‘Burn Notice’: The Novel
Does a real writer accept a gig doing books spun off from films or TV shows? A real writer found the answer to his own question.
This is very funny. Some choice excerpts:
Then I received a midnight call from my brother, Lee, asking whether I might be interested in writing original novels based on “Burn Notice,” the popular show on USA about a blacklisted spy named Michael Westen, who uses his training to help people out of bad situations (with the mob, drug dealers, pimps, etc.).
My first reaction was muted. I was finishing a short story about very depressed people doing very depressing things and trying to figure out another word for “desperation.” My brother, in addition to writing and producing television shows, has written 14 tie-ins, including the current spate of “Monk” books. He was approached by his publisher, Penguin, to see whether he’d be interested in doing “Burn Notice” too, but he declined, saying he knew just the right person.
My brother had long regaled me with the sales numbers he’d racked up with his “Diagnosis Murder” and “Monk” books — each selling roughly what all of my books have sold, combined — and how his tie-ins had dragged along his other books too. It would be like a quarterly annuity to even out the five free copies of the Santa Monica Review I’d receive for the depressing story I was finishing at the time.
Hmm. Those are the Monk books I’ve been seeing and actually running from.
I read novelizations back in their 1970s heyday, but those days are over. I don’t mix TV/movie and books anymore. Unless I see a movie or TV show that’s based on a book.
One thing I find interesting is that the game seems to be vastly different from when my (ex ex ex!) agent told me writers got a flat free for “churning” them out — and no royalties.
At a book signing recently, a man walked up to me, after waiting in line for 10 minutes, to tell me how much he hated the show, how it made him twitch, and how he wouldn’t be reading my book, either. It was a level of antipathy I wasn’t previously familiar with — loathing that gets you out of bed on a Saturday to tell someone that you hate them.