I’m beyond amazed by the response I’ve had to the Weekly Indie Word Slinger posting. Thank you all for your interest and I am doing my best to figure out the best way to provide the most exposure and attention I can for you and your books.
My Word Slinger for this week hails from my neck of the woods, or I guess I can say my home neck of the Penn’s Woods. Author of Don Juan in Hankey, Pa, Grace Unexpected and upcoming Who Killed ‘Tom Jones’?, Gale Martin has shown infinite patience while I was flu-ridden and gave me a lot of leeway when I was fearful that I might be very late getting these Weekly Indie Word Slingers out. Thanks, Gale!
Before Harry Potter and Twilight, movies that were adapted from books were usually general fiction with the focus group being just about anyone who would pay for a ticket. Occasionally there were movies that were for a specific audience; Disney films, Lucas films, Larry and Andy Wachowsky adaptions or Steven Spielberg productions. Some made a lot of money and others barely made any impression at all.
Early on, the basis for adaptations included novels–memoirs, comics, plays and in some cases news reports and non-fiction. Cinema banked on the new technology that allowed for the more traditional form of public theater to reach an audience that was titillated by innovation. The tradition of communal entertainment–public execution, sports events, theater, vaudeville, operas, music halls and street performance evolved through time and blossomed with the advent of film.
In the late 1880’s the movie camera was invented and motion pictures, silent films at the time, were shown at social events like carnivals and circuses. People marvelled at this new creation and news of it spread quickly. By the early 20th century the media was sending social and political messages attached to motion pictures to movie viewers and cinema devotees.
Some of the most popular classic movies were Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, adapted from Bram Stoker‘s novel written in 1897. Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel Frankenstein, that solidified the fame of Boris Karloff. Technicolor wonder, The Wizard of Oz, which shot Judy Garland’s star into the night sky. Interestingly, at the time that The Wizard of Oz was released it wasn’t received well. Later when it was shown on television the film found a revival of interest. While other films like Gone With The Wind, starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, received 10 Academy Awards the year after it’s release. Clark Gable made movie-goers swoon when a handsome Rhett Butler mutter the famous words, “My dear, I don’t give a damn” on film.
In 2001 when J.K. Rowling’s young adult books, Harry Potter, were given a new life in film, and a new genre of book adaptations became popular. Prior to Harry Potter fame, young adult books might occassionally be adapted to television with a small demographic of viewers. The Jason Katims TV show Roswell, which was inspired by the Melinda Metz books Roswell High, is a good example. The response to Rowling’s already incredibly popular books was extraordinary. The interest in the teen genre exploded and soon after other young adult books were being shopped to studios hoping to be picked up for cinema and television.
Stephanie Meyer’sTwilight Saga grossed over 390 million worldwide with it’s first film alone. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattenson’s names began to be on the tips of lips everywhere making them very appealing to the paparazzi. The following four films–New Moon, Eclipse and the two Breaking Dawn films created more and more of a stir. The books, which follow the love affair between a human girl and her vampire boyfriend, fed the interests of teenagers everywhere and soon other vampire novels began to get a great deal of attention from producers and studios.
L.J. Smith‘s Vampire Diaries premiered on the CW channel in 2009, the cast included teenage heartthrob Ian Somerhalder, and millions tuned in every week for more Damon Salvatore. Originally written in 1991, The trilogy included the titles of The Awakening, The Struggle and The Fury. After almost twenty years L.J. Smith returned to the literary world of Mystic Falls to write even more books based on the same characters. Currently the book series contains twelve books. Personally, I think that the original three were pretty bad. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that though.
Probably the newest Vampire series to have caught Hollywood’s attention is Vampire Academy, creation of author Richelle Mead. In six books the story of Rose Hathaway and her best friend Lissa Dragomi stretches from their first introduction ofSt. Vladimir’s Academy to ultimate domination. A dark world of power struggle and forbidden love fill the pages. The film, Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, is currently in the process of casting actors. Zoey Deutch and Danila Kozlovsky will be playing the parts of Rose and Dimitri. No one else has been announced at this time.
But young adult adaptations aren’t all about bloodsuckers. There are numerous novels being slated for film and the genre varies.
In 2012 viewers flocked to movie theaters to see the first installment of Suzanne Collins dystopian tale, The Hunger Games. The novel is about Katniss Everdeen, a teen who lives in a world segregated by districts distinguished by wealth, social status and political strain. Jennifer Lawerence received critical acclaim for her portrayal of the character as a role model for young girls, strong and intelligent. The trials and tribulations of Katniss and Peta mark a path that pairs them together in order to survive The Hunger Games.
Philip Pullman’s popular fantasy books, His Dark Materials Trilogy, became known as one of the least liked film adaptations of the last decade. The Golden Compass, also known as Northern Lights, was released in 2007. A key component of the books is the religious implications of the importance of the human soul. The adaptation attempted to play down the controversial elements of Christian faith. By obscuring the original story the plot fell short. Despite the stunning visual effects fans were unhappy and the film flopped.
Currently in the process of being filmed is Cassandra Clare’sCity of Bones. The approval and interest of fans regarding the first book adaptation of the The Mortal Instruments was rewarded when a green light was given for the second book prior to the finish of the first. The Mortal Instruments books have a large cast of characters and fans debated and commented on Clare’s website as they were cast. Clary Fray and Jace Wayland, played by Lily Collins and Jaime Campbell-Bower, are the main concern of the first three novels. Clare later built on the initial trilogy adding more books. The voice of Clary, who dominates the books–City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass is joined by characters, Simon Lewis, Alec Lightwood and Jace Wayland/Lightwood, in the books that follow.
Veronica Roth’sDivergent series, another dystopian society book, has garnered a good deal of fandom squeeing. The reaction to the casting of the two main characters, Four–Theo James, and Tris–Shailene Woodley has been positive. The plot, a world of a five faction society based on specific virtues, spends a great deal of time focusing on the concept of political control. Tris, is born to one faction but at her sixteenth birthday she is tested and finds she can choose another. In the faction she has choosen, the strongest and most fearless of those in that society, things become suspect. Soon she discovers a plot to control her faction and use them as a tool to control the others.
The Fault in Our Stars is a heart wrenching story of two young people living with cancer. Written by contemporary American writer and YouTube vloggerJohn Green, The Fault in Our Stars looks at the poignancy and fraility of youth. Faced with the horrors of cancer, The hero, Augustus Waters, waxes poetic and philosophically searches for meaning in all things. The story is told from heroine, Hazel’s, POV and reveals a girl who is surviving cancer rather than dying from it. There has been some controversy by book reviewers that Green was cashing in on tragedy, most readers don’t agree. Overall the book has been celebrated for it’s meaningful message and noteable quotes.
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
The woman who acted as guide to many females–pre-teens and young adults for over forty years is finally seeing one of her novels adapted to film. Judy Blume, winner of over 90 literary awardshas co-written the screenplay of Tiger Eyes with her son Larry Blume. Released in limited theaters on June 7, 2013 the plot is a look at a young girl’s grief at the loss of a parent. Blume’s celebrated insight and wisdom has addressed topics from masturbation to bullying and all those issues that touch nearly every girl in between those two things.
A great many adaptations are quite faithful to their inspiration. Like all things which go from the hand of one person to another–views, ideas and prominent points change. As a reader you may think one adaptation is a success and another is a travesty. It’s either great to see something you imagined interpreted in a similar fashion to your own ideas. Or it is heartbreaking to see a novel you enjoyed massacred. I am a firm believer in letting your voice be heard. Never be shy, if you can’t find a place to comment on the things you like or dislike publically, tell a friend. Opinions might be a little like buttholes, but no one can ever say you are better off without one. After all, that just means you are full of shit.
This has been a very long and involved look at the history and result of adaptation. Thank you for sticking with me and seeing it through.
I write this sharing my lap desk with a big uncaring white fluff ball named Frankie. He likes to push the keys and sit on top of the computer so we stage laptop wars. So far we are about 50/50. I’m not really the one in authority here.
This week I read a truly incredible book by one of those authors that no one knows but really should be on the lips of everyone. Fallen Crest High by Tijan was a look outside the box in a way that killed the memory of the many formulaic books I have read lately. It bled dysfunction, unlikely alliances, the value of friendships and perceptions. This book was written very well, the characters were engaging and the power struggling and backstabbing feed my hunger for angst and trouble. I have not read any of Tijan’s other books but I did go right to Amazon and downloaded Broken and Screwed and the Jaded series as soon as I finished Fallen Crest High. When a book as good as this comes around it literally rocks your entire world and the impression left by this sort of story demands to be shared with anyone who will listen. I hope you are listening. Tijan’s Facebook page, Tijan’s Books, posts updates of the novels she is in the process of writing. I love authors who are so accessible and generous.
But how does one go about writing broken and ruined characters successfully?
So many authors try so hard to play the broken and tragic tales of one of their characters they meet with defeat. They are so hung up on the triggering event that the symptoms and aftermath get lost in the plot. Or they get so lost in the dark emotions and troubled behavior of a damaged hero or heroine that the ultimate reveal comes across as insignificant. It’s hard to write something real if you have never experienced or witnessed it yourself. Writing fiction about painful and difficult times resulting in horrific personal crises isn’t as simple as making up a tale of woe and prescribing cliched motives and villainous villains to milk a response. You have to actually make your reader feel like they have never felt so much pain, confusion, terror, distress, hopeful hopelessness and vulnerability from a narrative of this type before.
Trauma effects people in different ways but it almost always comes with a desperate anger and a feeling of hollowness or emptiness that removes the victim from the world of all the people around them. The isolation that a troubled person goes through may be of their own making or by being stigmatised as different from others in regards to the incident. Sometimes life is simple. You are made or broken and from that you grow into a stronger person. Most people aren’t really that lucky and pain, anger, helplessness win. That feeling of being other in a broken world can’t be solved with a chat with a therapist or pill. When you can’t talk it out and it just plows through your life the experience can live in your mind playing over and over again. When you come out on the other end it’s incredible. For others, luck doesn’t bless you that way and destroying who you are seems like the only option. When that happens you know you are going down and you no longer care who you bring with you. The injuries you have pull you into your own small world where you hurt so much you fail to see anyone else’s pain. And the feelings you have create a place all it’s own where people have to pay for what has been to you. Even the ones who are innocent.
That is reality. This is how people respond to abuse, tragedy and trauma. Knowing this happens in life makes for great writing. Assuming something like this from TV dramas, thriller movies and other books which address trauma, stress and tragedy isn’t enough. Writing a good story comes from writing what you know.
In fiction of this vein the author is creating a character that has suffered something monumental and that character’s story isn’t necessarily the only one that is being told. Authors say lot about themselves by showing how human nature works in their own minds by what they write. The violation or unjustice, how the world around the victim reacts and what the result of those actions are; All of that is a product of an author’s ability to see the inner turmoil and the greater gift of interaction. Topics such as cancer, suicide, rape, child or domestic abuse, assault, mental illness, family dysfunction, social or unspecified anxiety, and death (this list could really go on into infinity), mold characters just as they mold real people. Knowledge is a powerful thing and authors with knowledge can play God in the written sense.
I have been reading all sorts of books for most of my life and I have probably read thousands of books which have a life lesson contained within the wrappings of personal tragedy. I can remember the first book of this sort that really left a mark on me. A teenage author by the name of Cyn-Forshay Lunsford wrote a book in 1986 called Walk Through Cold Fire. It was a great story of a girl who had a pretty shitty life moving to stay with other family for a summer. The events which occur impact her life in pretty horrible way. As you can see from that Amazon link the book isn’t available in e-book format and it’s out of print. So unless you can find it in a used bookstore, like I did about ten years ago, the likelyhood of you getting to read this great piece of fiction is probably pretty slim.
Still I give the author props because the way she commanded that these characters matter in a world where it didn’t seem that people did was impressive. Walk Through Cold Fire was written with a rawness and truth that left me feeling every one of Desiree’s crushing burdens at the end of the book. I think it was the first book I read that didn’t have a happy ending. It felt real. To my youthful mind fantasy was so much more fun. But as I read and read and read during my pre-teens and teen years, the only book that really sticks out is Cyn-Forshay Lunsford’s. I can’t tell you the plot of too many of the Silhouette Young Adult Books I read. And I can tell you that the only thing I remember from the first couple of Sweet Valley High books is that one of the characters names was Fiona. And I only remember that because from that point on I wanted to change my name to that. I think as a young girl of twelve Walk Through Cold Fire actually changed something in me. It made me see the world differently.
By no means is that the only title that I recommend that would illicit a telling reaction. There are the classic S.E. Hinton books The Outsiders and Rumble fish. Both powerful stories about life on hard times. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, which told the tale of a jaded and lost generation in the middle of the 1980’s. The memoir of Susanna Keyson, Girl Interrupted, which I remember made me fear the possibility of something similar happening to me. All those were published before a time that really is remembered by the younger readers who are reading now. I don’t think they can relate with the times or culture before 2000, which is just unfortunate because the message that was being made at that particular times of those novels spoke volumes.
Of current books that I have read this past year, my tastes have run the gamut from terminal illness to incest and almost everything in between. Some to mention would be Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, a book set in Great Britain about a truly broken family in which a brother and sister find themselves in a taboo relationship. The Fault in Our Stars by the incredible John Green. His book is being adapted into a movie. If the film impacts viewers half as much as the book did me no one will leave that theater with a dry eye.
A very dark and disturbing view into sex trafficking with the Dark Duet books by C.J. Roberts will leave you wondering how the hell something like this exists. Incredible and frightening. Jeffery Euginedes debut novel The Virgin Suicides was a little of everything. You know, I laughed, I cried, I read it multiple times. Nicole Reed’s Ruining Series was a road through a dark hell of a young girl just plagued with trauma and tragedy. Colleen Hoover hit on some very touchy subjects in Hopeless. Honestly the end of her book left me a bit shocked, Sky’s reunion with her father was so disquieting and I remember the pivotal part where I just shook my head and said, “What in hell did I just read?”. Jessica Sorensen left me speechless with her book The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. The violation of Callie was just beyond what one would assume and Kayden’s family life was sickening but so often reality. Just the idea that they could get past their issues in any small way made this book pure gold. And I can’t forget Alice Sebold with her compelling story The Lovely Bones. I had read her memoir which told of her own rape and fight for justice in Lucky. She is a strong woman for making it through that. And writing what happened one time was a lot to admire, writing the horror a second time takes fortitude and courage.
I recommend every book that I have mentioned above. Read them once for me and then again for you. It takes a special author to develop stories that stage horrific and hopeless events in a way that pulls you out of your comfort zone but allows you to think that somewhere in all that hell something more might exist. Sometimes the ending is vicious and as a reader, even you feel violated. Personally, I see that as a great accomplishment on the writer’s behalf. I have always been fond of saying, “good or bad, at least you aren’t indifferent.” Give me a story that makes my heart hurt, my gut wrench and my mind feel like I just survived something most people can’t live through.
I congratulate the authors who attempt and succeed to touch on issues that make readers ill at ease. Sometimes you need to be shaken up. Life isn’t just hot guys and girls, living haphazardly, and fighting with parents, siblings and best pals. Sometimes living is hard. And surviving is near impossible. There is crime, hate, impossible odds, terror, heartbreak, pain and shame that make it so hard to breathe that you just suffocate on the thought of the next moment. Awful and alarming things happen to people you know all the time. Maybe they don’t talk about it. Maybe they can’t. Books that pull you away from your own safety, leading you through someone else’s bottomless pit, give you a better sense of humanity. Sometimes having your world flip upside down can make everything around you mean a little more.
Thanks for reading this.
Edited because I mistyped Jessica Sorensen’s name as Jennifer. My apologies.
Good Morning! Today is a glorious Thursday and tomorrow D and I leave to fly out to Manassas, VA for a week with his parents. I’m really excited to be going back to the DC area because there is just so much history there. I love seeing the old houses, battlefields and cemeteries. I look forward to seeing the family too since we rarely get to spend time with them. But I won’t be able to get past my book addiction even while I’m there.
I have a Goodreads account and I am so fastidious about it. I would say that I visit the website at least two or three times a day. I’m always marking the last book I read or adding to my ‘To Read List’. But Goodreads is something that I only discovered in April of this year. I immediately found the 2012 Reading Challenge and put in the number of books I would read before the end of this year. Because I have an OCD about numbers with the ending of 3,6 or 9, I set my goal as 199 books. I know it sounds like a lot but this, reading, is what I do (okay, I write too!) and it makes me pretty happy. So today is the 27 December 2012 and I have read 201 books for this year so far. I’m pretty happy with myself. I plan to set my goal for 2013 at 333. But before I get there I’d like to give myself another challenge, a 30 in 30 goal. For the next 30 days I will read the books from the list I will be building today.
So to show my extreme attentiveness to detail I will admit that my notebook, which I use as a day-to-day bible, contains lists of things to do, noting ideas for writing stories and a list of movies to be seen and books to read which are already on my kindle. From the 787 books to read I am picking this 30. Oh this is so exciting because until I start the list I won’t even know what they are…
There it is, my list. I plan to do some book reviews of some of these books. A lot of them are Young Adult, which is what I really read a lot of. I know I’ve been badly educated not having read The Hobbit yet. I’ll be fixing that within the next month. I’m going to ride this all out and see how it goes. Maybe you can make your own list, a shorter list, and see how many you can read.