D. Eric Maikranz rather hopes, clichés be damned, that good things come to him in threes.
“I’m excited for as many people as possible to see this movie,” said the Denver author, 54, of “Infinite,” a new film based on his novel, “The Reincarnationist Papers.” “Seeing the movie delayed twice now has been a bit disappointing, but my publisher (Blackstone) said, ‘We’re not pushing the book launch.’ ”
Maikranz self-published “The Reincarnationist Papers” in 2009 with an unusual marketing pitch emblazoned on its first page: Anyone who helped him secure Hollywood rights to the book would get a 10% cut (up to $10,000) out of the deal — just like an agent. He fielded several offers, but the one that actually stuck transformed his novel into a new movie starring Mark Wahlberg, directed by Antoine Fuqua (the Oscar-winning “Training Day,” “The Equalizer”).
To go along with the film, Blackstone Publishing picked up the book for a re-release tied to “Infinite’s” 2020 marketing push. While Fuqua and his team were forced to edit the movie remotely during the pandemic, it was still slated for an Aug. 7, 2020, release.
Once that seemed impossible due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, Paramount Pictures (its distributor) pushed it back to May 28, 2021, and Blackstone followed suit by moving the book launch to May 4. Now, the film is set to be released in theaters on Sept. 24. But despite getting its third, delayed-release date in less than a year, Blackstone is sticking to May 4 for the book.
” ‘We need to get this in the market now,’ ” Maikranz remembers his publisher telling him after the film’s latest reschedule, a sentiment borne of strong pre-sales for the book. “We’ve had some really killer mentions and press coverage so far, so they’re not pushing it anymore.”
The newfound urgency contrasts with Maikranz’s slow, winding path to finding an audience for “The Reincarnationst Papers.” The story follows 21-year-old protagonist Evan Michaels as he’s thrust into a world of intrigue after realizing he can remember his past lives (two of them, as it turns out, with this being his third). Finding others like him leads him to the secretive Cognomina, where Michaels “must face their tests before entering this mysterious society as their equal,” according to marketing materials.
“They are, in effect, immortals — compiling experiences and skills over lifetimes into near-superhuman abilities that they have used to drive history over centuries,” a publicist wrote. Indeed, the book is fleet and cinematic, full of grand-scale scenes and thoughtful action. It spans the globe, and centuries.
If that’s sounds familiar, Maikranz came by the idea honestly. A martial-arts devotee who came to Colorado right out of high school for a welding job, he hatched it while working as a bouncer at Denver’s dearly departed Rock Island in Lower Downtown, as well as a DJ for KRRF-1280 AM (now a Spanish-language station), where he shared book reviews and interviewed authors. After moving to Rome in 1999 and finding a job as a tour guide, the manuscript took on a new life.
“I had studied Russian literature in college (at the University of Colorado Boulder) and had this dream of working in the intelligence sector,” he said. “But by then I traveled all over the place, and that really refined the book with a more historical context. I mean, you’re just living it every day in Rome.”
Once he returned to Denver in 2001, Maikranz dove into the tech world with Oracle, where he still works as a vice president at their Denver-based offices. All along, he’d been writing and revising. His tour-guide stint in Rome led to two travel books for Singapore-based publisher Marshall Cavendish (on Rome and Venice, respectively), and around the same time, he was contributing book reviews and a handful of features to The Denver Post.
In that way, “The Reincarnationist Papers” has itself seen three distinct lives: First as a self-published novel, then as a screenplay that kicked around Hollywood, and now as a big-press paperback on Blackstone.
“My revelation was that this is a business, and you should treat it like a business,” Maikranz said of the publishing world, following initial rejections for the book. “I was really opposed to that notion at the start. Writing is about creativity and art! But I thought about crowdsourcing — things like Linux (software) or Wikipedia — and how projects can be moderated by a collective effort.”
Instead of playing the “networking game” of hiring a literary agent, as he called it, Maikranz offered readers the same reward of 10% to 15% of the money an agent would get from a major studio making the novel into a film. He sold the books for $6, which allowed him to break even on printing, and fielded the occasional, if unsuccessful, claim of the reward printed on the very first page of his book.
On Thanksgiving Day in 2010, as Maikranz tells it, Rafi Crohn, vice president of a Los Angeles production company Bellevue Productions, found the book in a hostel in Nepal while traveling. Crohn was aligned with director Matt Reeves, who had already directed the J.J. Abrams-produced “Cloverfield,” and who would go on to direct the recent “Planet of the Apes” movies and the forthcoming “Batman” reboot starring Robert Pattinson (scheduled for 2022).
Cohn brokered an option to Bellevue, which contracted screenwriter Ian Shorr to adapt the screenplay, Maikranz said. Bellevue sold Shorr’s adapted screenplay, now called “Infinite,” to Paramount in 2017. But a change of leadership consigned it to the proverbial shelf.
“You have to temper your enthusiasm, but low-single-digits percentages of these things actually get made into movies,” Maikranz said. The script joined a blacklist — not the political kind, but an informal, running document of top unproduced screenplays that circulated in Hollywood — and eventually made its way to Antoine Fuqua.
Maikranz fondly remembered talking boxing, a shared favorite subject, with Fuqua when they met on set during production in the U.K. in 2019. He still hasn’t seen the movie — he expects to before the premiere — but isn’t waiting on it to be successful to continue his writing.
“There are at least three books in the series,” Marikranz wrote in an email this week. “The second book is written and I am on the sixth draft now. I anticipate it could be out in the first half of 2022.”
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