Sunday, March 20, 2016

The African Queen in Outer Space? #SciRom #ASMSG

The African Queen in Outer Space?

A guest post by Edward Hoornaert:

My upcoming science fiction romance, Escapee, is coming out on April 19. What inspired me to write the book?
The 1951 movie, The African Queen. My version is set on an inhospitable moon, rather than the African Jungle, but in both tales the hero and heroine battle nature and, ultimately, the invading enemy.
How did I transform a movie into a science fiction romance?

Analyzing the movie

I rented the movie and looked for two things:
  • Stages -- Charley and Rosie's relationship go through a number of stages.
  • Turning points -- The events that caused their relationship to change from one stage to another.
I then devised analogous stages and turning points for Escapee. Here are a few of them, so you get the feel for how the analysis worked.
Stage 1:  Polite disconnect between hero and heroine.
  • AQ -- Rosie, a missionary in German East Africa, disapproves of Charley, a crude freighter captain who brings supplies, but treats him with chilly politeness.
  • Escapee -- Hector, a stuffy career army officer, disapproves of the freewheeling, lower-class airship pilot, Cattaroon who supplies his base.
Turning point:  The enemy invades. In AQ, it's the Germans, who leave Rosie alone and stranded -- until Charley comes by and saves her.
In Escapee, it's humans from the Proxima system. While Hector's on leave, they destroy his entire command, leaving him stranded and alone -- until Catt lands, looking for survivors.
Stage 2:  Rosie devises a near-impossible goal that he doesn't agree with.
  • AQ -- Rosie's wants to attack a German warship. Charley agrees, knowing she'll give up when she learns how dangerous the river is.
  • Escapee -- Hector wants to attack enemy headquarters. Catt agrees only because she's certain he'll give up when he realizes how dangerous a flight across the moon is.
So far the two stories are similar. Now they start to diverge, though the skeleton remains the same.
Turning point:  When mild danger fails to deter her from her purpose, his true feelings come out explosively.
·         In AQ, after shooting rapids doesn't deter Rosie, Charley gets drunk and insults Rosie. She dumps out all his rum.
·         In Escapee, after getting caught in a volcano's updraft doesn't deter Hector, Catt sabotages a cannon stored in the airship's hold.
Stage 3:  Futile attempts to rebuild a civil relationship.
  • AQ -- Charley apologizes for insulting her, but she won't accept his apology unless he agrees to take her to the Germans' ship.
  • Escapee -- With the cannon gone, Hector realizes how futile his quest is. Feeling guilty, Catt tries to be nice, but he's too depressed to talk about it.
Turning point:  He agrees to share her goal.
In AQ, Charley's (deeply buried!) chivalry makes him give in.
In Escapee, Catt remembers all the friends whom the enemy has killed. Hearing her cry during the night, Hector finally talks, voicing his idealistic reasons for wanting to fight. Inspired by his idealism, Catt agrees to make the dangerous voyage to the other side of the moon.
Stage 4:  Falling in love
Etc, etc.

"Inspired By", Not a Ripoff

This post is getting long, so I won't bore you with all six stages, but hopefully you get the general idea. Analyzing the movie turned out to be a huge help in developing my plot. You ought to try it some time.
I'd like to emphasize that Escapee ended up having a different feel than the movie. Here are some of the key differences:
  • Although both environments are hostile, they're different -- river rapids vs. hurricanes and volcanoes.
  • The characters’ genders are reversed. Their wounds are very different, as are the lessons they need to learn.
  • I added secondary characters. They capture an enemy who tries to sabotage the airship. Hector has an alien pet that is ugly/lovable. Finally, Catt's android co-pilot provides comic relief as well as the book's most poignant scene, when he dies.
  • The ending is more believable, IMHO. AQ's ending requires an act of God (a rainstorm that floats their grounded boat) and a wild coincidence (their sunken boat nonetheless sinks the German ship). Escapee has a logical ending.

What's It to You?

If you have a favorite movie you love, you might want to turn it into a book of your own. If so, consider analyzing it for stages and turning points.
What movie would you like to turn into an "inspired by" novel? Tell us about it in the comments.
Release Date: April 19 2016

About Edward Hoornaert

What kind of man writes romance? A man who married his high school sweetheart a week after graduation and is still living the HEA decades later. A man who is a certifiable Harlequin hero in his own right -- Ed inspired Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Rita Award finalist Mr. Valentine, which is dedicated to him.

Ed started out writing romances for Silhouette Books, but these days he concentrates on science fiction romance. In addition to novelist, he’s been a teacher, principal, technical writer, salesman, janitor, and symphonic oboist. He and wife Judi live in Tucson, Arizona. They have three sons, a daughter, a mutt, and the world’s most adorable grandson. Visit him at


  1. Thanks so much for hosting Escapee, Travis!

  2. I don't think you need a movie to inspire a great story. If an author reads enough they will see this kind of pattern in a number of books.

    1. You're right, of course, Donna. However, I love this movie and in this case, the book is nowhere near as good or inspiring.

    2. It is one of my mom's favorites too and we would watch it every time it came on TV when I was a kid. When a collector's edition DVD came out I got us both a copy!

  3. I agree with Donna. What films pick up is already in books. However, for the purpose of this post I would suggest "Casablanca", another 'classic'. ;-)
    I'm writing a murder mystery at the moment and the central dynamic is probably somewhat inspired by "Outrageous Fortune" - a silly B-movie starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long. Two women who hate but need each other until they become unlikely friends. Old, worn out and simply brilliant dynamic :-)

  4. I'm with Donna, however I do also think that inspiration is every where and our imagination can be inspired by movies or book. That is also why I normally 'lock' my self up when I'm writing, as I don't want to accidentally copy anything whilst getting inspired. :)

  5. This sounds intriguing! I love the fact that genders are reversed so that new lessons are learned. That always catches my eye. Thanks for this! I gotta share it!

  6. Travis, what an ingenious idea and SUPER application of it! First movie I thought of I would like to explore that way is the movie with Brad Pitt where he ages backward, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Won't happen any time soon, but what a brilliant detailed view of how it can be done. Great job :)