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Book Cum Screenplay or a 'Tall, But Not Dark, Stranger'

My first ever screenplay was a book or I thought it was, although everyone else said it was not. Prior to writing my book-cum-screenplay I had not written anything except some press releases, advertising copies, and business contracts and letters, the tasks I excelled at, I must say.

The idea of becoming an author came by chance, even by fate. In 2010, I was in New York, visiting. Being interested in digital publishing, especially when applicable to life style magazines, I dug into a list of relevant meet-ups and chose the one that sounded more appealing and not too techy. There, while mingling with New York media crowd in a cramped void of fresh air bar, I unintentionally stepped on a toe of a tall, but not dark, stranger. The stranger was holding an iPad in his hands. His eyes glowing with excitement, he was explaining something to someone from some publishing house.

The urgent matter of his toe being stepped on made the stranger divert his tireless tech savvy attention to me. And not in vain, for I got fascinated with his iPad. Looking at it, I decided to buy one for myself before leaving New York.

The iPad aside, the name of ‘the tall, but not dark, stranger’ was Robert. He turned out to be a Scottish national with some aristocratic roots who had lived the past 30 years in the USA. Almost Lord Byron, but not quite. Having found a common ground, we exchanged mobile numbers. Before my leaving the Big Apple with an iPad in my suitcase, I met Robert once for a drink in another New York bar.

Since then, we had kept in touch by exchanging emails. Robert was into synchronicities, practical wisdoms, and occasional philosophy. He shared his views on life with an openness of a true American citizen. In my turn, I told him about books I had read, travels I had done, and adventures and excitements I had faced in the uber-modern Dubai of the mysterious UAE – my new residence place.

Some months later, on the Christmas Day of 2010, while sitting at my desk and contemplating the stretch of the turquoise sea before me, I received from Robert an email which served as a divine kick to my creativity. In his email, he was writing about a dream he had recently had. The dream portrayed a woman and a man having a one-million-dollar idea for a book – a thriller. They were also writing the book together. Unfortunately, Robert could not remember what exactly that idea was. Having read his email, I took his dream as a sign and declared in my reply that we could start writing that ‘one-million-dollar thriller’ straight away.

Taken aback, Robert tried to make a quick u-turn, saying it was just a dream and maybe, most probably, had nothing to do with reality for the writer he was not. But it was too late. Kicked into action, I had already started writing the first page of that ‘one-million-idea book’. The main character, as her name, came to me easily – Angela Moreaux.

The opening scene, too.

In my mind’s eye I vividly saw a silver Bentley whizzing like a bullet through the snowy Moscow night. The Bentley was whizzing no more no less towards a night club where an elegant, tall dark stranger - an aluminium tycoon - was seated at a table. The name of the tycoon came as if by magic too – Kazimir Stankevitch.

With such a beginning, my tall, but not dark, Scottish aristocrat from New York was deprived of a heroic role. So, he resorted to a secondary one of a character he was responsible for – a certain Juan MacBride. The creation was purely his own and had some mixed features and traits, partly taken from himself and partly from some novels he had read.

Being a romantic at heart, or so he believed, Robert projected his romantic notions and ideas onto the character who in turn projected them onto Angela Moreaux whom Robert uncunningly thought was me. But I was not her and her was not me. Angela Moreaux, as she was depicted in my first book-screenplay, was the character of her own free will and independent life. She came to me out of universal subconscious and, except some minor details, had nothing to do with me or my life, as, in fact, all other characters in the book. Apart, of course, from Juan MacBride.

In the course of our writing, Juan MacBride had become a stumbling stone as much as an obstacle both, for myself and for Robert. The character seemed to have the life of his own which he imposed onto lives of other characters, constantly messing up the story and plot line.

Soon, it became apparent that Robert as well as his character had become uncomfortable with and in the book and wanted to get out. By that time, which was six months down the line, it also became clear that the ‘one-million-dollar-idea’ of a book was not working and my and Robert’s writing styles are not compatible either. To my mind, the flowery writing of Robert was very much 1980s and rather passé. And my swoosh cinematographic style framed into episodes of 2-3 pages was not to Robert’s taste. So, we had parted, on a bad note. Juan MacBride was mysteriously killed and cemented into a wall of some villa on the outskirts of Moscow.

With Robert and Juan MacBride out of frame, I had finished my first book-screenplay alone and called it ‘My Trickster’ (re-written and turned into a screenplay 'A Tricky Game' - 2018). The trickster, of course, was Angela Moreaux, but everyone else in the story was no less of one.

I self-published the book and everyone who had read it said it was not a book but a screenplay, for they ‘watched’ it as a movie, not ‘read’ it as a book. It was a huge compliment, but at the time I was bitterly disappointed for I genuinely believed that I was writing a book or was it my ‘tall, but not dark, stranger’ who thought so?

Seraphima Bogomolova

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