The Hallmark of a good story - Orange County Review: Lifestyles

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Hallmark of a good story

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 4:34 pm

Never mind that Suzi Weinert’s murderous villain was much too scary for family television.

The Orange County writer who published her first novel at the age of 75 will see her book, “Garage Sale Stalker,” presented as a made-for-TV movie Sept. 14 on the Hallmark Channel.

And soon after, her second book “Garage Sale Diamonds” will be released, establishing what her publisher, Barringer Publishing Co., believes will be a successful literary series.

“I thought this was the one and only book I’d ever write,” Weinert said in an interview at her waterside home in Lake of the Woods last week. “I was amazed that I’d even done that.”

But her publisher insisted that her fictional garage sale sleuth, Jennifer Shannon, was destined for greater things -- things Weinert had not even dared to dream about.

When “Garage Sale Stalker” was published in 2010, Weinert sent copies to her five children, including a son in California. As fate would have it, her son’s wife showed it to a childhood friend who has produced a number of successful television series. She thought the idea had potential and passed it along to another producer, Jonathan Axelrod, who pitched the concept to Hallmark. A deal was struck.

That was two years ago.

“I had no idea it would take that long to jump through all the hoops,” Weinert said. “After the first year we thought, ‘Is this really going to happen?’ “

Hallmark’s tried-and-true formula of feel-good, family-friendly fare meant that some changes would be necessary. Weinert’s villain, Ruger Yates, a demented sociopath who has been savagely abused as a child, was more than the Hallmark Channel audience would accept.

The producers hired experienced television writers to produce a script based on Weinert’s concept and characters. The result is “Garage Sale Mystery,” starring actress Lori Loughlin as Jennifer Shannon, which will air at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14 on the Hallmark Channel.

“It’s a wonderfully entertaining movie,” Weinert said. “If you read the book and like it, and then see the movie, you’re in for two separate good experiences.”

Weinert is sanguine about the rejection of her frightening antagonist. “If the makers of ‘Law and Order’ had come to me, Ruger would be in,” she speculated. “But they didn’t come to me, and Hallmark did. So that led me down a different path.”

The producers of “Garage Sale Mystery” invited Weinert to Vancouver, Canada, last spring to be present while the movie was being made.

“I was treated like royalty when I got there,” Weinert said. She was afforded full access to the cast and crew and given her own car and driver and even a director’s chair with her name on it.

“They say that in the credits, there’ll be a full-page screen that says ‘Based on the book by Suzi Weinert,’ which is wonderful,” she said.

Will Weinert, now 78, fulfill her publisher’s ambitious vision of a whole series of “Garage Sale” mysteries?

Weinert said she’ll take it one book at a time. But she already has an idea for a third novel mulling around in her head.

“One of the problems with writing is that it takes so much time,” she admitted. “If you have a big, full life, social life and family and so forth, it’s tough to take that time away.

“When everybody else is out on the deck watching the sunset and you’re back on your computer, you say ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ “

The author and her husband Don, a retired Army brigadier general, are planning a screening party to watch the movie with friends at a local restaurant.

When asked about his wife’s success, Don Weinert told a questioner at a recent book event, “For years she was the general’s wife, and now I’m the author’s husband.”

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