“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”
Yeah, I’ve no idea who originally said that quote, but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s not always possible to remain committed to everything we’d like to. Case in point: my unfinished novel Hollywood Whisper.
If you know me, you know the story by now: I’d earnestly begun work on my fifth book, initially titled Truffle Butter. Yes, it was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Nicki Minaj hit that was popular at the time, and that should also let you know how long ago I’d begun working on this.
The novel’s premise was pretty simple. It told the story of Whisper St. Porter, a young Black woman who becomes an accidental movie star and how she navigates the wild and wacky world of Hollywood. Whisper is not only a box-office draw, but she’s also won numerous awards, including the coveted Best Actress Oscar. And she shares an agent with Jodi Flowers, an actress whose star is on the wane. The agent suggests the two ladies star in a foodie-themed comedy titled Truffle Butter, and the rest of story explores the actresses’ relationship with each other in the run up to production.
Hollywood Whisper also touched on themes including racism, sexism, and social justice. I wrote about the whitewashing of roles as well as the backlash when people of color take on characters traditionally portrayed as white. I have an entire chapter that lampoons the Academy Awards, from the red carpet to the after-parties, the whole while lamenting the lack of representation of minorities in Hollywood at large.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Oh shit, Jay, this premise actually has promise! Why don’t you finish it?” Well, for a number of reasons.
First, when I began writing
Truffle Butter Hollywood Whisper, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy was a big deal, and I was sort of commenting on that. A few years later, we’ve seen Hollywood grow more diverse and inclusive, and that’s across the board, in film, in television, in theater. Movies such as Girls Trip, Hidden Figures, and Get Out have been massive successes. TV programs such as Insecure, Black-ish, and Shonda Rhimes’ stable of shows are critical darlings and crowd-pleasers. And Broadway saw Hamilton become a smash hit, a phenomenon the likes of which it hadn’t seen in a very long time. So the message I wanted to send back then with Hollywood Whisper would really seem out of date by now.
Second, and most important, I just stopped feeling it. Yes, yes, I know, this actually touches on the quote at the beginning. Doing what you said you’d do long after the mood has left you. Yeah, I know. But I also know that had I continued writing Hollywood Whisper, it would not have been my best work. It would not have been something I was passionate about, and that would have reflected in my writing, and the story would suffer.
Meaning that you, the Reader, would have suffered as well.
Ah well. I know that some of you are curious about Hollywood Whisper, so I’ve decided to do this: Below you’ll find the first chapter of the novel. It’s a true first draft, so it’s not perfect. But please feel free to read it and let me know what you think.