Real Romance is Old Fashioned.
What does real romance look like? This February Rene Gutteridge and Rik Swartzwelder attempt to answer that question in their new story, Old Fashioned (Tyndale). Rik wrote the screenplay for the movie, which releases nationwide on February 13, 2015, and Rene wrote the movie novelization, which is also available. Many people are pitting this movie up against the secular film 50 Shades of Grey, which has been grabbing headlines for the last year. Rik and Rene believe that this Valentines' weekend many movie-goers will choose to go "Old Fashioned" with true love and respect instead of what secular culture deems as "romance." Rik and Rene sat down to answer all of our questions about the film, the book and the cultural importance of the film.
Ashley: Rik in three sentences what is this book about?
Rik: On the surface, it’s about the struggle to honor God in our romantic lives in a world that doesn’t always encourage that effort. But, beneath that, it’s a story about the need for both grace and law in our lives and the recognition that the ability to forgive (even ourselves) is one of the truest tests of spiritual maturity. Perhaps most of all, it’s about acknowledging the best of our past in regard to the noble ideals of respect, integrity, and virtue.
Ashley: This sounds like the type of story/movie my husband and I would enjoy watching. Rik, what makes the characters in this story unique?
Rik: Clay is a guy that’s so good at being righteous, he’s actually drifting away from God. His inability to deal with guilt from his past and his deep, driving need to be good is actually isolating him from genuine community and the kind of life God created him for.
Amber is a girl that “follows the warm and fuzzies.” She is full of life and spark and energy, but she refuses to put down roots anywhere because, deep down, she doesn’t trust in the idea of “home” or that anything ever really lasts.
Ashley: And can you share a fact about the characters that no one else knows?
Something about Clay … he was actually abused as a child.
Something about Amber … she loves Dr. Seuss and, at one time, owned every available Disney movie on VHS.
Ashley: Rik what sort of Biblical background did you weave into the movie?
Rik: The principle that marriage is something sacred and that we shouldn’t take lightly the responsibility to guard our own hearts, and the hearts of others, before we are ready and prepared to pursue romance with intention and purpose.
Ashley: Rene how is writing a novelization of a movie script different from writing a story from scratch?
Rene: Typically when I write a novel, I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer. I wake up in the morning and see where the characters take me that day. But in a novelization, I enjoy the benefit of working from what is essentially a very detailed outline. In this case, Rik’s script served that purpose. He’s developed the characters, the plot, and much of the dialogue. To take it to novel form, I use what he has in place and fill in interior monologue, extra dialogue and additional scenes. Working on a novelization is a lot of fun for me because I feel like I get to play more freely instead of concentrating so hard on getting everybody to the end. I already know the end so now I get to find out who they are to me and what they want me to know about them.
Ashley: The seat-of-the-pants writing, that’s my husband hands down. How did you capture the essence of Rik’s script when writing the details of the novelization?
Rene: In this case, I relied heavily on Rik for location information. In a script, he might say:
INT. BAR – NIGHT
Because he knew the locations in Ohio so well, I would ask him detailed questions about what everything looked like, from the feel of the town, to the exterior of the apartment the main character lives in. When I saw the stills from the film, I knew I really wanted to capture that in the book. It was a place Rik was very familiar with and had a strong affection for, so I was able to tap him as a resource for those types of things.
Ashley: Let’s talk a bit about you as authors. What is your favorite genre to write for?
Rik: Character-driven, slice of life dramas.
Rene: I’m sort of a multi-genre writer. I love to follow a good story, whatever genre it may lead me to.
Ashley: Where do you like to write?
Rik: If I’m on a deadline, I often like to write in a hotel room in an area where no one knows me and sort of unplug from my life and dive into the world of the story with as few distractions as possible.
Rene: I wish I could do what Rik does. It’s the ideal way to write. Every once in awhile I’ll drive out to my parents’ house, but my mom wants to constantly feed me so then I have to exercise. So I mostly write at home, in the corner of my bedroom where my desk is, as unglamorous as that sounds. Every once in awhile I’ll venture out to Starbucks and dive into coffee and iced lemon bread for a few hours. I stay at home a lot because I have an ergo keyboard. The small keyboard on my laptop causes my hands to hurt, so I can’t write for hours on it.
Ashley: A Cup of coffee is always handy when writing, and that iced lemon bread is hard to top. Based on your answers it sounds like you are both full time writers, is that true?
Rik: Combined with directing and producing, yes.
Rene: I am, though it’s perilous. There are years when I have too much work, years when I have too little, and few times when the balance is just right.
Ashley: How long does it usually take you to write a single book.
Rene: Writers live and die by the deadline, so it really depends on when it is due. My sweet spot is six to nine months, but I’ve written an entire novel in 10 weeks before. (Not recommended)
Ashley: I can understand why you’d not suggest a ten week deadline. Wow, that muts have been an impressive feat. Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Rik: It depends on the story, but generally it is a combination of a loose outline and letting things evolve as you go. I like to think of it as a road trip with a specific destination in mind but a willingness to take detours along the way and embracing the joy of randomness.
Rene: I write very much like Rik described. The publisher has to know what I’m doing and where I am going, but I’m willing to detour and I do it quite frequently. Sometimes I detour so drastically (for instance, I decide to kill a main character) that I have to let the publisher know where I’m planning on taking it, just to make sure it’s okay.
Ashley: Rik, what was your inspiration for writing this story?
Rik: So many things… my own life, a story I’d heard years before about a man who made a promise to never be alone with any woman that wasn’t his wife, the absence of any movie that reflected the lives of Christian singles I knew …
More than anything, though … it was a deep desire to try and find a way to make virtue heroic. I have known a lot of broken and damaged hearts who’ve bought into cultural lies when it came to dating and it left them wanting. The wreckage was real and lasting. I really wanted to craft a story that, beyond being entertaining, might offer a little hope and healing to those shackled by regret or the fear that love (or even God) has passed them by.