My first book is going to be made into a film.
Actually, that's something of an understatement. 'Ways to Live Forever' is being made into a film right now.
Somewhere up in Newcastle there are about fifty people standing around in the cold holding esoteric job titles like Best Boy and Continuity. There are two women whose job it is to pick clothes for my characters. There are people with clapper boards and three full-time drivers and a catering van and a whole team of producers and even a tutor for the child actors, like something out of Noel Streatfield. And all of this attention is focused on one or two of the actors for something like an hour, in order to produce thirty seconds worth of film.
The whole thing is, of course, very, very exciting. Imagine watching a troupe of grown men and women acting out scenes from the back of your imagination - taking silly things you scribbled down on a back of an envelope deeply seriously - playing with lights and colours and camera angles absolutely seriously, to capture something that you only put in to dig yourself out of a plot hole, or to fill in the gap between two important scenes. I've seen some of the early rushes, and the whole thing is going to look gorgeous.
On another level, it is of course not my imagination at all. Nobody looks exactly like I imagined them (although the boy playing Sam comes close) - everyone else looks more like film stars. The house is bigger than I pictured it, and the emphasis has been placed in slightly different places, which makes it very definitely the product of the very talented people making the film, rather than me.
In some ways, this makes it much more interesting to watch. When I was first sent the script, I was too frightened to open the attachment in case the story was very different from my book. When I did read it, the problem was almost the opposite - the film is very faithful, and so much of my dialogue has been used that reading the script was like hearing your own voice played back to you on tape - too raw to enjoy.
The best parts of the script-reading experience were seeing my jokes taken out of context, or visualised, or exaggerated in ways I hadn't expected. I describe one character as looking like a French spy, for example - in the film he's spotlighted, fedora down, in dramatic silhouette.
Another throwaway line nearly made me cry reading the script. A character in the novel remarks that once Sam - my narrator - is dead, he's going to steal all the royalties from his book and go to the Caribbean. It's a funny line in the book, nothing more. In the film, the little scene ends and Felix switches on the film camera and delivers the line face-on. It's unexpectedly poignant, because you know he isn't going to survive the film either.
Seeing someone else make something completely different out of my story is like standing ten paces back from it - almost like approaching it as a disinterested reader. I noticed mistakes in my writing that I never spotted while editing. But the director's characters touched me in a way my own never did.
I can't wait to see the finished thing.
Click here to see the young actors preparing for their roles,
Here to find out more about the film,
And here for my website.