Thanks for coming back to read Part Two of my interview with Dominique Paul, author of The Possibility of Fireflies. Yesterday, I had a chance to ask Dominique questions about her book. Today, you’ll find out some more about her book, how she got her break into screenwriting and the movies, and her advice for aspiring writers and screenwriters.
Here is the rest of my interview with Dominique Paul. My questions are in blue-green bold italics. Dominique’s answers are in regular print. Be forewarned: There are some SPOILERS.
Do you have another book in the works so readers can find out what happens to Ellie and Gwen?
Yes! I’m working on a sequel. It’s called The Other Side of Something. I am hoping to carry these characters into adulthood.
What would you like people to know about your book?
I guess I want people to know that it’s not some fluffy girl book. That it’s for anyone who is or has ever been fourteen.
That’s interesting you mentioned you’ve had some reviews that said, “Oh sure, she left a bad situation because she was lucky enough to have somewhere to go to.” I didn’t find that at all. I was stressing when I realized Ellie went to her father’s house without calling him.
When I finished writing the book, I showed it to a few select people. One of them said (as if I’d simply overlooked it) that I needed to go back in and show Ellie calling her Dad to let him know she was coming. I was like, “No!” We argued about it, but I kept it the way it was because the whole point was Ellie taking a leap of faith.
Everybody waits to take risks because they want to know the outcome first. But it doesn’t work that way. It was very important for Ellie to just GO and deal with the consequences later. As I said before, I knew if she could just have the courage to go, then she would always be okay. Even if her Dad turned out to be a jerk.
What have you learned from reading reviews of your book?
My reviews have been wonderful for the most part. They’ve kind of illuminate that, without meaning to, I have connected to something universal, something that everyone can relate to on some level. It’s old and very deep. I have had grown men call me in tears after reading it.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
There is a story that only you can write. Your job is to find it.
How long have you worked as a screenwriter? What have you worked on?
I started screenwriting when I turned this book into a screenplay four years ago. I’ve worked in TV and some film, doing uncredited rewrites mostly.
How did you go about negotiating a contract for writing the screenplay and directing the movie for your first book? I understand this is quite unheard of in the movie industry.
The screenplay version of my novel was out and around town before my novel ever got published. In 2004, it had made it’s way into the hands of a director who had a deal with Warner Indie and wanted to make it into a movie. I was thrilled of course.
But after a few months, he abandoned the project. This is another one of those turning points in life. I remember the day exactly. The Steelers had just lost the AFC championship to The Patriots and the phone rang. It was the director…he was quitting the project.
I should have been devastated, but instead I thought, “A door just opened.” And sure enough, I was right. Literally a week later, I got a phone call from one of the producers from the movie Monster. He’d just finished reading my script and wanted to meet me.
I remember worrying about how I was going to tell him that we had no director and then I thought, “Wait. I’m going to direct this thing myself!” It was one of those “act as if” moments. He got behind me 100% and has never waivered. His name is Brad Wyman and I am so grateful for his support.
What was the immediate reaction of Brad Wyman when you talked to him about directing the movie yourself?
On the phone he said, “Who’s the director?” I said, “I am,” and held my breath. He was quiet and then we just set up the meeting. He tells me now that he was unsure of it, but that when he met me, he soon realized I was “exactly the type of person who could cross the finish line.” He has killed himself for two years to get our movie funded with me as director when he had plenty of opportunities to hire someone else. Brad is the ultimate punk rocker.
What did you do to train for this new venture?
At first it felt like winning the lottery, but I was soon daunted at the thought of such a huge undertaking. First thing I did was start watching movies like crazy from the perspective of a director. I took a cinematography class. I shadowed other directors on sets. My dear friend Patty Jenkins, who is also one of my producers, let me follow her around when she directed Entourage. That was incredibly valuable.
How much involvement did you have in choosing the actresses and actors for your movie?
I auditioned everyone personally, along with my casting director. That was the most fun of all. People reading my words aloud. Wow.
Are you at liberty to say who plays Ellie, Gwen, their mother, Leo, Celia and Greg?
Right now we have confirmed Kelly Preston to play Susanna and Michelle Trachtenberg will play Gwen. The others are not nailed down.
When will you start working on your movie? Do you already have a release date planned?
I have been working on the film since last June to be honest. That’s when we began casting and I began doing rewrites. Everything takes forever. Mostly it’s the financial end that’s tough. I have a lot of my key crew people in place. My cinematographer and I have already done our shot list, but we won’t be able to storyboard until we get our locations.
I leave for Rhode Island in a few weeks and we’ll shoot in July. There have been so many delays and false starts, but ultimately all have been for the best. I’m shooting in the right place at the right time of the year, so I’m extremely happy. It’s an indie, so we’ll have to make the film and then try to get distribution. Most of the time that means doing the film festival circuit. I don’t expect it to be out until next year sometime.
People get nervous about movies that are adapted from children’s books. As you’re the author, screenwriter and director, what can you tell your fans to reassure them?
I am so excited
about this movie. Everyone involved is so passionate about it. The movie is definitely a R-rated drama and there are a few changes from the book. For one, I created new characters and got rid of others. There’s no Greg, for example. I don’t want to give away too much, but I am sure you won’t be disappointed. Just know that I am living and breathing this story and will die before a false moment makes it onto the screen.
What advice would you have for aspiring screenwriters?
Learn structure! You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them.
Any words of advice for those authors who would like to get their books made into movies?
Prepare for a hell like you have never known. Honestly. It is a Sisyphus-ian task that you either rise to or get buried by. You will have to do everything yourself, but if you do, then you’ll make yourself easy to help. I had several angels along the way who helped me push the boulder up the hill when I was losing strength. There will be lots of people along the way, but it’s the ones who weathered the storm and are standing by you at the end that matter.
What have you learned from this experience?
Don’t underestimate yourself AND get everything in writing! People are shady and opportunistic. The ones who doubted you the most are the ones who want to ride your coattail in at the end. I hate to be so cynical but it’s true. On a more positive note, I also learned that the only person I need to compete with is myself. I’m not so worried anymore about what other people are doing.
What has been your biggest surprise through your whole adventure surrounding The Possibility of Fireflies?
The biggest surprise has been the people’s reaction to the story and where it has led me in my life. When I was struggling with what to do with my life, I of course considered writing, but that was soon followed by, “But what would I write about?” Then I would become paralyzed and overwhelmed. I had long lists of things I SHOULD write about.
But this was the story that came out of me first. And I thought, “This is such a little story. Who’s going to care?” If you pitched this story, no one would buy it. I thought I would just write this one little story and then I’d work on other REAL stuff…like high concept comedies or detective stories or something. But this is the one people sparked to and now here I am. It’s incredible.
Thank you Dominique for your time. I so appreciate it.
Note: Click here to read Part One of Dominique Paul’s interview.