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An author’s perspective on adapting books to films.

Christian MARKET recently spoke with novelist and screenwriter Rene Gutteridge to get her insights as a content creator on the process of turning best-sellers into movies.

Which books of yours have been optioned for film?
My Life as a Doormat was optioned by Hallmark and made into the film Love’s Complicated in 2016. Boo was optioned and is in development with Sodium 11 Entertainment. Skid was optioned by Grey Wolf Productions and made into an independent film in 2013 and is now available on Amazon Prime.

Can the possibility of a film deal affect the novel-writing process?
I’m only concentrating on the story I’m writing, in the format I’m writing it. I think writers should be true to the story and everything else will fall into place the way it should. I think there’s a certain richness to novel writing that can’t ever be captured in film. Film has its own beauty, but so does fiction, and so over the course of 25 books, I tried to separate my two writing skills as much as possible.

In your opinion, is the author the best person to write the screenplay of a book being turned into a movie?
I think in most cases, it isn’t ideal for the author of the book to write the screenplay. Most novelists aren’t established screenwriters. And it’s very hard to be objective as the novelist and to make the hard calls on how the story must shift and turn in order to work as a film. Adaptation of a book to a film is tremendously difficult, and I would always recommend having a screenwriter involved.

Screenwriting is its own art form, and it takes special skill. All that said, I can’t discount the pain to watch something you’ve written be adapted. Things are left on the cutting room floor, and that’s always really hard to watch. But after you get over the pain, it’s a thrill to see it up there on screen. It’s like you’re seeing your characters resurrected off a page and come to life, living and breathing right in front of you. It’s surreal.

Have you changed elements of a plot to accommodate changes a film may need?
When I adapted Skid for the screen, there was a lot we had to leave behind. We had 90 minutes, so yeah, we changed things—always mindful to keep the overall story intact as best as possible. But because fiction and film are two different mediums, there’s just no way to take it from page to screen without “adapting” it to fit its form.

Read more about bringing books to the big screen at cbaonline.org/bookstofilm.

Read about how novelizations and ancillary product can help extend a film’s life and sales at cbaonline.org/filmproductopportunities.

—Lora Schrock