Hi, thank you for joining us! To begin with tell us a little bit about yourself.
I moved around a lot when I was growing up, but I consider Northern Virginia (the suburbs of Washington, D.C.) to be home. I was a Theatre and English major at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia; I focused on playwriting there, and moved into TV and film after graduation. I’ve written half-hour and hour television, novels, and movies. I’m an adjunct faculty member in the Screenwriting MFA program at Pepperdine University, and I teach Sunday School and Confirmation at my church. My husband Mark and I have a daughter, Sara, who’s a junior in college, and a son, Sean, who’s a junior in high school.
Last week Stan mentioned about how you pitched your idea about Ties that Bind. How exactly did you come up with the idea?
My brother Eric is a great guy and I adore him. After our mother died (our father died six years before), I became acutely aware of how important our relationship is to me. I was working on ideas to pitch to UP and I wondered if there was anything my brother could do that I would not be able to forgive. That question gave birth to Allison and Tim; the rest of the series flowed from that.
Now the interesting part is how you came with the name. Is it that family is what stick at the end of the day?
The title actually comes from an old hymn: “Blest be the ties that bind…” As a phrase, I’m fascinated by the two ways you could interpret the word “bind” — as being held together or as being constrained. And sometimes, family can do both. In a positive sense, family sticks together. But in a negative sense, through family, you can be tied to situations you would prefer not to be a part of.
There was the part where you were going to pitch another story what was it going to be about?
The other idea I had prepared to pitch is also a family drama. But that’s all I want to say about it, because I still might pitch it to someone some day.
In your opinion which is the most exciting part in every episode? The investigations part or the family plot part?
We work very hard to make sure both sides of the episode have a strong emotional impact.
The real question is will we ever see a linkage between cases or maybe in the long run see focus turn more on family drama? Or will it be the same way till the end of the season?
This season was designed with closed-ended crime stories and serialized family stories. We’ve discussed the possibility of having some of the people we’ve met in the crime stories come back if we are fortunate enough to have a second season.
Every episode consists of two main things: 1. An investigation 2. Family Matters. Where do you think the balance is between them?
The balance between the two sides of any episode is where Allison stands — doing her best to do the right thing for the people on the job and her family at home.
Are we going to learn more about the family anytime soon? As in why the arrest happened or how they will cope as the story moves on forward?
I have to admit I am more interested in how the family drama moves on. What exciting stuff should we be expecting? Any new characters that may come in and cause some troubles?
There is a definite shift in the family dynamics coming — a big crisis looming for the end of the season.
Will we be seeing more of Jason Priestly any time soon? It is exciting to know how his plot will be handled. How will he be brought back into the story?
We were thrilled to have Jason join us: He’s a terrific actor and was a delight on the set. We’d love to have him come back, if he’s available and if we get a Season 2.
How do you come up with the cases? Are they made up or derived from a real case? How long does it take to build up a story of the whole case from start to the solving part?
Some of our cases were inspired by actual cases or issues the writers had read/heard in the news. Others were created to illustrate a particular theme or conflict we wanted to include in an episode. Our goal was to match crime and family stories that resonated emotionally with each other, that touched on the same theme. With the writing staff working together, we usually were able to “break” an episode (create the order and basic content of the scenes for that episode) in two or three days.
Now that everyone has picked up their talents, poetry, track etc. Will be seeing maybe some high school drama? Prom? Bullies? Maybe occasional shift of focus from Allison to the kids?
There are stories coming that deal very specifically with the issues the four kids are having, but Allison will always play a part in those stories.
Overall what is your aim or the message you are trying to give to the audience? Of course other than don’t do a crime you will get caught eventually 😀
The main message is to stick up for the people you love, even in (especially in) the tough times.
Moving to a more informative point, let’s say there are students or people who have ideas for a series. How do they get themselves known as in get their idea heard? Any advice on how to start from brig a student to ending up creating a show on TV?
It’s difficult to answer this succinctly, but let me try: The most direct route is to come to Los Angeles, get a job in the industry, and start working your way up. I’ve been working in television for 25 years. I started as an assistant, then got a break as a freelance writer on a series, then got a job as a staff writer, then started working my way up to co-executive producer. Now, I am the head writer and one of the executive producers. The keys are to write every day, study your craft by watching TV analytically, work hard, network well, and go after every opportunity that’s offered to you. And be patient. Most “overnight successes” have been working long and hard before they get their big break.
Have you ever faced a mind block? How do you deal with it and how do you avoid it?
Usually, I can get past getting stuck by taking a break — walking the dog, going for a drive, having lunch with a friend. Sometimes, I watch a favorite movie or pick up a book — distract my conscious mind while my subconscious works on the problem for a while. I’ve learned that writer’s block is often a sign that the story I’m trying to tell has a major flaw in it — the wrong conflict, the wrong characters, the wrong point of view — and the “block” is my creative instinct dragging its feet until I spot the mistake and fix it.
What makes a script stand out other than it being original what are the main aspects of any script?
A script stands out when it presents well-drawn characters dealing with an emotionally-relatable conflict in a satisfying way. Story twists that surprise but make sense are great, too. Crisp dialogue. And, while it should go without saying, proper format and good proofreading matter, too.
We are almost finished but is there any chance you might want to give us some hints or sneak peaks of the coming episodes?
Members of the family are going to be pushed to the breaking point. You’ll also get to see C. Thomas Howell, Lochlyn Munro, and Kristin Prout, among other terrific guest stars. And yes, Luke Perry will return.
Thank you very much for answering our questions, and of course we have a question from a fan.
We’ve already seen Allison and Matt argue, but yes, there are bigger issues on the horizon. But they are committed to their marriage and their family, so they’ll have to try and find a way to work through those.
On behalf of the writing staff, the cast and crew, and everyone associated with Ties That Bind, I want to thank all our fans for their love and support. It’s our goal to entertain you, uplift you, make you think and feel. Knowing that we’re accomplishing that means the world to us.
Ties that Bind airs Wednesday
at 9 PM ET on UP TV