07 January 2012
FROM STAGE TO SCREEN by Carol Costa
The New York production of my first full-length play prompted a local newspaper columnist to contact me and write an article on me. The article caught the attention of two women who wanted to start a playwrights’ support group here in Tucson. We met and organized a group we called Playwrights in Production.
On Sunday afternoons we would meet and read each others plays and then discuss them. During this time, I wrote a number of other plays both full-length and one acts.
I also took over the small community theater at my church and began directing one or two productions a year in addition to writing comedy skits for the musical/variety shows
sponsored by the church choir.
One of my full-length plays won an award and was produced at a historic theater in Michigan. It was then produced in New York city with a musical score written by the famous composer, Bernie Wayne. Some of my one acts were also being produced in
regional theaters around the country. I was a having a great time, but I wasn’t making
Then, I attended a mystery writers conference in California and heard one of the members speak about how much money could be made from screenplays. So, still liking to jump on passing bandwagons, I wrote some screenplays. At that time, in order for any production company to consider your scripts. you had to have a WGA agent (an agent who is sanctioned by the Writers Guild of America, the union for screenwriters). I tried to get a WGA agent to represent me, but they weren’t interested in a writer from Arizona.
So, I contacted the Writers Guild of America, found out what you had to do to be sanctioned by them and formed my own WGA agency, Star Literary Service. Because I have a very distinctive voice, I didn’t want to call around and pitch my own scripts. Instead, I coerced my sister, Marilyn, who was between jobs at the time to be my agent. We had no idea what we were doing and tried some pretty outrageous stunts. Some day I’ll write a book about Star Literary Service and the fun we had running it.
We had other clients, besides me, and made some good contacts in the movie industry. We took meetings and learned as we went along with the help of some very nice producers who thought we were amusing. While we never got a movie made, we did get some scripts optioned and stayed afloat for several years.
When I had an opportunity to have my award-winning play produced in West Hollywood, I took it. Our plan was to invite all our producer friends to the show and get to know them better. It was a good plan and might have worked if the Northridge earthquake hadn’t struck and put the area in chaos. The show went on despite the fact that people were too busy digging out of the rubble to come to the theater. Shortly after I returned to Arizona, we closed the agency.
With the agency closed, I decided to write novels again. This time I wrote what I liked to read, mysteries. Soon, I attracted a New York book agent. She took me on because of a mystery novel I sent her with a female protagonist called, Dana Sloan. I had created the character a few years earlier for an anthology series called, The Women Sleuth Anthologies.
Never content to sit back and wait for others to make deals for me, I continued to market my plays and other unsold books, like those two romance novels. And that’s when I started the period in my career I like to call, “I’ve got one of those!”.
I saw a market listing for Avalon books. This publisher was looking for romance novels with heroines who had careers. Both of the heroine’s in my novels had careers so I sent Avalon a proposal for the first novel. Avalon came back and asked to see the entire manuscript. Great except for one small problem. When I wrote that novel everyone wanted sex scenes in the stories and I had several in both my romances.
Avalon Books did not publish anything with premarital sex in it.
Back to the computer with the first book I had renamed, Labor of Love, to take out
the sex and replace it with something sweet and innocent. I was working on this
at our condo in San Diego when my youngest son who lives in that area stopped by.
Of course he wanted to know what I was doing. I told him and he was stunned.
For days afterwards, he kept saying he couldn’t believe his mother wrote explicit sex scenes. I told him that he should remember that he and his siblings didn’t fall off a turnip truck.
Avalon eventually published both of my “cleaned-up” romance novels and that opened the door to other book sales.