weird ideas since 1973
SYRUP: A novelSyrup icon
  • Syrup: movie tie-in
  • Syrup: US hardback
  • Syrup: US paperback
  • Syrup: Australian paperback (Scribe)
  • Syrup: Chinese paperback
  • Syrup: Australian large paperback
  • Syrup: US Audio
  • Syrup: Australian small paperback
  • Syrup: German large paperback
  • Syrup: German small paperback
  • Syrup: French paperback
  • Syrup: Israeli paperback

Blog 2004

Thu 02

My Syrup Script


Update 6-Dec-04: At Fortress’s request, I’ve removed the script while they make their decision. Thanks to everyone who reviewed it and made suggestions!

Okay, for anyone who’s interested: here’s my attempt at the first twenty-something pages of a Syrup screenplay.

This is what the Fortress guys will use to decide whether I’m the right guy to write the full thing. I would really, really love to do that, but I’m going to try to spend the next few weeks not fretting about it. This is what I’ve decided: if they like the way I’ve done it, then terrific, but if not, well, it’ll just mean that one of my most fervent wishes is dashed in a highly public and embarrassing way. That’s all.

If you’re reading this via your web browser, you might notice I’ve also added the ability for people to leave comments in response to my blogs, something I’ve been threatening to do for ages. This is more hand-written code on my part, so I apologize in advance if something goes wrong, or the comments all disappear, or my web host freaks out again at the load I’m generating on their server (“Aahhhh! Scripts!”) and takes down the whole site.

Assuming this works, though, I’m very interested in what you guys think of my draft. If I actually get this gig, I want to use any feedback I get here to help me write the rest of it.

Mon 29

The Sticky Screen

Syrup Syrup has been optioned! Yes, the heartbreaking, inspirational story of one novel’s quest to become a feature film continues. When the rights became available again earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have a couple of choices, and in the end I plumped for Fortress Entertainment. This is a brand new financing & production company headed by a couple of guys who completely got the story and made me think they could do great things with it.

Last time I went on this particular ride, the production company got themselves a script I didn’t much like. For me it was too focused on the logistics of Scat and 6’s challenges and not enough on their relationship. But there was nothing I could do about this, because when a studio buys the film rights to a novel, the last thing they want is an author hanging around wringing his hands about how his precious words are being changed. I just had to wait until the option expired, and start again.

So this time, with Fortress, I said I wanted to write the script. This was greeted with a cautious, polite silence. I’ve never written a screenplay, and authors have a reputation for being generally terrible at adapting their own books, so Fortress, I suspect, was not thrilled at the idea of throwing time and money at me while I slowly discovered I can’t write for the screen.

Which is fair enough. So we came up with a solution: I’ll write the first 20 or 30 pages, then they’ll either hire me to write the whole thing, or go looking for someone else.

I started this a couple of weeks ago, in between Company edits, and am almost finished. In a few days’ time, I’ll post my work here, so you can judge for yourself: am I the man to deliver this thing, or should I stick to my day job?

Wed 29

Ban This Book

Syrup Last March I discovered that for some reason Canadian sales of Syrup were somewhat weak. By this I mean that in the last six months of 2003, I sold 6 copies. After I posted about this on my site, several Canadians e-mailed me promising to snap up the book, so I’ve been looking forward to a big spike in my next royalty statement.

And here it is! My latest statement shows Canadian sales have increased an incredible 183%. So that’s 17 copies.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful. J.K. Rowling would kill for sales growth like that. And, I suppose, cause the world to be completely deforested. But come on, 17! In other parts of the world, parts just on the other side of your border, Canada, it’s selling great. In fact, it’s in its fourth or fifth printing, and the fact that one of those times was because the publisher pulped a whole bunch of copies before realizing my career wasn’t dead yet doesn’t matter.

The way I see it, there are three possible parties to blame:

  1. Me
  2. My publisher
  3. Canada

I’m going with #3, because I have to work with #1 and #2. Pissing off Canada, on the other hand, means—what, they’ll stop buying their 23 copies a year?

Actually, this gives me an idea. Given I have so little to lose, what I need is to get Syrup banned there. Banned books attract publicity and protest groups, and when the ban is finally and inevitably lifted, they sell like gangbusters. Plus, being the author of a banned book would give me all kinds of literary cachet. I could get invited to top-class cocktail parties and tell Salman Rushdie about the time I used him as an example of a red-hot writerly stud muffin.

Surely it can’t be that hard to get banned; I just need to take a sentence or two out of context, tell some hyper-twitchy group that it’s aimed at them, and sit back and wait for Time to call. The Church of Scientology, for example. Surely there’s something I could find in Syrup that would offend them?

Mon 22

Snubbed by Canada

Syrup Today I received a Syrup royalty statement. This is usually a depressing event, because it reveals either that vast numbers of people are not buying Syrup, or, worse, that the book isn’t for sale any more. This statement, which is the first since Viking brought Syrup back into print, is not quite so heinous. People are buying it. This is a relief not because I get 75c from every copy—well, not just because of that—but because nothing is quite as awful as watching your novel slowly sink into oblivion. Once I got a royalty statement that had negative net sales. I didn’t even know that was possible.

(It’s because bookstores can return unsold stock to the publisher for credit. Even on the royalty statement I’m looking at right now, one bookstore—just one!—returned one copy of the Syrup hardcover, almost five years after it was published. They make me pay back my 75c for that.)

It seems that people are split pretty evenly over whether they prefer Syrup or Jennifer Government, so I cling to the hope that one day the former will be read by as many people as the latter. It still seems possible.

Except in Canada. Now, Canada and Syrup have long had a strained relationship. It has always sold abysmally there, although I have no idea why. I like Canada. I used to work with a Canadian at Hewlett-Packard, Mike, and we got on fine; I don’t think he phoned home to say, “Quick, tell everyone not to buy Max’s novel.” But this latest royalty statement makes the situation truly bizarre. In the last six months of 2003, Canadian Syrup sales were: 6.

Now, serendipitous references to the character in the novel aside, what the hell is with that? Six!? I’ve bought more copies than that! If it was zero, I’d think maybe the book wasn’t available at all, but six—six! It’s enough to make me want to catch a plane to Vancouver and buy an armload full of copies, just to treble national sales. Or maybe I’ll track down Mike and kick his butt.

Thu 12

Return of the Syrup (part two)

Syrup Syrup is back in Australia and New Zealand! Apparently the publisher was checking down the back of a couch for a TV remote and instead found 2,000 copies. Or maybe it was a warehouse, not a couch. Whatever. This means that like in the US and Canada, while most bookstores won’t have Syrup on the shelves, they can now easily order it in for you.

Because there’s limited stock, if you’re keen to get your mitts on a copy in Australia or New Zealand, now’s the time to act. (By going to a bookstore and ordering a book. Was that clear already? Okay.)