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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Local man looks to turn novel into film

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Richard Ford displays the cover for his novel,
SIKESTON -- A story of racing hot rods and romance in the 1950s. The idea consumed Richard Ford for decades before he was finally able to get it down on paper and the result was "Street Heart," a novel the author hopes will eventually make it to the big screen.

The story was inspired by actual events Ford experienced while growing up in Morehouse in the 1950s, including an auto accident that killed his best friend.

"I had always wanted to write about it, but never really had the time," said Ford who has lived in the Dexter area for the last 35 years.

Finding the time in 1990, Ford began writing the novel and seven years later he had over 1,200 hand-written pages, which he later edited down to 450 pages. "It became my 'Gone With the Wind'," the author laughed.

While actual events did lead to the book, Ford is quick to point out that it is not an autobiography of his life and he is not the main character.

"I can't write just straight fiction, it has to have some truth to it for me," said Ford. "But I feel only a fool or a person with a large ego writes about himself, unless he is a war hero or president."

The result was a novel set in a small southeast Missouri town in the 1950s named Frenchman's Spring. While the story has plenty of car races it is not just a guy story.

"Anyone who is into cars wants to have this book but it is the romance that brings the wives in," Ford said. "They think it is a rip your heart out and put it back in love story. It's actually two books in one."

While writing the book was a challenge, getting the book into people's hands was an even bigger challenge. Ford decided to go with self-publishing, feeling he could make more per book and have total control of his novel.

The author made many trips to Cape Girardeau as the book was being edited and also spent many miles in his car making trips to Memphis and Texas for paper and book binding. Finally the book was printed and was into reader's hands.

"The books are a hot seller," Ford said. "People say that it is a modern day 'Romeo and Juliet' and in a way they are right."

Now, Ford is ready for his next challenge; getting the novel made into a movie.

"I'm interested in screenplays, not books," Ford said. "You can get $1.5 to 2 million for a screenplay if they are good."

In 1997 he spoke with vice presidents from 20th Century Fox and New Line Cinema who told Ford to publish the book and get back to them. By the time he got the book published and tried to contact them in the summer of 2002 they had already moved on. He has since had his book looked at by several big studios including Dreamworks and Imagine and was on the verge of selling the movie script when he was struck by ill health earlier this year.

Only being able to afford to print a few thousand copies originally, Ford is now trying to find financing to promote and produce more copies of his book. After his first printing he had to refuse sales in order to keep copies for movie studios and others who could help his idea make it to Hollywood. However, getting the money to make more copies hasn't been easy.

"What I have found is I am a conservative in the world of liberal arts," Ford said. "In liberal arts it is harder to borrow money to finance books or music than it is for cars or real estate.

"What I am needing is a person who wants to make eight percent interest on their money. I would do all of the writing and work getting the books published an in return (the investor) would get their name in the front of the book and earn a good return on their investment."

In the meantime, Ford will continue to write. He is planning at least one sequel to "Street Heart," as well as another novel all the while trying to get his first work made into a movie.

"In time it's definitely going to be made into a movie," Ford said. "The story is too good not to succeed."