This post contains spoilers.
Speakers and writers are a different breed of people from the rest of the human race, and the very stereotyped yet funny movie Authors Anonymous captured a glimpse of that. Yes, it was stupid and predictable in parts, but I’ve already watched it twice (once with Ray, who dryly said, “Yes, it’s sort of amusing. I can see why you like it.”)
Being a non-traditionally-published author of several books, I objected but still laughed at the way this film poked enormous fun at struggling writers and the self-publishing industry, such as Danny Farina playing a tough war veteran, Tom Clancy-wannabe, getting his book self-published through U R The Publisher.
His botched printed book had a dog graphic on the cover instead of a lion, for his book Roaring Lion – and the back cover copy was erroneously in the Chinese language instead of English.
But self-publishing is changing the face of publishing. Writer, novelist and journalist Marcia Coffey Turnquist writes that most sources say if self-published books aren’t outselling the traditionally published already, they will very soon – and personally, she bets that it’s already happened. What do you think?
Rejection as a new writer/author
In Dennis Farina’s role as John K. Butzin (he says his own name a lot throughout the movie), he reeks of the pride of amateur writers who think more of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3, NLV)…but when he has his first book signing at a hardware store, with no one buying his book and looking so deflated and rejected, I felt so sorry for him!
I think many new writers can relate to these moments of rejection when you’re first starting out. Rejection letters from agents, editors, and publishers. No one or very few showing up at book signings. Sales barely trickling in after a much-anticipated, exciting book launch. Yet John K. Butzin’s strong trait is that he doesn’t quit and he believes in his book (even if he is delusional about his “success”). I envisioned him eventually succeeding from his sheer determination!
Opportunities falling into your lap
This movie combined 2 things I love: writing and a chic flic. The movie is really a love story between Fitzgerald enthusiast/pizza delivery guy Henry Obert (Chris Klein) who’s crushing on Hannah Rinaldi (Kaylee Cuoco-Sweeting), disguised in a plot about a writer’s group of wanna-be-published-authors, who critique each other’s writing.
The newbie writer to the group Hannah (Kaylee Cuoco-Sweeting, the hot, blonde woman who Ray immediately recognized as the star of The Big Bang Theory) stars as an airhead writer who’s never even heard of Jane Austen ~ and who, of course, gets a fantastic agent right away, her book published immediately, and movie deal interests out of it. The opportunities just fall right into her lap, while the other writers struggle with even writing and get doors to publishing slammed shut in their faces. Ugh.
Yet in real life, sometimes it really does seem this way, doesn’t it? Someone in the right place at the right time…sometimes it is “in who you know.”
It’s just too much when Hannah/Kaylee is sitting cross-legged on her bed in her cute pj’s in her new stylish glasses, her hair fashionably up in a ponytail/bun, eating a banana, and writing her first- book/immediate best-seller on her laptop, with the Apple logo prominently shining on the back. I wanted to scream.
“What’s too much?” Ray asked when I said it aloud, groaning. This perfection, of course, is how I am supposed to look when I write. (Eyes roll.)
In real life, Kaylee is just as annoyingly perfect: she was homeschooled and earned her high school degree at 16, she was a nationally-ranked, amateur tennis player before she acted, she has rescued dogs, she’s a vegetarian, and her last name means “cook” in Italian. No wonder Ray likes her!
The rest of the writer’s group struggle with writer’s envy and jealousy, and aren’t great at hiding it. Big fake smiles break across their faces as Hannah announces, coming in late to group, that she has an agent and is being published. They cheer, with their writing group’s motto being the 3 Muskateers’ motto, all for one and one for all.
They break out the champagne to celebrate her victory, and then John K. Butzin loudly and proudly announces that his manuscript Roaring Lion is being looked at by an editor right then. More champagne. The competition…oh yes, we all feel that and do that sometimes, try as we might not to.
As everyone leaves the restaurant, the writing group leader Alan Mooney (Dylan Walsh) and Colette Mooney (Teri Polo) agree that Hannah must have slept with her agent. Self-comfort for their own, unpublished – and obviously crappy – writing.
Writer’s (and speakers’) envy/jealousy is very real. You want to be happy for your friend, you really do. But as she or he tells you all humble that her book is actually being published, and isn’t God good, a terrible, selfish pain slashes through your petty, black heart: “What about me? I’m not a real writer! I’m a failure! And besides, I thought my book was better than hers!”
Yes, it’s ugly. But we can’t pretend we don’t envy or feel jealousy. What we need to do, when those dark feelings come to the surface, is rise above when you are slammed by another’s success, as Robin Black writes in The Green-Eyed Writer: On Literary Envy. Remind yourself that her success takes nothing away from you.
I was glad this movie showed how real writer’s envy/jealousy is. And how some writers can be self-serving, like the character William Bruce (Jonathan Bennett), who wants to walk in Charles Bukowski’s shoes and leeches money off the group members.
I had to google Bukowski on Wikipedia because I’d never heard of him before. He wrote about his home city of Los Angeles, addressing the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work.
The movie setting is in Los Angeles. You sense the modern flavor of the city throughout the movie, from the gluten-free care basket that Colette brought Hannah to Colette’s new-age guru that Colette asked to cleanse the “icky rejection” in the air in her “inspirational” writing space (which is hilariously noisy, from loud construction nearby and a barking dog. I so related to this part, when I try to sit down and work and there’s so many distractions!).
One of the funniest characters in this movie was Alan Mooney (Dylan Walsh). He created and is the writer’s group leader, and everyone must adhere to the function of the group. Alan is an eye doctor and goes around with a recorder to capture his great writing ideas – his novel’s character names like “Banjo” and a dog named “Woof.”
I’ve encouraged my coaching clients to record their ideas for writing a book, especially if they have trouble with the physical part of writing: you can always hire a transcriptionist to actually write it (type it) for you.
I felt the movie brilliantly captured creative writers who talk about writing a book and are always getting inspired ideas, but procrastinate and never write it.
Alan says his wife Colette is his dream – and she winds up crushing those dreams. That is very real life, too, isn’t it?
But I believe in my heart that God wants our dreams to come true, and He will help us to achieve them with hard work and if we don’t give up!
While the movie didn’t end the way I wanted (I won’t spoil this part!), it did have a satisfying ending. Yes, the movie is silly, greatly exaggerates writers’ struggles and writing success (although sometimes it happens the way it did to Hannah and Henry), and I don’t advise it for families since there’s some crude language in it.
But overall, I give it a 2 thumbs up and will probably watch it again for laughs. I recommend it especially for writers.