moment says it all.” Hawley found himself doing more and more screenwriting and after selling three pilots, his agent encouraged him to pursue writing for a TV show. Once the author was sold on the idea, his agent wasted no time shoving him into the pool, and Hawley was off to Hollywood. “In May, they have what’s called the ‘upfronts’ in New York, which is the big announcement of what the fall season will be like,” Hawley explains, “and it’s just a frenzy – agents trying to get the show runners to read their writers and you’re doing interviews and you’re racing around and ‘Can you meet in half an hour?’ ” One of his dozen or so interviews was with Bones creator Hart Hanson. “I really liked his script because it was funny and smart and it mixed some genres,” Hawley says. “And it seemed like the most transparent in that I could be involved in production and editing and all of the other elements of making a show. All the other shows that made me offers have been cancelled, so it ended up working out.” “I had been aware of Noah’s writing for at least a year before Bones was ordered to series,” Hanson said via email. “I keep a list of writers whose scripts I’ve responded to and why. Near Noah’s name I wrote: ‘Facile, good characterization, a sharp comic eye, energetic scene writing.’ Noah came onto the show and proved me correct – he had great ideas [and] he’s a remarkably fast writer, sometimes turning in two or three drafts in the time it takes other writers to write one.” Professional praise aside, Hanson does have his issues with Hawley. “Noah’s most annoying characteristic is that women love him, and when he plays guitar, he uses a lot of those diminished minor chords that are melancholy yet manly.” Bones is based on the experiences of forensic anthropologist and novelist Kathy Reichs, who serves as a producer and a technical adviser on the show. Dr. Temperance Brennan, the lead character on Bones and in Reichs’ books, is also a novelist, whose heroine’s name is Kathy Reichs. Hawley says it’s been a challenge learning to develop plot lines where crimes are solved using forensic science. “We have a researcher and a lot of forensic books, which I don’t like to look at because the pictures are gross,” he says. “But I like to joke that all of us on staff have never passed a science class so you’re trying to think, how’s [the character] going to figure this out? And we’ll say to Kathy, ‘I want the bones to have been debrided with lye, how can you tell it’s lye?’ And she’ll say, ‘You take red cabbage and boil it, and then you’d treat the bone with it.’ All that sort of MacGyver stuff is really cool.” The author says he enjoys the collaborative nature of the work, which helps the writers keep pace with the breakneck shooting schedule. “We shoot a new episode every eight days which means we’re always prepping – we start shooting, we start prepping the next episode, then we’re tweaking the writing on the episode behind that,” he says. “You’re trying to stay ahead of the production train, so it’s not easy.” An interesting difference between writing for television and for film: The director obviously calls the shots on a film shoot, while the writer is all but ignored; in TV, the director is just a journeyman who shoots – the writers control the creative process and the direction of the show. “What’s good about TV versus any other medium is how immediate it is,” Hawley explains. “I wrote episode nine, we shot it three weeks later and it [aired in February and was] seen by, I don’t know, eight million people, and that’s a pretty satisfying speed at which you work. At the same time, there are so many cooks in that kitchen that there’s a lot of compromises that get made and a lot of decisions that aren’t mine. “Fiction clearly is the medium over which the writer has the most control. With a novel, you will get some editing from the publisher, but no one’s going, ‘What if it was an animated musical?’ ” On the other hand, Hawley says TV and film are arguably better mediums when it comes to telling stories to a larger audience.

“It’s a sad day as a fiction writer when you realize the most widely read book is going to be read by fewer people than who go to see the least-watched movie, you know? Like, Deuce Bigalow 2 is going to be seen by more people than read pretty much everything except for The DaVinci Code.” Both of Hawley’s novels are being adapted for the screen. Conspiracy was optioned in 1998 by Paramount. After an unsuccessful first script, Hawley was hired to write it himself “I turned in my draft in August of 2001. But [in the story] there are conspiracies and a plane crash and so, in Sept of 2001, it became moot. Eventually I’ll get back to it; it hasn’t stopped being a relevant story.” A script for Other People’s Weddings (2004) is in the works, and Hawley’s finding financing for production of his newest feature script, what he calls “a twisted family drama” about a drug dealer who returns to the family he walked out on ten years earlier. Hawley hasn’t abandoned fiction completely. Before moving to LA to work on Bones, he completed a new novel, The Punch. The author says he’s taking his time finding a publisher, hoping to avoid past mistakes, like taking the first offer that comes along and having a book be marketed inappropriately. “Other People’s Weddings was originally called Divorce: A Love Story,” he says. “It’s a pretty dark book, but they put a pretty woman in a wedding dress and a big bouquet of flowers on the cover and suddenly it looks like chick lit. It’s weird to have something published as the opposite of what it is.” In the meantime, he keeps busy with his TV and film projects, and learning to play the Hollywood game. “Basically half of Hollywood is getting into a room with people and telling them a story when you pitch a show or a movie,” the poker-faced author explains. “And it makes you a better writer, I think, to understand how to tell a story in fifteen to twenty minutes and learn what engages people and what makes them care enough about these characters to want to know what happens next.” Hawley says he likes doing his part to inject some creativity into a business full of recycled ideas. “We joke on the show about whether we’re in Cheeseville or just in the neighboring town,” he says with a smirk. “I don’t really believe in doing something if you’re not going to at least try to make it original, but I’m not always the final arbiter and a lot of times people will want to push things in more predictable directions.” As he ponders a second season with Bones – the show was just renewed for another year – Hawley says he’s grateful for all of the options he can explore in his line of work. “There are some writers on TV that have no career otherwise, so it’s helpful for me to have so many choices,” he says. “With the book now shopping, with the TV stuff, and in film, So I guess my goal is just to continue to get away with stuff.”

If Noah Hawley had any doubts that his life would change dramatically with the publication of his first novel, the noir thriller “A Conspiracy of Tall Men,” a recent phone call dispelled them.

“Noah, this is Patrick Stewart,” said the elegant, booming voice on the other end of the line. “I really love your book, and I wanted to talk to you about making it into a movie.”

Hawley, a 31-year-old budding San Francisco lit-star, laughs when he remembers his reaction. “Well, first I went into shock and lost my short-term memory. And then these bells started going off in my head! I realized that the clock on my 15 minutes of fame was starting.”

Hawley says he “did manage to remain articulate enough to have a really good conversation” with Stewart, who had secured the rights to “Conspiracy” - intending it to be the first film for his Flying Freehold Productions, which is part of the Paramount fold. And as icing on the cake, Stewart himself was planning to direct and star.

Hawley, a New York City native, says he returned Stewart’s compliments by saying he was a big fan of Stewart’s work.

“Although I did not mention - nor will I ever - his role (Jean-Luc Picard) on “Star Trek.’”

What did they discuss?

“He told me that as a former theater actor he was a big fan of the written word,” says Hawley over a sandwich at a Dolores Park cafe. “So he was not gutting my book, or messing with it in any significant way. He also asked me if I had concerns about him playing Linus (the protagonist), since I wrote Linus to be in his mid-30s.”

He laughs. “What could I say? I said I hadn’t written it with him in mind, but was honored that he would consider the role!”

Stewart’s call was just one step in Hawley’s steady ascent. The movie deal was cut even before the book had been released, and the story appeared in “Variety” the very next day. Foreign rights - to Japan, France and Germany - were quickly sold. The Book of the Month Club has chosen “Conspiracy” as an “alternate selection” for fall.

And early reviews of “Conspiracy” have been laudatory, from Publishers Weekly ( “A suspenseful, cerebral satire” ) to Kirkus ( “A debut thriller with a story-telling grip” ).

The plot - without giving too much away - involves a professor of conspiracy theory at a fictitious Bay Area college who finds out that his wife, supposedly visiting her mother in Chicago, was aboard a jetliner that crashed on its way to Brazil. Following cryptic leads to discover the sinister truth, Linus also finds himself on a quest of self-discovery.

Satirical yet plausible, the plot dances with ingenuity and charges forward on Hawley’s confident way with words - not often found in a first novel.

“Linus is afraid of money,” the novel begins. “Not the smaller bills, the Washingtons and Lincolns, the Jacksons and Grants, but the larger sums, the cashier’s checks with multiple zeros, the stock portfolios and escrow accounts, afraid too of what they buy, the new cars with their leather stink, the first-class seats on airplanes, the cellular phones and fax modems. He fears the implications of wealth, though he has never really had any.”

“People keep calling it a “debut novel,’ and I guess it is,” smiles Hawley, who is neither a tall man nor paranoid about them. “But I wrote three before this that never got published, so I guess I had a fair amount of practice. With “Conspiracy’ I really felt like I started to understand what it meant to be a novelist.”

Hawley was aided in his self-improvement by close friend Po Bronson ( “The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest,” “Bombardiers” ), who Hawley says was tireless in offering his editing time, and help with understanding the Byzantine publishing world.

“There is really strong support in The City between writers; it’s one reason I’m glad we moved here.”

Hawley moved here four years ago from New York, where he had been employed at Legal Aid, doing non-lawyerly work on cases involving child abuse and neglect.

“I had no formal training in writing, but I thought I knew what it was about. I was pretty arrogant, actually.”

He wrote at night and on weekends, cranking out prose when he wasn’t playing in a funk-rock band (the double-threat Hawley plays a fine blues guitar and sings). Burned out on New York, they moved to San Francisco, where Hawley found computer programming work at law firms.

It was while he was knee-deep in the Internet that conspiracy theorists caught his attention. “There are a lot of Web sites out there, run by some pretty crazy people,” says Hawley (who has a site for his book, at www.26keys.com).

And needless to say, many of them come to his bookstore appearances. “Yes, my favorite so far has been the group that seeks to prove the Earth is flat and we’ve been lied to all these centuries,” he chuckles.

A basic mistrust of the high-tech culture seems to fuel the paranoia of “Conspiracy of Tall Men.”

“I think technology is increasing our feelings of isolation more and more,” says Hawley thoughtfully.

“Even though it was supposed to bring us together. We have more and more information all the time, but we feel less and less like we know what’s real.”

Jane Ganahl, of The Examiner Staff
Monday, August 31, 1998
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the Examiner

bio

Noah Hawley is an American film and television producer, screenwriter, composer, and author. He wrote and produced the television series Bones (2005-present) and also created The Unusuals (2009) and My Generation (2010). Hawley also wrote the screenplay for the film Lies and Alibis (2006) starring Steve Coogan and Rebecca Romijn.

Noah is the author of three novels including A Conspiracy of Tall Men, Other People’s Weddings and The Punch. He has a fourth novel, The Good Father, coming out spring 2012.

Noah began writing as a release from his job at the Legal Aid Society back in New York where he worked with abused and neglected juveniles. He then moved to San Francisco and met critically acclaimed author Po Bronson who invited him to join “The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto” an organization where writers, filmmakers and storytellers practice their craft.

In 1998 after penning several short stories and magazine articles, Noah published his first novel A Conspiracy of Tall Men, (Book of the Month Club selection) a thriller about conspiracy theories which put the wheels of his writing career in motion.

After his second published novel Other People’s Weddings, Noah began writing films. His first screenplay The Alibi, was sold to Summit Entertainment and eventually renamed Lies & Alibis, a feature released in 2006 starring Jerry O’Connell, Sam Elliot and Selma Blair. Prior to that Noah broke into television when he began writing and producing the hit show Bones for FOX.

A Political Science major at Sarah Lawrence College, Noah - an accomplished guitarist - also had a love for music and toured several colleges. Despite his passion for music, his disdain for the business eventually drove him to fully committing his talents to the page.

When he’s not writing captivating novels and intriguing scripts, Noah donates his time to the non-profit organization 826 Valencia. Co-founded by his friend and Pulitzer Prize winning author

Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia is a program dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their writing skills. The organization also conducts special seminars for adults and has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Michigan, Seattle, and Chicago.

You can also follow Noah on Facebook and Twitter, if your heart so desires.

contact

Send all inquiries to contact@noahhawley.com.

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