Saturday, August 21, 2010

Books Being Adapted to the Movie and Television Screen

News is flying left and right of bestselling books beginning the transformation from the page  to television or the movies. Here's a quick rundown of adaptations that have made the news in just the last week or so:

Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout 
Actress Frances McDormand is working on a possible series adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge. The title character of the bestselling novel  is a seventh grade math teacher of a small east coast town and would be played by McDormand who is also working as a producer on the project for HBO. The book consists of 13 interconnected short stories that all center around a fishing village along the coast of Crosby, Maine. reports that McDormand optioned Olive Kitteridge before it won the Pulitzer Prize last year. It has also been reported that author of the novel, Elizabeth Strout, will be serving as a consulting producer.

Every Secret Thing
by Laura Lippman 
Frances McDormand will also serve as producer for second project at HBO that would adapt Laura Lippman's crime novel Every Secret Thing. Lippman's novel focuses on two pre-teen girls walking home after having been kicked out of a birthday party. The two find a baby in a carriage as they head home and inevitably the child ends up dead, the girls are put away for seven years and when they’re released, other children begin to disappear. Actress Diane Lane is in line to play the detective seeking to get to the bottom of the mystery.

by Jonathan Frazen

Jonathan Frazen has been having a pretty hot week. He's been labeled "Great American Novelist" by Time magazine landing the cover the weekly magazine, is interviewed in a feature in the September Vogue magazine complete with a whistful photo spread and an interview from the library of his Upper East Side apartment. A fitting way to end the week for a literary genius whose new novel Freedom will be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux September 31st? News that uber-producer Scott Rudin has closed a deal on the rights to the new unreleased novel, reports. This may or may not come as good news to Frazen fans who will note that ten years later Frazen's last novel The Corrections has yet to progress towards the big screen despite having been optioned by the very same Scott Rudin.

Keys To the City
by Joel Kostman

HBO seems to be all about the literary adaptations. With Game of Thrones on the way and the above news about Olive Kitteridge and Every Secret Thing in development, is reporting that Joel Kostman's Keys to the City is to get the HBO treatment. Keys to the City is a collection of 14 stories based on the author's experience as a professional locksmith in New York City. It centers on a New York locksmith and offers a view of people and sights glimpsed beyond the doors he unlocks. The project will be adapted by Oscar winning scribe William Monahan whose previous work includes The Departed.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport 
By Cathleen Schine 

Also from HBO comes news of an adaptation of Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmans of Westport, a novel released in February of this year. Schine will serve as a producer on the project. The story centers around a woman's search for meaning after her husband of 48 years walks out on her. She reconnects with her grown daughters who are also struggling to define their personal and professional identities.

Safe Haven 
by Nicholas Sparks

Relativity Media payed a reported $2 million dollars for rights to the newest Nicholas Sparks novel, Safe Haven due in stores September 14th. Sparks has a proven track record of successful novel to film adaptations and has name recognition that guarantees viewers. The deal was somewhat interesting, stipulating that whoever won the auction for the rights had nine months to develop a script or else the rights to the book would revert to Sparks with the two million remaining firmly in Sparks' pocket. It was a tough ask in an even tougher economy/market. It seems as though Sparks was determined that a film adaptation of Safe Haven not remain in limbo for years such as the case with the aforementioned Franzen and The Corrections

I Just Want My Pants Back  
By David Rosen 

Continuing its foray into scripted programming MTV recently greenlight a drama pilot based upon the David Rosen novel, I Just Want My Pants Back. The book centers around Jason Strider, a recent Cornell graduate who finds himself much more interested in marijuana, booze and sexual exploits. Shockingly, as the title suggests, the better part of the book centers around Jason trying to get his favorite pair of pants back from the woman who adequately quenched his sexual desire but fled wearing said pants after a second encounter. (Phew ... that took me several minutes to put together in a way that wouldn't get Loaded Questions an R rating.) MTV is touting the possible series as a romantic dramedy. Where the romantic part plays into it beats me! This is MTV after all.

Even more upcoming books making their way to the screen:

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
On the Road by Jack Keroauc
and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Keywords: Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven, I Just Want My Pants Back, David Rosen, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Keys to the City, Joel Kostman, Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout, Cathleen Schine, Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman, Books Turned Into Movies, HBO, MTV,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Publishing Revolution: Historical Fiction Evolves in the Digital Age
By Robin Maxwell, bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, The Wild Irish and her new novel O, Juliet.

The following piece is reprinted the with the permission of the author, it was initially printed by the Huffington Post in Feb., 2010.

Bestselling author Robin Maxwell.
It recently occurred to me that, as an author who's been writing since 1997 (The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn), I'm living through the most mind-boggling upheaval in the publishing industry since Gutenberg's printing press. I've gone from the ponderous national "on the ground" book tour to a virtual book tour; from newspaper features to a Facebook fan page; from an author photo in a press kit to an author video on YouTube; from print advertising to an iPhone app. My titles are not just in print in 14 languages, but are audio books and e-books. Most gratifyingly, I've seen the end of isolation from and competition with other authors, to the new, delightful "one hand washes the other" school of cooperation.

Starting in 2003 (The Wild Irish) things began to change. I was plodding along doing things the old-fashioned way, quietly aggravated that I was not getting publicity, advertising or support of any kind from my publishing house. My lovingly researched and passionately written book was dying on the vine because the reading public was simply unaware that it had been published. Newspaper and magazine reviews were becoming more and more scarce. Beloved independent bookstores were starting to go the way of the dinosaur, and if readers didn't happen to be in a Borders or Barnes & Noble during the two weeks my novel was on a New Releases table, that was it! The poor creature was quietly moved to languish in the shelves, spine facing out, where no one could possibly find the thing unless they were specifically looking for it.

But sunk as I was into the writing process of my next book, I was only vaguely aware of the violent tremors rocking the publishing world. Of course I used the Internet more frequently for research, but I didn't know that any writer worth her salt had her own Web site. A musician friend began nagging me incessantly about having one built, insisting that anyone who was running a business or selling themselves in any way had to have a Web site. That if I didn't jump on this I'd become completely irrelevant.

One day I finally caved in to the idea. And in one of those wonderfully serendipitous moments, the very next day an artist friend recommended a Web designer who'd created a beautiful Web site for her. Linda LaZar was running a very affordable special, and by the end of the week, my webmistress (doesn't that sound a bit kinky?) had secured me a domain name and built me a fabulous interactive site,, that had a page for each of my six books and looked like a Renaissance jewel box. And suddenly -- seemingly out of thin air -- the Robin Maxwell "brand" was born.

Immediately I started getting fan mail through my Web site's email, from all over the world. It seemed lots of readers knew who I was and wanted to communicate. I wrote back to every single person, and in that way began collecting an email address book of people interested in what I was doing and hearing news about future books.

Meanwhile I had made friends with two much younger historical fiction authors - the talented and vivacious Michelle Moran, whom I'd been mentoring since 2001 and whose debut novel, Nefertiti had hit two bestseller lists; and C.W. Gortner, whose superb first historical novel, The Last Queen, had taken the literary world by storm. These two were both firmly entrenched in cutting edge promotional campaigns with not only their own Web sites, but their own blogs, membership on historical fiction forums, and well-organized virtual book tours. They coordinated their tours with blog advertising on unlikely sounding sites called and Michelle and Christopher had recently become friends with each other. They could see their pal was floundering around in the murky waters of the old paradigm and decided to fish me out.

With publication of Signora da Vinci looming, they encouraged me to spice up my Web site (I added eight colorful, chock-a-block bonus pages I called "Passport to the 15th Century," one of them a mouthwatering grape and olive compote recipe. They got me to send out a newsletter to everybody on my recently expanded email list, begging them to take notice of my book and "daisy chain" it along to all their friends.

They also convinced me to forgo the exhausting, antiquated "on the ground" book tour (an expense my publishers were no longer willing to pick up) and organize my first virtual book tour. I was skeptical at first, but not for long! No more schlepping around from city to city worrying about whether the bookstores would have enough copies of my books to sell, or being humiliated in "The Bookstore of the Living Dead" when two people showed up for the reading.

The entire promotion for Signora da Vinci was accomplished -- glowing reviews, in-depth blog and magazine interviews, guest posts, giveaways of signed copies of the book, and remote reading group appearances -- sitting at home in my pajamas.

What a revelation!

Even in the midst of the 2008/2009 economic meltdown and the resulting bloodbath in the publishing industry, Signora da Vinci sold more than respectably, and the number of bloggers who had nice things to say about my books not only expanded exponentially, but suddenly went viral. Bloggers were starting to find me, rather than me hunting them down.

With a new title, O, Juliet, set to publish in February 2010, I was ready to go for broke. I girded my loins and prepared for a wild extravaganza of shameless self-promotion.

I made a decision that for my O, Juliet promotion I would do absolutely everything in my power to make the book a success. It was the first of my titles to cross so many genres. This was not simply an historical fiction novel (though it had plenty of historical fiction elements). It was a retelling of the greatest love story every told, so I reckoned romance readers would like it. And its protagonists were young people being thwarted in love by parents and society, so I guessed it would appeal to the YA crowd as well.

At the same time, I was facing up to an industry that had changed radically since 1997 when Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn came out. My publishers and agents had urged all their authors to use every online method possible for publicizing and promoting their titles, and I decided to take it 100% to heart. The publishers (Penguin/New American Library) got the ball rolling with a stupendous double-cover for O, Juliet. The front is gorgeous flowers clinging to a period marble balcony, and the "step-back" is Frank Dicksee's famous and achingly romantic pre-Raphaelite painting of Romeo and Juliet in an embrace.

My trusty Web dominatrix, Linda LaZar, redesigned my home page at  and built me links to a "chapter sneak peek" of Romeo and Juliet's famous balcony scene. I bought the rights for one year to the Dicksee painting so I could legally use it however I needed it. Then I planned an enormous blog tour (interviews, guest posts and reviews), to commence in January, the month before the book's publication. O, Juliet will also be hosted on the cool new blog, Historical Fiction Round Table for a week-long blast of publicity by lovers of that genre.

I hired young, Web-savvy friend and neighbor, Tasya, as my West Coast publicist. She opened a Facebook personal page for me, as well as a Facebook fan page, and started inviting people to them. Within 24 hours she'd found me 200 fans. With help from one of my new blogging buddies, Allie Greenwald, I created a blog of my own (

The blog's purpose was (what else?) promotion of my book, and to that end I birthed my wild brainchild, the "O, JULIET Love Games." With it, I hoped to open a forum for my fans and new readers to discuss and play with every angle of everyone's favorite emotion -- love. With the Dicksee image of Romeo and Juliet as my blog header (and guardian angels) I conceived of chats, challenges and giveaways, culminating in a love poetry competition, the winners to be announced on Valentine's Day. Then I asked Tasya to create a beautiful newsletter, and appropriated every address on my email lists. She did our first mailing Dec. 2, announcing the sneak peek and the upcoming "Love Games."

By this time my publishers were quite impressed with my efforts and decided to support them in several ways. On my urging (and with suggestions by the author and gifted advertising maven, M.J. Rose) they designed a cool blog ad, (a two-frame animated .gif), that the bloggers participating in my virtual blog tour could run on their blogs. Then the publishers agreed to my requests for a two-week blog ad campaign the weeks before and after publication.

Finally, they surprised me with the announcement that O, Juliet had been chosen for their exclusive "Penguin iPhone App Program." My book was going to be only one of four Penguin titles to have its very own app in February! I'm red-faced to admit that when I got the good news, I had no idea what an app was. The very next week, every other TV commercial I saw was for (what else?) iPhone apps. I was beginning to feel very hip. The other day I actually found myself giving a friend tech support on how to create her own blog. Will wonders never cease?

As of today, two of my O, JULIET Love Games giveaways are up and running, and lots of people are playing (and appearing to enjoy themselves). It doesn't hurt that the prizes are some pretty cool bling (three heart necklaces) and signed copies of the book.

My backside is permanently glued to my computer chair, my husband only ever sees the back of my head, and there's no chance that I can do any other work until the promotion is over. But I'm happy. I may write about the 15th and 16th centuries, but when it comes to promoting my book, I am most definitely an author of the 21st.

 Robin Maxwell

Related Link: Our interview with Robin Maxwell for the release of Signora Da Vinci - Oct., 2008

Keywords: historical fiction, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, To the Tower Born, Virgin: Prelude to the Throne, The Queen's Bastard, O, Juliet, Tudor England, book tour, iPhone App, reading group, C.W. Gortner, Michelle Moran,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pillars of the Earth: Frequently Asked Questions Answered!

We have been getting a good number of questions about the adaptation of bestselling author Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and so I thought I would try and tackle a few of them here...

Where was Pillars of the Earth filmed?

The series began filming in January of 2009 both in Hungary and Austria. The series is produced, in part, by Scott Free Productions -- a company owned and operated by famous director Ridley Scott and his brother, producer extraordinaire, Tony Scott. The filming of the miniseries took 112 days.

How was the fictional Cathedral at Kingsbridge built? What kind of research went into making sure that the building was real-like and true to history?

The Pillars of the Earth sets have shown a rich and dedicated commitment to detail, are believable and  serve well to help construct the world so artfully built by Follett,  from the quarry, to the capital city of Winthrope to the dilapidated Kingsbridge Priory. Asked about the sets Follett has writen that:  "Much of it was plaster, wood and polystyrene, of course, but a considerable part was real stone, and that was enormously impressive. While modern power tools were used in rough shaping for the sake of speed, a good deal of what you'll see onscreen was hand-finished, real stone."

How did Ken Follett feel about the actors who were selected to play the television version of his characters?

Richard Bartha
Follet was quoted as saying: "The people I created in my mind and my imagination are going to be represented by some of the most talented actors around, actors who can make you scared, angry or tearful. From the marvelous Ian McShane as the dark soul Waleran Bigod, who believes he is God's will; the intense and multifaceted Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder—probably the most popular character I ever wrote Matthew Macfadyen, who portrays the complex Prior Philip with unrelenting strength; the highly regarded Sarah Parish as the manipulative and dangerous Regan Hamleigh. Then there's the wonderful young talent: the lovely and truly gifted Hayley Atwell playing our heroine, Aliena and Eddie Redmayne as our hero, Jack, who gives a performance of amazing depth and passion."

What have reviews of Pillars of the Earth been saying?

We wrote about some of the downright depressing interviews that arrived via Entertainment Weekly, Mo Ryan's "The Watcher" and a number of others. Fans of the book nervous about the dreaded curse that surrounds well-liked novels and their adaptation to movie/miniseries might be able breathe a sigh of relief (just not a really big one, let's not get ahead of ourselves...). Daniel Fienberg over at wrote that, while he had wanted to stop watching the miniseries after the first few scenes, her persisted and writes that mostly pleased that he had. Fienberg writes: " 'Pillars of the Earth" may start off shoddy and silly, but it picks up steam and after three or four hours, I was well and truly immersed in the world created by producers Tony and Ridley Scott, writer John Pielmeier and director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan."

Many of the reviews have tended to agree with Fienberg's where the first two hours of the miniseries are concerned. The general consensus has been that the first two hour installment of Pillars was heavy on the narrative, the events rushed and the character development sacrificed to the sometimes panicked need to fit Follett's thousand-page novel into the allotted eight hours.

A number of critics have written that getting through the sometimes rough first two hours of the series is worth it as the series begins to establish an even pace allowing the actors to shine through. In a relatively glowing review written by David Hochman for ("Pillars of the Earth: A Towering Achievement") credit is given to Rufus Sewell the actor who portrays Tom Builder. Sewell has so far handed in a performance that has caught the eye of critics, even those critics who could find very few positive things to say about the series.

With the third installment of Pillars of the Earth series to air later this week we here at Loaded Questions have a feeling that the sins of the first two hours will fade into the past as the story and talented cast

In the end, Follett has nothing but good things to say about the Pillars of the Earth series, writing that "authors who see their work adapted for the screen always experience trepidation...will it be true to the book? Will the characters come to life and hook audiences—audiences that include people who have read the book and those who haven't? I have no doubt that you'll be as happy as I am with the result of this adaptation."

How has the Pillars of the Earth adaptation done so far for Starz?  

Well, reported the day after the premiere of the first episode, that Pillars of the Earth debuted last week to a respectable audience. The first two hours of the series pulled in 423K viewers. How does these numbers stack up? Starz doesn't have a lot of data to compare Pillar's debut too as the network has just begun to try its hand at original series programming. The debut of the medieval miniseries was comparable, however, to numbers posted by Starz's crown jewel and break out original series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand which broke the channel's previous debut record with a total of 553K. So Pillars is doing alright with viewers. Once the Starz debut numbers for Pillars of the Earth were added to the series' Encore debut (tricky, tricky!) the network estimates that the debut reached a total of 1 million viewers for debut. What and Starz itself failed to account for, however, was the number of people who have Netflix Instant Watch and were able to watch the debut via their computers or by routing the Netflix service through equipped DVD players, allowing for home television watching. It will be interesting to see how tonight's episode fares -- whether those who watched the first episode will return and even more importantly whether or not they'll drag along fellow couch potatoes.

The NEXT episode (spoiler alert) . . .

If you aren't interested in getting a preview of next episode of Pillars of the Earth, airing this coming Friday  do not let your eye's wander further down. Of course you can always look and then just blame it on me...

Battlefield, Episode #4
Original Air Date: August 5th, 2010 

William applies to have his father’s title of Earl transferred to him, and discovers a mysterious knight is also a rival for the Earldom. King Stephen, frightened by Jack’s appearance, orders an assassin to kill him. The battle between King Stephen and Maud sees each side’s leader being taken hostage. Philip is tortured into a confession when Waleran tells Maud that he is the man who betrayed Earl Bartholomew.

What do you think about seeing the places and characters of Pillars of the Earth on television? Does a particular actor/actress have their role down pat? Share your views by clicking comment!

Keywords: Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett, historical fiction, Pillars of the Earth filmed, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell, miniseries, World Without End, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Ian McShane, Prior Philip, Hayley Atwell,  Kingsbridge Cathedral,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Packing For Mars Book Trailer

Space Hygiene and the People Who Stopped Bathing for Science -- Funny but True

Today is the official release of Mary Roach's fourth book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. In order to celebrate we here at Loaded Questions wanted to share this great video produced by WW Norton and available at author Mary Roach's website. Roach's new book, as the title indicates, looks at some of the absurdity and downright hilariousness that went into preparation to send humans in to space. The video, being billed as a trailer of the new book is titled: "Space Hygiene and the People Who Stopped Bathing for Science" and is a comedic reenactment of an actual study Roach describes in the book,  a study in which individuals were paid to forgo hygiene and clothing. Yes, the video is funny and well put together but the best part of all is that the study that is being "spoofed" actually took place and that the words spoken by the astronauts and overhead voice that narrate the video are actual quotes from a real study. Gotta love it.

Here's the video:

On a related note we're very excited to announce that we'll be conducting our interview with Mary Roach next week in Portland, OR as she continues her book tour for Packing for Mars. Have a question that you'd like us to ask her? Something you would like us to discuss? Click comment and let us know!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

LQ Book Review: Karen Essex's "Dracula in Love"

We are very pleased to share the following book review with you, written by bestselling author C.W. Gortner, a friend of the site. Along with this interview comes the announcement that I will be doing an interview with the author of the below reviewed book, Dracula in Love, Karen Essex. Karen has had a rich career, adapting screen plays by authors such as Anne Rice, has written bestselling historical fiction novels (Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans) as well as influential biographies of important historical figures (Kleopatra, Pharaoh) If you have questions or suggestions for topics that you'd like me to touch on when interviewing Karen please feel free to click comment and share them or email me directly if you'd rather do it privately.

I am also happy to announce today that in addition to the upcoming interview with Karen Essex I will also be conducting my second interview with C.W. Gortner, the friend and skilled historical fiction author who has held nothing back about how much he enjoys Dracula in Love. Gortner and I last spoke around the release of his novel of the mad Spanish Queen, Juana la Loca. This time we'll discuss his latest novel, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

Dracula Gets Sexy 
by C.W. Gortner
He’s the enigmatic stranger in the black cape, a shape-shifting outcast who has given rise to some of literature’s - and Hollywood’s - most iconic imagery.  When it was published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a critically acclaimed horror story; it did not send the shockwaves it should have through Victorian morality, excavating the repressed sexuality and decay of a fading empire while exalting the era's misogynistic flair. However, in subsequent years, as it garnered international bestselling status, Dracula began to reveal itself as a cautionary tale of unbridled desire.
Now, 113 years later, bestselling author Karen Essex, known for her lush prose and portraits of powerful women in Leonardo’s SwansStealing Athena, and a double-volume look at the quintessential femme fatale, Kleopatra and Pharaoh, takes on the Count in Dracula in Love. It’s a bold move. While Dracula has been revisited several times and in various incarnations, not all have been successful; and many of us have firm ideas of who he is, and, more importantly, who he is not. Nevertheless, Ms Essex serves up a sensual, unabashedly romantic approach to the fanged one, telling the tale through the voice of Mina herself, whose love affair with Dracula has become a byword for eternal obsession.
A first edition copy of Stoker's Dracula, initially published in 1897.
Building on framework established by Stoker, Essex vividly presents the true Victorian world inhabited by these characters—a world where a fledgling emancipation movement collides with the barbaric treatment of those deemed sexually neurotic; where marriage is still the ultimate goal for a woman; and virtue is prized more than fulfillment. While most of Stoker’s cast is present, they’ve been reshaped, with Lucy paying a terrifying price for her extra-betrothal liaison and Van Helsing as a righteous physician engaged in lethal experimentation. The Count takes his time before he appears, seen only in tantalizing glimpses; by then, Mina’s engaging, increasingly paranoid voice has captured our imagination, as she struggles to survive both her own recurring nightmares and a budding awareness that just beyond her tightly corseted existence lurks a tangled labyrinth of feral secrets.
Dracula in Love is not a standard vampire tale and purists may take issue with Ms Essex’s mythology-inspired take on the legend; however, for those who yearn for something more than adolescents pining over immortal boyfriends, this is the antidote—a luscious paean to forbidden longing.
- C.W. Gortner is the author of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Last Queen. Visit him at

Keywords: Karen Essex, Stealing Athena, Leonardo's Swans, Kleopatra, Pharoah, historical fiction, Victorian England, C.W. Gortner, The Last Queen, Juana la Loca, Tudor history, English historical fiction,  Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Secret Lion, Van Helsing
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