Everywhere I go, countless fans ask me how I came up with the idea for the Andy Carpenter series.
Actually, it’s not really “everywhere”; it happened once, in Albuquerque at a book signing. And it’s not really “countless” fans; one of the five people at the signing asked the question, and I think his wife nodded. I didn’t really answer the question, and no one objected to my reticence.
That was seven years ago, but just in case anyone else out there wants to know, I figured this would be a good time to tell the story. It’s a little embarrassing, but if you’re familiar with my work, then you know I don’t embarrass easily.
In the nineties I was writing screenplays for feature films and TV movies. I was having decent success, and sold about ten feature scripts and probably eight TV movies. Unfortunately, none of the features got made, but on the TV side, three were made and appeared on the small screen. It’s fair to say that they did not have a great impact on American culture.
I wrote a spec script called “Snapshot,” a legal drama starring none other than Andy Carpenter as a wise-ass lawyer from Paterson, New Jersey. At the risk of damning it with faint praise, it was one of my best scripts.
No studio showed any interest at all in making it as a feature, but a good friend and top TV movie producer loved it. He was confident that one of the networks would buy it.
He was wrong. It went unsold and into a desk drawer, likely never to be seen again.
Then, about a year later, he called to tell me that Tyne Daley had read it and thought it was terrific. She wanted to play Andy Carpenter, as long as I would change the character to a somewhat overweight woman.
Having never been afflicted with artistic integrity, I agreed and made the changes. Now, with Ms. Daly attached, the producer confidently went back to the networks, who all promptly turned it down again.
Andy, or Andrea as he was now called, went back to the desk drawer.
It’s rare that a script comes out of that drawer even once, but this one had still another life. Eighteen months later, the producer informed me that Cheryl Ladd fell in love with it, and wondered if I’d meet with her to discuss it.
So we met, and basically the only changes she asked for were for me to take out the overweight jokes. I was fine with that, since with Ms. Ladd on board, they no longer worked anyway.
So back to the networks, who remained unimpressed and all passed. A pattern was forming. If God had come down and ordered the networks to make this movie, I believe they would have refused.
So back to the drawer, where it would spend the rest of its days. But on one of those days, a few years later, I decided to write a novel…a courtroom drama.
All the way at the bottom of the drawer was the original version of “Snapshot,” starring the original, and male, Andy Carpenter. It also had two of the other characters that wound up being in the ‘Andy’ novels.
I took the basic story of the script, made some changes, and before you could say, “What the hell is he doing?”, it became a novel. The entire process, from drawer to agent, took about six weeks.
Because the history of “Snapshot” was not exactly one of great financial success, I changed the title to “Open and Shut.”
Miraculously, a publisher saw in it what the networks did not, and they bought it. I had never really thought about it as a series, but I quickly changed my thought process when the contract called for sequels.
So that’s the story. If you see the guy from Albuquerque, please let him know.
Copyright © 2017 David Rosenfelt.
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David Rosenfelt is the Edgar-nominated and Shamus Award-winning author of several stand-alone thrillers and more than a dozen Andy Carpenter novels, including Outfoxed. He and his wife live in Maine with their ever-changing pack of rescue dogs.