From Book to Film

In this month's #IndustryInsights, new PHS columnist, Teri Wilson, talks about seeing her books finally make the transition to the big screen...

If there’s one fantasy that most writers share, it’s the idea that someday one of our books will become a movie. We make inspiration boards with favorite actors and actresses as our heroes and heroines. We write blog posts about who would we could cast in our imaginary films. We think, “what if…”

A year and a half ago, my agent called with the news that my book UNLEASHING MR. DARCY had been optioned for film by the Hallmark Channel. To say I was stunned would be an understatement. It turns out that no amount of wishing and fantasizing prepares you for the actual moment when you find out a book could actually end up onscreen.

UNLEASHING MR. DARCY premiered on the Hallmark Channel in January of 2016. I loved everything about the process. Every single thing. I also assumed it would be the only movie adaptation I would ever have. Lightning hardly ever strikes twice, right? But our Darcy movie did really well (yay!), so another of my books, THE ART OF US, was optioned shortly afterward.

I can honestly say that the second time around was just as exciting as the first! When people hear about my Hallmark films, they usually have a bunch of questions. The ones I get most often are:

Did you write the screenplay?

No. Writing a screenplay is much different than writing a book. In most romance novels, readers are inside one more of the characters’ heads. The reader can’t see something unless the character also sees it. Movies are different, obviously. The visual format allows the viewer to experience parts of the story that the characters themselves don’t know about (yet). It’s a much different writing style. I love both scripts. We were really fortunate to have great screenwriters on both projects.

How much input did you have in the casting process?

Zero. Ha! In fact, once both films went into production, everything happened so fast that I didn’t even know who was playing the leads until right before filming began. That being said, I think the casting was perfect.

Can we talk about Ryan Paevey for a minute? Because SWOON.

Look at that smile on my face. He is the perfect modern Darcy. When I was on set, I was positively giddy every time he was on screen. He is charm personified.

Below is a photo of me on the set of THE ART OF US with Steve Lund, who played the hero, Tom. As you can probably tell by my huge smile, I was totally on board with that choice as well.

How different are the films from the books?

Both movies are slightly different than the novels. THE ART OF US has a different ending and there’s less conflict between the hero and the heroine as the romance develops. The biggest change in UNLEASHING MR. DARCY was that the book is set in London, England, and Darcy is British, whereas the movie takes place in New York and Darcy is American. There are also love scenes in both books, which obviously didn’t make it to screen because the Hallmark Channel is known for its very sweet romantic comedies.

Once a book is optioned, the story no longer belongs to the author. The production company owns the story now, and they can change it however they see fit. The changes made are always to bring the story more in line with what the network knows their audience loves. I’m often asked how I feel about the story being changed. In all honesty, it doesn’t bother me at all. I love both of the movies so much. They are both very much in keeping with the spirit of the books as I wrote them. Perhaps I’d feel differently about the changes if I didn’t love the films as much as I do, but luckily that’s not the case.

Did you get a cameo?

YES!!! In UNLEASHING MR. DARCY, my cameo was very spontaneous. The director just turned to me between takes and said, “Hey Teri, do you want to be in your movie?”

Like I would say no to that.

I am in the scene in which the Elizabeth first arrives at Mr. Darcy’s mansion. I walk right behind Frances Fisher, who plays Darcy’s aunt. At the time this was filmed, I’d been sitting outside in the cold, Canadian drizzle for 6 hours so I’m not exactly looking my best. Ha! My executive producer had mercy on me, and for my cameo in THE ART OF US, she really went all out. The costume department had 5 dresses for me to choose from and I got to go to hair and makeup and everything. It was so much fun.

Here I am in the makeup trailer. After all that effort, I am onscreen for about half a second right at the beginning of the Tom’s art opening near the end of the movie. (But I look amazing. Haha.)

What is your favorite scene?

In UNLEASHING MR. DARCY, I love the big ballroom party scene. So much drama! It’s a very exciting scene. And Mr. Darcy in a tuxedo? Yes, please. The dresses are also fabulous and look exactly as I wrote them in the book.

It’s hard to choose a favorite scene from THE ART OF US. The whole movie seemed really romantic to me, which I loved. I also adored the dog, Vincent. Vincent was played by a female Border Terrier named Gidget. She stole the show. I mean, look at her!

If you missed THE ART OF US the first time around, it re-airs on Saturday, July 8 at 9 pm Eastern/8 pm Central time. UNLEASHING MR. DARCY was recently released on DVD and is available here:

Teri’s latest release, It Started with a Diamond, is out now. For more information about her writing, check out his website, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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