Thursday, April 9, 2009

How I Got the Idea For Fiona FitzGerald

It was the early eighties and the mass media consensus on gender was undergoing a massive change. Women were on the march and the emphasis was on both upward mobility and equality on all fronts, especially in the workplace.

In the culture of imaginative fiction, the concept of the heroic figure was being “genderized” and the notion of the female cop, soldier, firefighter, construction worker and other jobs once considered male turf was swiftly disappearing.

Although I had never tackled the mystery genre which was growing in popularity, my agent persuaded me to take the plunge and since I lived in the metropolitan Washington area, I decided to use the police department that covered the nation’s capitol as my venue. In casting around for a knowledgeable female who could give me some insight into the inner workings of the department and her own psyche I was lucky to find an experienced female homicide detective, Judy Roberts, who led me deep into the entrails of the mindset and procedure of police work as seen through the female perspective.

Thus was born Fiona FitzGerald, a brilliant young white woman, working with a largely black dominated police force. Because I was familiar with the political and social circles of the power elite in Washington, I conceived the idea of Fiona working only on those cases that involved that segment of the Washington upper crust.

The first book in the series, “American Quartet,” dealt with a failed politician whose twisted mind conceived of the idea of staging a replication of the assassinations of our four American Presidents. It was cited that year by the New York Times as being one of the most outstanding mystery books of that year. The series was born, although the background of Fiona was to undergo a profound change after the second book “American Sextet” was published.

In the first two books, Fiona’s father was a New York cop and she had grown up in that city.

As with all of my books, the movie people beckoned and I found myself discussing film projects with a number of producers. One of them suggested to me that instead of making Fiona, the daughter of New York cops, it might be more interesting to make her the daughter of a prominent Senator who had grown up in Washington.

The idea appealed to me for many reasons and I made the change, immersing her in a culture that I knew a great deal about. She was now ensconced in the heady precincts of elite Washington with many contacts in that world, social, political and media which allowed me the opportunity to expand on all the possibilities inherent in that milieu.

In the five books that followed, she was assigned to investigate murders that related to the power elite. It was a world I knew well. Readers addicted to the series would unfortunately be confused by the sudden change of background from daughter of New York cops to daughter of a prominent late New York Senator. I took the plunge and got few complaints.

A new publisher, founded by an experienced former executive of a major publishing company, decided to take on the series and I consented to move Fiona to his new company. This gave me the opportunity to fix Fiona’s background in the first two books and make her uniformly the daughter of a Senator. I rewrote parts of the first two books to fix this situation and saw in this new publisher a chance for Fiona to go on indefinitely solving murders among the players in the power structure.

Alas, it was not to be. The new publisher went bankrupt before he could launch the full series and I was forced to continue with the original publisher. Thus, in the first two books, Fiona remains the daughter of a New York cop, although in the subsequent books she had been transformed into her new incarnation.

Nevertheless, the movie and TV people continue to pursue the idea of starring Fiona. Two film companies have optioned the Fiona books. NBC has optioned the material twice, once for movie of the week and once for a series. Scripts have been commissioned, including one by yours truly and another prominent television writer, but so far, she hasn’t found her television or movie legs. Nevertheless the books continue to be in play and there is some optimism that Fiona will once again be on her way to movie or television stardom.

In the meantime there are always the seven books and she has a growing fan club.


Kim Smith said...

I guess I am still so new at the publishing game, to be contacted by the television/movie industry with even an interest letter, would be a major celebration at my house.

Really proud to say I know someone of your caliber, Warren. You inspire me to up the ante on my writing.


Warren Adler said...

Thank you, Kim. I appreciate your always reading and commenting on my posts! Keep writing.


FormerHausfrowe said...

I'm so glad I found this article. I recently downloaded "American Quartet" for free to my Sony eReader. I enjoyed the book (and Fiona's complex character) so much that of course I bought the rest of the available series. I was completely confused by the change in Fiona's background, noted on second page! I couldn't even continue reading until I tried to find the reason - had I downloaded the wrong book? I'm so glad to have found the explanation and I look forward to "reading on."