A fallen star. Four Los Angeles misfits.
And the Marilyn Monroe you only thought you knew.
Del Corwyn is an aging relic. An actor who advanced from errand boy to Academy Award nominee, Del kept company with the elite of Hollywood’s golden era and shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Today, however, he faces bankruptcy.
Humiliated, Del is forced to downgrade his lifestyle, sell the home he’s long cherished, and fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian.
Del surges to the top of Hollywood’s A-list overnight. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream?
A story of warmth, humor and honesty, Beautiful Mess follows one man’s journey toward love and relevance where he least expects it—and proves coming-of-age isn’t just for the young.
“I have an intriguing prospect for a new film,” Del replied as he took a seat. He tapped the manila envelope tucked under his arm, which contained Marilyn’s script.
He could’ve sworn he caught Arnie in the onset of an eye roll brought to a sudden halt.
“What kind of project?”
“A pop-culture type of thing. You could say it has a retro feel to it.”
Arnie sighed. “Del, I realize you like to relive the past—”
“This is a winner, Arnie. I guarantee it.”
“And what does this winning project involve?”
“Marilyn Monroe. It’s a screenplay.”
“With all due respect, isn’t that a bit clichéd? This would need to be an angle no one else has covered. Many people have done films about Marilyn Monroe, not to mention books and memorabilia and everything else under the sun.”
“You don’t understand. This isn’t about Marilyn Monroe.” Del felt a surge of adrenaline and couldn’t contain himself. He leaned forward and, with great pomp, planted the thick package on Arnie’s desk. It landed with a thump. “It’s by Marilyn Monroe.”
Arnie sat open-mouthed as he tried to follow along. His eyes widened in perplexity. “By Marilyn Monroe,” he repeated.
“Del, what the hell are you talking about?”
With a lighthearted laugh, Del eased back into the chair. “Last night, I rummaged through some boxes I’d stored away long ago. Hadn’t looked through them in years. Relics from my heyday. Things I’d forgotten I’d saved. And at the bottom of one of those boxes, I found this.”
He patted the envelope, which crinkled at his touch.
“It’s a script, given to me in 1962.” Del caught Arnie’s eye to make sure the man paid full attention. “Written by Marilyn Monroe.”
What inspired you to write this story?
While reading a Marilyn Monroe biography, learned the actress was forced into a mental institution against her will. Somebody close to her betrayed her trust. She was trapped, frightened, alone, and couldn’t rescue herself from what she considered imprisonment. I thought, “Even though they released her, the experience must have left scars. Nobody could escape that predicament unchanged.” That thought stuck with me for six years until it served as the impetus for Beautiful Mess.
What was your favorite part to write? I loved the laughter! Deep, dark struggles of the human heart served as the anchors for all of my prior novels. Beautiful Mess possesses that quality, too, but this time, it’s not the primary driver. I also enjoyed the challenge of featuring a 78-year-old protagonist, which isn’t common in contemporary fiction. It forced me outside my comfort zone.
What was the hardest part to write? Addressing the complexity and tragedy of Marilyn Monroe in a way that honors her memory was a balancing act. Much of the story focuses on how people used her to serve their own purposes while she was alive. Some of them sought to make a quick buck and tossed her aside like garbage. I needed to make sure I didn’t treat her that way. And because she appears in several chapters, I needed to study interviews and films, identify her speech patterns and nuances in her mannerisms, and re-create them through original dialogue and action. People sense when you’ve only accomplished 99 percent of your goal, so I needed to make a concerted effort to reach that 100-percent threshold.
How did you come up with your characters? Del, my main character, is an actor who was a (fictional) friend of Marilyn Monroe. Age-wise, it put him in his late 70s today, at the very youngest. It also triggered questions of how an actor his age views Hollywood and his career. So that was my launch point for the story.
Beautiful Mess features an ensemble cast. The story examines how people’s lives cross paths, how random encounters can have permanent impacts on our lives. Los Angeles is a huge city filled with people from all walks of life, so for my characters Tristan and Felicia, I wanted to select characters who, under ordinary circumstances, would never cross paths with each other or with Del, then chronicle how they interact. I designed my final character, Nora, as a modern parallel of Marilyn Monroe. That allowed me to infuse Nora and her story with symbolism and other literary techniques.
Each character, just like Marilyn Monroe, is (or feels like) a misfit in their own station in life, which gives them an unexpected, subconscious connection point. It also serves as the driver for the story’s theme.
As a result, people who want a simple, fun read can find it in Beautiful Mess. But for those seeking depth to what they read, Beautiful Mess adds layers of complexity to the characters. In every novel, I hide nuggets in the characters and their motivations that go unmentioned in the narrative. Readers are smart. They unearth those hidden treasures on their own. And I believe, by allowing the readers to participate in that process, the book becomes an active partnership between the reader and me. The reader has the opportunity to draw a few conclusions and help construct the characters without interrupting the flow of the story. That, to me, is an ordinary miracle!
Do you have anything coming up and can you tell us about it?
I have another romantic comedy ready to go, which has a tone similar to Beautiful Mess. That book should see the light of day around late 2018, but things tend to change—it was supposed to be my 2017 release, until Beautiful Mess happened!
Thanks so much for allowing me to spend time with you and your readers! Feel free to visit me at my website, www.johnherrick.net. I hope you’ll check out Beautiful Mess!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A self-described “broken Christian,” John Herrick battled depression since childhood. In that context, however, he developed intuition for themes of spiritual journey and the human heart.
Herrick graduated from the University of Missouri—Columbia. Rejected for every writing position he sought, he turned to information technology and fund development, where he cultivated analytical and project management skills that helped shape his novel-writing process. He seized unpaid opportunities writing radio commercial copy and ghostwriting for two nationally syndicated radio preachers.
The Akron Beacon Journal hailed Herrick’s From the Dead as “a solid debut novel.” Published in 2010, it became an Amazon bestseller. The Landing, a semifinalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, followed. Publishers Weeklypredicted “Herrick will make waves” with his novel Between These Walls.
Herrick’s nonfiction book 8 Reasons Your Life Matters introduced him to new readers worldwide. The free e-book surpassed 150,000 downloads and hit #1 on Amazon’s Motivational Self-Help and Christian Inspiration bestseller lists. Reader response prompted a trade paperback.
His latest novel, Beautiful Mess, folds the legend of Marilyn Monroe into an ensemble romantic-comedy.
Herrick admits his journey felt disconnected. “It was a challenge but also a growth process,” he acknowledges. “But in retrospect, I can see God’s fingerprints all over it.”