Having completed COPOUT a couple weeks ago, I’m looking back at how it came to be. I think I got the idea in about 1987. I was studying film at college in California, and thinking about endings. The best ending some people could come up with was, “And he woke up. It was all just a dream.” I never liked the film The Wizard of Oz for that reason. I love dreams, and the outrageous stuff that happens in them, but “she woke up” is a copout of an ending. I thought of a way to turn that ending on its head and make something great. At that time I had just begun a screenwriting course and was busy on a project called Padrone, so it would be a little while before I could start on Copout.
I started writing Copout as a screenplay in 1989. In early 1990 I bailed out of the USA in favour of traveling. I took a floppy disc of the unfinished Copout with me, and finished it in Berlin, Germany. I had no laptop or iPad back then, so I worked on Copout at computer-owning friends’ houses, having met some lovely people in an English-language Baptist church.
When I moved to England in 1992, I had a completed version of Copout. Over the next five years or so I didn’t do any writing except occasionally returning to Copout to improve it.
Throughout the new milennium I left Copout alone, until a year ago, when I decided to write it as a novel. Facing the facts, I am in no position to make a movie, but I am well-equipped to write a book.
Why did it take a year to make a novel out of what was already a finished screenplay? Is the book very different from the script? No. The problem was that a script is written sparingly, as it’s not the writer’s job to attempt the role of a set designer, actor, special effects guy, costume designer, or director. In the book a lot more detail must be provided. My job as a novelist is definitely to wear all those hats, and I found I needed a lot more detail.
So Copout has taken me 25 years, but don’t worry. I had a life in the meantime. I traveled a lot, got married, raised two kids, and worked three different careers. Now that I’ve got this out of my system I’d better decide on my next project.