|Hotels & Airports Spell Success|
Arthur Hailey is now one of the world's best selling authors. His eleven novels have sold more than 150 million copies in 35 countries and 30 languages. Eleven movies, including "Hotel", "Black-Out", "Wheels", and the "Airport" series, were made from his books. His latest novel "The Evening News" (1990) was an immediate blockbuster.
Hailey emigrated from England to Canada in 1947. At first he couldn't get a job on a newspaper so he worked as a real estate salesman and an advertising executive. His big break came in 1956 when the CBC broadcast his first teleplay, "Flight Into Danger", the story of food poisoning aboard an airliner that affects both passengers and crew.
That story became a movie called "Zero Hour", then became the first of his best-sellers, "Runway Zero Eight”.
Where does he get the ideas for his best-sellers?
He told me he got the idea for "Airport" while being shown around a new section of the Toronto Airport (now terminal one) by it's designer, John Parkin.
"John was telling me and my young son Stephen about some of the various difficulties the flights were encountering. We stood on the roof watching the planes take off into the winter night, I suddenly thought: when I finish Hotel, there's my new subject."
"I can't open a newspaper without coming up with half a dozen possible
subjects. Selecting the right one, or course, is the trick. Some of my ideas have come from other people. "Strong Medicine" about the pharmaceutical industry, was the idea of a publisher's editor in New York. At first I didn't think much of the idea but I trusted the man's judgment and when I looked into the background of the industry I found it one of the most fascinating, and one of the most successful too.
"The Evening News", my latest book (1990) was completely my own idea. "
Some authors worry about a book once it is on the shelves. Arthur doesn't.
"By the time it's published, I know it's the best I can do. If you hate it, blame me; if you like it, praise me. It's irrevocable; it's done. Why worry when you can get on with the next one?"
What is the key to his success? How is it that his novels are all best-sellers while other writers' work sit on a back shelf and don't quite make it with the public?
"When I do a book-and this is why they are successful-the story is all. Even though I bring other ingredients in, they have to count for something. If something doesn't relate to the story, I leave it out.
"I always say in the course of my story, if I can tell the readers something about what goes on in the institutions I write about, that's fine. But if it is not relevant and doesn't move the story along, I don't use it.
"I learned one or two things when I was writing for television: keep it lean and tight. Cut out those surplus words. There are very few pieces of writing that cannot be improved by that policy of cutting.
"Early on in my writing career, a TV producer told me that the motto I should have hanging over my desk should be: conflict! conflict! conflict! that's what keeps the story going, keeps people interested. So there are three things: lean and tight, cut and conflict."
What about sex, I asked?
"Yes, sex is important. It's part of life. But you don't drown your story in it. You put it on like pepper and salt. A sprinkle here and there."
Another question that always comes up when Arthur Hailey is interviewed, or even by people at cocktail parties, is about the movies made from his books. How much influence does he have when Hollywood goes to work on his latest creation?
"I have no influence at all on the films made from my novels. I couldn't even get a part for a girl I knew who I thought was perfect for a role.
"It's a producer/director's medium. They have the last word."
Authors, even those as successful as Arthur Hailey, can be influenced by book reviewers. He has a positive thought about that too.
"I've never had a good review in The New York Times that I can think of There's nothing gets a book off to a better start than a bad review in the
New York Times. I once said: 'they’re writing reviews and I'm writing books’."
Although Arthur has had quadruple bypass surgery, his health has been generally good and his energy level obviously high.
"There are days when I say-why me? Why have I been so lucky? I'm still dazed, but I try to keep a sense of proportion. ] just enjoy what I'm doing. That's the key to life."
Arthur Hailey, another Canadian Achiever.
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