Have you ever dreamed of having your book optioned by a Hollywood producer and adapted into a screenplay? If so, you’ll love this interview with Judith Marshall, author of the novels, Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever and Staying Afloat. Enjoy the interview!
About the Author
Judith Marshall was born in the Napa Valley and has lived in Northern California for all of her life. After leaving her career in the corporate world, she turned to learning the craft of writing. She joined the California Writers Club and started her journey. She continues to hone her craft by attending writing classes, workshops and conferences, all the while reading a variety of fiction. “You must read to write well,” is her motto.
Her newest novel is Staying Afloat, the story of a middle-aged devoted wife and mother who returns to the workplace and loses her moral compass.
Who or what inspires you to write?
My first novel, Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, was inspired by the value of long-term female friendship. I am blessed with a group of trusted friends—five feisty women whose high school friendship has carried us through multiple marriages, dramatic divorces, and maddening menopause. It seemed natural to write a book about our many escapades.
Basing novels on real-life experiences often results in the best, most relatable books. What is the best thing that has happened because of your writing?
My first novel caught the attention of a Hollywood producer who optioned the screen rights and had the book adapted into a screenplay.
How amazing—congratulations! That’s a dream come true for many authors. How did that happen?
About a month after I published the book on Amazon, I received an email from a producer at Blue Moxie Entertainment located in Palm Springs. She said she loved the title and had ordered a book for herself and one for her mother. I instantly replied that I would send her an autographed copy. Within a few weeks, she replied that she had read the book, loved it, and would like to offer me an option for the screen. The agreement came shortly thereafter. I had it reviewed by an entertainment attorney and accepted. It was that simple. It just shows you how important a good title and book cover is.
The producer pitched the story to several large studios and sent a copy to Meryl Streep for consideration. No one accepted. Unfortunately, the movie Eat, Pray, Love had been a bomb at the box office and studios were not interested in another female-based movie.
Unable to successfully pitch the book, the producer decided to have the book adapted into a screenplay and pitched again. No takers. After the option expired, it was renewed. However, with the second expiration, the rights ultimately reverted back to me. I am now looking for another producer.
As you can imagine, this was the thrill of my life. I have a copy of the option check hanging in my office. I also have a handwritten copy of the thank you letter from Meryl Streep to my producer thanking her for sending the book.
Getting your book optioned and adapted into a screenplay is a great success story, whether or not it was made into a movie. Getting movies made is really difficult. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced about writing or publishing?
Marketing, by far.
The marketing monster is the main challenge for most authors. It takes a lot of time, energy, patience, and creativity. What didn’t you do during your writing or publishing journey that you wish you had?
I wish I had starting marketing earlier, before the book was published.
Much about writing and publishing a book is a learn-as-you-go proposition, and sometimes we learn things too late. I think that’s true for many of us, especially indie authors. Do you have a publisher and/or agent, or are you an indie (self-published) or hybrid author?
After more than 200 agent rejections, I decided to establish my own publishing imprint, Kelso Books, buy a block of ISBN numbers, and publish as an independent author on Amazon.
Independently publishing a quality book in any genre is quite an undertaking. Which genre(s) do you like to write in, and why?
I write women’s fiction, books that women like to read.
Do you outline your books before you write them?
No. First, I develop a list of characters with all their physical descriptions and personality traits. I have a plot in mind, but I let the characters take the story where they want it to go.
So you’re what is known in the writing world as a pantser, someone who “writes from the seat of their pants.” Many successful authors write that way. How do you define success as a writer?
Completing a project. It doesn’t have to be published, but whether a poem, novel, or short story, you should feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish it.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment sounds like a good definition of success. It’s not tied to money, number of books sold, or notoriety. If you could have lunch with any author, who would it be?
Richard Russo. I’ve read all his novels and especially loved Empire Falls, which won him the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie.
I’ve read Empire Falls, but now I need to check out Richard Russo’s other books to see the additional adventures he has created. Tell us about a great adventure you’ve had.
The most wonderful adventure I’ve had since I began writing was the thrill of having my novel optioned for the big screen. Working with the screenwriter and producer was both educational and thrilling. I will be forever greater for that experience.
That must have been a tremendously fulfilling adventure, and one many authors would love to experience. Judith, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us!
Readers, you can learn more about Judith and her books at her website, https://judithmarshall.net/.
The story takes place in Northern California in the spring of 2000, when the dot-com boom was at its peak. Elizabeth Reilly-Hayden is a successful executive in her late fifties and a divorced mother of two. Emotionally armored and living alone, she wants only to maintain the status quo: her long-term significant other, her job, and her trusted friends—five feisty women whose high school friendship has carried them through multiple marriages, dramatic divorces, and maddening menopause. Yet in a matter of days, the three anchors that have kept her moored are ripped away.
The group of lifelong pals gathers at Lake Tahoe to attend to the funeral arrangements of their beloved friend, and tries to unravel the mystery of her death. Through their shared tragedy, Liz learns how disappointment and grief can bloom into healing and hope.
Meet Crystal Scott, 43, her husband, David, and Crystal’s charismatic new millionaire employer as Crystal embarks on a journey that takes her far from her daily routine of carpools and cupcakes into the deep end of adultery. Set in a university town in Northern California, Staying Afloat is more than a story about a bored housewife’s dalliance with her boss. It’s an exploration of the ways sex and love can cause a perfectly sane woman to lose her moral compass, and the impossibility of escaping one’s destiny.
5 thoughts on “Author Interview—Judith Marshall”
Great interview. I think Confessions would be a great film. A combination of a touch of hijinks of Lucy’s “Long, Long Trailer” and a less dramatic take on self-discovery of “Hector and the Search for Happiness”.
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Thanks, Renee! Having my book made into a movie would be great fun. But alas, no Hollywood producers are knocking down my door! Judith was very lucky that one sought her out. Her book sounds great and I’m adding it to my reading list.
Congrats to Judith Marshall on getting her book made into a screenplay with a movie option. I hope that it becomes a reality. Her books sound interesting.
Judith, I wish you continued success. It seems you are off to a good start.
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How exciting – even if it was not picked up by a studio this is a huge win! Congrats! Your writing is great and I would not be surprised if more of your work is optioned in the future.
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