Thursday, July 16, 2015


I received an e-mail a few weeks ago from Dylan Bruce, a screenwriter I've known (through e-mail and phone calls) for about ten years. He was one of the first people who read Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen, my debut novel. He said, “Let me be part of your publicity machine. Let me interview you about the book!" After I got done laughing, I thought about it. Dylan had done an interview with me a number of years ago and we had some fun with it, so I figured, "OK, sure!" So over a few e-mail and phone conversations, we knocked out this interview. —JV

Dylan Bruce Interviews Jim Vines, Author of Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen

DB: First of all, Jim, I enjoyed the book. It was a lot of fun and quite a ride!

JV: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

DB: I know the book is a work of fiction, but I have to ask: You're a screenwriter in Hollywood and your main character, Trent Nordhoff, is a screenwriter in Hollywood. Is any of the story—any of it at all—based in reality?

JV: Some of it, sure. Not my reality, perhaps, but somebody’s reality. No, to be honest, there are bits and pieces that are based on things I’ve experienced, but for the most part it’s a work of fiction.

DB: After writing screenplays for so many years, why did you decide to write a novel?

JV: Yeah, it’s kinda odd. I mean, if you had told me just a few years ago that I’d pen a novel, I would’ve laughed. But ya know, I really, really enjoyed the process. I loved the freedom of writing a novel. I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed writing screenplays. Also, with a screenplay, if it’s on spec, very few people are going to read it. Sure, maybe a few of your friends, you agent, your manager, maybe a handful of producers or executives. But if it doesn’t get sold, it becomes a doorstop. If it never gets made into a movie, that great story you came up with is gone. But with a book, you can publish it yourself and get it out into the world. Even if you sell just a few hundred copies of that book, that’s far more than would’ve read your unsold, un-optioned screenplay. Of course, I sure hope to sell more than a few hundred copies. We’ll see how it goes.

DB: Isn’t Luigi’s the end result of a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)?

JV: Well, yes and no. Here’s what happened: I had heard about NaNoWriMo over the years, but I was a screenwriter, not a novelist. Then when I decided I wanted to write the novel, I went online and got all the info about NaNo. I’m not much of a joiner, so signing up for the NaNoWriMo really wasn’t gonna happen. Don’t get me wrong, I think NaNo is great, and it gets a lot of writers writing books, but it just wasn’t something that I found necessary for myself. But I liked the idea of cranking out a novel in one month. So a few weeks later I looked at the calendar and said, “OK, Vines, one month from today you’re gonna have the first draft of your novel.” I was sitting and writing about five minutes later. I slapped down a lot of words over the next couple of weeks. I remember quite clearly my word count at the 17 day mark. It was just over 25,000 words. I plowed forth, totally focused on getting the first draft done by the thirty day mark. I went a bit over my target date, crossing the finish line on the 34th day. At least I thought I did. After reading through the manuscript I realized I wanted a couple more scenes. So I spent three more days getting those written. On the thirty-seventh day I had just over 80,000 words. The novel was done. All I had to do was edit and make it as shiny as I could. I had a couple of paid script assignments and some personal issues I had to take care of, so editing was a process that would take another couple of years.

DB: Did you edit as you were writing?

JV: Well, not really. I mean, if I’m writing on a yellow pad and then transpose it over to the computer, I’ll usually do some editing along the way. But I prefer to just put the words down, get it all done, then later go back and clean things up one page at a time. I think it important, psychologically speaking, to just get the project done.

DB: How much of that original draft remained in the published book?

JV: I don’t think it changed too radically. If I had to make a guesstimate, I’d say I changed about 20% of that original draft. I’ve written a lot of screenplays over the years and I’ve trained myself not to write material I’m gonna cut. Most of my editing is just trimming up paragraphs, trimming dialogue, fixing my lousy punctuation…that sort of thing. But cutting entire sequences…well, that doesn’t happen very often.

DB: Did you outline this book?

JV: When I write a screenplay, I always outline. And I tell all up-and-coming screenwriters to never ever start a script without at least a bullet point outline. But with the book I just dove right in. In fact, I didn’t even start it at the beginning. I wrote several of the later chapters first and then doubled back and wrote all the introduction stuff. At least one segment, the segment with that horrid Georgia Stanley, which comes about three-fourths of the way through the story, was pretty much the last thing I wrote. I added Georgia because I thought the story needed that extra bit of drama. So no, I didn’t outline the book at all. Again, that’s why I enjoyed the process so much; I was able to go where I wanted to go, wherever my imagination took me. That sort of thing is more difficult when you’re writing a screenplay. That said, I have a feeling I’ll draw up some sort of outline with subsequent novels.

DB: OK, getting to some of the specific characters in the book…

JV: Sure.

DB: So I have to ask: Was the MILF character, Laura Hammerstein, a real person? Was she someone you actually knew?

JV: Maybe she was, maybe she wasn’t.

DB: OK, so that tells me she was real!

JV: I didn’t say that.

DB: So what about Megyn [the "figure" model]?

JV: Well, I’d say maybe 30% of Megyn is a person I once actually knew.

DB: What about that little hottie, Chloe? Did you ever pick up a girl who was hitchhiking, take her out, get her drunk…

JV: C’mon, Dylan, didn’t you read the copyright page? It clearly states: “This is a work of fiction.”

DB: Too bad. Don’t tell my wife, but I think Chloe was pretty hot.

JV: You liked her? I mean, you’d really want to date someone like that?

DB: Hell yeah! Nothing like a good challenge!

JV: Then go take a walk around Hollywood. You’ll probably meet Chloe’s twin in about five minutes. But why are you asking me about all those nasty little trollops? Why don’t you ask me about Crystal?

DB: Ah, right—Crystal. It seems she was based on a girl you once really knew…someone you had a thing for at one time.

JV: Crystal was definitely real, for the most part. But it real life we only spoke, briefly, a few times. But yeah, she was a girl that I—well, it’s all kinda heartbreaking, really.

DB: Sorry to hear it.

JV:  I got over it…eventually.

DB: Getting back to the Georgia character. She was a total bitch. When it was revealed what she did to Trent, I was so f***ing mad!

JV: Yeah, she’s pretty infuriating.

DB: Did you ever have a run-in with such a person in your years as a screenwriter?

JV: Well, I can’t say I ever crossed paths with anyone quite as loathsome as Georgia Stanley, but I sure did run across my fair share of wicked people.

DB: Your main character, Trent Nordhoff, is no saint, either, especially in the way he deals with Mrs. Hammerstein.

JV: He likes her and has a certain amount of respect for her…he’s just doing what he has to do to survive. I don’t think you can totally blame him. He’s just a young guy, and she’s a hot, older woman.

DB: A hot married woman!

JV: Sure, if you want to get technical about it…

DB: Don't you think Trent was a little on the immature side?

JV: In a lot of ways, he definitely is. But I think most guys in their mid-20s are.

DB: He also seems pretty cynical.

JV: He doesn't start off that way, but yeah, after a handful of years, he has an edge that wasn't necessarily there previously.

DB: Are you a cynical person?

JV: Well, I've been involved in the movie industry, in one form or another, for many years, so I'm kinda inured to it. Fact is, it can be a rough place. Sure, there's lots of glamour and glitz and palm trees and pretty people, but underneath it can be quite nauseating, quite cold. It's not easy carving a little niche in this town, so I don't think you can help being at least a little bit cynical. Besides, there's a lot of bull getting thrown around in this town. If you believe everything people tell you—"Oh, we love your script!" and “We’ve got the financing!”—you're in for a rough ride. But for a young guy like Trent, someone who grew up far from Los Angeles, you can see how his bubble would burst after a very short time. But hey, conflict is drama, right? If everything was peaches and cream all the time, who'd read the story?

DB: Getting back to your writing process: So you just sat down at the computer and wrote?

JV: Actually, I rarely used a computer in my initial writing phase. I sat with a pen and yellow legal pad and just started writing. I was really astonished how quickly this book came to me. It just poured out, almost as if someone had been dictating over my shoulder. This has happened to me many times before, but it was quite pronounced with this novel. It was kinda scary. But good scary! Anyway, once I’d get a decent amount written on the legal pad, I’d transpose it on the computer. I’d go back and forth between legal pad and computer. As I already said, I got the first draft down pretty quick.

DB: So why did you choose Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen as your first novel? 

JV: I actually think it chose me. Again, I've been floating around "Hollywood" for a number of years and it's a setting I know well. I've also met, in one form or another, most of the characters that populate the story. I've known people who were similar to [the characters of] Kurt, and Red, and Jean-Claude. I've been to a handful of industry soirees where the people you meet hand out their business card at the end of the conversation. But what drew me to write Luigi’s, I think, was that it's an adventure story. Not an adventure about a guy in search of the Ark of the Covenant, or hunting a giant ape, but a story about a young man dropping what's comfortable—family, friends, a secure job—and driving 2500 miles to begin a life—he hopes—as a Hollywood screenwriter. Now if that's not an adventure story, what is?

DB: In one of your recent blog posts [2/10/15] you wrote about transitioning from screenwriter to novelist. You wrote, “If a script doesn’t get produced, if it doesn’t get made into a movie, that great story of yours is relegated to the dark void known as obscurity. Ah, but this is not necessarily so with a novel, especially nowadays with the self-publishing boom. A writer can pen their tome and, with a few clicks of a mouse, send that book out into the world.” Can you elaborate on that a little?

JV: I became a screenwriter primarily because I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to entertain. For years I thought the only truly fun and interesting way to do that was by getting a movie made. Turns out I was wrong. Getting a script produced is a daunting task. You have to jump through a few dozen hoops just to get somebody to say, “Yes, we want to make this into a movie.” Then there’s always the huge possibility that you’ll jump through those few dozen hoops and a few dozen more and still end up with a screenplay that’s nothing more than fodder for the recycle bin. Now, with a novel, you’re completely in control. You write it, you cast it, you’re the cinematographer, you’re the set designer…you’re even in charge of make-up and wardrobe! The finished product—that bound novel—is like this neatly packaged movie that will play out in the mind and imagination of the reader. The best part: you don’t need anybody’s permission; you don't need anybody to say “yes.” I just think there’s something extraordinarily satisfying about that. 

DB: I love the title: Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen. How’d you come up with it?

JV: My girlfriend and I talk on the phone every night. Well, every night that we’re not actually together. Anyway, one night she called and—being the goofball that I am—I answered the phone with the incongruous, “Hello, thanks for calling Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen. How may I help you?” I had been thinking about titles for the book for a while, so after I hung up with my girlfriend, I got to thinking, “Hmm…Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen. Now that sounds like a really good title for the book.” Then I tried to figure out how to incorporate that title into the story. Happily, I figured it out pretty quick.

DB: Are you planning to write any other novels?

JV: Definitely! I’ve got other ideas, other genres. Whatever success I’ve had as a screenwriter has been in the horror and thriller genres. I’d like to try a horror novel; also a thriller. This is all an experiment right now. I’m just having fun seeing where it all goes. Having fun is the biggest reason why I write. If you’re not having fun, it’s just not worth it. I feel sorry for people who do jobs only for money. There’s a saying: “Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that’s very true.

DB: Will there be a sequel to Luigi’s Chinese Delicatessen?

JV: It’s funny. A few of my beta-readers told me I had to write a sequel. I just had to! So sure, if the folks reading Luigi’s 1 want a Luigi’s 2, they’ll most definitely get it!


Now available in paperback from 
and Kindle e-Book!

Dylan Bruce can be contacted at DylanBruce70(at)

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