We have survived the crazy weather of the past week, so it’s time to get back to brewing and writing. Deborah Osment has just published her first novel, I CANNES, a fictionalized account of her true adventures at the Cannes Film Festival over the years. She has dropped in today to share a little bit of wisdom and experience with the Books & Blondes audience.
Thanks for stopping in today! What can you tell us about your current work in progress?
I have two works in progress. First, let me give you a little bit of background. I was in a doctor’s office where there was nothing to read but romance novels. I got about two chapters into one and said, “I can do this.” As I thought that, the plot and characters for my first novel blossomed in my head. I have been to the Cannes Film Festival seven times and I decided I could sandwich the highlights of those trips into one and write a book.
Employing that same technique – taking true events from my life and fictionalizing them – I am now writing a book about the years I spent working at Playboy while also dating a rock and roll star. At that time, Mr. Rock Star insisted on an agreement that we were together when we were together but we could each do whatever we wanted when we were apart. He kind of freaked out when I got the job at Playboy and was dating blue jean models and going to the mansion. Hoist with his own petard, as they say. The book is humorous and told from his point of view.
My second project came about because I didn’t want to leave the characters and the world I created in the first novel so I had my heroine discover she was pregnant after she returned home. This is another book told from the point of view of the man and it explores a topic I have long wanted to explore – a really nice man who wants to actively be a father when the mother isn’t sure she wants the same thing.
What’s your primary method of writing? Do you brainstorm, work from an outline, or just jot down whatever comes to mind?
I am four different types of a writer.
As a novelist, as I said above, I mostly cannibalize my own life for characters and events. I simply sit down at the computer and let it flow then edit and edit and edit and re-edit. I would estimate that I read my first novel “I CANNES” forty times and that half of what I wrote got edited out of the final 90,000 word book.
As I screenwriter, I have a very different process. I get an idea – or am assigned one. I do any research that needs to be done. I then take a look at the elements that make up a good screenplay. What, for instance, is the theme of the screenplay – the overall statement I’m trying to make. What are the two plot points? Each comes out of the blue and turns the action in a completely new direction. Plot point one comes about twenty minutes into the screenplay and plot point two about twenty minutes from the end. From these two decisions evolves an outline and, from the outline, a screenplay in which every scene exists to bolster the original theme.
I am also a journalist and a playwright. As with screenplays, each of these has a proven structure meant to most engage its particular audience. I do all possible research and write according to the rules
Whichever form you choose to write in, it’s important to remember that the best reason to really know the rules is so you can break them into little teeny tiny pieces.
Who inspired you to get into writing as a profession?
I wrote my first story – about a ballet school – when I was three years old. My mom typed it for me as I dictated. I had my first paid journalism position when I was thirteen. I simply am a writer.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a writer?
The biggest challenge was learning the rules and that, in certain cases, they absolutely must be followed.
Let’s go silly for a moment – if you could be any character from a TV series, who would it be and why?
This will show how old I am. I would be “Zorro” or any one of “The Musketeers” or “Robin Hoods”. I am a swashbuckler at heart.
Do you have a particular favorite spot to write? How about a favorite food or drink to stoke the ingenuity?
I write in an armchair in my living room and use energy shots to get the juices flowing. I have one fairly strange habit when I’m writing. I listen over and over again to British quiz shows like “The Big Fat Quiz”, “Mock the Week” and “QI”. There’s something about the tone and rhythm that I find liberating.
What sort of advice can you give to those who are just getting into this field?
My advice may be obvious. Take classes. Don’t just read books. Join writers’ groups in your community. You want the interaction and feedback from teachers and those who are striving just as you are.
Write. Write. Write. Look on it as learning to play the piano. You need practice and, if you hit a few wrong notes along the way, that’s okay.
I have a unique but very helpful writing hint: Record and transcribe your conversations. This will help immeasurably with reproducing natural dialogue and the differences in rhythm and word use from one character to another.
ABOUT DEBORAH OSMENT
Deborah spent a decade as American Associate of leBrocquy Fraser Productions where she consulted on scripts since 2004. The Dublin-based company produced 2004’s Golden Globe-winning shot in Afghanistan and winner of the Cannes Junior Palme d’Or. Deborah was the American Production Coordinator for the documentary “Burma Soldier”, distributed by HBO and winner of the 2011 Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the United Nations Association Film Festival. Among other projects, Deborah consulted on “Le Bonheur d’Elza” which won Best First Feature at LA’s Pan-African Film Fest in 2012 and “The Forsaken Land” by Vimukthi Jayasundara of Sri Lanka, which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes in 2006. Her latest film is SANDBOY, directed by Vittoria Colonna and Ex Prod by Julian Lennon.
She attended the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, representing the German/Indian production, “Karmic Quest”. An award-winning screenwriter and film producer, she has a strong focus on international filmmaking. Her expertise led to an invitation from AFI to co-produce their short film, “Ubuntu’s Wounds”. Written and directed by South African Sechaba Morojele, this comment on post-apartheid South Africa won Best Short Film at the prestigious Pan-African Film Fest in LA, and screened at Cannes and Toronto. It was distributed by HBO.
In 1996, Deborah wrote, produced and production designed One of Those Nights, winner of The Diamond Halo Award for Best Feature Film at the Santa Fe Film Festival in 1997, screened in Cannes 1998, and was one of the six films chosen annually for Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca-Kodak First Look Series, the forerunner to his Tribeca Film Festival. It is being distributed by Echelon Studios.