Will Clarke: The Very Worthy
This morning I got a call from Will Clarke, the local adman-turned-genius-novelist whose mug graced a cover of the paper version of Unfair Park last summer. Turns out he's in Los Angeles, meeting with people who have people who take meetings with other people--entertainment bizzers, in other words, or "agents" and "managers" and "producers" I think they like to be called. This week Clarke's out there trying to sell his ideas for TV shows, which might seem a little odd for a novelist, only the guy's turned out to be the kind of author studios just adore: Not only did Paramount Pictures agree to make a movie version of his debut, last year's indescribably thrilling comic masterpiece (oh, wait, just described it) Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, but just a few weeks ago Sony Pictures announced its intention to make a film out of his forthcoming novel The Worthy, a ghost story about a frat boy who haunts his killers that Simon & Schuster will get into bookstores in two weeks. It will be produced by Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick, the husband-and-wife team responsible for the likes of Jarhead, Memoirs of a Geisha and the upcoming Tokyo Suckerpunch (based on the brilliant novel by Isaac Adamson and starring Tobey Maguire). The Worthy's on as fast a track as Hollywood will allow ("Everybody wants to do everything quicky out here," Clarke says, "and I don't know what that means"): Writing the screenplay are Brendan O'Brien and Andrew J. Cohen, longtime associates of 40-Year-Old Virgin writer-director Judd Apatow. They come with good recommendations from George Washington director David Gordon Green, another local boy made good. "I had dinner with David, and he said Andrew is hysterical," Clarke says, surely with fingers crossed.
The deal with Sony came about, Clake says, through his movie agent at Creative Artists Agency, who sent the book to producers and found several interested in the deal--especially since Clarke had already sold Lord Vishnu to Paramount, thus certifying him as a hot commodity. "I did a round of meetings, met with some studios, and it just stuck at Sony," Clarke says. "And Doug and Lucy are ideal as far as someone to work with. They are able to get things done. They have an unbelievable ability to get movies made and have a good respect for writers and artists. My agent just kind of sent The Worthy to certain producers he thought would be right, and they liked it. I really don't know enough about what they do out here to know why." He laughs. "It's like dating; You send the book out, and some people go, 'I like the book, but I don't want to marry it.' Or then you go out on a second date and meet the studio, and if all goes well, you consummate the relationship."
Speaking of Green, he's still scheduled to direct Lord Vishnu, only there's a hold-up: Producer Michael London, who produced Sideways and the forthcoming The Illusionist with Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti, was all set to go with the movie at Paramount until he formed his own production company, Groundswell, which is set to make movies for less than $20 million. But that meant London severed his deal with the studio, leaving the future of Lord Vishu in the hands of the movie-biz gods at the moment. It's likely that even though Vishu's been in the works for two years, The Worthy may jump in line ahead of it, though Clarke says everyone's still attached to the project.
Good thing Clarke finished his second novel years ago (he began writing The Worthy in the mid-'90s and self-published it three years ago): With the showbiz minutiae to attend to and a promotional tour for The Worthy beginning in Dallas July 10 at the Northwest Highway Barnes & Noble, how much time could he have to begin writing his third book?
"The publishing process takes so much attention, and it's so outward-looking," Clarke says. "I enjoy the inward process of writing, and it's hard to do that when you're out there selling your book and yourself. It's so much more like selling Amway than you want to admit. Your friends and family buy way more than they want, and you're always pushing it on people. They throw parties, and guests are expected to buy it. That said, I have started writing the third book, which at least starts in Dallas, though it probably won't end here. It's about a guy who never sleeps. He's not an insomniac, he's just never slept since he was born. It's kind of [John] Irving-esqe or Dickensian, in that it starts with the birth of the child. The doctors tell the mother he's just got colic, but he's awake all the time and feeding all the time, and it drives the mom mad, to the point where she leaves him with the father, who can sleep through anything. It deal with, if you have a gift do you have a moral obligation to use it." --Robert Wilonsky