Jane Austen and Ghosts
The Kindle version has been out for two weeks. It is also available now at Barnes and Noble for your Nook, or at Smashwords. The iTunes edition is also available as is the trade paperwork version so Jane Austen and Ghosts is now physically in print.
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With the availability on the iBookstore for your iPad, and in Trade Paperback, Jane Austen and Ghosts is available at all the outlets that Regency Assembly Press publishes to. The Trade Paperback is now available for $8.99 US and of course available in other currencies for other countries based on that US price. Digital versions across all platforms are $4.99.
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A brief synopsis of the story:
In the world of moviemaking, nothing is as golden as rebooting a classic tale that has made fortunes every time before when it has been adapted for the silver screen. Certainly any work by Jane Austen made into a movie will not only be bankable, but also considered a work of art.
That is of course until the current wave of adaptations that unite her classic stories with all the elements of the afterlife is attempted to be created. That these have found success in the marketplace amongst book lovers may not be quite understood by those who make movies. But that they are a success is understood and a reason to make them into movies.
All that being said, perhaps it would also be fair to say that the very proper Jane, were she present to have anything to say about it, would not be pleased. Of course she has been away from this Earth for nearly 200 hundred years. But does that mean were she upset enough, she wouldn’t come back?
Ellis Abbot found stories for tinseltown to make into movies. His most recent find were the batch of stories set in the regency world of Jane Austen. Jane Austen and Monsters.
Meeting with the various authors of those works, it did not seem that Ellis could get one coherent plot of script out of any of them. At least not until he got help from the best source of all.
The first chapter for your enjoyment:
Ellis Abbot had few indulgences, since he could not really afford them. Not with his two daughters college funds and weddings for which to save. His father’s convertible, which legend had it belonged to Clark Gable, and was left to him in the will, was one of those indulgences. It was however the classic ’57 Chevy Bel Air, and it was still in operable condition. Nothing was better than when he had weekends or summer vacation with his daughters and they all went cruising in the California sunshine, with the top down.
The days he drove to the studio lot of historic Demille Brothers located three blocks below Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, he made sure that he drove with the top down and the car gleaming with a new coat of wax. He wasn’t trying to keep up appearances with the studio executives in their Mercedes, Bentleys and Lexus’. It was more his desire to look and feel good.
Ellis also knew that when in the Chevy, he stood out in the mind of Jake, the guard at the security booth who checked all those with drive-ons at the entry gate. A drive-on was someone who the security guards had been told was coming to the studio that day. Ellis only came to the studio lot and his production company meetings every other week normally. Jake, Ellis was sure, remembered the car more than he remembered Ellis. Jake had once told Ellis that he loved to stop the drive-ons so they could have that iconic moment before the gate with the scrolled metal lettering of Demille Brothers above their head. The Main Gate entrance of Demille Brothers that had been pictured in Hollywood history and lore for almost a century. Any virgin arrivals to the studio were now also becoming part of that mystique when they rolled onto the lot.
Jake had a phone bud in his ear, and used an iPad to check to see if someone was okayed to be on the lot. Ellis mused that the man probably missed the days when the phone and it’s cord gave him a reason to duck back into the booth, stalling newbies under the sign. Jake quickly looked down at his iPad and scrolled, then said, “What? Here all week? That’s a change.”
Ellis replied, “Working on a story conference. One of my ideas is going to go into production.”
Jake seemed to love the film industry. His smile looked genuine, “Well good for you. We want to see your Chevy more often on the lot. It brings back fond memories.”
“Thank’s Jake, but I’ve said before, it is only a legend about Clark Gable,” Ellis said.
“You keep saying that Mr. Abbot, but I’ve seen a picture with Mr. Gable driving that very car.” Jake waved and smiled. Ellis’ father had said he had bought the car at an auction shortly after Gable had died and there was a provenance for it. However, when Ellis’ father had passed away, Ellis could not find the paperwork.
Ellis went on through to the Benton Productions office building. Patrick Benton had been producing films for Demille Brothers for nearly forty years. Patrick often said to Ellis when they took long lunches that he would leave the whole company to Ellis one day. There were, however, still a few levels of producers between the two of them in the movie company. It did help, that of the blockbusters since Ellis had started at the company, he had more than any of the other story finders.
That was his job, technically. Find material that Benton Productions could turn into films. Jay, who had been with the team a year longer than he, had found two hits, and a lot of good films. Then there was Larry. Larry had one hit, but it was one of those high school hi-jinks flicks. The right cast, the right time, and the right obnoxious jokes and you were bound to make money. Money that Pat Benton, the head of their company, needed just at that moment. Unfortunately there had been a few productions in the last couple years that were artistic achievements but cost more than they brought in.
A few years back Ellis had walked into the Costa Mesa Borders bookstore in the mall, which was now closed and gone, and saw the most ridiculous cover on a book. Pride and Prejudice and some sort of monster. Lizzie Bennet all dressed up but with her flesh rotting away.
Usually the New York agents and publishing assistants would send out books that were on the production schedule up to a year ahead of their release. The manuscripts would be leaked in the hopes of securing a movie deal. This one he had not seen, but then the world of publishing was changing faster than anyone could follow. There were a host of small presses also trying to make a name for themselves and this book did not seem to fit the normal niche.
He picked the book up and walked to the coffee bar to get a latte. Sipping slowly, he eventually realized he was on his third cup, and more than halfway through the book. It had just been released that Tuesday, and a few phone calls was all it took to find the agent of the writer. The agent was very happy to talk about optioning. Though that was usually a job done at the production company that was two rungs up the ladder closer to Patrick Benton. Patrick had told him often that sometimes one had to use one’s initiative and trust one’s judgement.
Ellis had been around a long time and many of the works he had pushed had banked. It didn’t take long for Ellis to negotiate an option quickly on that first book he had found. Then over the next few years Ellis had picked up every Jane Austen twist that was published. And even a few still waiting their turn to get on the bookstore shelves. Though some he had bought options on, he was not sure would ever make it.
Knowing that the company could use some money making hits to add to the string of artistic successes that did not often provide a profit was one reason Ellis and Benton Productions had optioned the work of these authors. Not to garner another nomination from the Academy, but to earn money and pay for keeping the lights on. Demille Brothers wasn’t going to kick Benton Productions out of their offices, but Patrick Benton needed a money maker to pay all the salaries and other expenses.
Benton Productions was one of the few companies that Demille Brothers Studios gave office space to on their lot. Pulling up in front of the office building, a large two story affair designed to look like a bungalow one might find along the Pacific Coast highway, Ellis noticed that Larry had a space with his name on it. The space was five down from where Patrick’s Rolls Royce Phantom was always parked. This week was Ellis’ project and Larry was low man on the story finder ladder. Ellis parked the Chevy there in the spot with Larry’s name. Larry could lump it.
Ellis walked into the offices and found the reception area empty of anyone. It was a large room, carrying the bungalow theme out with wooden planked walls. Unlike other production offices, there were no posters of movies on the walls. They were instead covered with actual paintings. They were Modern art. Artists that had caught the fancy of Patrick Benton or his wife, Jean.
The receptionist had not arrived yet, but then it was early for a Monday morning. Ellis could hear some sounds from elsewhere in the office. He was to spend the week in the conference room and headed that way.
Seeing a bald head with a fringe of white hair like an ancient roman senator, Ellis recognized Patrick from behind. The boss was talking to one of the few secretaries that was already working that morning.
“Ellis, do you have all you need?” Patrick said when he turned and saw Ellis.
“Yes, I do,” Ellis replied.
Saying anything less would have Patrick worrying. Patrick was the Producer and had four Oscars in his office to show that he was good at what he did. Now, the way the production company had evolved, it was more shepherding what remained of the business for the next generation. Patrick was now intent on finding people to carry on when he was gone. He had told Ellis that repeatedly over the last year.
Hollywood though did not work that way. Benton Productions should go the way of the Dodo once Patrick retired. Another star producer would emerge and put a team together. Demille Brothers would give their office space to someone they hoped could hit home runs.
Patrick said, “Good, good. There is a new Exec Producer starting, well my sister’s son actually, coming by to help us with the Reality Project film for Adam Standler later. Jamin Collins, my nephew. It was Benjamin but he went off to college and changed his name…” Patrick was wool gathering. It happened of late.
The Reality Project film was something Ellis’ own cousin had given him the idea for, and it seemed quite poignant since the little screen was now almost all reality shows. The Reality Project film and the Austen Monster movie were the two films that Benton Productions were actively working on.
Patrick said, “Not that I like the premise of the Reality Project movie any more than I like what you are up to this week, but the Reality Project is going to be touching. Which of course Standler seems to like more and more these days. As long as we still leave room for several of his trademark comic sketches.”
“When we pitched Standler,” Ellis said, for he had been at that meeting, “we knew that was the hook that would get him.” Ellis had thought the idea good when his cousin had outlined the story idea. It was going to put a few bucks in his cousin’s hands since he had come up with the idea and the initial script.
Patrick smiled, “I loved it when you first told me. A movie all about a failing reality production company. One that once was the industry leader. Hell, this town is littered with companies like that.”
“Well, we hope that this take on cooking is not too overdone,” Ellis smiled at the pun as he said it.
Patrick laughed a little, “I think that coming up with another stupid idea that the audience loves is key. Putting the production company in the film back on track to making money and paying off their debts from when they were floundering is a good device. The script nails that and shows it quickly enough that the audience should get it. Standler’s character will explain it well and then when he realizes that it is all a sell-out and comes to terms with honesty, Adam just may turn that into nomination material. He could use this, and we could use this too!”
Ellis nodded in agreement. It was why they had pitched Adam Standler, for they thought he could carry the part. It really was a good role and filming was to start next week.
It meant that Ellis only had a week with the writers whose work had been optioned in the Austen milieu to get his story. After this week the offices were going to be turned over to the other film. The Standler Reality Project could make a good deal of money for Benton Productions.
Ellis settled into the conference room and set up for the writers that were coming. Several had flown in the day before so they could arrive by nine and get right to work. A few lived locally, but were planning to move to the hotel Benton Productions was making available for all the writers on the Austen Monster project.
A short while later, Ellis had all the writers from the optioned books in the conference room.
“Why can’t we just choose one of the movies that were optioned and do that? Not that I want to be unfair, though mine came out first, and sold the best, but perhaps that is the smart way to go,” said Mark Armont. He was indeed the man who wrote the first book that stood Jane Austen on her head with the monsters’ craze.
“There you go again, plugging your work,” Kattie London said. That was not her real name, but since she had come to fame and sold several hundred thousand copies of her work, based on Austen’s Emma, Kattie refused to answer to her real name. Ellis had tried to forget that the name on her W-2 was Kitten, but every so often he did put the true name and face together for a laugh. She was nearly seventy and there was nothing kittenish about the woman.
The other seven filled the room but they let the two top sellers slug it out. The writers all had made good money on their options. If one of their story lines played any role in the film, they would make even more money.
Ellis said, “We are going to make the best movie we can. And if that works in the market, we can make more. Benton Productions and Demille Brothers can be the home to this genre for a decade if we play our cards right.”
The mahogany conference table, lacquered to a high sheen, was nearly surrounded, especially since Mark Armont took enough space for two, and he was not the only one to take more than one person’s worth. Three others were overweight, though Armont was obese. It made Ellis aware that he himself was fit, though he could not claim a completely flat stomach.
“You have been proposing a mash-up of all of our stories. That won’t work,” Armont said. Ellis had said that only once when they had stalled earlier. It was a jest, but Armont used it as a battle cry to get the other writers to all stare daggers his way.
“I agree with Mark about that,” Kattie London said. “Young man, you just do not understand what it is to write a story that will hook your audience and carry them all the way to the end.”
The others started to grumble their agreement.
Two of the Oscars in Patrick’s office here were ones from stories that Ellis had found. Movies that he had shepherded into production.
One of the Oscars sat upon the screenplay Ellis had written before he had come to Benton Productions. It was that work that caught Patrick’s eye and got Ellis hired. Not that it was ever going to be made into a movie. But it had got him into the movie business.
“I agree, let’s move on from that…” Ellis said once again.
Lunchtime came and Patrick put his head in to look at the progress they had made. Ellis was embarrassed for he had recently erased the dry-wipe board at the end of the room, again. The fifth time that morning. Now it had just “Jane Austen” written upon it, and underlined three times. He and the authors were still stuck at an impasse.
Patrick retreated from the room before the authors could launch their angst his way.
Ellis said, “Right, we’ll order in. A trip to the commissary is warranted when we have progress.” He stopped shaking his head as soon as he realized he was doing it. They could not even choose one thematic monster type to place in the movie. Vampires would have been great, Ellis thought. True Blood and the Twilight Saga were being showered with money. A win at the box office would be a win for everyone at Benton Productions. Bonus checks would even be handed out.
Ellis needed that check for his child support, even though his ex-wife had remarried and attached herself to a man who made three times what Ellis did. Ellis was in his mid forties and sure his ambition had gone.
The divorce had taken a lot of it out of him.
He was being paid well enough to meet his bills, but without the ambition he once had, he had no desire to do much of anything else.
If he had written a screenplay and it became a hit, his lifestyle might indeed change. Or if Patrick’s promises had turned into the advancement in the production company, he would have money to travel. Now almost all his money was allocated to his living expenses and money for the girls, as well as money for all those later in life needs, like retirement.
The writers and he worked through lunch and the dry-wipe was erased again. Kattie London, after they had finished eating and Mark Armont took half of her sandwich since one was not enough for him, went into her oversized carry bag and pulled out a very dog-eared manuscript.
“I know that we have not decided which way to go, but I thought, once you optioned my story, that I would see what it would be like to write a script for it.”
Three other manuscripts made their way to the top of the conference table.
Ellis was sure that all the writers probably had such. All except for Mark Armont. He was probably making enough from his book sales that he could just eat all day and never write again. His work was not the best, but it was the first and it had the most buzz. If you wanted to read something in this vein, it was where you started.
“Right, I appreciate that, and I know we have a clause in all your contracts that should we choose your work to make into the movie, and then ask you to write something, the value of your option goes up. As I explained before, we need to choose the best cinematic effort from all these works to be the first and get a fan base for it. We are going to market this from Comic-Con to Nickelodeon. I know that we could stick with just one of your works, but some of you hit on the same plot line, and just used a different beast. We need to get moving on this because Warner and Universal, even without options, are both thinking of doing something in the genre. And Sony, well I know they are already in preproduction in one of their Hong Kong affiliates.”
Once more, information that Ellis had passed to them before when he had set up the meeting, when he had first spoke to them that morning, and several times throughout the morning he had said it. “I assure you that your agents and lawyers have seen the new contract structure, that we will put together one great story out of this conference, and you all will share in the profits.”
If there were any profits. Patrick’s accountants were fully capable of hiding money just as was the Studio and the other studios in town. They usually didn’t, but they were capable of it. The writers would get some good money upfront. Then if the movie was a runaway success, they would get real money. Money that could change their lives.
But they had to flesh out a story first.
They had to give him something to work with so he could take it to the company’s lowest level of producer who would bring in screenwriters to make a go of it. All that was needed was 90 pages, which when Ellis was younger he could pound out in three days. He hadn’t typed a screenplay for ten years. Now, it would probably take him three months, and then Patrick would rifle through it, if he would even look at it, and tell Ellis, ‘good effort, but your talent in finding properties is soooo much better.’
By four o’clock, they had made progress. Even those who had not focused on Lizzy and Darcy in their writings, had decided that Pride and Prejudice had to be the place to start. Kattie summed it up for them all, “Not that I am happy about it since I think Emma is a natural, look at Clueless, for instance, but so many know about Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, that we can’t lose with them.”
Ellis nodded, “Good. I have something that I can take to the higher ups and I know that we will have everything we need by the end of the week.” That was a platitude. He was far from sure that he would have all he needed. They should have been well through the major plot points and been breaking down the scenes as well by then.
Ellis had enough budget to keep all the writers through Friday, but after that, he would have to cut the group down to at most two authors if they had not wrapped it up. Even worse, telling Patrick that he had not finished in a week would be admitting failure. Failing was something that Ellis had done before, but not in a way that had let Patrick and the rest of the team at Benton Productions down.
Those writers who he had brought in from other parts of the country were staying at the Mondrian. Ellis was booked into the Hollywood Roosevelt. It was a great deal closer to the studio, but the others got to look at Beverly Hills from their windows. Ellis could have commuted from his home, but he lived in Orange County now. He had moved so he could be close to the girls as they grew up. When they left on Monday morning’s to go to school, they could walk. Living at their mother’s in her big house, they had to be driven or take the school bus. Being close for his girls made the work commute for him, nearly unbearable. If he were to work the week at the studio and drive back and forth in traffic each day, he knew he would be aggravated and unpleasant to be around. Staying at the Roosevelt seemed like a nice option, and Patrick had offered to pick up the tab.
The hotel was lonely, though, since it was late summer and the girls normally stayed at his place all the time. Now they had gone back to their mother’s for the week. They all had plans for Saturday where he would pick them up and drive down to San Diego along the coast. Cruising in the Chevy with the top down was going to be perfect.
He dialed their number, “Hi Dad!” Anne said. Even though she was fifteen, she still sounded happy to hear his voice. “We miss you. Mom is a real… Urgh!” That was another thing, Anne had hit puberty and not only was his ex a good warden on their daughter’s plans for dating, she was a good foil allowing Ellis to be a super dad. It made their mother the evil one. When they had divorced, that wasn’t the case, but the new step-dad, also a firm disciplinarian, helped him with the girls. All the discipline made the girls love Ellis’ indulgent ways even more.
“Think it through, Anne. Your mother loves you of course, and she wants the best for you. Did you go to Cheer practice today?” Anne had gone to Cheer practice, which she never missed. She was not the leader of the squad, but she was on the squad, as her mother had been as well. Ellis told Anne that the friends she made in high school would always be with her as she went about in life, but there was a good chance that she would make other friends who would be closer and tighter as the years rolled by. He also rented a great many cheerleader videos when the girls were over and hinted that he would be disappointed if his daughters became stereotypes, like in the movies.
They talked for a few minutes about Cheer and about her latest crush, Fred. Then she put Mary on the line, “Hi daddy.” Ellis still had one girl to call him that.
“Hey sweetheart. Did you have a good day today?”
“Yes. I’m reading that Sea Monsters book again, daddy. I don’t like it at all. I am sure Jane Austen never met a sea monster. Why did they have to do that?”
Ellis translated his child’s speech and then answered, “Other books that had come out showed that there were readers who wanted such stories. So they were written. And they were bought. A lot of people seem to like them. Jane Austen may not have ever thought to write such a book. I am pretty sure Dracula came out after she died, but if she were still alive when that and Frankenstein were published, she may have written one like them as well. After all, there is Northanger Abbey.”
“I don’t like that one,” Mary said.
He said, “It is not my favorite either. We are going to try and make a movie on Pride and Prejudice.”
He could hear the excitement in her voice, “Goody. That’s my favorite.”
Ellis knew it. They had watched the videos a half dozen times together. He hung up soon after. Ellis felt fortunate that his ex did not want to talk.
His next call was something he was not looking forward to, “Hi Patrick, I thought I would bring you up to speed. You had already left when we broke up for the day.”
“Yes, but did you get my message about breakfast in the morning? The new studio head wants to talk,” Patrick paused. George Pickman had been hired not quite six months ago and he had only green lighted a few projects since then. There had been some discussion in the trades of other candidates at the time of Pickman’s hire. Kathy Burg, who had worked a few times with them at Benton Productions, and Aidan Crawford had both been mentioned then.
Patrick continued, “Adam Standler is coming in tomorrow to discuss the Reality Project and I think Pickman wants to be there for the meet.” An assistant had given Ellis a message saying that Patrick wanted to talk to him. No mention about a breakfast meeting. If it was for the Reality Project, that was one that Ellis was really not concerned with any longer.
“If it is for the other movie, you have Jay working that, and I have the writers…”
Patrick cut him off, “They can get along without you for a little while. Besides Pickman is saying he wants an update on both projects. Pickman really wants to meet the star and shake the flesh. Wants to box the man into two or three more pictures for the Studio. And our new exec, Jamin, needs to be brought up to speed as well. So be there and tell us all about the progress you’ve made. We are hoping for a hundred million with this. Maybe more if we can franchise it. Look Ellis, we need the money. We have a lot of people on payroll now. More than twice as many as when you started with me. That’s your whole career in this biz. I want to make sure there’s something there for you all after I am gone. I didn’t build this organization just to let it wither away after I am gone.”
Patrick could not see Ellis nod. Ellis understood a little of the man’s pride in the company. Four Oscars, and one of them for best picture, was something of which to be very proud of.
“I’ll be there. Anything I can do to support the company.” Sometimes Ellis may have said that and not believed it. He did mean it now.
When he had finished the call, Ellis pulled out his laptop since he really didn’t have much else to do that night. He had brought a few things to read, but that was his job all day. At night he relaxed by watching films. It was why he had come to Hollywood, to be a part of the film industry. What was better than seeing what came of those labors. Tonight though, he just couldn’t stand to watch any.
Patrick was worried about money again and that was a concern. Their last film, a property that Larry had found, lost money. And until either this movie that he was working on or the Reality Project came out, they would be living on savings. Ellis could not let his Austen writers dawdle and eat away at the money they would need to actually make the movie.
It was too early to go to sleep and there was an itch on his back that he reached around to scratch. With just the words on the screen of his laptop, “Pride and Prejudice”, Ellis knew he would have to give everyone more than that the following morning during the briefing for Pickman.
He toyed with writing a screenplay for this project as well. He had done so a few times in his twenty years with Patrick and Benton Productions.
He began to type a little.
Eight pages later, he looked up and saw that a good hour had passed since he had hung up with Patrick. Ellis went to the suite’s bathroom and took care of his needs. His back had that itch again and before he splashed water on his face, he scratched it again.
As he raised himself from the sink he blinked three times fast. For a moment he thought that there was an image in the mirror with him. A ghost like at the end of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. This, though, was that of a prim and proper Jane Austen.
He said aloud, “I know I write better with a little alcohol, but it was just one of the drinks from the mini-bar.” Ellis had too much stress. A ghost? Too many monsters on his mind.
He splashed water once more on his face and returned to the table where his laptop waited. Sitting down he reviewed what he had written. It was good. Classic Pride and Prejudice opening with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet bantering, then the girls coming together, and the word about Charles Bingley taking over the very haunted and troubled Netherfield Park.
“I do not particularly like it, but you need a monster sooner, I should think.”
Ellis jumped back from the table scraping the tops of his legs on it. “Ouch. What, who, what…” As if from her portrait, cast all in transparent blue shimmer, just like at Disneyland, the image of Jane Austen hovered some few feet away from him.
“Oh, they said this would happen. That you who are still alive would be most likely scared. Please, I assure you, that I do not mean you any harm. Those other writers who have taken such great liberty with my work perhaps but not you.”
“This is me hallucinating. I do not do drugs. One drink. I am sure it was only one drink.” Ellis glanced down at the table and saw the one little bottle opened and empty that he had taken from the mini-bar. He had been thinking of having a second one. Now he was definitely going to have it, and maybe more besides.
“Oh, posh. My brothers drink. One drank himself to an early death. It is no way to live. You should know better. You have two daughters who rely on you to live,” the ghost that looked like Jane said.
He shook his head. He had been thinking far too much about Jane Austen to now see her in front of him, and she having a conversation with him.
“Say something. I can not read your thoughts, Mr. Abbot. I should mention that I need no introduction, for I know who you are, but if you are not sure, I am Jane Austen.”
He had sat on the couch now, and was still staring at her. Trying to understand what the apparition really was. That itching on his back before, it was someone staring at him. Not really an itch.
“I don’t understand?” Ellis said as a plaintive question.
“Well, I should think it quite simple really. My work has been so torn asunder by all these greedy writers, that one feels compelled to come forth and ensure that some justice is done with one’s work. When Aldous Huxley was here in your Hollywood, I came and visited him as well, though I think he felt that it was some sort of mystic encounter. I did not like what he did with my story at all. Cut the last half of the tale out entirely. And all these writers of yours, making their fortunes and not one farthing sent to my family in England, just shocking. I am quite upset by it all.” Huxley had written the 1940 screenplay to the Laurence Olivier version of Pride and Prejudice.
“Rolled over in your grave…” Ellis mumbled.
“Yes, quite. I have very good hearing now that I am dead. And that expression is not as trite as you make it sound. I have indeed rolled over in my grave. Now, this work, you must have your monsters come in early. I have been talking to Mr. Price and Mr. Chaney before I came here for I wanted to understand more about your profession, and if all insist to make my words a…” she paused searching for the correct inference, “Is it B-Movie that you call it? Then it should be the best B-Movie that can be made. I do not mean that as a pun. I do not like puns.” The ghost looked very cross. Ellis knew he was being scolded.
“No of course not. I did not think that you meant it that way,” Ellis said. He then thought, what could be more natural than talking to the Ghost of Jane Austen at nine o’clock on a Monday night.
“Good, now, before I came to you here, I talked a great deal to the masters of these movies who are in the afterlife. Let us see if we can make this better. I should not like any of my main characters, Darcy or Lizzy, to be a monster. But Wickham, oh, he is a monster of course and when Lydia is besotted with him, well perhaps Vampires are surely the way to go. Not that they are real, or we should know of them in the afterlife.”
“Ah, Miss Austen, I do not think we should go by what I have written. I was just passing the time. I am really not a screenwriter.” He had made that statement before. It just always felt like a lie.
“Well naturally you are not. You are much more than that, but from what I can tell of your efforts, they far exceed what your employer will be expecting. There is no reason why you can not create a work that elevates this nonsense to a level that it should be. I admit that I parodied many types of acquaintance in my day. But these Zombies and Werewolves and others are a travesty that we must seek to mitigate.”
Ellis said, getting up to go to the mini bar, “I am confused, a minute ago you were upset about what they did with the Olivier and Greer Garson version of your novel, and now you want to story doctor the monster version?”
“Yes, and no thank you, I am incapable of having a drink. I should not want one in any case, though some madeira was acceptable on occasion. A drink, that is a funny notion. I am dead, you know. No, I can not stop your work on making such a mockery of my story. I can, however, make it as good as it ever was when I was alive. That is, if you will let me assist you. Mr. Karloff had a great deal to say about a good script. So, if you will allow, do you not think that mention of the monsters, vampires, in the same breath as that of Charles Bingley’s arrival at Netherfield Park, the best place to introduce them?”
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