Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Fair "Selfie" didn't get a fair chance at all.

ABC's cancellation of "Selfie" feels a little bit like a temper tantrum. "You don't love our show with Karen Gillan and John Cho? FINE. BE THAT WAY." I mean it just seems really early to cancel a show with so much promise that is slowly growing it's fanbase.

I'm guessing that it likely has something to do with whatever salaries Gillan and Cho are commanding, but that's only a hypothesis and one that could easily be wrong. Networks seem to be getting more and more jumpy lately, but even so, a cancellation after only episode 6 seems premature.

It's too bad that their marketing campaign was based around a really shallow television spot, that likely turned off the more intelligent audience the show is really written for. The pilot episode didn't help much either - everything got a lot stronger and better with episodes 2 and 3.

And then there is the title. Clever in some ways, but also problematic for marketing and tagging. How do you follow a show when typing the name into your tumblr search bar just brings up photos of people taking pictures of themselves?

But if this is the era of early cancellations, it's also the beginning of the era of rebirth. So far it's only long-time fan favorite shows like "Community" and "Veronica Mars" that are seeing second life. Perhaps it is too much to expect a show just 7 episodes out of the gate to get a second life. But who knows? If the fans speak up, anything could happen. Anything at all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I am Writing for a Catholic Publisher (When I'm not Catholic)

(The following images are all taken from my "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" pinterest inspiration board. Please visit the board for credits and further awesome photos!)

As I near the end of writing "The Mermaid and the Unicorn" I contemplate again what an odd situation this is - a Protestant author writing a fantasy novel for a Catholic press. I've been working really hard to craft a novel that is faithful to a Catholic Worldview, while remaining accessible and engaging to audiences of other faiths. So far my husband (biased, but Protestant), thinks I've succeeded. I hope that all of you do as well!

Anyhow, I wanted to share some of my further thoughts on the subject of writing Characters of Faith or writing for a Christian audience, and thought that the best way to do so would be to share with you a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago, which I reproduce here with her permission.

AnneMarie said:  Dear Mrs. Hajek, First, congratulations on your marriage! I have been praying for you two, and hope that you are enjoying married life! 

Anyway, I had a thought-and if this is out of line or too personal, feel free to not answer-- but, in one of my writing classes, many students have been discussing the place for Faith (for my classmates and I, Catholicism) in literature. Since you are a huge fan of Regina Doman's books (which have lots of Catholicism sprinkled around), but you're not a Catholic yourself, I was wondering what your perspective is? I've had friends tell me that I can't put overtly Catholic subject matter in fiction writing, because people don't like it/aren't comfortable with it/feel like they're being preached to/if you want to be successful, you can't be overtly Catholic in fiction. 

Do you feel that there is a particular way in which Catholicism (or even Christianity as a whole) is treated better when used in fiction writing? Is there a place for it in fiction writing? 

I said:  Okay so here are my thoughts... I think there are three ways to bring religion (of any sort) into writing.

#1 - to write a religious character. This character lives out their religion, it is an important part of their lives, but it is not the focus of the book. You could have a Catholic or a Muslim or a Buddhist and their faith makes them who they are, but it doesn't make the book a "preaching book." (Orson Scott Card does this very well. What Regina does falls between this and a sort of in-between category of this and #2. Chesterton's Father Brown is this as well.)

#2 - a preaching book. This is what most explicitly Christian literature is. It's not just filled with religious characters, but there must be a conversion story, a crisis of faith, etc. It is nearly impossible to have a book with a main Protestant character that will not be a book of this sort and published by a Christian publisher. Because there are not as many small Catholic publishers, you are more likely to find a book with Catholic characters out in mainstream publishing, but you will probably not find a conversion story in those books.

#3 - a book written from a Christian worldview, but without any sort of proselytizing agenda. This means that ultimately the main moral compass of the book is going to line up with Christian believes, even if it's set in another world. (The Lord of the Rings is an excellent example of this, as is "Till We Have Faces" by C.S. Lewis. Orson Scott Card does this in most of his writing, although technically he is Mormon.)

You can have books that mix and match these catagories, of course. #1 and #2 will nearly always also incorporate #3. But you can have #3 without #1 or #2. Many young writers make the mistake of thinking that in order to have their faith be present in their works, they need to write #2. That's not true. You don't have to have a Christian "message" or "character" to be writing a book that is consistent with Christianity and that brings people to understand something true and beautiful about God's creation. BUT you can definitely have people of faith in secular novels.

I again mention Orson Scott Card, who is becoming more lamblasted for his conservative worldview, but nonetheless writes in the secular science fiction market. He has characters of many faiths in his books, and each one is treated with deep respect. I highly recommend reading some of his work if you haven't already.

There is a line you have to walk, however. One of the main reasons Regina Doman got into self publishing was because her books were "too Catholic" for the secular market but "not Catholic enough/too Catholic for Protestants" for the religious market. Her books are fabulous and I wouldn't' change them a bit, but she would agree that the route she took would be very difficult for another to take without also going the selfpublishing route (and remember, she was published by Bethlehem books first, but they couldn't make enough on their fiction imprint and closed that down). Neither she nor I would recommend starting off in the self-publishing market.

I am grateful to be able to write for Regina's company and therefore be able to write a character of faith without having to write a conversion story. I've found it very hard to write a Protestant character of faith without it sounding very cheesy to me - actually it's been much easier to write a Catholic character because it is much easier to describe the outward forms and the particular journey of this character within the symbolism of the Catholic church. I have a great appreciation of the Catholic Church, which is why I am able to write this book, but I would never be able to write something like this for a secular market. I already know it is going to be difficult to sell this book outside of the Catholic circles, because it will have some elements that will be too foreign for a lot of reader - but I'm doing my best to write it as "an intriguing look into another way of life" rather than an alienating difference.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Hook vs. The Spike

From "The Killian Jones" on Twitter

Let's talk about men in black. Specifically pokey-named 200-year-old men with a penchant for long black leather coats and blonde women with super powers. The comparisons are so strong that it's impossible not to measure the men against each other... and it's not favorable.

I've had issues with the writing of Killian Jones/Hook on "Once Upon a Time" for quite awhile, but it wasn't until rewatching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" that I was able to solidify exactly what bothered me.

(Please note, unless you've watched all of Buffy and through OUAT 4.6, you may find spoilers below)

Spike is perhaps one of the best representations of "bad guy turned good" in television - at least in supernatural television. There are a lot of reasons for this, but first and foremost is the strength and consistency of his character, both in acting and writing. We loved Spike because he was funny, not because he was romantic (although his soft spot for Drusilla showed early on that he was not an ordinary vampire). He was the bad we loved to watch being bad - because he was so hilarious while doing it without once becoming a pathetic comedic character. He was strong, no matter how many times his big bad plans got messed up.

Secondly, he didn't turn good overnight, or even over two seasons. It was a really long process, starting with the insertion of a chip in his skull that prevented him from killing humans. He was forced to ally himself with the Scroobies for protection, blood and fighting kicks, and over time slowly began to care about their well-being. This ramped up with the advent of Dawn in Season 5, with whom he soon struck up a big brother/little sister dynamic. Dawn never saw him as a big bad, and we stopped seeing him that way too... and eventually, Buffy began to be won over as well. But it was a really long road that never quite resolved happily. Spike failed in his quest for goodness on his own merits, so he went off to find a soul and nearly destroyed himself in the attempt. (Well, actually he did, but then he got resurrected for Angel and the comic books. Yay!)

All of this was written slowly, naturally and consistently. We bought it because Spike remained true to character in every episode, on every step of his transformation. Part of this was the genius of Joss Whedon and his writing crew, part of this was the excellent casting of James Marsters in the role.

Spike sets the bar. His character archetype is exactly what OUAT wanted Hook to be. The problem is, they didn't write him consistently. His strongest episodes are the flashbacks, which don't have to be consistent with the current storyline. Instead of serving the character or even the plot, they decided to serve the fans and give them the Hook/Emma ship they wanted, which makes Hook a weaker character. They never wanted to fully commit him to being evil, so in every episode his reactions have to be 'justified.' Instead of making his character stronger, it undermines it. He is never allowed to be a true 'bad boy' and thus is never allowed a clear, strong path of 'redemption.'

Yes, these elements are present, more so in some episodes than others. But it feels as though there has been a battle among the showrunners as to what they want to do with Hook, and somewhere along the line it went from "bad boy" to "romantic lead" and the change was clumsily handled.

The thing is, OUAT is perfectly capable of creating and continuing delicious (and consistant!) baddies. Regina and Rumplestiltskin are pretty universally considered the most intriguing characters on the show. Part of this is due to the strong presence of Lana Parilla and Robert Carlyle. In lesser hands, these characters would not shine nearly as brightly. Would a different actor have helped the problems with Killian Jones? Honestly, I don't know. The writing is undeniably inconsistent and wishy-washy for him in a way it isn't for Rumple and Regina, to the extent where it is difficult to gauge Colin O'Donoghue's actual acting chops.

This bugs me like crazy, because Hook has such potential to be an excellent character. It would be too much to expect him to equal Spike, but even to match 80% of that bad vampire's awesomeness would be amazing. Instead, the wavery writing makes Hook a weaker character with every season, leaving him little to do this year besides making goo-goo eyes at Emma and blame his attitude problems on his hand.

It's a real tragedy, especially because, even operating with writing like that, Hook manages to command one heck of a fanbase (who are undoubtedly going to be ticked off at me for being critical here). All I say is, my expectations are higher because I know a stronger character is possible, and furthermore, that OUAT is capable of pulling it of. So why don't they?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween Photos

Been a bit better, but still very tired. Until I get back from writing, here are some of the best photos from the Hajek Halloween Gathering.