This is the second interview I had the pleasure of conducting with the love of my literary life, Gayle Forman. These questions were asked immediately after the announcement that Catherine Hardwicke (director of Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown and Twilight) was onboard for the movie adaptation.
If I Stay is getting some great buzz, what kind of feedback are you receiving from readers at this stage?
The kind of feedback writers dream of. I've gotten more emails from my web site about IF I STAY than I have my previous two books combined and IF I STAY hasn't even come out yet! People tell me how much the story moved them,how it made them cry and how it made them laugh (which makes me happy, I don't want it to be a slog). I get funny emails where people tell me the embarrassing places they were when they cried (New York City subway is particularly mortifying; some have suggested a warning label on the book letting people know not to read in public). And people also confide in me about having lost loved ones or holding vigils for unconscious loved ones and having this sense that their loved were there, that they could see them, hear them, just like Mia can see and hear everything that's going on in her hospital. All of this feedback is unbelievably gratifying. A news item broke a few weeks back that Catherine Hardwicke was in negotiations to direct the film adaptation of If I Stay. There was quite an amount of online discussion (specifically from Twilighters), what was it like to see that much press for a book, that you have written, that hasn't been released? Obviously, it was great in a strictly publicity sense because it meant that a whole slew of people who'd never heard of the book suddenly had. And I was/am excited about the prospect of Catherine Hardwicke directing because I think she's a wonderful director. I loved 13, Lords of Dogtown and Twilight and though that Twilight showed that she has a great touch in both successfully taking a book to screen and in finding the perfect romantic leads. But some of the Twilight twitter was pretty funny, with people going off about the book and how bad or good it was and how bad or good Catherine would be for it. Clearly, very few of those people had read the book because it wasn't out yet. But look, I know that Twilight fans are hardcore—I'm one of them.
What is the current status of the If I Stay movie?
You know, the road from having a movie optioned to having it made is a potentially long and winding one, so you never know. That said, Summit, the studio that made Twilight and optioned IF I STAY, so far, judging by how quickly they went after Catherine Hardwicke, they seem to be pretty serious about getting it made. But I think how quickly a movie getting made and it ultimately getting made depends on so many variables, how the book actually does with readers being key. So I try to take a Zen approach to it. I'm so bowled over by everything that's happened so far and if the movie gets made, I'll be completely thrilled, and if Catherine Hardwicke helms it, I'll dance around my apartment singing yelpy songs for the entire production period.
(I think it's time to choose a yelpy song lol)
In a previous interview with me, you tapped Zach Gilford as an ideal Adam. Have you got any other ideas for casting?
I'm pretty out of the Hollywood circuit in terms of who's up and coming in the teen actor world and I think Zach is great but he's also older, though I think that works better for guy actors playing teen than girl actors. Zach (Matt on Friday Night Lights, one of my favorite shows) just has this great vulnerability to him. And even though he plays jock, I see the indie-rock spirit in him. The truth is, I just don't know anyone on the Hollywood scene aside from the usual suspects: Kirsten Stewart (who'd make a fine Mia if she weren't all Bella all the time) and Michael Cera who is so NOT Adam in my mind and like Dakota Fanning (a possibility). My friend who works for an entertainment magazine and knows everything about Hollywood gave me this huge list of potential actresses to play Mia at one point and I didn't know who any of them were. The point is, a good director/producer will find the perfect actors with the all-important chemistry.
Your next project, could you tell us about it? Mean Girls on it's ear, right?
One of the things about IF I STAY that people seem to respond to is that all the characters are good people. I guess with death as such an all-powerful antagonist, you don't need any other villain. Well, in this new book, I wanted to do something completely different, so I started out with the ultimate bitch and I took her on this journey, this transformation, in which she slowly gets "infected with empathy" and grows a soul and kind of has a spiritual (though not in any kind of whoo whoo way) awakening. Along the way, she makes a mess of her life, loses all her friends, and falls in love. It's a comedy and a social commentary, and yes, it's my attempt to take that whole Mean Girl Lit genre and turn it on its ear.
Is there an If I Stay playlist?
Yes there is and thank you for asking. Music is such a big part of IF I STAY and there are a lot of specific songs—classical, punk, Bette Midler!—mentioned in the text—so I thought readers might be curious to hear the real deal. So I put up a playlist at http://www.gayleforman.com/books/if-i-stay/playlist/ where you can sample different tunes and download them at Amazon or iTunes. One song you can even download for free (and yes, it's all legal). The web site (and once again, that's gayleforman.com) also has other goodies, like excerpts, reviews (though they are spoiler ridden) and links to pages to leave comments, as well a contacts page where readers can email me if they want.
Thanks, Ms. Snark!
You are very welcome G!
Just to add my two cents worth, here are my casting choices:
I love Zach Gilford and consider him to be immesely talented so he can definitely be Adam.
But for Mia, I was thinking...Danielle Panabaker (see right) - I have always loved her for some unknown reason and think she'd be great.
Jaime Alexander who plays Jesse on Kyle XY could be an option but I like the idea of her as Katniss in the Hunger Games movie more.
I love Jessica Stroup who plays Silver in 90210. Stay with me, she's better than the material she's been working with!
She was Juno's best friend and is amazingly talented. My favourite though is... Olivia Thirlby (left).