PARIS — In four short years, Marc Levy has become France’s leading spinner of stories.
It all started with a first novel, written for his young son. “If Only It Were True,” a supernatural fable about a man who falls in love with a ghost in his closet, became an international best seller and sold to DreamWorks for $2 million, a record for a French book.
Levy promptly quit his job as the manager of a Paris architectural firm and moved to London to become a full-time writer.
He might never have been heard of again.
Instead, Levy, 42, churned out another three best sellers one after another that have made him France’s top-selling author for the past three years.
He directed a short film for Amnesty Intl. and has written the screenplay for a full-length Franco-British romantic comedy he will direct later this year.
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“If Only It Were True” is being turned into a film by DreamWorks, now titled “Just Like Heaven.” Levy recently visited the set in Los Angeles and met its stars, Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon along with helmer Mark Waters. Donal Logue and “Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder costar.
“I know it sounds naive, but Steven Spielberg assured me the book would be adapted and I never doubted it,” Levy says.
Sitting in a Paris cafe looking out across the Seine, Levy, dressed in black jeans and a fluffy white sweater, butters a piece of toasted baguette and muses on his extraordinary success.
“I’m very surprised at the way things have worked out,” says the scribe modestly, “I’ve been very, very lucky.”
Not surprisingly, Paris’ snobbish literary establishment is gnashing its teeth over the place this upstart writer of popular literature now occupies in bookstores and in the media.
“They’d love to sprinkle gunpowder in my coffee,” he says, chuckling.
He has another three book ideas and two script ideas simmering away, which he will address once he’s put the finishing touches to the sequel of “If Only It Were True,” due out in May.
“I wasn’t intending to write a sequel, but then one day the story just came to me,” he says.
He’s also highly methodical — and hard-working. “Writing is a craft,” he opines, explaining his own method. “First I get an idea, which I test out by telling my friends at a cafe. If they are so interested they forget to order then I know I’m onto something.”
He’ll then spend several weeks sketching out a structure — “in 10 or 12 pages the story has to stand up” — and then six to seven months gradually fleshing that out until he is satisfied it is a fully-fledged story with three dimensional characters.
Only then does he sit down and start writing, rattling off 8-10 pages a day for about three months.
Levy recently moved back to Paris after four years in London so that he can prepare his film, which will shoot this summer. It is produced by Dominque Farrugia, one of the hit comedy troupe “Les Nuls” and former Canal Plus premium channel topper.
The screenplay is an original story, not an adaptation of one of his novels.
“I’m not interested in adapting my work,” he says. “Once I’ve told a story, I want to move on to the next one. It’s all the same to me whether it’s in book form, a screenplay or even a stage play, for that matter. What motivates me is telling a story.”