This piece was published in the Tor Newsletter but it answers so many of the emails I get that I want to post it here.
As the movie version of my book, Jumper, approaches, more and more people become aware of it. For the last month there hasn’t been a day when I don’t get an email or phone call saying something like, “Dude! I saw the trailer for Jumper in front of American Gangster,” or “Ohmighod, your movie had a commercial during the Sugar Bowl!”And, as a result, fans of the book have also started emailing me.And while some are excited there are others who are quite unhappy.Before I go any further, let me say, I am incredibly grateful for anyone who likes my writing. Even before money, this is the thing writers crave and work for. So, regardless of your feelings about the movie, if you like any of my books–thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.But. (You knew it was coming, didn’t you?) Some of you have some misconceptions about this whole movie thing. I’m not making any of these statements up. They’ve either arrived as emails or been posted in public blogs or forums.
They are ruining the book!
Late in his career, James M. Cain, author of Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, was asked by an interviewer, “How do you feel about what Hollywood has done to your books?” “Hollywood has done nothing to my books,” Cain replied. “They’re right over there on the shelf, exactly as I wrote them.” And I’ll add: because of the movie and the movie publicity, tens of thousands (maybe more!) of people will read the books who would never have read them. This is a good thing.
The movie is diverging from the book!
Well, yes, it is. A quick scan of the official movie website will show you that they’ve changed things and added things. Books are not movies. Books tend to be a bit too long to adapt easily. I can only think of a few faithful yet successful book-to-movie adaptations. Mostly, I can think of adaptations where trying to be too faithful to the book made for a mediocre or bad movie. And Jumper is a first person, mostly interior, novel. I’m not sure how you would adapt it exactly without some sort of moronic voice-over or guy who talks to himself.
You should have exercised more creative control!
Excuse me? What control? Movie studios do not tend to give creative control over their hundred-million dollar projects to persons with no track record in making successful movies. Doug Liman has a that track record. I don’t.
You sold out–you should never have sold the rights without control!
I see. While I live for my readers approval, I also have a mortgage, children who will need to go to college, and a desire to have some form of retirement. Oh, yeah, and have some time to write more books. Before the movie deal I held down a full time job and wasn’t getting much writing done. Do you know how few writers get this opportunity? It’s very much like winning the lottery–you have to publish something to buy a ticket but how many lottery tickets hit?
Long before the movie deal I was in the habit of saying, “I want somebody to make a commercially successful, bad movie from one of my books. That way I’ll get some money and people will say, ‘But the book was so much better!'”
I’ve come to a different place, now. Millions of dollars and hundreds of people are involved in creating a work whose genesis is my writing. This is incredibly cool. Yes, they’re going other places with it but even in the trailers I see lines and scenes right out of the original. Yes, the movie won’t be the book, but there is a good chance that at the end of it people will be saying, “The book is different but the movie was really good, too.”