I always ask new members of the Build Book Buzz book marketing group on Facebook to tell us a little about themselves and their books. When Sue William Silverman shared that her memoir, Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, had been turned into a Lifetime TV original movie, I wanted to know more — lots more — about her book to movie experience and thought you would, too. She’s here today with a Q&A that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the process. Sue is also the author of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, which was a finalist in Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab Book of the Year Award. The author of several other books, Sue also teaches in the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more at SueWilliamSilverman.com.
If you’ve dreamed of seeing your book on the big screen, you’ll want to read this fascinating Q&A with Sue Williams Silverman.
From book to movie: One author’s success story
So many authors dream of having their book made into a movie, and you lived that dream when your memoir, Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, was made into a Lifetime TV movie, titled “Love Sick: Secrets of a Sex Addict.” How did this happen?
My literary agent, via her subsidiary agent in Hollywood, made initial overtures to some producers. Ironically, at the same time, an independent Hollywood producer happened to see Love Sick in the Beverly Hills public library.
This producer found my phone number on my website and called me directly. I put her in touch with the agents and the rest, as they say, is history.
How long was it between contract signing and the movie airing on TV?
It wasn’t too long between the contract signing and the movie airing on TV—under two years. However, there was a long delay—maybe five years or so—before I was actually offered a contract.
I first received an option from Lifetime, which is standard. But then Lifetime underwent personnel changes (new president, etc.), and the option ultimately expired. A few years later it was renewed, a contract was offered, and the movie finally went into production.
Let me add, however, that when I say it took around five years or so to get a contract, in terms of Hollywood, that’s lightning-speed! I’ve heard of options extending way past, say, 10 years. Too, most options, sadly, are dropped altogether in that most optioned books are never made into movies. So altogether I was very lucky.
Who wrote the screenplay—you, or someone else? If it was someone else, did you have the right to approve it?
Maria Nation wrote the screenplay, for which I’m grateful. I have no idea how to write one. I had no final say or right of approval. Once I sold the rights to Lifetime that was it. They own the movie rights.
But, more importantly, Maria was wonderful. She flew to my hometown and we spent three days together talking about the book and my life story. She deeply cared about it.
I’m enormously grateful to her for really listening to me and being such a terrific screenwriter!
Did the movie deviate from the book in a dramatic way, or was it generally true to your story?
While the movie deviates from the memoir, it does not deviate from my life. Let me explain: The book focuses on recovery—the 28 days I spent in rehab—with the pre-recovery scenes shown as flashbacks.
The movie, on the other hand, simply switches the emphasis to focus more on my life pre-recovery. Now I understand that for dramatic purposes, showing the protagonist “acting out” a sex addiction, is more compelling. Nevertheless, the recovery process is still an important part of the movie, so the narrative is complete.
In short, the movie is a compilation of the book as well as the other things I told Maria, the screenwriter, about my life when she interviewed me.
Were you happy with the final product?
Very! It seems many authors aren’t pleased with the movies made from their books, but I felt that the actors, the screenwriter, the director, the producer—everyone—did a phenomenal job. The movie absolutely captures my experience and conveys it in a serious and emotionally authentic way.
Who played you in the movie—and were you pleased with the selection?
Sally Pressman (who starred in Lifetime’s “Army Wives”) plays me. She’s perfect, a very gifted actor, having graduated from the Yale University School of Drama. Just watching her on screen it’s almost eerie in that I can “sense” myself. It’s almost like she’s channeling me—or my emotions.
She’s also a lovely person. We got to hang out together when I visited the set. She had a copy of Love Sick, and I loved how she’d marked it up with check marks and stars and underlines.
How would you describe your book-to-movie experience?
Outstanding! One of the highlights is that I flew to Vancouver, B.C., where the movie was filmed, to spend a few days visiting the set. That was incredibly moving, you know, watching my story being made into a movie.
Everyone on the set from the director on down was truly lovely to me. They all told me how important the movie was to them and how they wanted to get it right, so I’d feel good about it. Everyone affiliated with the movie had even read my book—not just the cast, but the crew, too. That was astonishing to me.
Also, periodically, the director asked me what kind of gesture I might make—or how would I have reacted during any given moment—to be sure he understood the emotion. At one point, he even asked whether I would have worn a particular belt! (The answer was “no,” so Sally removed the belt.) In that way, I felt part of the production, too.
I was also given a two-word cameo appearance, so I’m in the movie! That was a lot of fun.
It was very emotional watching this entire crew of people working so hard on my book, my life.
What would you like other authors to know about the process or opportunity?
If you have the opportunity, take it. It’s worth it. Sure, it’s a risk; maybe you won’t like the finished product. But I’d still advise taking the risk.
The other thing is that you’ll find a whole new audience for your book. It will definitely help book sales. And that’s something we all like, right?
Would you like to add anything else?
I wrote an essay about the experience of having Love Sick made into a movie. My third book is a collection of thematically linked essays, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, and one of the essays, “My Sorted Life,” describes this experience and what it means to “see” your own life through this other medium.
Oh, and a photograph of Sally Pressman, as me, appears on the cover of the paperback edition of Love Sick. I kind of like that the impersonation continues!
Does your book have movie deal potential?
To learn more about the process, listen to my interview with Ken Atchity, a world-renowned movie producer, about what it takes to go from book to screen.
Ken has produced many films you might know, including “Life or Something Like It” with Angelina Jolie, “Joe Somebody” with Tim Allen, “Hysteria” with Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Expatriate” with Aaron Eckhart, and “The Lost Valentine” with Betty White, among many others.
We talked about everything from how producers discover books that get made into movies to what makes a producer think “This would be a great movie!” when reading a book, and the author’s role (if any) in the process, among other topics.
Be sure to check out Ken’s training program, which includes a consultation with him and, if he loves your story, possible representation. Learn more about the “Real Fast Hollywood Deal” training at my affiliate link: https://realfasthollywooddeal.com/bookbuzz/
Do you have a question for Sue about her book-to-movie experience? Just ask it here in a comment.
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