Hollywood and Back: How Author E. Van Lowe Reinvented Himself in Hollywood
Los Angeles, CA, January 16, 2014 --(PR.com
)-- A few weeks ago in mid-December, Ehrich (pronounced Eric) Van Lowe received a flat envelope in the mail from the Writers Guild of America. In it was a letter of congratulations along with a certificate. The Cosby Show had been selected as one of the 101 best television shows in history. Van Lowe and other writers were being honored for their roles in writing and producing the show.
“Receiving the honor was a mixed blessing,” says Van Lowe. “Many of my current fans weren’t even born when The Cosby Show aired in first run. They only know it from late night reruns on TV Land and Nick at Night. They view The Cosby Show the same way I viewed I Love Lucy reruns when I was a kid—something that happened a long, long time ago.”
Van Lowe laughs when he says this, but his laughter is bittersweet. Many of the young Hollywood executives who Van Lowe must look to to get hired to write TV shows and movies were children when he was writing and producing such stalwart series as The Cosby Show, Knight Rider, Charles In Charge and Even Stevens. In a culture that celebrates youth, they don’t see Van Lowe as a seasoned veteran; they see him just as they see any writer over forty—old and washed-up.
After a head writer stint on The Tom Joyner Show in 2006, Van Lowe realized his phone wasn’t ringing as much as it once was. He decided after the show had wrapped to begin his segue into his next career, that as an author. Van Lowe had begun his writing career as an author, writing a few paperback original horror novels when he was a student at the University of Southern California. In the early 80s, Van Lowe had written "Child’s Play" and "The Power" under the pseudonym Sal Conte.
“I loved horror when I was growing up,” says van Lowe. “I still do. I chose the first and last names of two guys I played basketball with at the Y as my pseudonym. I figured I’d save my own name for when I wrote the great American novel.”
The great American novel never happened because soon after graduating from the Masters in Professional Writing program at USC, Van Lowe began his more than twenty-year career writing television and film, and never looked back. “The plan was to return to writing books when my TV run was over. I had no idea it was going to last as long as it did, or be so successful.”
Van Lowe’s successes includes: co-writing the Academy Award nominated short film, Cadillac Dreams. A People’s Choice Award for The Cosby Show, an Emmy nomination for Even Stevens, and numerous other nominations including several for the NAACP Image Award, and two for the Director’s Guild of America Diversity Award.
When the Tom Joyner Show wrapped, Van Lowe made the difficult decision to not take any studio meetings that year in search of his next gig. Instead, he decided to take the year off and write his first young adult novel, “Never Slow Dance with a Zombie.” “It wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I knew my career was winding down and I wanted to get my second career started before my first career ended. I wrote the book before the zombie craze had hit, before YA novels like 'Twilight' and 'The Hunger Games' were hot movie properties. So to many of my friends, as well as my agents and manager, it seemed like a bad idea. But I have to hand it to my team, once they understood what I was doing, they embraced the idea as best they could and never deserted me.”
In 2007, Van Lowe’s faith in his team was rewarded when his agent, Jim Kellem (JKA Talent & Literary), did what Van Lowe thought he couldn’t by inking a book deal at Tor Teen, a division of publishing powerhouse MacMillan/St. Martin’s. By then, the book was highly anticipated. "Never Slow Dance with a Zombie" was released in September 2009 with an initial order of 70,000 copies. While the book never made it onto the best seller list, "Never Slow Dance with a Zombie" went on to garner a nomination for an American Library Association Award. The book became part of the first wave of YA zombie novels and launched the beginning of the current YA paranormal craze.
Soon after the sale of "Never Slow Dance with a Zombie," Kellem called again telling Van Lowe the family of a teen Hollywood star wanted to meet with him. Jim had slipped the manuscript to the young star’s family. They loved the story and wanted to option it for their daughter. Van Lowe declined the option because he realized he could have a resurgence in Hollywood if he were the rights holder and producer of this and several popular novels. How would he become the rights holder to more books? He’d write the books himself.
“I wanted to become a beloved novelist, not a guy who wrote one book that became a movie,” says Van Lowe. “I love books and the people who read them. As much as I wanted to renew my Hollywood career, I knew I had to write several books that readers enjoyed. If I did that, the rest would take care of itself.”
Van Lowe says his greatest reward has been the fans. Although his protagonists are always teenagers, his books appeal to young and old alike. Van Lowe particularly loves interacting with his younger fans. “They’re so enthusiastic,” he says. In 2009 Van Lowe’s young fan’s enthusiasm was on display when many of them showed up to his Never Slow Dance with a Zombie Fest hours early to get made into zombies by a professional Hollywood makeup artist.
Van Lowe was on a roll. His second and third novels, (the first two books in The Falling Angels Saga) "Boyfriend from Hell" and "Earth Angel" became eBook Best Sellers in 2012. The four-book saga is being published by White Whisker Books, owned and operated by Van Lowe’s college classmate and friend, Christopher Meeks.
“Working with Meeks has been a dream. I’m able to have a hand in all aspects of the publishing process, including design, marketing, and release dates. I’m a hands-on kind of guy. I try to write page-turners, and with Chris’s help, I believe we deliver the best visceral experience for my fans that we possibly can.”
Meeks only has admiration for Van Lowe. "Ehrich saw what I was doing at White Whisker and asked if I'd considering publishing his Falling Angels Saga. I was only one chapter in and saw this guy is a magician. He can write. His fourth book comes out in two months."
Van Lowe takes as much care with his new career as he did with The Cosby Show. The highly anticipated fourth and final book in the saga, entitled "Falling," debuts on March 13th 2014. White Whisker is hosting a launch party at Vroman’s Books in Pasadena on launch day, where Van Lowe will do a reading. The event is free and open to the public. Van Lowe is hoping his latest book becomes another best seller. “My fans are going to love the final book. I put everything I had into it,” he says with pride.
Van Lowe is quite busy in his new career. He spent much of the summer in meetings at every major studio and many production companies shopping his projects. He and a partner wrote a sitcom pilot for a cable network. In December, he teamed with Hollywood heavyweight Peter Bergmann to produce the Falling Angels Saga as a feature film franchise. He is currently at work on the screenplay for "Boyfriend from Hell," the first book in the franchise. In January, he resumed taking meetings for more TV projects based on his works. He’s also working on a new novella and his next novel.
“I can’t believe how busy I am,” says Van Lowe. “Two years ago I couldn’t get arrested. Some days I feel overwhelmed, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My new career is every bit as rewarding as my first, possibly even more rewarding because I’m older and wiser. Who said youth is wasted on the young? I feel as youthful as ever. I’m having a ball.”
Van Lowe hopes his story can be an inspiration for men and women who believe the work world is preparing them for pasture. “We can all continue to be productive members of society,” he says, “if instead of lamenting the end of our careers, we take a moment to rethink our career strategies.”