Friday, May 30, 2008

The Big, BIG News: Part Two

Okay, so picking up where we left off:

Production companies and studios were interested but...THE STRIKE. Also, I'd met with the wonderful Meryl Poster (and fortunately had googled her enough to know about her projects but not TOO much so I knew about what a VIP she is, or else I really would have freaked out...that googling came after the meeting - fortuitous, really), but regardless, everything in Hollywood was on hold.

So when the strike finally came to an end (hurrah!), my agent and I got on the horn with our film agent and said, "What now?" She decided to take the project back to the main parties who expressed the most interest pre-strike. She also sent me a note and asked if I'd go back in and chat with Meryl again. Um. Of course!

So I whisked off my sweat pants and put on something slightly more acceptable and headed down for another fab and fun pow-wow with Meryl and her (wonderful!) #2, Kate. We gabbed about my dream cast, what came next and all of that. We were concerned that since the studios had stocked up on scripts pre-strike, that they might not take another look at this unless we attached an actress and/or a screen-writer. (FYI: when I say "attach," that's really just H-wood speak for someone who signs on to the project. I.e. if Reese Witherspoon "attaches" herself to an adaptation, it gives the studio a lot more confidence that the project will actually get done, as opposed to flopping around in development and going nowhere.)

The next day or so, my film agent calls me and says, "We can do a few things: 1) we can keep shopping it around to folks who might be interested or 2) Meryl and her team have asked for an exclusive for two months to see if they can get this done. It's your call."

I thought about it for about five minutes and made the obvious decision: here was a producer who had taken the time to LISTEN to me and my ideas, who I genuinely liked and who really had a deep, deep understanding of the book and its themes. Why wouldn't I entrust her with this for a few months, give her the shot to demonstrate how much she's invested in the project and ultimately, also prove to her how much I trust her?

So we gave them two months. About a month later, I get a call from my lit-agent saying, really, more squeeing, that we're expecting an offer from The Weinstein Company! This was huge news because, beyond the obvious, Meryl was once Harvey Weinstein's right-hand gal, and the fact that they were reteaming on something meant they really wanted to get this done.

So I squeeed and squeeed and waited by my email for more details...and waited....and waited....and finally, like a week and a half later or something, we got the offer. I jumped up and down and squeeed some more and would have immediately accepted (because I am a writer, not an agent) but my agent is savvier than I am and prepared a counter-offer. (See, this is why agents are good things. Very good things. Because I would have squeeed forever and happily cashed whatever sum of money they shoved at me and called it a day.)

We counter-offered. And For-evah. Like, for weeks. I was dying. Agonizing. Every day between the hours of 1-5pm (the cross-over hours between my agent in LA and The Weinstein Co in NYC), I'd have to madly distract myself from hoping for an email or a phone call. Eventually, it got to the point where even that proved boring, and I frankly forgot about it. In the way that you can forget about these things: and by that I mean, I resigned myself to the fact that obsessing over my email for four hours a day couldn't be healthy since God knows when I was finally going to hear.

But...eventually...hear I did! We got their counter! By this point, the galleys were out in the world, and I knew that this announcement could really help bolster the pre-buzz and press coverage of the book. My agent said that we could counter again, but I had to weigh what was more important: adding a bit to my bank account or doing what was best for the book - getting this news out so that people really took an interest in it four months before the release. Because waiting another month for more negotiations could be detrimental to the books success.

So I said, "Please, let's be done! Let's be happy with this incredible good fortune and now go sell the hell out of this book." So we did. And I'm thrilled. After such a long process, I'd grown a little numb to the excitement of what's actually happening, but now, with this news out in the world and the excitement that you guys and everyone else is sending back to me, well, damn if I'm not on top of the world again! Just like the day I first heard the news.

So - one last time: SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Next week: the official press release and more film stuff. This is a great time to post film questions since we're on the subject, and I'll do my best to answer them. I should also say that this is solely my experience - I'm sure that other film deals have varied wildly and this isn't necessarily representative of what always goes down. Just as a disclaimer...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

At Long Last - the Big, BIG News!

So, it's been many, many months in coming but I am THRILLED to finally be able to announce the film deal for TIME OF MY LIFE! I cannot express how excited I am by this, not just because of the sale, but because I've been personally involved in the process and feel confident and comfortable with the team behind it.

First, here are some details: the book has been sold to The Weinstein Company, on behalf of Meryl Poster, the former co-president of Miramax, who has produced, among others, Chicago, Chocolat and The Cider House Rules. (Not bad company to keep!) At one point along the way, I was even told that "Harvey loves it." Squeee! My husband and I did a total double-take at each other when we read that email is that even possible???

Okay, so, I know that there is a lot of curiosity about how books get made into films, so I'm going to break down the process and what happened as much as I can remember. This has been in the pipeline for about seven months, so I'm sure that I'm forgetting a few details.

The first thing that happened: as soon as we sold the book to Shaye Areheart Books/Random House, my literary agent sent it to my now-film agent. Getting a film agent involves much the same process as getting a lit agent: he or she has to fall in love with the book and believe that it can SELL. So my now film-agent believed in it, and after I'd finished polishing the draft, she went out to the production companies/studios that she thought were the best fit. Again, this is much like your lit agent goes out to the best editors/pub houses that would work best for your book.

We had some interest. Strong interest from more than one production company. BUT. The strike loomed large. What happens when there isn't a strike is this: the production company often (but not always) has a deal with a studio. So, XYZ Films might want to option a manuscript but if they don't want to front their own money, they take the manuscript to, say, Paramount (if that's who their deal is with) and attempt to get them to pay for it. So...several weeks before (or a week before, I can't really remember) the strike deadline, these production companies take it to the studios, all of whom firmly aren't buying. Not because of the material - this is emphasized - but because, they're not buying squat a week before their writers are set to strike.

Oh, I forgot: I need to back up. When these production companies were interested, my agent called and asked if I'd take a meeting with one who was here in NYC. "Of course!" I said, figuring that my agent would go with me and hold my hand through the process. When she told me that I was going alone, I freaked. But I must have freaked internally because evidently, that producer is now my producer - Meryl Poster. The meeting was AMAZING. We talked about who we envisioned in the parts, we talked about the themes of the book and why they resonated with all of us...basically, we talked for two hours or so, and all involved felt like, "Wow, this could really be something great if it could get done." And it was truly incredible how much our visions meshed. I understood, of course, that once you sell the film rights, for all intents and purposes, you also relinquish your involvement/control, but I never once felt that Meryl wouldn't be interested in hearing from me. And so, I left her office feeling like a pretty lucky girl.

Only. Yes. The strike. No one was buying, and so, despite all of this momentum and enthusiasm, I was back to square one. No one was buying, and any plans/excitement/relationship-building was put on hold.

Tomorrow....more details. (Yes, I'm a tease, but to be honest, I'm also exhausted and can't type anymore!! Despite this glamorous news, my son failed to get the memo about his mommy and was up all last night puking...proving that truly, life goes on!) So check back tomorrow for more...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Defining A Genre

I pulled Suzanne's comment from over the weekend and brought it to the main board because I thought it was good discussion fodder. Here's what she asked:

After reading a review of Emily Griffin's latest book and then thinking of yours, I have a question. How would you define the genre of 'chick lit?' When I think of chick lit, I think of happy-go-lucky twenty-something romances. But when I think of your books, I would classify them as post-chick-lit, something more grown-up and mature. What are your thoughts? Do you consider yourself writing for a specific genre when you are writing your novels?

My books are generally classified as "women's fiction" or "commercial fiction," while, you're right, Emily Giffin is generally classified as "chick lit." These are fluid categories, however, and some books don't fall into one easily. I think, in general, "chick lit" is thought of as less literary (whether or not this is the case - I'm just passing along the stereotypes), and generally tackles less weighty subjects than "women's fiction," which, obviously, is targeted at women (as is chick lit - the markets aren't too different, though CL might skew younger) but maybe at women who like their prose to be meatier. (Again, I'm not passing judgments - Emily Giffin, for example, is a great writer who knows her audience, and yes, our new books cover remarkably similar themes!)

These days, as you can see from all of my caveats above, "chick lit" often has a derogatory connotation, and I don't mean it to be so by my comments. CL has a HUGE market - I guess I think of CL books as classic "beach reads," but after an enormous push for CL books on the heels of the success of books like The Devil Wears Prada (actually, the push started long before this, I think), the quality of these reads deteriorated faster than you can say "single girl in her twenties looking for love in a fab pair of shoes," and now, many authors don't wear the CL badge with much pride. Which is silly. Because if you do it well, as Giffin proves you can, you can crank out a book that's both smart and relatively easy-to-read. No shame in that as all.

As far as all of these categories, well, I'm not the one who categorizes my book in the first place. That's up to the publicists and marketers at my publishers, and they were the ones who deemed me "women's fiction," or "commercial fiction." I try to write the best book I know how, one that I'd pick up in a store, one that I wouldn't roll my eyes at or, conversely, find too dense (and I mean weighty, not dumb) to really get into. I do constantly go back and fiddle with sentence that I think are overly simplistic or amateurish, and I don't think that will ever stop, regardless of how many books I write or what catagory I fall into. I want to be proud of every word that goes onto my pages.

In the end, do these labels matter? Maybe when the sales team is shopping around the book to stores whose buyers are wary of buying "chick lit," but really, I'm not so sure that readers care all that much about the categorization, as long as the book appeals to their personal sensibilities. I know if I pick up a book that is waaaaay too chick lit-y for me, I'll put it back down, but not because the cover or whatever says it's "chick lit," but because I read 1000000 of those books in my 20s and just don't enjoy most of them as much anymore. (Generally speaking, of course, as I buy Giffin and others with frequency.) But on the other end, I'll do the same with a heavily literary book or any book that doesn't appeal to me: CL is just an easy classification that doesn't mean too much to me as a buyer.

But what about you guys: do you agree with these classifications and will you buy/not buy a book based on them? And who do you think of as classic (and good!) chick lit?