Since I became an author there are some questions that have come up again and again. They’re often to do with the writing process, how and when I write, where the ideas come from, how I got published, that sort of thing. But there’s one question that has nothing to do with creating books at all: “When is the movie coming out?”
I’d like to think this is a compliment on my visual writing style, or maybe it’s to do with the fast action scenes or Sorrowline‘s big climax that would probably translate quite well into a film. But I think the question has more to do with the general expectation for books today than with my personal writing adventure. We’re so used to modern children’s novels being turned into huge blockbuster franchises that it seems like the expected – the only – path they can take: write a children’s novel (preferably a series of novels), sell the movie rights, make a fortune, become momentarily famous, then step aside for the next big thing. Franchises like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia spring immediately to mind but this is hardly a new phenomenon, it dates back to the early days of cinema. Disney and most other studios have been at it for years! So the expectation that this is the norm is understandable.
If I’m honest I’ve hoped for this too, as I’m sure almost all authors do. Yes, a book is a self-contained world and it doesn’t need to be made into a movie to exist, but movies, even bad ones, bring the books they’re based on to a much wider audience. It’s basic economics: an author’s career is much more secure if there’s a movie or two based on their work. It can allow an author to keep doing the thing they love to do: write. And that’s not a bad thing, is it?
But the movie world is a notoriously fickle beast and many books are optioned by production companies and studios but never get much further than that. They sit on a shelf waiting for the right conditions to blossom. I’ve had this happen to me with an animation TV series I developed a few years ago. I sold the option to a Canadian production company, we negotiated a contract and I was to be Executive Producer and Story Editor! It all sounded too good to be true! And it was. The option ran for three years. In that time we had a few meetings, we did a bit of development work, but not enough to really get things moving. The option expired and that was that. It happens every day. But not to me. This was a potentially life-changing moment! We’d even started making plans to move to Toronto for the duration of the production! So when it almost happened again with Sorrowline I was a little bit more cautious – but it’s hard to keep my excitement in check!
Interest in the film rights came over a year before publication, from a Hollywood production company who had a track record in making films that I’d actually heard of! They’d even handled a few children’s book adaptations before! So when they asked to meet I’ll admit I forgot all of the pain I’d gone through with the TV option and jumped on a train to London. My literary agent, Juliet Mushens, had set the meeting up with the studio exec who insisted on a mid-morning breakfast at Claridges. I’m not sure if this was designed to intimidate or impress me but, as a northerner and a new writer it managed to do a bit of both.
We met, we ate breakfast, we talked about the movie(s), about the huge scale of them, and how they wanted me to be at the heart of them! Oh, and would I like to write the screenplay? How soon can you start? You can imagine how hard it was to keep my feet on the ground. Throughout the meeting I kept looking up at the beautiful Medusa chandelier directly above our table and thinking how odd and interesting it was. It pretty much summed up the whole meeting.
Over two years later and I’ve yet to write the screenplay and we’ve yet to sign a deal. All the urgency of the first meeting has fizzled out but we still hear from the production company from time to time. They’re still interested, they say. They still love the concept and want to make a movie. After all, this is Hollywood, where no one ever says NO, but rarely says YES!
There’s been other interest too, for TV rights, but for now I’m happy to put my energy into my third book. I’m enjoying the writing process without the worry of what to wear to the première. That said, if anyone wants to make a movie or two and has a big bucket of cash to burn do feel free to call.