Just like in the movies, it was a grisly crime that turned Sue Dolan to writing.
"There was crime in a small town in Illinois that I lived in," the Mazatzal Casino banquet coordinator said. "A little girl was missing and she was found dead a couple weeks later in an abandoned home."
When a local reporter in Dolan's hometown did some digging, he discovered that for every 25 blocks there were 11 known "molesters, perverts, murderers -- people who had been in jail, asylums and were released."
Dolan figured if things were that bad in a small Midwestern town, they must really be bad in places like Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Dallas. She began researching the subject in hopes of writing a book.
"I spent four years, at the library, looking at real criminal cases way back into the 1880s," she said. "I wanted to write a book that exposed how many bad people are walking our streets and why we no longer wanted our children to go out and play alone or go to the park alone."
But at some point, she said, she realized that nobody reads "real" books anymore, so she decided to deliver her message in a novel. Only problem was, she was a single mom trying to raise two children, two cats and two dogs.
"I realized it would take me 10 years, so I switched to screenplays," she said. "They're faster, and I figured I might get one done in my lifetime."
It was a perfect match.
"I like to tell stories and that's why I fell in love with screenplays -- because it's conversation," she said.
Dolan knew people in Hollywood. She had worked for major studios doing marketing and public relations.
"I was very fortunate to know a lot of celebrities, producers, everybody," she said. "It was because I never wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a fashion designer. My friends who wanted to be actresses never met anybody."
Eventually, Dolan left Hollywood, got married and moved to Milwaukee.
"It was culture shock, total culture shock," she said. "I eventually ended up in Tempe with my two children as a working mother."
Dolan's son went to Arizona State University and became an engineer. Her daughter did the unthinkable and became a model.
"Nothing bad ever happened to me in Hollywood, but it was Hollywood and every job comes with propositions," Dolan said. "I always said if I ever had a daughter, I'd lock her in the closet and nail it shut if she ever wants to go to Hollywood.
"Lo and behold, my daughter is in modeling at 11," she said. "She's tall, lovely. She didn't want to go to college, so she ends up in Hollywood where she becomes a successful actress."
Cyndi Pass, her daughter's stage name, appeared in "many, many movies" (including "Bounty Tracker" and "Deadbolt") and "probably every TV show there was (including "NYPD Blue," "Married with Children," "Renegade," "Silk Stalkings," and "Candid Camera."
Because Dolan is not comfortable "blowing my own horn," it was her daughter who casually mentioned to one of her producers that her mother writes screenplays.
"He said, ‘Let me read one,'" Dolan said. "I gave her one and it was big budget -- the, first one always is, because we have no concept of budget. He asked me to submit another, I did, and they liked it."
That was "The Stepdaughter," which Trimark Pictures produced in 2000. In it, Andrea Roth played a psychopath looking for her long-lost family.
The movie appeared on "Lifetime" and can now be rented in video stores right here in Payson.
Now, some six or eight screenplays later, a second movie -- "Saving Emily" with Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Riley and Alexandra Paul -- is about to be released. Dolan can't reveal the plot until after the film debuts on "Lifetime" Oct. 11, but she will say it's about a little girl who develops leukemia, "and there are some genetic questions that have to be figured out."
Dolan has six more screenplays at home she's finishing, and two that are already cast and ready to go.
While her job at the casino keeps her busy, Dolan now knows that writing is her true passion.
"I didn't know I could write," she said. "I didn't know I wanted to write until I got into it. Then I discovered my true love was writing."
She even "retired" two years ago to give it a shot on a full-time basis.
"All I did was write and I turned into an absolute hermit," she said. "I didn't want to go to the grocery store or do anything but write day and night. It was wonderful, but it's not the healthiest thing to be a total hermit, so I came back to work."
But writing is still her focus.
"It's the thrill of creating a person," she said. "I go to airports early and notice how people walk, what they're wearing, their mannerisms.
"Creating individuals to me is so exciting. You get to decide what they look like, what they wear, how they walk, how they talk, their quirks, their mannerisms, whether they're good or bad. Are they going to kill somebody, or do something good, or get killed."
So stay tuned because Dolan doesn't plan to stop cranking out screenplays anytime soon.
"I love stories," she said. "I love make believe."
Name: Sue Dolan
Occupation: Banquet coordinator
Employer: Mazatzal Casino
Birthplace: Detroit, Mich.
Family: Son James Lorentz, bio-chemical/mechanical engineer; daughter Cyndi Pass, former actress, now in finance; four grandchildren.
Personal motto: "If he/she learned how to do it, I can learn how to do it."
Inspiration: I don't know. It's all in the genes.
Greatest feat: Great children. A movie out at 65.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Writing, writing, writing. Crime-solving and puzzles.
Three words that describe me best: Creative, private, opinionated.
I don't want to brag but ... I have had an exciting journey through life -- so far.
Person in history I'd most like to meet: All of my ancestors -- back to zero.
Luxury defined: A bubble bath.
Dream vacation spot: A small cabin on a small lake in the woods on a mountain.
Why Payson? See "Dream vacation spot."