Right now Crossroad Press is discounting my ebook novella, Made on the Moon, reducing the price to just 99 pretty little pennies. So, I thought I would take this occasion to take a look back on the long road this short piece took to get here.
I first started writing Made on the Moon ( MOTM) in the mid-seventies when I was writing articles and reviews for Neworld Magazine,
an arts publication from the Inner City Cultural Center (ICCC) here in Los Angeles. A multi-cultural center for both the visual and performing arts that came of age after the Watts riots, ICCC was an exciting place to work at with its complex of theaters, dance spaces, and galleries housed in an old Masonic lodge.
I don’t know if there were old Masonic ghosts there, but there was plenty of living actors, dancers, visual artists, and writers running around with purpose, doing important training and work, many of whom went on to award-winning careers.
MOTM started out as a short story pretending to be a journalist’s Q&A interview with the story’s protagonist, Stanley Lewis, an old man of querulous nature. He informs the journalist that he had wanted to go to the moon from the time he was an infant. A fairly early ambition, I think you’ll agree. The story takes place sometime in the near future over a hundred years from Stanley’s birth in 1949.
Much like his creator, Stanley turned out to be a loquacious chap when talking about his life and the piece soon became more a monologue than a Q&A. So I decided to turn it into a one-man one-act play. But it didn’t quite work—questions needed to be asked of Stanley. So I put the journalist back.
Eventually, the journalist morphed into three mysterious, yet very individual interviewers, asking questions of Stanley for an unrevealed purpose. They gave the play a rounder, more theatrical feel and allowed me to go deeper into Stanley’s stories of his life, both those mundanely true and those pure rocket-powered flights of fancy.
I can’t really remember where I was in Stanley’s story when I stopped working on it as other activities started to dominate my time. I had gotten involved in being the managing editor and writing for a start-up film newspaper called The Cinemaphile. That led to a job as Executive Secretary of ASIFA-Hollywood, an animation society of professionals and fans, which led to a job as a programmer specializing in animation for the 1978 Los Angeles International Film Exposition, or Filmex.
After that year’s exposition, I left Filmex (although I was a guest programmer for several years after) to set up a one-man publicity shop specializing in animation clients, such as Chuck Jones, Bill Melendez, and Richard Williams. Which led to my wanting to produce animation, which led to getting involved with a very young Brad Bird and Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz on the development of a project, which led to my joining Gary’s company, which led to a year in Tokyo. Although it was a period of intense activity, I still made time for personal writing but had switched to working on a novel, leaving the unfinished MOTM in a file cabinet.
I left Gary’s company in the summer of 1984 but stayed in Tokyo for a few months of quiet time to finish my novel. Once home, and once my wife Amanda and I were resettled in Los Angeles, I got back to work on MOTM. I didn’t get far though. I got stuck, as will happen, and didn’t know where to next take Stanley’s story. Much of what I had written was semi-autobiographical. But what was to come to take Stanley many years into the future, well past his 100th birthday, that, obviously, was unwritten in my own life so unavailable as inspiration. Besides, I wasn’t intending to map the rest of Stanley’s life based on the hoped-for geography of my own. I had far more weirdly interesting and nicely nefarious, yet vague, incidents in mind for him. It was just getting them out of mind and onto paper.
Actually, as I remember it, I had stopped this time where Stanley had become an unhappy high school teacher, which was not autobiographical at all. But I didn’t quite know what to do with it. Then, one morning, on January 28th, 1986, I was coming out of the shower when Amanda called out to tell me that the Challenger space shuttle was about to launch. I wrapped a robe around myself and went to the living room to see the launch. I had loved watching launches of huge rockets sending brave professional explorers into space ever since the Mercury program. This love was, indeed, part of the core of MOTM. It was a love that had grown out of loving the rocket launches of imagination in science fiction films. And, of course, in reading many times over the opening pages of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in the section entitled “Rocket Summer.”
But this launch was different from all previous launches. The first civilian was being shot into space—a teacher. A historic launch, then, and not to be missed. It became tragically, horribly historic when 73 seconds into its flight, the Challenger broke apart killing everyone on board, including the teacher, Christa McAuliffe.
It was a shock. It was deeply, painfully sad. And yet, I suddenly knew what the next scene in MOTM had to be. I immediately went to my desk and recreated what I had just seen from the point of view of Stanley watching it, along with some very dull, uninterested high school students, in the Social Studies class he was teaching. The rest of the play flowed into Stanley’s very particular future from there.
Writers are vampires, you do have to understand that. We suck the blood of our experiences and the experiences of others, good or bad, joyful or tragic, whatever serves the needs of storytelling.
I was still involved in Hollywood, trying to develop projects of my own, sometimes working for film companies in various capacities. But whenever I could promote a full production or even a reading of MOTM, I would do so. I was very happy with it and felt that it would play well on stage. But if you think filmmaking is hard, try getting a play produced. Especially in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, MOTM had some readings by actors who liked it a lot, and they were always encouraging.
In 1990 I became the president of Chuck Jones Productions. In 1992, I formed my own production company with a partner. We secured a two-picture deal at MGM, which was interrupted by us being tapped in 1995 by Warner Bros to produce the animation for Space Jam, the Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny multi-million dollar marketing attempt to extend the life, especially in toys, of the old Looney Tunes characters.
Work on Space Jam took me to London several times to consult with animation studios there that we had contracted to work on the film. At one of the studios, I met an energetic, smart, young PA, Pippa Ford, who shared my love of theater. I gave her MOTM to read. She loved it and organized a group of young British actors to stage it for three weeks at the 1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it received a four-star review in The Scotsman.
Amanda and I and our young daughter, Miranda, went over to Edinburgh for the final week of the run. It was, as you might imagine, a wonderful experience.
We returned to Los Angeles, hoping that MOTM would have more productions in the U.K., but, alas, that never happened.
In 1998 Amanda heard of a play-reading program at the Coronet Theater in L.A. and suggested I submit Made on the Moon. I did so and they picked it up immediately. The director cast comedian/actor Paul Provenza in the role of Stanley. From the first table read I was thrilled—Paul played Stanley exactly as Stanley had always played in my head. It was a very successful reading. Paul decided to get involved in trying to secure a full production of the play for him to star in. He sent it out to a lot of people he had worked with in theater. Eventually, a producer in New York who loved Paul decided to produce a limited run of MOTM in an off-Broadway theater on 45th Street in midtown Manhattan.
Just as things were about to start on this production, Paul got cast in a new Showtime series, Beggars & Choosers, which was starting filming almost immediately in Vancouver. Without Paul, the producer pulled out. It was deeply disappointing. But then I didn’t want to do it without Paul, either.
After Beggars & Choosers ended, Paul kept trying to get a production of MOTM going, but his career was taking different turns and nothing ever came together.
I put Made on the Moon aside. I had started writing novels again in 1993 and by 2003 I saw the publication of Blood is Pretty: The First Fixxer Adventure, my satiric Hollywood thriller. Since then, I have had five more novels published in various genres, and a book of essays about my friend and colleague, the great Ray Bradbury.
MOTM resurfaced once more in 2009 when I directed a staged reading of the play at the Writers Guild of America. I was thrilled to have in the cast two Star Trek doctors, John Billingsley from Star Trek Enterprise and Robert Picardo from Star Trek Voyager. John played Stanley wonderfully, bringing a voice to him different than the one in my head, but one that was absolutely right. Robert was delicious as the leader of the interviewers. The very talented and funny Bonita Friedericy, a cast member from the TV series Chuck, was one of the other interviewers, and the third was played by Johanna McKay, who is currently a professor in the Theater department at Los Angeles City College.
It was a great reading and a wonderful night, and some interest in a fully staged production of MOTM was discussed, but, as seemed to be this play’s fate, it came to nothing.
In the great joy I’ve had writing novels for over 20 years now, I’ve come to realize that my one, true passion is for writing prose. As much as I love film and the theater, the art of prose is what thrills me the most. Thinking about this, one day, I decided to rewrite Made on the Moon in narrative prose.
The material did not justify adapting MOTM as a full novel, but it was just right for a novella. In making the adaptation I believe I lost none of the power that the piece had on the stage. And it allowed me to add some scenes and deepen some emotions. After I finished, I realized that Made on the Moon may now be in its perfect form. Which makes sense because, as a playscript, it almost always got the universal response of, “This is a great read!” Not all plays are, being but blueprints for staging.
So now Stanley’s story is one that can be read and can live in the mind of readers. I would be pleased if you would check the ebook out on Amazon and other online ebook stores (see links below) during this 99 cent sale. Made on the Moon has had a trip almost as far as one to the moon and back, and it would certainly enjoy finding some homes to hang its hat at.
Here what some have said about Made on the Moon, a Novella
"With just enough satirical elements to emphasize the blurred line between logic and insanity, true fans of Science Fiction will find a kindred attachment with the Stanley Lewis character. It is a hero's journey, a relentless determination to dream the impossible. Made on the Moon by Steven Paul Leiva shows us that reaching for the stars is not just a dream, for some, it is a way of life." — Ricky L. Brown, Amazing Stories Magazine.
"Leiva has crafted a satire - perhaps a self-satire - with a very warm heart. If you've ever dreamed of flying in space or walking on the Moon, you'll get the point of this story and you'll love every page." — Russell Blackford, author of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination.
"In a wry and oddly affecting voice that alternates between the parodistic and the plangent, this taut short novel by Mr. Leiva is about Stanley, a disaffected mid-century sci-fi loving American Nerd who would rather be a space taxi cab driver than an accountant. . . This brisk and touching comic novel has mysterious and profound things to say about the price of freedom. Highly recommended!" — John Billingsley, "Dr. Phlox" on Star Trek Enterprise and voracious reader.
"Leiva brings his delightful wit and facility with language to a tale that feels personal and honest. It unravels in the most unexpected ways, and, as is so often the case in his work, I found both my curiosity and my funny bone tickled. A great read. — Jeff Cannata, host of the We Have Concerns and /Filmcast podcasts.
"Quirky, comic, downright daft - but so well written and so believably endearing from the main character, Stanley, that you're more inclined to suspend the disbelief of his interviewers and fall into the interstellar flights our hero has undertaken. Another one of these stories that you promise you'll take your time with but end up consuming in one breathless session - this is everything at once: sad, heart-warming, curious, amusing and full of concise and sharp lines that I have seen all over the author's work - whatever the style or topic, the detail is immaculate." —Daz Pulsford, Amazon UK.
If Stanley’s story affects you positively, I would be grateful if you would take the time to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. They are always helpful to indie-authors.
Cheers to all!
ONLINE EBOOK STORE LINKS TO
MADE ON THE MOON
Made on the Moon: A Novella https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/made-on-the-moon/id1320042391?mt=11
BARNES & NOBLE
Made on the Moon: A Novella https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/made-on-the-moon-steven-paul-leiva/1127529492?ean=2940158545573