My name is Lee, I’m the author of My Immortal: The Vampires of Berlin I was recently asked how I came up with the unique idea for My Immortal.
Hmm. Let’s see.
Truth be told, the novel brought itself to life. The creative process was backwards, if not accidental, and the end result probably breaks every rule of writing there is. I never intended to write a novel, but at the end of the day, it has been a worthwhile journey, and the “unique” book that came out the other side of the process is doing pretty well so far.
As the story goes …
A few years ago, I was in the UCLA professional screenwriting program, trying to learn about film through writing one, so I could be a better producer.
Day 1 or so, Professor Hal Ackerman told us to get out a notebook. “Write down the main characters and first 15 scenes of your movie. Ready go.” Hal was teaching a fast and furious writing technique he calls “snowplowing.”
I was stunned. Movie? Write? Write what? I had no idea what to write. I didn’t even know where to start, in fact. That didn’t matter, we were off to the races, and everyone else was writing. Ready go. OMG. LOL. WTF. Seven seconds of panic later, I brainstormed scene #1 … Sebastian and his buddy Wolf. Two German soldiers stuck in a church as the Russians close in to kill them off.
You see, I just finished a great book by Anthony Beevor about the Battle of Berlin (history buff), so this choice made perfect sense for a movie idea at the time. Or so I thought.
Then came more panic. It dawned on me. I just chose two German soldiers in WWII as the protagonists, aka typically the most evil and vile characters in any war movie since 1939, and most certainly in real life. Possibly the worst creative choice in the history of screenwriting since The Invasion of the Killer Tomatoes got a green light.
Unfortunately, Hal didn’t give us time to change anything. Ready go. Wolf and Sebastian were my protagonists and it was time to write the [bleep] inciting incident. Ready go. OMG. LOL. WTF. Inciting incident?? Ummm. Okay. The … they … the soldiers find a young shell-shocked girl wandering the ruins, and they save her life. Or she saves them. Eva. But Eva is a vampire.
Once I got past the panic, the supernatural mystery and thriller elements came into play and I figured out how to make the My Immortal protagonists make sense and work. The screenplay took on a life of its own, and then when it was done, the story was unique, to say the least, and it won the Best Screenplay Award at the Terror Film Festival, the first contest it was entered into.
I was feeling great about the vampire project, but months later the reality of getting a World War II screenplay read in Hollywood set in. Frankly, sight unseen, My Immortal was viewed as just another expensive period piece. In fact, the first manager and agent I spoke to about the script literally LOL when I said “World War II.” True story. Even though My Immortal was different than anything I had read or seen in the genre, there was some sort of wacky force field barrier to entry to the script based solely on the time period, so people weren’t reading it. WTF.
Time for Plan B. Which was not surrender.
I was antagonized, and knew I had to find a way to introduce the concept of My Immortal to people that did not involve putting it under a stack of 700 scripts and hoping for the best … aka hoping someone reads it, and then hoping that person who reads it, understands from that one reading that this project is not “Downfall with vampires.”
So I decided to write the novel.
Frankly, the reality took longer and was far more difficult than the theory. In fact, I would’ve never started had I known how [bleep] hard it was going to be. There were fun parts of course, especially travelling to Berlin and Prague to retrace the physical journey of Sebastian and Wolf.
I am very proud of this book, but it was a difficult writing and editing process, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who has ever written a novel.
As many of you know, in a screenplay, you can write, “Character A enters building.” And then you’re done as the writer. With a novel, you’re not done. You didn’t even find your keys yet, let alone drive the car over to the building to enter. One way or another, you still have to describe the building, what the character is sensing or feeling, wearing etc. It’s a completely different game and writing experience, moreso than I expected.
The good news is that writing the novel transformed the My Immortal story (and screenplay) into something much better, more vibrant and dynamic, and was a fantastic creative experience, albeit a grind when it came time to edit.
As the story goes, I self-published My Immortal: The Vampires of Berlin last year. It sold well, and I was lucky enough to get a book signing at the horror bookstore Dark Delicacies, paired with famous vampire-book author Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.
Kaboom. Lightening struck in Burbank that day.
Entertainment Weekly Magazine surveyed Dark Delicacies, and ranked My Immortal #3 for best selling horror fiction in their April 11, 2011 issue. Shortly thereafter, I signed with 23 House, the one publisher that really understood the creative direction of the project.
And voila, here we are. Speaking of here we are, thanks for reading my guest blog post. I would like leave you with a little excerpt from My Immortal. I call this “The Miracle,” because it’s when the German soldiers learn a secret about Eva that is far more shocking and important to the world than the fact that she is a vampire.
EXCERPT — MY IMMORTAL THE VAMPIRES OF BERLIN
Axel stirred just as Sebastian emerged from the darkness with Eva. “Kill the devil girl!” he gasped.
Overcome by emotion, Klaus got up and pointed his rifle at Eva. “We need to get rid of her. The vampires will stop hunting us. We’ll be safe.”
Sebastian put himself directly into the line of fire. “Easy there, soldier. We’re all on the same side.”
Klaus didn’t flinch. “How many more of us have to die because of her? You have a genius plan to get out of Berlin. That’s what you guys told us, and that’s why we followed you. We don’t need this vampire shit!”
Sebastian put his hand over the muzzle. “Put the rifle down. I’m not going to let you shoot her.”
The old man’s voice broke with emotion. “Get out of my way! She is not your daughter! Your daughter is dead! I will shoot that witch!”
“Shoot her!” Dieter shouted.
Just as Klaus began the muscle contractions on his index finger to shoot, Sebastian moved at lightening speed and tackled him. Dieter jumped onto Sebastian’s back, but ended up on the ground next to his grandfather a split-second later. With his growing strength, Sebastian could have easily killed them both. Instead, he held them down just hard enough to prevent them from hurting someone.
Unnoticed during the mêlée, Eva knelt down and put her hands on Axel’s face. She closed her eyes as a soft blue glow emanated from her palms. The horribly burned pilot moaned and tried to push her away as the light grew brighter, but Eva kept her hands firmly on him.
Dieter noticed the light. “Stop!” he yelled. “She’s hurting him!”
Eva took her hands away from Axel and crumpled to the ground.
Sebastian released his grip and the fight ground to a halt.
Klaus ran to the pilot’s side. “Are you all right? Axel, are you still alive? Talk to me!”
Axel pulled his hands away from his face.
Klaus gasped. “Oh my God …”
Publisher: 23 House
Date of Publication: March 9, 2012
Number of pages: 306
Word Count: 56,000
VAMPIRE BLOG – (SIGNED COPIES) — http://www.vampiresofberlin.blogspot.com/
A supernatural adventure set in present day and 1945 Berlin. Our heroine is Eva, a shell-shocked young vampire who is found wandering around in the ruins of Berlin Cathedral on the last day of the war by soldiers.
Lee Rudnicki is an entertainment lawyer, producer, and writer in Los Angeles. Lee has a law degree from the University of San Francisco, a music degree from San Jose State, a Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA and studied international law at Trinity College, Ireland and Charles University, Prague. Before law school, Lee was a world-class rudimental drummer and drum corps instructor.
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/Drumlaw80