ENGELHARD on writing and getting ripped off

Sex, politics, infidelity, is this what draws the copycats to Indecent Proposal? Photo: (Courtesy Awesomely Luvvie)

NEW YORK, October 29, 2013 — People must love Indecent Proposal. They love it so much that they keep ripping it off.

The latest infringement on my novel comes from – oh never mind. I sure won’t give that lady free publicity. But I heard about it from the Facebook grapevine. I checked it out and sure enough, there it is, and it is not just one book, but a series, with the title only slightly changed.

The plot is absolutely derivative from what I wrote in 1986, got published in 1988, and got turned into a Paramount movie in 1993.

Can’t people think for themselves anymore?

This latest exploitation comes in the form of a “romance” novel, but then again, they all do. I think so. Most if not all the larcenies are in that “bodice-ripping” genre. (I hate the word “genre,” by the way.) I do write sex when it is necessary. People still do that, I am told. But I do not rip bodices.

Here is one case where I would love to hear from other writers who may have been plagiarized. How do you cope with this and what do you do?

Do you feel rotten when this happens? Do you feel abused? Do you smash furniture?

We know that plagiarism is tough to prove. You cannot copyright a title or secure an idea. So I keep being told. When this first happened – and it happened early and then often – the lawyers told me that yes, my “intellectual property” had been infringed, but to take a cold shower. I ought to be flattered. I was not flattered. I am still not flattered.

It is not the end of the world. There is worse. There are health troubles and money troubles. So I learned to let it slide. Life is full of garbage like this.

But it is irksome when someone comes along and decides to simply copy you, and profit from your sweat. Heck, I wrote big parts of Indecent Proposal on the kitchen table back in Philadelphia, air conditioner not working, and wondering if I am spending two years just wasting my time. I had quit a solid job as a reporter to waste my time. On a novel. In the real world, this makes no sense.

What is this crazy thing called inspiration? Sometimes it just won’t let you quit and you are compelled to write even as the world is collapsing all around you.

But it worked out okay. The novel got published here, and then over there, overseas, where it got translated into more than 22 languages and sold millions of copies. The controversy helped, after all, sex, love, politics, temptation, infidelity, and so much more that I never intended or imagined. (Big topic for another day; the mysterious signals readers pick up from the writer.)

Paramount Pictures bought the rights and before you knew it (five years, a snap in page to screen years) we were in LA for the premiere of Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore…and glory, they spelled my name right in the opening credits. But Paramount turned my Arab prince into…Robert Redford?

Did I complain at the changes, at what Hollywood left out? No, but others did. Like this from a UK reviewer: “Indecent Proposal is for me the ideal example of why a screenwriter should never be allowed near a great writer’s work.” Or, “This book is far, far superior to the film. It’s superbly written. The characters are brilliant, the story is intriguing, and the whole thing is just a great, great read.”

Thank you and I love the praise, but is this what draws the copycats?

Not everybody loves this novel, in case you are curious. Again – those “romance” readers. They want the eroticism and only the eroticism, yes, the bodice-ripping, and when they don’t get that they turn nasty. Indecent Proposal has one very explicit sex scene (shame on me), but has much more than that to give. (Like two histories at odds, the Arab-Israeli conflict.)

As I said earlier about reviewers, “Be kind, and remember that when you have a book in your hands, you have the writer’s life in your hands.”

Usually it is female readers who want more sex. In fact, they want sex on every single page and on every single bed.

What happened? Where I grew up in Montreal on St. Urbain Street, the word was out that sex was not for girls. Girls do not do this.

But they do, and the proof of it is in the books some of them “write,” courtesy of copying what somebody else wrote.

New from Jack Engelhard, here is the 25th anniversary edition of the international bestseller, Indecent Proposal.

 


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Jack Engelhard

Jack Engelhard enjoys international fame as a novelist for such moral dilemma bestsellers as The Bathsheba Deadline, The Girls of Cincinnati, and the classic Indecent Proposal, which was turned into film starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. His memoir Escape From Mount Moriah has been acclaimed for excellence and a movie version was an official selection at CANNES. Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist is Engelhard’s partly autobiographical expose about the trials of making it as a writer. Engelhard’s journalism covers all topics, with special focus on  the absurdity of human behavior, and reaches around the globe. He can be contacted at www.jackengelhard.com

 

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