The year was 1987. I was on Christmas break from college, and I saw a print ad for a movie that looked interesting. Being a movie lover, especially for movies with romantic themes, I decided to take a chance on it, and dragged my best friend along.
I LOVED it. The next day I went back with my sister, two days after that with a boy from high school I was kind of seeing.
Everybody loved it!
A week later when I got back to campus, I couldn’t wait to talk to my friends about this movie. But no one had seen it.
A few years later, when I was hanging out with a big group of male friends at someone’s apartment, they pulled out a VHS copy of this movie. Very different to watch it with a bunch of boys not date related! My girlfriends and I loved the high romance of the thing, while the boys were all about the at-times darkish comedy and the sword-fighting.
Truly a movie for everyone!
Despite that, at the time the movie came out, it was a tiny hit. Hardly anybody saw it. (To this day, I’m not sure I know anyone who saw it in theaters other than the people I dragged along with me.) But when it came out on video, it became legendary.
The movie, of course, is The Princess Bride, and there aren’t many people in this country who wouldn’t be able to quote a line or three from this delightful film.
Earlier this month, Cary Elwes, the actor who portrayed the quintessential romantic hero Westley (as if I had to tell you that!) saw his memoir, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride published. I’ve always felt that the success of the movie was a combination of great writing, a terrific story and absolutely pitch-perfect casting. It turns out the magical elements that created a post-release sensation years were reflected on the set, and Elwes’ book touches base with most of the movie’s stars, spinning a lovely and fun tale of a talented group of people who had a terrific time making a special film.
To me, an interesting aspect of The Princess Bride’s history is that one reason the film never gained a foothold in theaters is because the studio simply didn’t know how to market it. It’s a romance! A swashbuckler! An intergenerational family coming-of-age story! A fairy tale!
So the studio basically didn’t market it at all.
It took a different kind of distribution before the film found its (massive) audience. Mostly because the audience had a better chance of finding the film.
I am fascinated by this story in the context of current publishing because so much has changed with indie publishing. Not only have books that would never have been traditionally published found an audience, many of those books have become huge best-sellers, and you can easily argue that in some ways, the indie phenomenon has forced changes in the traditional market. (New Adult, anyone?)
Also, a lot of traditionally published best-selling authors are choosing to go indie, either because they feel it’s a more lucrative path or because sometimes they’re writing books that are outside of the box.
One recent read I picked up by a favorite author—Mayor of the Universe by Lorna Landvik—is really outside the box. This Minnesota-based best-selling author, sometimes referred to as the Fannie Flagg of the Midwest, is known for women’s fiction that’s both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply poignant, but this title heads into a Dr. Who–esque direction with a set of aliens who explore life on earth through the main character’s childhood imagination.
I adore Landvik’s work, and I was a little worried by the whole alien thing, but it turned out to simply be a different dimension to the writer’s unique and quirky look at the world. Still wonderful, just a little different. And Landvik’s ability to view our planet through the eyes of beings who are completely new to it occasionally reminds us to pause and take a look around, and not take things as mundane yet magnificent as sunsets, changing leaves and rolling waves for granted.
(A sidenote: The book is published by the University if Minnesota Press. Which makes me wonder about the backstory of this title! And happy to see a university press moving into more mainstream publishing. Is this another publishing trend for the not-so-distant future?)
butOkay, so back to books. Maybe quirky books? I love everything I’ve read by Landvik and recommend her to everyone.
Barbara O’Neal/Barbara Samuel is another favorite who writes beautifully and slightly out of the box. I really enjoyed (and have mentioned?) her recent The All You Can Dream Buffet, this month I may go back and re-read The Lost Recipe for Happiness, with its Southwest undertones that put me in mind of my El Paso roots and the mystical Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Finally, if you haven’t discovered Joshilyn Jackson, I highly recommend her too. 2013’s Someone Else’s Love Story was wonderful, but her 2012 release, Grown Up Kind of Pretty, might be more appropriate for October, with its slightly dark, Southern gothic storyline refreshingly offset by the young narrator’s take on her family’s odd worldview.
None of these are considered straight romances, but they all have strong romantic elements and at least one satisfying romantic arc.
What about you? Are you a Princess Bride fan? Any other quirky films, romances or women’s fiction you can share? Would love to hear about them!
Happy reading! Happy October!
(And, ahem, speaking of October—did you see my recent baseball romance–themed post? Go Royals! Just sayin’.) ;o)