Ron McLarty wrote an 800-page novel at age 24. When publishers showed no interest, he wrote another and another. After the third, a novel called "The Memory of Running," he finally gave up sending manuscripts to publishers.
But he kept writing.
McLarty went on to finish 44 plays, nine novels and assorted poems without ever publishing a word. He supported himself as an actor through voice-overs, audiobooks and advertisements. He appeared on Broadway in 1972's "Moonchildren" and 1991's "Our Country's Good," and on TV in such series as "Spenser: For Hire," "Cop Rock" and "Sex and the City."
Then last September -- after a lonely 35-year literary odyssey involving a thoughtful audiobook producer, a small-town librarian, and novelists Danielle Steel and Stephen King -- Ron McLarty got published at age 56.
Top publishers in the industry all placed bids for "The Memory of Running." It was roughly 15 years after McLarty wrote it in 1988 and two weeks after King wrote an Entertainment Weekly magazine column in which he called McLarty's manuscript "the best novel you won't read this year." Viking, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., eventually won the auction with a two-book deal for just over $2 million.
Warner Bros. has optioned the book as a film, to be directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who turned the third "Harry Potter" novel -- "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" -- into a critically acclaimed film.
McLarty's novel, the story of a 42-year-old alcoholic's quest for redemption on a bicycle trip across America, hit stores in late December. And in the author's mind, there is no parallel with his own late-life turnaround. He was always a writer with a day job.