by John Herrick
GENRE: Mainstream fiction (romantic comedy)
-- multigenerational ensemble cast
John Herrick will be awarding a Kindle version of Beautiful Mess, plus free Kindle versions of entire John Herrick backlist to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please visit GoddessFish.com to follow the tour, remember the more you comment better your chances on winning.
A fallen star. Four Los Angeles misfits. And the Marilyn Monroe you only thought you knew.
Del Corwyn is an aging relic. An actor who advanced from errand boy to Academy Award nominee, Del kept company with the elite of Hollywood’s golden era and shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Today, however, he faces bankruptcy. Humiliated, Del is forced to downgrade his lifestyle, sell the home he's long cherished, and fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian. Del surges to the top of Hollywood’s A-list overnight. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream? A story of warmth, humor and honesty, Beautiful Mess follows one man's journey toward love and relevance where he least expects it—and proves coming-of-age isn't just for the young.
“In that case, the first thing we need to do is establish its authenticity. I’ll get the proof lined up and we’ll keep it in our back pockets. Next, we’ll hold a press conference to announce the existence of the screenplay—but let the press speculate about whether it’s authentic. We’ll hem and haw for a while, tease them a bit, make them think they have us cornered.”
Del didn’t want to look like a fool in public, regardless of how temporary or intentional, but he was willing to hear the rest of the idea. He stroked his chin and clasped his hands upon his chest. “And what happens next?”
“Then, when attention is at its peak, we release the evidence. It’ll be good for another round of marketing. So instead of releasing the evidence at the first news conference, we’ll get twice the bang for our buck.”
“Makes sense to me.” Del felt much more at ease. He exhaled and took a swig of water. The bottle’s thin plastic crackled in his grip.
“We’ll need some time to strategize this while the thumbprints are verified. I know a guy who can get it done under the radar. Meanwhile—and I’m sure you know this, but I’ll stress it anyway—don’t breathe a word of this until the day of our big announcement. Not to the media, the studio people, producers—not even to the chef at your sushi restaurant. The element of surprise will strengthen our bargaining position. Agreed?”
Arnie exhaled, as though in relief, and scratched his bald head. His fingers left behind red streaks. “This is big, Del.”
Del’s pulse increased with anticipation, yet he maintained his composure. He finished his water and crumpled the bottle.
‘Big’ didn’t do it justice.
This wasn’t just Marilyn’s final chance.
It was Del Corwyn’s, too.
Interview with John Herrick:
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
First of all, thanks so much for letting me stop by! If anyone wants to learn more about Beautiful Mess or send me a message, you can reach me at www.johnherrick.net. My social links are there, too.
To answer your question: Because Marilyn Monroe makes several appearances in Beautiful Mess, I had to re-create her mannerisms and invent believable dialogue. When writing a novel, my biggest goal is to make my stories realistic. Readers are willing to suspend their ideas of reality, but only to an extent. That presents a challenge to begin with, but since readers will be familiar with Marilyn and her films, it presented an additional hurdle. To prepare for it, I read some of her interview material to get a sense of how she spoke behind the scenes. I didn’t want to rely on her films because they were scripted—they were Marilyn’s interpretation of someone else’s words.
But the things we say are driven by what’s in our minds and hearts, so I also combed through a lot of her biographical material to try to understand her psyche. I needed to visualize not just her public persona, but more importantly, her hopes, her insecurities, her fears. That psyche would drive her actions in the book. In Beautiful Mess, she has written a screenplay but has kept it hidden. So to make the premise believable, I needed to understand her psyche, which might explain why she would write a screenplay in the first place, and why she wouldn’t want anyone to read it.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved the opportunity to laugh every day! Prior to Beautiful Mess, my books have dealt with dark corners of the human heart. Beautiful Mess delves into those dark corners, too, but I’ve relegated them to the background. They appear in interludes, so to speak. The book is a celebration of life, our personal quirks, and what happens when those quirks collide with each other during the randomness of life. It was such fun to write!
What inspires you?
My book concepts tend to begin as “What if?” questions. I love what-if scenarios because they force characters to react in ways contrary to their comfort zones.
Have you ever watched a story on the local news—a crime that police solved, a mother who followed her instinct and rescued a child from danger—and thought, “What if someone had made a different choice along the way?” Even our smallest choices set off chain reactions. In the end, we see how everything works out, and it becomes part of our life stories. But what if you changed one small detail? What if you ate lunch at Restaurant B instead of Restaurant A—different wait times, different staff interactions, different patrons, different driving route? What if that altered the rest of your day and impacted your life? What if you met someone at Restaurant B who ended up becoming your spouse? Or what if that would-be spouse was waiting for you at Restaurant A, and now you’ll never meet, or it will two more years before your paths can cross again?
Last year, I traveled to Dallas for work. A major glitch occurred, which caused the airline’s computer system to completely shut down—across the whole nation! It caused delays and cancelations. People were stuck at airports, and some got delayed until the next day. But it didn’t affect me. Why? Because my plane departed 30 minutes before the system crashed. So I made it to my destination on time and without issue—but many of the people who were in the airport the same time I was experienced a big mess. That offers a classic what-if scenario: What if my flight were scheduled for just one hour later? It would have drawn me into the chaos and altered the next 48 hours of my life. Different flights, meetings disrupted, hotel accommodations altered. Now add a fictional life-or-death situation to the mix, and you can build a medical thriller upon it.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?
I’d have to say the Bible was influential because it’s been a part of my whole life. But when you dig into its passages, you find that, after thousands of years, people haven’t changed. They struggled with the same core issues as we do today. So I find story ideas in its pages. My first novel to hit shelves, From the Dead, began with the question, “If the Bible’s prodigal son story occurred today, what would the son’s life look like in our modern world? What mistakes would he make? Who would his father be? How would he try to escape his father’s shadow and live his own life? How would his return home take place, and how would he learn to forgive himself for hurting people along the way?”
Another inspiration for my work is John Grisham. I stopped reading for pleasure in high school because, after doing the mandatory reading they require of you, I had no desire to open a book for fun. The summer before I started college, I brought Grisham’s The Firm with me to read at the beach. That novel was still fairly new at the time. I fell in love with that book. And while I never did much reading for pleasure until years later, every year I picked up his latest book and read part or all of each one. John Grisham is the reason I fell back in love with reading.
And while they aren’t authors, per se, several film writers-directors inspire me. Watching a film by Cameron Crowe, Nancy Meyers, or Garry Marshall makes me want to write. I think it’s because their films are so character-driven.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Ugh! I’ve found the best solution is to keep showing up. The form of writer’s block I face is landing on a concept for a novel, the concept that grabs my heart, the one to which I can dedicate myself for the next year or two. I’ve had many false starts on great book ideas, which feels disheartening. But I realized that the time didn’t go to waste. Even though they didn’t end up being the projects I’d pursue, I still exercised that creative muscle, and exercise is what keeps a muscle in shape. (That revelation hit me this week, and I’ve been writing books for 13 years! Goes to show you never stop learning.) Exercising the muscle also primes the pump for your concept on which you will land. And in the future, I have several books partially planned out. Those former non-starters might enable me to hit the ground running. It’s happened before!
Once I land on the right concept, my greatest enemy isn’t writer’s block, but fear that nothing will come forth. For a writer, that’s just fear of failure in disguise. When you begin a project, emotions run high. But those emotions evaporate a few weeks into the process—in fact, I’ve found they evaporate quicker and quicker with each book. So for me, the key is to plan everything before I begin writing: Create the character bios. Do all the research. Sketch the story in advance, which ends up being a miniature version of the novel, 50 to 100 pages long. It’s so detailed, I can lift dialogue blocks from it verbatim and plant them into the first draft! By doing as much thinking and strategizing as possible in advance, I’ve found I can plow through the first draft. That means as long as I show up to work each day, I’ll make progress whether the emotions are present or not.
So my tip for writers would be to eliminate as many barriers as you can. Find a way to maximize your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses. Just reach your end point—get there however you can. The first draft is never perfect. You can always fix it later, but you don’t have anything to work with until you get it down on paper, so press through whether you feel like it or not.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A self-described “broken Christian,” John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.
Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri—Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his novel-writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.
The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick's From the Dead as “a solid debut novel.” Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed. Publishers Weekly predicted “Herrick will make waves” with his novel Between These Walls.
Herrick's nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free e-book surpassed 150,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon's Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.
His latest novel, Beautiful Mess, folds the legend of Marilyn Monroe into an ensemble romantic-comedy.
Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. “It was a challenge but also a growth process,” he acknowledges. “But in retrospect, I can see God's fingerprints all over it.”
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