Straight out of college, I landed my dream job. I was hired as a reporter on a small local newspaper in a Dallas suburb. Two weeks later, I was fired for “making things up.” Turns out I was far better suited for fiction than non-fiction.
My confidence shaken, I kept writing short stories and poems that ended up in the floor of my closet. I sold shirts and ties at a posh men’s store. Ironically enough, I ended up teaching Journalism in high school. And I loved it, but the urge to create gnawed at me. I decided to become a film scholar. I moved to Austin, enrolled in graduate school and took a screenwriting class for fun. Halfway through the semester, my professor told me I was as good as any working writer in Hollywood. I couldn’t believe that something that gave me such joy could also pay the rent. His words of encouragement changed my life and eventually my zip code.
After three years studying my craft, I cashed in my meager teacher retirement, loaded up my apartment and my beat-up Toyota into a Ryder truck and moved to Hollywood. I took four network meetings before a protracted Writer’s Strike put the brakes on my budding career. To support myself, I became a rock and roll secretary with the dubious distinction of having the privilege of paying Prince’s Visa bill.
Shortly after the Strike, I interviewed to write a movie-of-the-week on sorority life. Full disclosure: I had been in one in college. But I was not really a good candidate for Greek life; I had only pledged to please my mother. Still, I was very grateful to her for forcing me to live in the sorority house, which I hated at the time. Turns out, those unhappy days made me an expert of sorts and got me my first screenwriting job. I celebrated with a smart cocktail at the legendary Musso and Frank on Hollywood Boulevard.
And I kept writing. I worked for all three networks and two cable companies, writing movie-of-the weeks and mini-series that actually got made. I made feature deals with major studios and wrote movies that did not. In between writing assignments, I got married, had two children, and acquired two cats and one dog and moved to the beach. Life was good.
And then I turned forty-eight. I was at the top of my game but could not get hired. My manager said that two bad things came together to blow up my world. The made-for-tv movie business had dried up significantly plus buyers suddenly realized I was over forty. The good news was, he said, that it had taken the network eight years to figure that out. Although his observation was somewhat flattering, it made me realize that ageism was alive and well in Hollywood and that my career as a screenwriter would not go on forever.
I half-heartedly applied for some part-time teaching jobs. I looked into getting my real estate license. But then I faced the inevitable. Writers write because they have to. I’d written all my life – whether someone paid me or not. So once again, I began the process of re-inventing myself- this time as a teenage boy who fell in love with an internet porn star. I finished the script and turned it in with initials instead of my first name. I became K.A. Hoeffner to hide my gender. Folks loved the script; all over town, people wanted to take meetings with the new me, the one they assumed was a guy. Thankfully, the producers of the Mary Kate and Ashley hired me to write their new movie, even after they discovered I was a woman and a not-so-young woman at that. I was back in the game.
Like most writers, my working life has been a process of re-invention both as a creator and as an entrepreneur. Every time we writers open our laptops to give voice to the stirrings in our soul, we re-invent ourselves in the lives of our characters. My latest work, Knee Deep, illustrates my point perfectly. I fell in love with New Orleans on my first visit when I was sixteen, the same age as its main character, Camille. My long love affair with the Crescent City inspired me to craft her story, that of a young woman who learns to survive both love and loss.
Knee Deep will be published in Fall 2020, and I am thrilled at the prospect of reinventing myself once again – this time as an author in the Regal family.
A few facts:
Hoeffner is the Chair of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She has fourteen film credits including several Danielle Steel adaptations, a television mini-series Harem, movies-of-the-week based on true stories– The Making of a Hollywood Madam and Miss America: Behind the Crown. Among her other credits are the original movies, Voices from Within and Burning Rage. She has penned two young adult novels, All You’ve Got, and Surf Ed.