How Pursuit of Diana was Written

V: Pursuit of Diana, was my third novel, published in paper by Pinacle Books 1984, and in hardback by Gregg Press 1985. It’s available from Amazon as a used book only. I wrote it under duress.

I was waiting in the airport for Diane to come back from a business trip. The original broadcast of the first miniseries was being shown on the overhead monitors. I had time to kill, and nothing better to do, so I watched it for a while. I did not like it at all. In fact, I found that I did have something better to do, which was to move far enough away away so that I couldn’t hear it, and just stare at the waiting room seats, which were all full.

This is not a review of the series. It was successful enough that they produced a second miniseries, and many people I know really liked it a lot. I have some technical problems with the story, but then I have technical problems with almost every movie and video. But my strong distaste for “V” is part of this story. Diane arrived at last, we went home, and I didn’t think about it again.

But on a Friday, some time after the second miniseries was broadcast, I got a call from my agent. The producers were going to do a weekly series, and wanted a number novels to be published, starting when the first of the TV episodes began. She had called me because she thought I could write quickly. I was kind of excited at first. It isn’t often that a very minor beginning writer gets called on to write a book based on a TV series.

I expressed my doubts, but after a little while I remembered watching a little bit of it in the airport, and I told her I wan’t the right person for the job. I had seen only a few minutes of it, and I had not liked it. She told me that there would be other well known writers contributing novels, for a total of twelve, including A. C. Crispin, Tim Sullivan, and Somtow Sucharitkul (S. P. Somtow). I reminded her that since I hadn’t seen it, I knew absolutely nothing about it, and couldn’t possibly do a decent job. She asked if I anybody I knew might have recorded it. I was going to say no, but then I remembered that a friend had in fact recorded both miniseries on VHS. I told my agent I’d have to call her back.

I got the tapes and played them. It was hard to watch. I found the premise to be completely implausible (water is vastly abundant in our Kuyper belt and Oort cloud), the science was wrong (there are no planets in a system which contains a dwarf star, and shape shifting belongs in fantasy), and the characters (except for Juliette, whom I rather liked) were weak and inconsistent. I disliked the first series just as much as I had before, and I disliked the the second one even more. But I hadn’t published anything in three years, and here was a chance, so I watched the tapes over and over until I could have written the scripts myself, and have done a better job.

I called my agent back on Monday and told her I thought I could do it. She told me the completed novel was due in four weeks. Gasp! I had written the Planet Masters in eight and a half days, but that was a fluke, powered by overwhelming inspiration, never to be repeated. I told her that it wasn’t possible, especially since I was committed to other things for two of those four weeks, and I couldn’t get out of them. She said the advance would be $7,500, and did I want the job or not.

Did I sell out? I am not that kind of an artist, doing art just for the sake of doing it. I have art like that. Given the skill and the talent of the artist, it can be wonderful. Van Gogh comes to mind. I do write just for the sake of writing, and I’ve got thousands of pages to prove it. They’re not worth anything. But I’m a professional. I expect to get paid for what I do. The advances on my other two books were only $2,500 each. But still. Michaelangelo worked for hire. He didn’t sell out. Rembrandt worked for hire. Dostoevsky serialized in the newspapers. Dickens serialized in magazines, paid by the word. Not bad company, though I don’t belong among them in any other way.

They paid Michelangelo to paint a ceiling.

Seventy five hundred dollars meant a lot to me at that time. Diane was working on her Ph.D, and I was trying to get another book published. Our stipend from UNC Chapel Hill was $3,500 the first year, $2,800 each of the next two years, and nothing after that. We had no income. We were borrowing from Diane’s family, and were deeply in debt. We didn’t have to start paying back until Diane got her degree and got a job, but that was some years off, and we didn’t just scrimp, we went without, and made do in other ways. By gluing blocks together out of cardboard, and using scrap lumber from an old shed, you can make bookshelves.

I really, really disliked the “V” series, and I would have only two weeks in which to write the book, but we could live for two years or more on what it would bring me, before we had to borrow again. We could eat out, at McDonalds, once a month. I’m not kidding. And getting the degree, and getting a job, would wind up taking another four years. So I said yes. I was told that the first episode of the TV series would take up the story _after_ Diana had been captured. And that meant, as my book would be the first, that I could tell the story of how she had been taken.

I hated writing it more than I hated watching it, but I did 85,000 words in fourteen days. It cramped up my left shoulder so badly that it still twinges when I’m put under certain kinds of stress. But I did it, and it turned out to be a best seller. That means that it sold more than 90,000 copies in paper. In fact, it sold 93,000 copies. So when some promotions call me a best-selling author, they are technically right. And I got royalties.

When the first TV episode came out, it did not take place after Diana had been captured, but was about how that happened, and completely falsified what I had written. The reviews of the book, which I recently read, were mixed, some very positive, some rather negative, and others very off-the-wall wrong, but none mentioned the inconsistency between book and TV. I did two more “V” novels, but those will come later.

I cringed whenever I thought about the Pursuit of Diana. I couldn’t disavow it when talking with fans who really liked the TV series and thought my book was great, though I was tempted. Later I learned how to gently suggest that maybe it wasn’t the best book I had ever written. But a couple years ago I decided to read it for the first time since it had been published.

It wasn’t as bad as I had remembered. In fact, I did a pretty good job of simulating a TV episode, with scene cuts, viewpoint changes, commercial pauses (with no commercials), and characters which were very much like those portrayed on TV. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all, and I could see why people who liked the series liked my book. And I had included things that had occurred only in the background on TV, such as the assassin’s large friend having a girlfriend. But I will never take on another job like that one.

I would like to have ReAnimus reissue my three “V” books, they way they have all my other books of that period, but according to my contract, I was a writer for hire, so there’s no way I can get permission, especially if they don’t respond to my queries. Sigh.

You can read a sample here.