It’s my first time in a VFW, a place where my Granddad used to frequent regularly. Any other day, I’d likely be turned away at the door, but today I’m free to walk in because this is where the kick-off party is held. In a few weeks, the VFW will be transformed to the Eagle, the bar in The Evening Hour where Lacy works, and where Cole and Terry Rose meet up.
In the front area, it’s like any other night at the VFW: a few older white guys sitting around, drinking cheap beer. Later, they’ll start up a poker game. But in the back room, essentially a spacious dance floor, it’s filled with people from New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Cincinnati, Texas, all here in Harlan for the next 5 weeks. A sign next to the open window of the bar, scrawled in a black Sharpie: Movie people, order here. It’s open-bar for a couple hours, with live music—the Local Honeys and my friends Brett Ratliff and his band, along with guest Nadia Ramlagan, came down from Lexington. Later, there will be karaoke, and at one point, all the women in the crew take the stage to sing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
Braden King, the director, is here, and the screenwriter Elizabeth Palmore, friends of mine now, who have taken such care with my novel. The room is packed with people who are going to turn my novel into a film—producers, make-up artists, costume designers, set designers, camera crew, so many jobs and roles on a movie. It’s a magical night, the start of something beautiful. When I meet Philip Ettinger, who stars as Cole, we have a drink and talk: what makes Cole tick, and why Philip wanted to play this character. We talk about intimacy and vulnerability. It’s a surreal, wonderful moment, to meet my character in the flesh—I’m walking into my own dream, and my dream merges with someone else’s dream. It’s like I’ve stepped into a stranger’s house, and yet I know exactly where I am.