Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's it like when your book becomes a movie? Um, strange #DeborahDonnelly

LUCY BURDETTE: Deborah Donnelly was one of my first writing pals--and I miss her and her quirky wedding planner mysteries. So I was delighted to hear that her first-ever book has been made into a movie--and I begged her to tell us about it...

DEBORAH DONNELLY: Veiled Threats, the first title in my Wedding Planner Mysteries, is going to air on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on October 19. I’m thrilled - no surprise there. The surprise, at least to me, is what a long strange trip it was from page to screen.

Back in 2005, a cousin of mine gave Veiled Threats to a buddy of his, an independent film producer. I say that as though I know what "independent film producer" means. I don't, not exactly. But I was delighted overjoyed ecstatic to get that first phone call from the producer, and waited eagerly for the option to be negotiated and the check to arrive. 

I waited until 2007.

But was I ever happy to get that check! And happy every year thereafter, as the option was renewed again and yet again and yet again. There were nibbles from a studio here and there, there was a tug on the line every once in a while, but mostly the years just went by. Then at last came a plot twist: Hallmark was interested. Interested enough to make a movie? Well no, not yet. But willing to talk about it.

That was in 2012. Are you doing the math here?

From time to time over the next eternity, I'd get a bulletin from my agent. The talks with Hallmark were "continuing." Then they were "promising." At one heady moment the talks were even "advanced." Mostly, the talks were slowwwwww.

Then suddenly the talking stopped and, oh joy oh rapture, a screenwriter was hired. Was I consulted about the script? Do I look like J.K. Rowling? I went back to waiting.


Finally, early in 2014, filming began with Vancouver B.C. standing in for Seattle. I was not invited. But I was paid. Not quit-your-job money, but not nothing. Plus I had the exquisite experience of going online and seeing my very own character, wedding planner Carnegie Kincaid, heading up a cast list on IMDb.

Carnegie, who I invented out of my own head, right there on IMDb! And there was my smoldering attorney Holt, and my irrepressible reporter Aaron, and…


Whoa, wait just a darn minute. Aaron is supposed to be shorter than Carnegie, that’s part of the comedy in my romantic comedy/mystery. So how come the actor playing him (second from left) is four inches taller than Erica Durance, who’s playing her?

And what’s this guy Switchblade doing on the cast list? I never wrote a character named Switchblade. And where’s the fan favorite Boris the Mad Russian Florist? And don’t tell me they’re really going to call the movie “Wedding Planner Mystery.” I thought that was a placeholder, not the actual title!

Aha. Now the realities of TV movie-making were starting to sink in. They get to call it what they want. This is not a film OF my book, it’s a Hallmark movie based ON my book. So a photo shoot on the slopes of Mount Rainier was probably a no-go. Not to mention that underwater sequence beneath Carnegie’s houseboat. And of course they couldn't jam all the subplots into a single movie. As for my not-especially-graphic sex scenes, well, this is Hallmark, after all.

So. Let’s just say that having one’s 350-page book transformed into a lower-budget, two-hour, family-friendly movie is a lesson in patience, gratitude, and acceptance. I’ve been ever so patient. I’m exceedingly grateful. And on October 19 at 9 pm Eastern, 8 pm Central, I’m going to switch on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and settle down with a bowl of popcorn, heavily seasoned with acceptance. I hope you’ll join me.

Deborah Donnelly is the author of Veiled Threats, Died to Match, May the Best May Die, Death Takes a Honeymoon, You May Now Kill the Bride, and Bride and Doom. Read sample chapters on her website and more about the movie here.

And PS from Deborah: Good news! The Hallmark movie's in the New York Times. Not such good news! They don't look upon it any too favorably. Now I'll admit, they have a point about the chirpy perkiness and the perky chirpiness. But better that than the criticism leveled at the other movie mentioned. "Humorless gore"? Bleahh. Anyway, all publicity is good publicity, right? 

Breaking news: Kathy Reel is the lucky winner of FAIL by Rick Skwiot! Shoot me an email lucyburdette at gmail dot com and we'll arrange the drop!


  1. Congratulations, Deborah . . . wow, an exercise in hurry up and wait, I guess, but how wonderful that they did finally make a movie based on your book . . .
    I'm already planning to tune in on Sunday.

  2. Me too Joan, I can't wait to see it. I loved this series!

  3. I like the distinction: a movie based ON your book, not a movie OF your book. Especially when you love the book and characters, a movie adaptation can be a real stinker! Let's hope your movie proves to be enjoyable!

  4. Deborah, it sounds as if you reacted to a situation fraught with frustration with a healthy sense of humor and good grace. I just found out that I get the Hallmark channel, so I will be able to tune in tomorrow, too.

  5. Deborah, I'm in the hurry-up-and-wait phase of the TV series option for my books. Things get really exciting, things are moving forward, a new writing team has been brought on board--then...nothing.
    And so on. Crazy business. I'm learning to go with the flow... I appreciate hearing your experience.

    Congrats on the movie airing tomorrow night!! And the really good thing is that the viewers will buy your books!!!

  6. Well done, Deborah. I look forward to watching it.
    I've been going through exactly the same journey with the movie of Her Royal Spyness:
    They bought the option about six years ago. Renewed the option 3 times until it got really expensive for them to renew. Then they bought the property. Then they hired a script writer. He wrote 3 scripts. All not right. Then they hired another script writer... AND that is the last I heard. They tell me nothing. So one day I'll go to my local movie theater and there it will be. I hope.

  7. Thanks for all the good words, gang! I watched my advance copy again last night with some friends - and some champagne - well, a lot of champagne - and it was a thrill all over again to see my characters come alive.

    Rhys and Deborah, I can't wait to see your works on the screen!

  8. Deborah, congratulations! Hallmark channel is one of my favorite channels, second only to Masterpiece Theater. I saw the ads for the TV movie based on your book. ??? Did you ever meet the actors from the movie???

    Rhys, hope to see royal spyness on the screen! Would love to see that.


  9. Welcome, Deborah! Don't feel bad about the NYTimes -- they dissed Field of Dreams, too. What?

  10. Rhys and Debs, can't wait to see what happens with your books! I know Hallie had one made a few years ago and it wasn't bad at all. That's probably the best one can hope for in this business!

  11. Thanks for the welcome Susan!

    And no, I didn't meet the actors. I did consider buzzing up to Vancouver BC to watch the filming, but while I was waffling, they were wrapping up. Ah well, I probably would have kibitzed and gotten thrown out!

  12. Just saw an ad for your movie. How exciting! Were you pleased with the results?

  13. I was certainly pleased to see my story on screen. And if the movie was a bit different from the book, well, that's show business!

  14. I am so bummed I don't get this channel. I'd love to watch this movie and another couple they've got coming soon. Hopefully I can catch it as some point.

  15. Hi, Mark. This may not help, but I just heard that Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is being shown free on the Dish network this month. Thanks for your interest!

  16. Hurray! SOrry I missed this yesterday--but I will be watching tonight! LOVE this! LIsten--it's ALL GOOD. xoxo