Now that my military thriller The Red Linehas reached the bookstores and people are becoming aware, Hollywood is working on turning it into a major television event. Since then, I’ve been frequently asked: ‘what gives a thriller the potential to become a great movie or television series?
From what I can see, the answer is actually a simple one— the same thing that makes it a novel people can’t put down. Relentless, edge-of-your-seat action and interesting, compelling characters are what draw in reader; the same will also draw in viewers. Fortunately, at least according to the critics, that’s exactly the book we’ve written. The Red Linecontains characters you fall in love with and exceptionally visual action that never stops. So we’re getting a chance, if this highly complex deal can be pulled together, to get this story into millions of homes.
As any of you who have attempted to write and sell a book know, getting published by a traditional publisher is almost impossible; even if you have written a truly great novel. Publishers won’t consider it without it coming from a literary agent and getting an agent is an incredibly trying ordeal. I saw an article recently that indicated only one out of a hundred writers will ever be signed and published by a traditional publisher. The point of this comment is not in any way meant to discourage you from trying. Quite the opposite. If this is your dream you should go for it, no matter what the odds.
As we tell aspiring writers, you need a combination of three things to get published and until those three things happen at the same moment, no matter how hard you try, you won’t find your book on the shelf in Barnes & Noble. Those three things are – talent, persistence, and luck. The talent can be developed, and the persistence, no matter how painful, can be learned. Getting published is a marathon not a sprint. And those perspective writers who understand that are the ones with the best chance of succeeding.
The third element – luck – is another thing all together, and while you cannot totally control it, you can improve your chances. One of the best ways to do so is by attending writers conferences to learn your craft and make connections with fellow writers, agents, and editors. As I found with regards to my story being considered for television, you never know when one of those connections just might pay off.
Even if you’re successful in getting your book published, getting your novel turned into a television show or movie is a rare occurrence. Obviously, it does happen. But the percentage of published novels that find their way onto either the big or small screen is extremely small. Once again, the odds are against you.
Naturally, with it being so difficult to get Hollywood’s interest, we’re frequently asked by fellow authors how that happened for my novel.
Luck would be the best answer. I had met a screenplay writer at one of the writers conferences I’d attended. It turned out that we live in the same city. Last fall, well before The Red Line wasreleased, she asked if she could read it and see if it was something she’d like to turn into a movie script. At the time I told her “no,” the book— with five simultaneous story lines going on at once— was just too bold to ever be turned into a two-hour movie. A few months later she asked again. This time, we relented. It wasn’t going to hurt anything to let her read an advanced copy. Much to our surprise, it took little time at all before out-of-the-blue we were on the phone with a producer in Hollywood. The screenplay writer had read it and quickly passed it on. The producer loved the book and asked to take an option so he could begin pursuing putting something together. We talked about a possible movie trilogy or television series. Shortly thereafter, he had a huge producer, one whose movies all of you would know, take a look. The second producer found the book “amazing.” So he joined the production team. Presently, they are in the process of turning it into a 10 or 11 episode television event.
No one, however, should get too excited just yet. The book publishing industry is extremely slow, but we have quickly learned that Hollywood is glacial. There are still a number of steps to complete before anything will happen, but we live in hope that someday…
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Walt Gragg lives in the Austin, Texas area with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He is a retired attorney and former Texas State Prosecutor.
Prior to law school, he spent a number of years in the military. His time with the Army involved many interesting assignments including three years in the middle of the first Cold War serving at United States European Command Headquarters in Germany where the idea for 'The Red Line' took shape.