Author: The Book of Maev

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Chapter Ten of The Long and Winding Road is on its way – slower than I’d like, but coming soon…and I thought after nearly five months, a sneak peek was in order.  (Also, for anyone who’s forgotten the details of the plot, I would definitely recommend re-reading at least the last chapter ahead of time).

With Dan’s co-del making its leisurely way through Cambodia and Laos as well as Vietnam, and Amy still in hiding, the political blogosphere had to turn to other sources for inspiration.

Which is probably why they, oh so coincidentally, publish footage of Kerry – doing what every congressional staffer does when their boss is out of down, getting college-girl drunk on weak D.C. cocktails in a bar full of other political staffers, and ranting about the people deserve better than to have a pimp as President.

“The President is a fucking pimp” goes viral, though it’s almost impossible to judge whether the people using it intend it more as a criticism or a compliment.

As she watches the news that Saturday morning, watches the TV anchors desperately try not to quote Kerry directly, she feels a chill.

It’s too memorable, too quotable, too “have you no decency.”

There are moments which crystallise presidencies, which go down in history as the point of no return.  The Fort Sumter, the Black Tuesday, the Saturday night massacre…

The President is a fucking pimp is going to be one of them, she knows it in her bones. It’s all over but the screaming.

stars-bean:

High Society (1956) dir. Charles Walters

High Society isn’t a patch on the original (any film with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in it automatically wins in my book) but Grace Kelly’s clothes aren’t exquisite.

wecouldstillbegreat:

Well, look, it’s George Looney. 

Hey, Kent. 

Dan, what are you doing here? 

Everybody needs to be somewhere, Mike. I need to be here. 

So, did they cure you or whatever? 

No, I did not need to be cured, Michael. I diagnosed myself with an acute case of “everything’s fine.” Can I get anybody a coffee? 

Uh, yes, please. 

Yeah? Okay. 

Milk and two heaping spoonfuls of whatever the fuck you’re on. 

In retrospect, I find it interesting how close Dan’s season 7 look is to his styling is here. Further proof for my “Dan’s season 7 arc is a drawn out downward spiral where he slowly destroys everything in his life he ever valued” theory – even if the way the story is presented goes against that a little bit.

I am ashamed to think of how much of season 7 I might have tolerated if they’d given Dan a beard.

princesscas:

How it feels to read a really good fic and find the author has dozens more like it 

How’s TLAWR coming along? No pressure, just love this story! ❤️

Oh thank so much you anon!

And don’t worry about pressure – any time someone sends me an ask like this or a question about the story, it’s just a reminder that people do want to read it and do care about where it goes – the best possible motivation, in other words.

As for progress, it’s coming together, though slower than I’d like.

It’s partly a factor of my writing process – I had planned out the chief action of this chapter months ago (and there is a lot of action), but now I’m really pinning down the minutia of how the plot will unfold. There’s a central section in the chapter of roughly 24 hours where the personal and political plots will both reach their climax, and I’m having to really think through exactly how things happen and in what order in a lot of detail.

This gets so detailed that I’m drafting lines of dialogue in my head, despite not having started writing it yet. (I have a great line for Selina coming up – I hope someone notices it!).

Beyond that, I think…well, I don’t know if I had Covid-19 (it’s not possible to get tested in the UK unless you’re hospitalised, which fortunately I wasn’t), but this thing packs one hell of a punch. Long after I’d stopped coughing and shivering with a temperature, I still felt exhausted – and even now, when I’m recovered enough to do a 10k cycle every day, I still feel this kind of…lethargy, I guess. (Though maybe that’s just the result of being in lockdown, I don’t know). In retrospect I think that even though I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, I probably went back to work too early.

So at the moment it feels like everything is taking me longer than it should to get started – which is weird, because I’m usually what people consider a workaholic.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to actually writing this chapter – I always like writing the climax better than the set-up, and there are so many scenes in this one that I’ve had in mind from the very start of the story. The other chapters I’ve looked forward to this much are the ones with the election campaign and the White House Correspondents Dinner, which should give you an idea of how much fun this is going to be.

I also can’t wait to see people’s reactions to what I do in this chapter – I’ve been teasing it for ages, but no one has guessed it yet – and I can’t help but think at least some of you will be screaming at me (in a good way) when it becomes clear where things are going.

Top five Irish TV shows (feel free to include anything from Northern Ireland)?

What a great question anon!

I could answer Game of Thrones, since it was filmed in Belfast and has the cream of Irish theatre talent filling most of the background and smaller roles… but that would probably not be answering the question in the spirit intended.

But it does get to the point that Ireland is a small place, and the film and TV industry is similarly small (I once dated a guy who worked on Game of Thrones as a cameraman – no, he didn’t tell me any spoilers), so there simply haven’t been that many really high-quality TV shows produced.  It’s an economy of scale thing – a lot of the tv shows I’m going to mention were co-produced with British TV channels, for that reason, but I’m going to consider them Irish because the creative teams (writers, directors, actors) were largely Irish.

1. Father Ted – I don’t think I properly understood when Father Ted was airing just how ballsy it was to depict the Irish Catholic Church as a fundamentally ludicrous institution. And my god does this series get some of the specifics of Irish life – the episode where they go on holidays on the west coast, and it rains for a week solid, is like something out of my childhood. I also think this has probably been the most influential of all of the shows I’ll mention – I’ve seen some of the comedy beats it plays with show up in a lot of other TV shows.

2. Paths to Freedomstarring two actors who’ve gone on to better-known things (Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones and John Bates from Downton Abbey), in a faux-documentary about two convicts attempting to rebuild their lives. One is an upper-middle class former gynaecologist, the other is an inner-city career criminal (albeit a deeply incompetent one). Believe it or not, it’s a comedy…and the entitlement of the various characters is beautifully exposed. (Some of you might struggle with the Dublin accents)

3. Bachelors Walk – created by John Carney (who went on to make Once and Sing Street), Bachelors Walk is as a perfect a slice of Celtic Tiger life as you could find, all about the romantic trials and tribulations of three Dublin bachelors (who live in an incredible house on…Bachelors Walk, right in the middle of Dublin). It really captures what it felt like in Ireland in the early 00s, when the economy was booming, emigration had stopped for the first time in generations, and Dublin was one of the most exciting cities to live in.  (There is however a plot in the first season about a guy having an affair with a schoolgirl that I suspect has not aged well).

4. Derry Girls – if you’re following me you shouldn’t need me to explain just why Derry Girls is wonderful!

5. Love/Hate – Love/Hate is a crime drama set in Dublin, and a very tough-minded one. I haven’t actually finished it (possibly an isolation project), but I have watched the first three seasons – the start is a bit weak, but it’s a show that really, really steps up its game as it continues.  I would put the third season up beside any season of ‘Peak TV’ produced by HBO, and I don’t say that lightly.  Not an easy watch mind you, given the levels of violence.  What Robert Sheeran and Ruth Negga were doing before they got super famous.

I would also like to mention Give My Head Peace, a comedy show about two families in Belfast, that I think may be modelled on an old American sitcom – the father is an Irish nationalist, and his son-in-law is an Ulster Unionist… naturally (comedy) sparks fly.

Beyond that, there was a…what I hesitate to call a comedy produced by the Irish language TV station (TG4) that is still years later the weirdest TV programme I have ever watched. It was called C.U. Burn, and it was about a rural Irish undertaker and the ruthless business practices he embraces when a competitor tries to set up in an undertaking business.  It’s entirely in Irish, so not one I can recommend without subtitles…and the overall tone is so odd I’m not sure I can entirely recommend it, but it’s definitely an interesting TV show. 

Man I wished Reid got to do more impressions in Veep. He is so good at them!!

I know, he’s like sociopathically good at impressions. The few times we see Dan imitating someone else in the show, it’s almost like Reid Scott is purposefully dumbing down his talent at imitating others because Dan Egan isn’t actually an actor. (Also, do more comedy, Mr. Scott. You’ve already said you think it’s better and more challenging.)

how did tell it slant go?? i really hope i went well because it was such an amazing concept.

Alas, having Tell It Slant on feels like it was a lifetime ago.  The last people I actually saw in the flesh were the actors, at the after party the day before I got sick.

As for how it went…well, I learned a few things.

One, that I never – literally never – get tired of hearing an audience respond to my play.  Of the fifteen nights of the show, I think I watched ten or eleven, and would happily have watched all of them.

Two, there will never be a night when the actors are word perfect – learn to live with it and accept it.

Three, reviews are hard.  We got some very nice reviews (I’ll flag this one in particular, because the reviewer really seemed to understand what I was trying to achieve), and one incredibly nasty one.  

In a way that was a useful experience – I beat myself up quite severely for two or three days over the worst reviews…and then I discovered a baseline of a confidence that I never knew I had.  Basically there were two kinds of bad reviews in my book – ones that I disagreed with, but could see where they were coming from, and understand how they came to that perspective – and ones that were just wrong. Flat out, blatantly wrong

This was the first time I was involved in the production from start to finish – because I’ve mostly done shorts, my involvement in rehearsals has tended to be minimal – and it’s an incredible experience watching a play be transformed from a bunch of words on a page into a breathing story that an audience responds to.  I think as the writer I probably have the strongest sense of just how vast the distance travelled is – it’s incredibly satisfying and weirdly beautiful to watch it happen.

Beyond that, I think from your ask you’re aware of the gender-flip – our central couple swapped roles every night.  And it was fascinating to me to see both how different the two versions of the play were.  So many moments, both big and small, play differently depending on if it’s a man or a woman.

Admittedly, I’m almost close to it to really see the differences the way an audience member coming to it cold might, but even so…the flip became almost a litmus test for people’s perceptions of gender.  People – both audience members and reviewers – would state baldly that one character was obviously masculine, or clearly far more natural when played as a woman…without seeming to realise just how much that was revealing about them, rather than about the play.

In my fantasy world, where we had an infinite budget and months of rehearsal time, we would flip the central couple so that depending on which night you came, you would see two men, two women, and (as we did in our fringe production, with a minuscule budget) a man and a woman on each side of the couple.  Admittedly, this might murder the actors, as it would mean they would all have to know four different versions of the same show…so I’m not going to hold my breath.

Maybe, some day, we’ll get to play it that way!  I was able to get the play published, so it’s not impossible that it could be revived.  (I also have some spare copies knocking around – one can be yours for the princely sum of five pounds plus postage!).

I definitely want to keep doing this, and put the next show on (if/when the theatres re-open), but next time with more than two months time between deciding to do the show and opening night. The amount of planning we had to do in such a short time was incredible. (And part of that is cracking the accountancy and budgeting side of things, because it is not my skillset – and finding out midway through the production that the director had added 30 extra hours of rehearsal – that weren’t in the original budget, but did have to be paid for) nearly sent me into a nervous breakdown.  In the end we broke even, but I would really have liked to have come out of the process with some capital towards the next show…but sadly, that didn’t happen this time.  Money is the worst).