Writing a Novel From a Screenplay

I want to welcome Eva Marie Everson to Writer’s Patchwork today. One of my fave authors I am excited to do this interview. She has graciously agreed to let me pick her creative brain. Today I want to ask her how to write in reverse.  Eva Marie was given the opportunity to write Unconditional the Novel

Author Eva Marie Everson

which was released in conjunction with its movie counterpart Unconditional. Starting with a screenplay to develop a novel must have its own set of challenges. My readers are anxious to learn how you did it.

Have you ever converted a screenplay to a novel before?

No, I had not, but I had been teaching fiction courses using movies as a learning tool for years, so I felt I was up for the challenge.


What are the biggest challenges you face with this project?

I can’t say I had a “big” challenge. Of course I doubted ever so slightly that I could pull it off, but the more I wrote, the more I knew I could.

I know that Papa Joe was a real person and you had the privilege of spending time with him. How much more of his story is in the novel than we see on the screen? What was some background that you don’t get from the movie?

For example, I asked him about his illness and he was able to give me so much more detail. I asked him about some of the issues in prison; he graciously explained. And, I asked his wife Denise what drew him to her when they first met. I got to throw that in as well.

I suspect that Samantha Crawford is a fictious character created to help drive the theme.  The movie gives us a very visual back-story of Sam’s life.  Because she is a story book artist the use of illustrations is very effective.  The rain gave the viewers the feeling of sadness and loss.  I love how you were able to build that same feeling of loss differently though words.

Explain how you reconstructed the on-screen scenes to paper?

Mostly in tears! I realized after a while that Sam hates the rain because it was the rain that drove Billy out the night he was killed, so she blamed the rain. Even though she had written that wonderful story about Firebird, she couldn’t see the truth behind her own words. So, I made the rain a “character” of sorts. Also, I had just gone through a deep grief and was getting through the final stages when I wrote Unconditional, the Novel. So, I allowed myself to hurt to the very core of my being … and then, when I’d bled all over the keyboard, I started typing.

Are you a plotter or pantster and how did that influence how you followed the screenplay story line?

I’m both when I work on my own novels. This time, I had a plot. I was able to create some background — for example, how Billy and Samantha met, fell in love, why they didn’t have children — but the rest was from the brilliant mind of Brent McCorkle, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

Often when a novel is converted to the big screen lots of liberty is taken in order to tell the story in under two hours. How much liberty were you allowed to reverse the process? What kinds of things did you add?  

Well, as I mentioned, I added some back story to Sam and Billy’s life together and I was able to add some facts about Papa Joe and Denise. I’m also able to add setting. What people are wearing. What they can hear … smell… see… touch and taste. I only had to slip inside their skin.

When you write a novel from your own ideas you decide how your characters are going to look, mannerism and weaknesses.  Did watching the actor’s adaptations of the characters limit your creativity?

No, because the producers chose wonderful actors!

Did you add more details to the secondary characters such as Denise or Anthony?

Denise, yes. I called her and we talked for a while. There’s a scene when she and Sam are talking about how much she loves Joe … that came from my conversation with Denise. Little things Denise said and did came just from what I got from the real Denise on the phone.  I wanted to keep Anthony as much a mystery as possible–which is understandable when you see the movie or read the book. But I had fun with his apartment. Describing it. Knowing I had to get Sam out of the apartment quickly when “T” comes home unexpectedly while she is rummaging through his things. That one scene led me to ask, “How did she get out?” That’s when I came up with the back door … 🙂

What did you learn from this experience that added to your writing toolbox?

That I absolutely loved the whole process and that I’d do it again and again. I also learned what I am capable of doing in a short period of time.


Tell us about your latest writing project.

I just turned in the final book in the Cedar Key trilogy for Baker/Revell. This one is titled Slow Moon Rising (the other two are Chasing Sunsets and Waiting for Sunrise). I’m currently working on a novel for Abingdon called The Last Will in Testament, which is a new stretch for me because it’s a Rom-Com.

I loved reading Chasing Sunset and Waiting for Sunrise. Can’t wait for Slow Moon Rising and The Last Will and Testament. Thanks so much for visiting me today. May Jesus continue to bless your writing talent.

Follow Eva Marie Eversons’s blogs and website. You will find a lot of good stuff there.

My 1 Writer, 1 Day Blog: http://tinyurl.com/46ond24

My Southern Voice Blog: http://tinyurl.com/4lm2wn4

New Website: http://www.EvaMarieEversonAuthor.com