WIP: Felix Ever After
ICYMI, the news it out! Felix Ever After is being adapted into a TV series!!!!
This has been a dream of mine for the past few years now, and it wouldn’t have happened without Beth Phelan and Gallt & Zacker and Alessandra Balzer and HarperCollins who helped get the book out into the world, and Addison Duffy at UTA and Will Graham and Stephanie Dietz and Hailey Wierengo of the Field Trip Productions team and Amazon Studios who saw the potential in Felix being adapted to TV. They’ve all been huge champions in making this happen!
I’m so floored and absolutely blown away and overwhelmed by the love and excitement the news has been getting. It’s also been important to remember that… yeah, this is so incredibly exciting as an author, but this really goes beyond me. Seeing a story centered on a Black, queer, and trans masculine character on screen will be historical and life-changing and potentially life-saving. I start to tear up every time I think about the teens who’ll be able to see themselves for the first time, centered in a story and loved and validated as they deserve to be.
I’d been waiting for the announcement before working on another blog post because I knew I wanted to talk a little about things I’ve learned about the TV/film industry when it comes to book adaptations. I can’t say anything about the Felix adaptation, but I’d always wanted one of my books to be adapted for the screen. I want to share some thoughts/notes/observations in case this could help other authors who might feel the same way.
The high concept pitch is important. A high concept pitch is basically the elevator pitch of a story's plot in one sentence. I loooooove my YA This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, but I can see why it wasn’t adapted to screen, and why Felix comparatively got the deal. Epic Love Story is slice of life, meant to be a take on the ways an every-day love story can be just as epic as the love stories we see in movies. But “boy falls in love with childhood best friend in a second-chance romance” isn’t giving a whole lot of concept or much of a story engine to make a potential TV show stand out. I personally could see Epic Love Story similarly to the streaming series Love, Victor where there’s a focus on the characters, their stories and their individual romances—but, well, Love, Victor wasn’t created just out of thin-air. It was created from Love, Simon (which became a part of L,V’s pitch, really), which did have a high concept pitch: Simon is being blackmailed while also trying to figure out who he’s fallen in love with online. Or, how about the high concept pitch for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Love letters are accidentally mailed to past crushes. You could go on and on with the super high concept pitches for books that have been adapted. Felix has more of a high-concept pitch in comparison to any of my other books, so I can see why it had a higher chance of being adapted for screen.
Contemporary isn’t a must… but it does help. I’ve heard a few times that production companies have to keep an eye on budget. Makes sense. That means it isn’t a must, but it’s definitely a pro if your book is a contemporary. Contemporary is less expensive because there’s likely no CGI, no huge, expansive sets, no need to travel to the wildlands to film. It helps if you keep budgets in mind while writing your book, if you’d like to see it adapted. As someone once mentioned to me, yes, Hurricane Child could be a beautiful movie… but how will a hurricane be recreated on screen? I love writing fantasy and sci-fi, and I’m actually hoping to eventually write a book that could be adapted into an animated series, but I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if any of my SFF were picked up for live-actions.
The book doesn’t need to be an NYT bestseller. This was a misconception I had for years: that the book needs to be an NYT bestseller, overwhelmingly popular, before anyone would take a chance on it. I mean, it definitely doesn’t hurt to be a bestseller, but Felix Ever After never hit the list (yes, I’m sad about that, but one day!!!) There are also some books, like I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee, that I believe got a TV/film deal before the book was even officially out in the world. For books like Felix that haven't or aren't going to hit the list, or be so overwhelmingly popular that it immediately gets a film deal, the most important thing is the heart—whether production company teams will fall in love with the story through the characters, whether the passion is there to bring this story to life.
Film adaptations aren’t as popular anymore. This is just something I’ve heard from several people now, so hey, could be wrong—but as much as the book-to-film adaptations have been amazing, it sounds like TV adaptations will become more popular. Years ago when I first started writing Felix, I wanted it to be a movie because that was the only model I could really base my hopes and dreams on, with THUG and Love, Simon and the other YA book-to-movie adaptations that were happening at that time. But to be honest, I’m extra excited about this TV adaptation because of the potential to expand storylines, to give more time to characters we met in the book (hello, Leah!)—and, slight tangent, because I’ve also been wanting to make my way into writing for TV for a few years now. This is a huge stepping-stone for me because it became a catalyst in me taking my own TV writing dreams more seriously. So, with TV adaptations in mind…
Side characters are important. Yes, they’re always important, but if there’s a chance that a book will become a TV series, that means the side characters also needs to be interesting and have their own conflicts and storylines, so that they can translate literally into multiple storylines that're happening around the main character. Felix will always be the main baby, but I can see how Declan’s issues at home with his homophobic father, and Ezra’s struggles with being lonely and practically abandoned by his parents, and Leah and her hacking skillz, could become their own separate storylines, too. (Major emphasis on the could, nothing's set in stone yet!)
COVID isn’t stopping everything. Wanted to touch on this because it's something I've been very curious about, but from what I can see and hear from podcasts and different articles, COVID isn’t bringing everything to a grinding halt for now. A lot of shows and movies in development are able to continue work from home, finding writers and doing Zoom writer rooms, etc., so that by the time everything comes together hopefully the world will be a safer place to actually start filming. Small tangent, but I’m really curious to see if TV shows and movies coming out after COVID will acknowledge the pandemic, and how it’s changed our lives.
One last thought: I know there are some… shall we say, book purists?... who would think of writing a book hoping it’ll be adapted for the screen as selling out, but I don’t think there’s any shame in wanting to see a book you write get adapted. Personally, my love is in storytelling across the board. I want to write many, many more books, and I also want to write scripts for graphic novels and I want to write for TV. I love that there are so many ways to tell stories, so many ways to show more underrepresented characters, and I want to try as many of those ways as possible so that I can also keep expanding and growing as a storyteller. I know I’m not the only one who feels the same.