I'm excited to announce that THE PRICE has just been released in the UK from Little, Brown, with this great cover...
... an edgy variation on the U.S. cover, designed by St. Martin's Adam Auerbach:
What would you give to save your child? Your wife? Your soul?
Idealistic Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan has it all: a beautiful and beloved wife, Joanna; an adorable five-year old daughter, Sydney; and a real shot at winning the Massachusetts governor's race. But on the eve of Will's candidacy, Sydney is diagnosed with a malignant, inoperable tumor.
Now Will and Joanna are living in the eerie twilight world of Briarwood Hospital, waiting for Sydney to die, and both going slowly mad with grief.
Then a mysterious, charismatic hospital counselor named Salk takes special interest in Will and Joanna's plight… and when Sydney miraculously starts to improve, Will suspects that Joanna has made a terrible bargain to save the life of their dying child.
All right, this post isn’t all BSP – I have some relevant things to say.
Since we’re going to be talking about high concept – next post - I thought I’d use The Price as an example to illustrate what we’ve been and will be talking about.
The Price is a variation on one of my favorite personal themes – the deal with the devil. This would be one of the recurring themes I recognized early on in my own half-baked ideas and in the films and books on my master lists, when I started doing these brainstorming lists we've been talking about.
I believe that as authors we only have a few themes that we’re working on, or working out, over and over again, and the deal with the devil is probably on the top of my list. Part of that obviously comes from working in Hollywood for so long!
But Satanic characters just do me: Al Swearingen in DEADWOOD, Stringer Bell in THE WIRE, Hannibal Lecter, Al Pacino in DEVIL’S ADVOCATE… who could resist these guys? And that’s the point of the devil, isn’t it? Someone who makes you an offer you can’t refuse, usually in a package you can’t refuse?
And I particularly like to put a man, a woman, and a Satanic character into a triangle situation. Oldest story in the book – well, in the Bible, anyway. Because… I can kind of see Eve’s point of view. The devil’s promising her the wisdom of the ages… Adam is as happily oblivious as the rest of his sex… you’ve got to admit, that’s some powerful temptation, there.
But the core concept that so compels me is the idea of what you’re willing to do for what you want, the choices you make, good or bad. We give up one thing to get another – all the time. And who here hasn’t whispered a little prayer that possibly is not meant for God to hear… about what we would really do for what we want?
I've always thought that just as God is supposed to, the devil knows you - knows the depths of your soul - knows the things that you want that you would never breathe a word about to another human being. So that's the tension that draws me again and again to Satanic characters: the idea of an overwhelmingly erotic and all-knowing figure who knows you to your core - knows you well enough to offer you your most secret desire - at a premium price.
So obviously this was a story concept that I could sink my teeth into.
But here’s an interesting thing about this story, since there was a question about money, on the last post. It’s made me more money, a lot more money, so far than any of the rest of my books, and I think that’s because of the premise. The Price is an example of high concept.
Here's my premise sentence for The Price:
In the eerie twilight world of Briarwood Hospital, an idealistic Boston District Attorney begins to suspect that his wife has made a terrible bargain with a mysterious counselor to save the life of their dying child.
But you could also pitch it with this key concept:
The devil is walking around the halls of a Boston hospital, making deals with desperate patients and their families.
What has grabbed editors, producers, and executives about this concept is that it contains a strong “What would YOU do?” question. What would YOU give to save the life of a loved one? Or your own life?
Because we all say, of course, that we’d give anything. But what does anything mean? Specifically? What is the exact price of your soul?
That’s the kind of question that gets readers and audiences thinking – and talking.
We’ll discuss other high concept hooks tomorrow – (or the next day, if I don’t get enough writing done today…)
In the meantime, keep making your own premise lists!
Here's the trailer, from Shelia English and Mark Miller at Circle of Seven Productions, which does a really cool thing by three-dimensionalizing the book cover. (The trailer won a Black Quill award for Best Dark Genre Trailer.)
"Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."
- The New York Times Book Review
"A medical thriller of the highest order... a stunning, riveting journey into terror and suspense."
- Bestselling author Michael Palmer
"This heartbreakingly eerie page-turner paints a vivid picture of the struggle between reality and the unknown."
- Library Journal
"A psychological roller coaster that keeps the reader on edge with bone-chilling thrills throughout."
- Bestselling author Heather Graham
"Beyond stunning, it is harrowing in the real sense of true art."
- Bestselling author Ken Bruen
Order The Price online now.
Find a U.S. independent bookstore
Or order the U.S. edition online if you prefer...
You can read the first three chapters on my website, too.