Phaedra Patrick on When Your Novel Becomes a Film

Imagine if your dreams could play out on a TV screen where you could watch, freeze frame or rewind them. That’s exactly what having a film adapted from your novel is like.

As a child, I used to love settling down to watch a film on Sunday afternoons (I still do). The first sounds of the music as the opening credits rolled was a magical moment. I enjoyed meeting the characters for the first time and the rollercoaster of emotions their stories took me on. When I became an author, I also knew that I wanted to write a book that would also become a film, one day. Although it seemed like a crazy thought at the time, and I didn’t have a clue how it might happen!

But fast forward three decades to the publication of my second novel, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, in 2018. It followed my successful debut, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, so had a lot to live up to. However, thanks to my literary agency team at Darley Anderson, and a sprinkling of fairy dust, the Hallmark Movie Channel in the USA spotted the story’s potential and optioned Benedict Stone as a film.

The optioning of a book can be a long and often fruitless process. It means that a TV channel or film studio is interested in adapting your work for the screen and they reserve the rights for a set period of time – often twelve or eighteen months. Then it’s a waiting game. Options often run out and nothing happens. In Benedict’s case, everything seemingly went quiet for three whole years, but things were happening behind the scenes.

Hallmark secured the full rights for my book earlier this year, assembling a screenwriter and director. Tom Everett-Scott, Mia Maestro and Ella Ballentine were cast in the lead roles and they were perfect, albeit far more attractive than I imagined my characters to be! I met my literary agency team for rooftop cocktails in London to celebrate the good news and when I returned to my hotel room that night, the movie script was sitting in my inbox. I started to read it in bed at midnight, and laughed and cried happy tears all the way through it. My characters had been whisked away from a rugged moorland setting in the North West of England to a pretty coastal town in the USA, and it suited them.

The story focuses on jeweller Benedict Stone whose life has lost its sparkle. He’s stuck in a rut, business at his jewellery shop has dried up, and his beloved wife Emilia has moved out of their family home. He’s desperate to win her back but doesn’t know how. So, when his estranged teenage niece Gemma turns up on his doorstep unexpectedly and uninvited, it’s the last thing he needs. Especially when she makes it her mission to reunite Benedict and Emilia.

Things then happened very quickly. Production on the movie started in June 2021, taking just a few weeks to complete filming. A big buzz for me was seeing a photo from the set of Benedict’s jewellery shop brought to life, and all the film crew working on my story. It was thrilling to exchange messages with a couple of actors from the film and to find out how excited they were too.

I watched the movie for the first time with my family and it was a highly emotional, proud and very surreal moment. Hallmark captured the essence of my story beautifully and I couldn’t be happier with the film. I hope viewers will love it too. My novel has now been re-issued in the UK with a gorgeous new cover and jazzy pink rondel that says NOW AN ORIGINAL MOVIE, just like I’d hoped for all those years ago. My dream really did come true after all!

Phaedra Patrick is the internationally bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone (originally published as Wishes Under the Willow Tree in the UK), The Library of Lost and Found, and The Secrets of Sunshine.

Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone premieres on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel in the USA on 26th September 2021. Its UK release date is to be confirmed.

Pick up the book and read it first, here.

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