Dedicated readers understand the emotional connection with a book you love, and the piece of your soul that is invested long after you turn the final page. Many can relate to a paternalistic instinct of pride or defense when anyone brings up this title. Whether you are ready to effuse on its brilliance or bitterly smother out the naysayers, you have the agency to speak on this topic with authority.
However, when it comes to turning books into movies, the adaptation is out of your power. While the book fan typically rejoices, there’s also trepidation over how filmmakers might alter the original goods. Readers, and the authors themselves, have strong opinions and limited if any influence on how books are translated to the big screen. This summer is no exception for monumental adaptations. We have interviewed four authors: Meg Wolitzer, Kevin Kwan, Jenny Han, and Alexandra Bracken, on their thoughts of their imminent movie adaptations releasing this August so you know first-hand what to expect. Fingers crossed? Let’s let’s dive in.
This novel is a haunting tale of a seemingly golden complimentary couple that has many conflicting issues bubbling just beneath the surface. Rather than caring for the every need of her husband (Joseph Castleman, played by Jonathan Pryce) and his novelist career, Joan (played by Glenn Close) steps out of his oppressive shadow and caters to her own writing talents.
BookTrib: What inspired you to write The Wife?
Meg Wolitzer: I’ve always been interested in the power dynamics in relationships, and I’ve also taken note of the imbalanced ways that men and women have been treated in the world. As the child of a writer, I’ve been observing writers for a long time. All of that, put together, created a landscape that intrigued me, and the characters began to develop.
BT: What do you think of the movie adaptation of your novel?
MW: I love it. It’s very powerful.
BT: The Wife features Glenn Close acting for the part of Joan, the strong female protagonist who steps out of her husband’s shadow. How do you feel she captures the feelings of discontent entrapment evolving to fierce independence on screen?
MW: Glenn captures these feelings beautifully in words and actions, and also in the complexity of the expressions that cross her face. (That last aspect is something that I couldn’t do in my novel, which is in first-person.) It’s a brilliant performance.
This novel on family dynamics and opulence of the upper crust of Singaporean society is a whirlwind tale of romance, ornate cultural customs, and characters that are vivid and unique as one young family member abruptly introduces his unsuspecting girlfriend to his affluent home life.
BT: Like many, I’ve fallen in love with the richness of your characters, rich in their extravagant lifestyles and rich metaphorically in the depths of the characters. Many of them such as Eleanor Young are highly complex in their flaws and desires. How do you feel these characters are represented on screen?
Kevin Kwan:This cast is full of such talented actors and actresses. I believe they knew how much was at stake portraying the characters as fully embodied as possible. Michelle Yeoh did an amazing job with Eleanor’s character. She was determined to be “not just some tiger mom.” She did spend a lot of time going back in the script to enrich her character more. Her relationship with her possible daughter in-law Rachel is represented as complex, not pure hate. Rachel is also portrayed as a kick-ass character. Constance Wu wanted to bring out every aspect of Rachel. Even supporting characters such as Araminta were carefully studied, and I spent hours discussing the best way to represent them. While I think all of the supporting actors and actresses could easily fill a whole movie on their own, for the purpose of condensing this story a single film, it was done fantastically.
BT: What do you want people to take away from this adaptation?
KK: I never wanted the movie to be a page-by-page follow through. I wanted there to be plenty of creative license, and what they’ve made is thoroughly entertaining. I’m hoping the movie does a great job as an appetizer for those who have not read the books (read the books-in order!).
BT: Are you hopeful there will be future movies? What are you working on now?
KK: Warner Brothers originally signed onto this movie excited that it could be a franchise, so I am very hopeful for future movies. I am working on a television series which is really different in its time constraint but similar storytelling.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is about a shy teenage girl named Lara Jean who keeps a box of letters under her bed written to all the boys she has had crushes on (but not enough confidence to speak to in real life) and the calamity her life turns into when all her letters are somehow sent out to their subjects. Lara Jean must now face these boys she has only ever imagined encounters with and navigate her rocky relationship with her sister since one of these boys was her ex-boyfriend.
BT: What inspired you to write To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?
Jenny Han: I used to write secret love letters to boys, and I’d keep them in a hat box under my bed. They were for my eyes only. Thankfully, mine never got sent out!
BT: What do you think of the movie adaptation of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before?
JH: It’s completely sweet and charming and funny–just like Lara Jean herself.
BT: This story, as the title points out, has Lara Jean’s romantic endeavors as a main focus. However, her love life and interactions between the boys her love letters are sent to are not the only focus. Her familial relationship with her sister is also a major focus. Do you feel that this balance is represented well in the film adaptation? What was your secret in achieving this harmony in the book?
JH: The book is very much a love letter to sisterhood. I love my own sister more than anyone in the world. It’s my favorite relationship to explore in my writing, and I think the movie explored it in its own way too. On set the girls were very close to each other, giving advice to each other, hanging out between takes. I think you can see that chemistry in the movie.
In this newest rage in dystopian fiction, a mysterious plague wipes out much of the child population in America. Ruby, a survivor, is gifted with special powers but ostracized by her parents. She joins a group of other outcasts to evade their pursuers but must face difficult decisions along the way that may change her way of living forever.
BT: What do you think of the movie adaptation of The Darkest Minds?
Alexandra Bracken: It’s one wild ride—it starts with a bang and moves at such a great pace. I was so happy to see the actors really nail their characters. The filmmakers captured the heart of the series so well, and never lost sight of the fact that it’s the story of four young people coming together to protect and take care of one another. I’m dying to hear what everyone else thinks of it!
BT: Dystopian Young Adult literature has taken off in recent years and made it an extremely competitive genre market. Despite a large variety of choices, The Darkest Minds has risen above the rest to critical acclaim. How does this series distinguish itself from the others and earn the coveted film adaptation?
AB: You know, I think a lot of people would say that YA dystopia stories are “over,” and that they’ve had their time. I disagree and think dystopian novels always have a place on our shelves… they just feel easier to read when the real world doesn’t feel quite as chaotic as it does now. One of the reasons I think they never truly fall out of favor is that, as dark as they get, they’re also hopeful. They show us that not only can humans survive catastrophe, our humanity—our compassion, our beliefs, our faith in each other, etc.—can, too. Truthfully, I didn’t realize I was writing a dystopian book until it came time to submit it to editors. My agent and I struggled to figure out how to label it, because I’d blended sci-fi and contemporary in a post-apocalyptic setting. I think we settled on “near-future thriller.”
There are so many fantastic dystopian books out there that deserve adaptations, but over the years I’ve learned that, much like publishing, there is an element of luck with Hollywood. A hundred things have to come together in just the right way for something to be green-lit, and it’s really easy for a project to stall out. The Darkest Minds was very lucky to have a lot of in house champions at 21 Laps and FOX. They kept the project alive and going through development for six years. In the end, it just happened to be the right kind of commercial, character-driven story at the right time, I think.
If I had to name one reason why I think this series has worked for readers (and hopefully viewers!), it’s the cast of characters. It’s been amazing to see everyone connect with them and feel as strongly about them and their relationships as I do.
BT: What are you working on now?
AB: I have the sequel to my spooky, Halloween-y middle grade book, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, coming out in February of next year! This one is called The Last Life of Prince Alastor. I’m also working on a new (secret!) YA series and pondering what could be next for the world of The Darkest Minds series, and my newest book.
There you have it, straight from the authors themselves, go out and buy your movie tickets now! Equally important, make sure to pick up copies of these fantastic reads so you can enjoy both versions and form your own opinions on how the adaptations stack up. These popular authors are far from done with the book or film industries, so keep a look out on what’s coming next and check in with BookTrib for the latest on all things books!
Want more BookTrib? Sign up NOW for news and giveaways!