The accidental plagiarist: the story of my other novel, how it almost became a TV show, and the movie that killed it.

January 21, 2010


No babies…not again!

As most of you know, I blog a great deal about my novel, The Happy Soul Industry. In it, God hires an advertising agency to help make “goodness” relevant again. In one respect, I started this blog to explore the many themes covered in that book, in particular the challenges of doing the next right thing in an industry criticized for its ungodliness. Hence the name: Gods of Advertising.

What some of you might not know is The Happy Soul Industry was not my first book. That honor goes to The Last Generation, a novel with arguably darker and more secular themes. The Last Generation imagines a world where babies no longer are being born. Instead of treating the material like science fiction, with the usual tropes (Armageddon, devastation, plague), I chose to write about the existing population, exploring how they would behave knowing that they, in fact, were the last generation.

If the concept sounds eerily like the motion picture, Children of Men that is because it is eerily like the motion picture, Children of Men. In fact, that movie in no small way, derailed the development of my novel into a TV series on NBC! It’s true. The Last Generation was in development with Touchstone TV, Phoenix Films and none other than famous Hollywood producer, Mike Medavoy. Don’t take my word for it: Variety article: The Last Generation

Alas, NBC balked at the pilot script (not written by me) and the show was halted before pre-production began. There were numerous reasons for canceling the show but none more heartbreaking than the emergence of Children of Men –a film, by the way, which I still haven’t seen.

Given my recent discussion of plagiarism in advertising, the parallels here are hard to ignore. I think it only fair to state my book came out several years before the movie. However, Children of Men was based on a book (unknown to me), which came out years before mine. I guess that makes me an accidental plagiarist.

Needless to say, had I known about The Children of Men, let alone read it, I never would have written The Last Generation. While Happy Soul differs from the storyline of the movie, the central conceit is identical. That fact alone would have diffused my inspiration to write. And, as you might imagine, inspiration is key when writing a novel. The Last Generation took me a year to write and another two years to rewrite. After that, I had to find a literary agent, publisher and then a Hollywood agent. Still more rewrites. And then we had to pitch. We’re talking five or six years of my life just to get to where I got.

Sure, I was disappointed and frustrated by my turn in Hollywood. But I was also very proud. In terms of movie deals I got farther than most. More importantly, I adored every minute of it. In fact, I hope to go through it again with The Happy Soul Industry –a story, I believe, which offers even more promise as a film than The Last Generation. To that end Sleeping Giant MGMT in Los Angeles is currently shopping the book. We shall see…

For those interested, The Last Generation is on Amazon. Thank you for your readership. God bless.

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8 Responses to “The accidental plagiarist: the story of my other novel, how it almost became a TV show, and the movie that killed it.”

  1. trevor said

    i remember watching children of men and thinking to myself “those motherfuckers…those motherfuckers…i can’t believe they ripped off stef’s book”.

    i also remember thinking to myself “this movie blows” and “i really don’t like clive owen”.

    i guess i was wrong on the first thought, but the second and third still remain true.

  2. patterson may be number one for money, but boy is he a bad writer. even the people he chooses as his co-authors are mediocrities. from what i hear, he was a lousy ad guy as well. as for the problem with similar ideas, that a pretty common problem with screenplays. john hughes, who sold more screenplays than most, told me his secret was something he learned from the ad biz: always go into pitch meetings with three ideas. he said he was never shut out. he believed most screenwriters were lazy and couldn’t come up with enough content. of course, this is coming from a guy who wrote ferris bueller over the weekend while he was still shooting breakfast club.

  3. patterson is just the kind of writer she’s referring to.

    Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.–Flannery O’Connor

  4. I purchased and read the book – and it consumed me as I consumed it. Needless to say it was disappointing with “Children of Men” came out. “The Last Generation” is the story that should have been told it is exploration of our psyche our humanness and ultimately takes the reader on a better journey than “Children of Men”. After watching the film my reaction was “that’s it?” However I still think “The Last Generation” would translate into a serial format – it takes different class structures, different moral fibers and weaves them together in a way that I could truly feel. Postaer gave me a revelation. He made me wonder what I would do and frankly made me seek to answer that question; “what would the world be like if people could not have babies anymore. Moreso it made me question – “What would I be like” “Who would I become?” “The Last Generation” didn’t leave me and still hasn’t. “Children of Men” was out of my life as soon as the popcorn was.

    • SRP said

      Thank you so much for your comment/review of The Last Generation.
      I’d ask you to put it on Amazon as well!
      FYI: I own ALL rights to my novels if Screendoor were interested😉
      Again, thank you for your readership.
      SRP

  5. SRP said

    Interesting thoughts on plagiarism and advertising:
    http://adage.com/agencynews/article?article_id=142783

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