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A Writer's Journey to Hollywood, to Success, and Back to Hollywood
How Sitcom Writer and Author E. Van Lowe Reinvented Himself in the Entertainment Capital
“Receiving the honor was a mixed blessing,” says Van Lowe, who is now writing books. “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 meet with to get hired for 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.
Van Lowe’s successes include: 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.
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, which had been his original goal.
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.”
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.”
Never Slow Dance with a Zombie was released in September 2009 through Teen Tor 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, Van Lowe’s agent Jim Kellem called 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 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.
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.”
White Whisker Books is a small press with four authors based in Los Angeles. To see more of what it offers, go to http://www.WhiteWhiskerBooks.com.
For more information, call White Whisker Books at 323-344-7132.