What goes on behind the scenes when adapting a movie into a novel?
I wish you could see the emails that go back and forth. We get into such minute detail in some cases. Alex has the freedom to say, “I didn’t like this chapter.” And then I probe and find out how I missed the mark.
It’s such a collaborative effort, but at the same time I feel a freedom to go certain directions that we might not eventually use. I have freedom to fail, which is important in any creative endeavor.
I was able to develop some of the story lines a little further and show a little more than the film can show in two hours. So my desire is for a satisfying read that takes you deeper into your own heart. Then, when you see the film, I hope you’ll be amazed at how the two versions of the story come together.
What are the pros and cons of writing your own fiction versus writing something based on someone else’s story?
When I first thought about novelizing a screenplay, I thought it would not be a very creative process. But I was surprised by what happened. The Kendricks basically make all the hard decisions about plot. They put up the fence line and I get to play in the pasture and ask questions and dig deeply into each character.
I love the sense of exploring characters and their hearts. To me, these are real people. I like to put myself in the place of a coach who has defined himself by wins and losses. I like to run with Hannah and hear the struggle she has with asthma. And I enjoyed getting to know Hannah’s grandmother, Barbara. She’s a difficult character in the film, but in the book you learn some of the backstory of why she acts the way she acts. I just love that process.
The most challenging thing about writing someone else’s idea is that I have to stay consistent with something someone else invented. It’s easy for me to go in some direction or add some motivation that isn’t necessarily on target with the vision of the Kendricks. So I lean on Alex mostly to rein me in and keep me in the pasture.
You’re also a national radio host. How much do your experiences there influence your storytelling?
I had a good friend counsel me in 2007 that doing a daily radio program would tether me to the real world. And it’s true. The struggles and difficulties that listeners are going through help me see God at work in people’s lives and inform my stories—and also give me ideas for other stories yet to be told. More than that, the people who call in enrich my life in ways they can’t understand.
Click through to discover the biblical themes of the story!