June 18, 2012

Made It Moment: Shelly Frome

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:35 am

Twilight Of The Drifter

We have bumped a few elbows with Hollywood here on the blog lately. Which is appropriate because I think in some ways, in some hidden, deep pocket of him or herself, every writer believes his or her book would make a great movie, and dreams of seeing it on the silver screen. (Do we still call it the silver screen? ) Today’s Moment-er, Shelly Frome, approached things in the opposite direction: learning the ins and outs of stage and screen before trying his hand at a novel. The success he has had shows that this path can work, too. We might just be watching one of Shelly’s novels one day. For now, greats such as Donald Westlake proclaimed how lucky we are to read them.

Shelly Frome

As a small child, I always loved stories. I even wrote cliffhangers for classmates in study hall and, later on, a short story or two. But I found myself at the Ring Theater at the University of Miami. There, making it meant taking on the mean streets of the Big Apple as a starving actor. Later still, as a university professor, making it meant writing and directing plays along with articles and books on acting and film. Though I eventually wrote a noteworthy book on The Actors Studio, taking the reader inside that fabled sanctuary beyond all the hype, I still had an urge to write crime novels. Why crime? Because as a reader I’d always found something intriguing at stake. And I had this abiding wish to combine the sweep of movies I’ve loved, the here-and-now of the stage, and the pull of the storyteller around the ol’ campfire.

At first, my efforts didn’t pay off. The famed New York agent Scott Meredith told me I was trying to cram too much into every chapter. Two published books later, I continued to founder. It was only when I was visiting my family in L.A. working on a screenwriting book that something caught fire. Inundated yet again with the mindless superficiality of LaLaLand, I came across an abandoned studio whose languishing sets—especially the crumbling old-West town—seemed to be crying out to be brought to life again.

And here was the initial advanced praise for the novel that resulted:

Tinseltown Riff is a twisty tale of quirky characters in a dangerous world of shadows and subterfuge, that company town called Los Angeles. Shelly Frome opens the door on a fascinating and all-too-real scene of hustle and hope. One lovely riff.
–Donald E. Westlake, Oscar nominated and three-time Edgar Award winner

Needless to say, it was then and there that I knew, if I kept perfecting my craft and as long as my heart was truly in it, I was on my way. No matter how large or small the following, my work would be worth the candle.

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K.. He is also a film critic and frequent contributor to writers’ blogs. His fiction includes Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. His latest novel is Twilight of the Drifter, a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey. He lives in Litchfield, Connecticut.


  1. Great post. Even before getting to “the moment,” I could relate to the desire to see our books played out on the silver screen (and sure, we can still call it that :). I also have an acting background which affects my work, but I think most writers are visual people and so they bring the scenes to life in their heads. Why not see them on the screen.

    And congratulations to Shelly. Those are some noteworthy words of praise. And I especially liked his last couple of lines, worthy of being repeated. “Needless to say, it was then and there that I knew, if I kept perfecting my craft and as long as my heart was truly in it, I was on my way. No matter how large or small the following, my work would be worth the candle.”

    Thanks, Jenny. And Shelly.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    Comment by Paul D. Dail — June 18, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  2. I wonder what would have happened if someone said “Quit writing, you don’t have it in you.”

    It’s very important to encourage writers to persevere and gently point them in the right direction through instruction, if needed.

    Morgan Mandel

    Comment by Morgan Mandel — June 18, 2012 @ 9:18 am

  3. Wonderful post. A generous writer whose story gives encouragement to struggling authors not to give up. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Dianne Yetman — June 18, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  4. Great Moment!! Glad you stuck with it.

    Comment by Kellie — June 18, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  5. Thanks for all the comments already, and I’m glad Shelly’s Moment is inspiring. Dianne…please don’t give up, if this is what you happen to be facing right now. Every one of us has asked ourselves when we should–like, a thousand times or more :) It took me 11 years to sell my “first” novel. I am happy to share more, and as this Moment and Paul’s and Morgan’s comments show…there’s a whole world of writers out there who have grappled with this.

    Comment by jenny — June 18, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  6. Wow! How exciting it must have been to read that from Donald Westlake. Congratulations!

    I love the idea of the crumbling studio and old sets. That is just pure scope for the imagination.

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — June 18, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  7. Wonderful way of looking at your writing Shelly. Great moment Jenny. Sure we will see something on the screen soon.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — June 18, 2012 @ 10:25 am

  8. What a journey! Glad to see you’ve stuck with your dream. Wishing you much success!

    Comment by mountainmama — June 18, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  9. Donald Westlake? I’m so very impressed! I appreciate your story and your persistence. I think it’s time for me to read a Shelly Frome book.

    Comment by Marja McGraw — June 18, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  10. We writers do need a bit of encouragement. Writing is hard work. Everyone needs that bit of appreciation. This was an inspiring made moment.

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — June 18, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  11. Just spent the weekend listening to Lee Goldberg and Max Collins who’ve taken the same route. Good post. Good luck with the southern gothic it takes a special talent to do it right.
    Nash Black (Irene)

    Comment by Nash Black — June 19, 2012 @ 7:20 am

  12. Super font and cover to your book! Enjoyed the interview and good luck with your endeavors.

    Comment by "Doctor Barbara" - Barbara Ebel — June 19, 2012 @ 8:14 am

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