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If my book was made into a movie (well, I can dream!)

My first reaction, upon being offered a contract

proposing to make a movie of my book, would be delight. How could it not be? In my mind’s eye, I see a period of fist-pumping and dancing around whatever room I was in at the time. I imagine there would be some embracing and hugging going on, too. Naturally, detail is everything here. Had the contract arrived in a letter, and I had opened this letter on a bus, I expect my response would the scaled back accordingly, for fear of giving the impression that I am a lunatic to the public at large. However, were I safely within the bosom of my own family, I imagine that jubilation would know no bounds, leading to a frantic round of messaging and phone-calling amongst friends and acquaintances.

However, I ask myself, would this intense period of celebration quite quickly give way to mature consideration of the circumstances? After all, if Netflix (or some other equivalent) are going to buy the right to dramatize my work for the screen, they are going to wish to impose their own creative vision on it, are they not? At this point, when this thought crosses my mind, a strange clamminess comes upon my hands and a prickle across the brow. I swallow hard. ‘A Moment in Time’ is my baby. I made it. Me. It’s all mine and the thought of other people, complete strangers, coming in and taking my baby away from me is one that fills me with disquiet. I mean, what if they change it so it’s barely recognisable to me? There are so many things to be scared of!

In the first place, when we read a book, there is a creative interplay between the author’s vision and our own. The author sees things in their own head: a view of a city street, an impassioned argument between two characters, for example, and they describe what they see in those words on the page. When we read those words we see within our own minds an approximation of the author’s vision, but crucially, we interpret it in ways that suit our own experience and make of it something that is deeply personal. Reading is as much a creative exercise as writing. It is not as though the writer provides us with a flat-pack wardrobe in a box, with the instructions for assembly. Rather, the writer provides us with materials and guidance, and we assemble from them something that is unique to ourselves.

This is why movies are often disappointing, to those who have first read the book on which it was based. A very obvious example is Jack Reacher, a movie interpretation of Lee Child’s book made in 2012, and starring Tom Cruise as the eponymous Jack. The problem here is that Jack Reacher is a giant of a man, 6’5” whilst the diminutive Tom is a mere 5’7”. I am a great admirer of Tom Cruise’s work, but he was never going to cut it as Jack Reacher. When we read about characters, we see, in our mind’s eye, a vision of those characters that movie-makers may contradict, although few examples are as clear-cut as the one I mention. Sometimes, things work out. Peter Jackson’s vision of the characters in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was remarkably similar to my own, which is one reason why I enjoyed them so much.

With my own book, I have an unimprovably clear idea in my mind of what Alex Trueman looks like. I know this because I used my son, Jack, as a model, when taking photos and video to be used for the cover of the book and for the subsequent marketing. Would my Jack be prepared to reprise his role in Hollywood and project his persona onto the big screen, with all the attendant fame and celebrity? I rather suspect he would.

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