Variety salutes authors who have made a big impact on the literary world, as well as the film and TV biz, in the past year.
“Dare Me,” “Give Me Your Hand,” “You Will Know Me”
Abbott has nine novels under her belt, and three of the most recent releases are being adapted for the screen. “I’m always drawn to complicated women, and you see people at their extreme when they’re dealing with crime,” she says. “You see their anger, you see their resilience.” She co-created and and will executive produce “Dare Me,” while “You Will Know Me” is being adapted by Marti Noxon and Maria Grasso for Skydance with Laura Easton, and “Give Me Your Hand” is set up at AMC. “With novels, you’re writing into something, and with scripts you’re writing out to something,” Abbott says.
“Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda,” “What If It’s Us”
Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda” was adapted into the feature film “Love, Simon” by Greg Berlanti, written by “This Is Us” co-showrunners Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. It opened in March and grossed more than $66.3 million worldwide at the box office. “I’ll never be able to capture the full range of any community’s experiences in my work, but my goal is always to make my readers feel like they have a home in my books,” she says. “I’m always striving to accurately and thoughtfully reflect the world around me.” Her latest, “What If It’s Us,” co-written with Adam Silvera, stirred so much buzz Anonymous Content nabbed the adaptation rights ahead of publication.
“Are You Sleeping?”
Barber’s debut novel “Are You Sleeping?” was released in August 2017 and less than six months later Apple announced it was developing a series based on the book with Chernin Ent., Endeavor Content and Hello Sunshine producing. The story attracted a star-studded cast including Octavia Spencer (who is also executive producing), Lizzy Caplan, Elizabeth Perkins, Aaron Paul and Ron Cephas Jones. But Barber says she doesn’t focus on that. “I write first and foremost for myself,” she says. “If I’m not satisfying my target audience of myself, how can I expect anyone else to want to read it? If I try to write for other people, I’ll only end up writing what’s already been written.”
“The Woman in the Window”
Fueled by the desire to “write books that I myself would enjoy reading,” Finn, whose real name is Dan Mallory, believes “readers are thinkers, and readers are empathetic, and readers deserve respect.” “The Woman in the Window” spent 31 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list after it was released in January. The book was embroiled in a seven-figure bidding war for its option rights, ultimately going to Fox, where he says he has “felt welcomed and valued … like part of the family.” The film adaptation starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman will be released next year.
“Sharp Objects,” “Utopia,” “Widows”
All of Flynn’s novels have been adapted for screen, with her first, “Sharp Objects,” being the most recent and most in-depth. “I’m not slavishly devoted to having everything be in exactly as it was [in the book]. I’d rather people [be] devoted to the feel and emotions and ultimate tone of something than every single plot detail,” she says. Flynn, who served as a writer and executive producer on HBO’s limited series, says her inspirations and process are the same today as when she started writing: “It’s always about how can you say something that’s important about society … in an entertaining way so people don’t feel like it’s homework.” Flynn also recently adapted ITV’s “Widows” and has an overall deal with Amazon, where she is executive producing “Utopia.”
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”
Han wrote “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in 2014. It spent 40 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and spawned two sequels. The Netflix film adaptation, which she executive produced, was released in August. Han says the most important aspect to her was making her long-time readers happy with the on-screen version. “The book takes place in a contemporary world, but there is a lot of nuance and specificity in the details that make it come to life,” she says. There was a “real commitment from the top down” to get everything translated right.
“Crazy Rich Asians,” “China Rich Girlfriend”
Kwan, who says he is “fascinated by human nature and how different social circles organize themselves and create their own rules,” published “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first of a trilogy in 2013. The theatrical adaptation was released this summer, making it the first major Hollywood studio film with an all-Asian cast in 25 years. The adaptation, directed by Jon M. Chu, grossed $26 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend alone. “That it has become the highest-grossing romantic comedy in over a decade and it’s still going, I’m grateful beyond words,” Kwan says. Due to the success, Warner Bros. announced the second book in the series, “China Rich Girlfriend,” would also make it to the big screen. Kwan is also working on a pilot for CBS.
“Big Little Lies,” “The Hypnotist’s Love Story,” “Truly Madly Guilty”
Moriarty released “Big Little Lies” in 2014. Three years later, its HBO adaptation scored eight Emmys and spawned a second, off-book season. Moriarty’s story
was integral to the success of the adaptation the first time, so they brought her back in to create another story for the second season, due in 2019. Power players including David E. Kelley, Jean-Marc Vallee, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have returned for the second season, joined by Meryl Streep. Moriarty’s “Truly Madly Guilty” is also being adapted for HBO, with Kidman, Bruna Papandrea, and Per Saari attached to produce, and “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” is in the works at ABC.
“Everything I Never Told You,” “Little Fires Everywhere”
Ng’s Everything I Never Told You” and “Little Fires Everywhere” both became New York Times bestsellers and scored major adaptation deals. “Everything I Never Told You” is set up with LD Entertainment, while “Little Fires Everywhere” will be produced by Hello Sunshine for Hulu. For Ng, who is drawn to themes of “how we deal with race and culture in our society, within our family; what it’s like to be a woman and a mother and how parents and children deal with each other,” it was imperative to team up with people who “understood the core” of her stories in order to translate them for screen. “I wrote the book,” she says. “That’s where I get to control everything that happens. The adaptation needs to be its own thing to be alive.”
“The Hate U Give”
Thomas, who uses some of her real-life experiences as a teenager to inspire her work, is heavily focused on the power of storytelling as a way for young women to see themselves reflected. “I want them to be the heroes in my stories,” she says. “I’m always inspired to show them their beautiful selves in an authentic way.” Thomas’ debut novel, “The Hate U Give,” debuted in the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list for young adult novels and held that position for 50 consecutive weeks. The topical tale about a racially-charged police shooting was adapted into a feature film starring Amandla Stenberg that opened Oct. 19. “We’re at an interesting time right now, in America specifically, where people want to speak up and speak out,” Thomas says. “People want to be aware of things beyond themselves, and they want to be involved in social justice.”
Literary Lion: Margaret Atwood
Decades after Atwood’s novels were released, her words resonate more than ever. “The Handmaid’s Tale” adaptation scored 11 Emmys in its first two seasons.
Literary Lion: Neil Gaiman
In addition to writing the novels on which “American Gods” and “Good Omens” are based, Gaiman executive produces both. He also signed a new overall deal with Amazon in October.
Literary Lion: Stephen King
Current film adaptations of King’s works include a sequel to “It,” “Doctor Sleep,” “The Tommyknockers” and “Pet Sematary,” while on television there is “Mr. Mercedes” and “Castle Rock.”
Literary Lion: George R.R. Martin
Martin’s “Game of Thrones” continues to dominate in ratings and awards for HBO. His “Nightflyers” has also been adapted for a Syfy series, premiering in December.
Literary Lion: J.K. Rowling
The adaptations of Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series grossed more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Her “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was turned into five films, the second of which debuts Nov. 16.