posted on September 5, 2014 by J. T. Ellison

On Adaptations

I watched the coolest video this week. Diana Gabaldon – aka Herself – visited the set of Outlander for the first time, and producer Ron Moore did a video of her visit.

I am a huge Outlander fan, have been on the book bandwagon for twenty years, and now am a fan of the incredible show on Starz. As she walked around the set, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must be like to see something that’s lived entirely inside your head, and the heads of your readers, for more than two decades, come to life before you.

Diana has a brilliant touch with description. With her capable words, it’s easy to see a silver gorget on a British Lieutenant’s red coat, a plaid pleated and rolled across a shoulder, knives and swords and creamy bosoms and whale-bone stays, not to mention the luscious landscapes of the Scottish (and eventually American) countryside. And the food – and the herbs, and everything – she does a tremendously detailed job of bringing her books to life for her readers.

Watching the video, as she walks through her world come to life for the first time, you can see the wonder and amazement on her face. Room after room after room of her imagination, recreated in the most exquisite detail imaginable.

The Lost KeyAnd I couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like for me.

I’ve had my Taylor Jackson series optioned, but sadly, the option period expired with no television show made. I’m hopeful that it will get picked up again sometime, along with my Samantha Owens series, and my co-written series with Catherine Coulter, A Brit in the FBI.

Taylor is a homicide lieutenant = kick ass cop show based in Nashville

Samantha is a medical examiner = kick ass cop show based in Washington, D.C. with a dark psychological twist and a few well-placed autopsies

THE FINAL CUTNicholas Drummond?

Nicholas comes from a different world, quite literally. Nicholas is from England, a small town called Farrow-on-Grey. His grandfather is a peer. His father serves in the Home Office. His mother was an America comedic actress, before falling in love and moving to Great Britain. Nicholas himself was a British spy, before leaving in partial disgrace and joining New Scotland Yard. He rose up the ranks quickly, as we find in THE FINAL CUT, then is asked to come to America and join the American FBI in THE LOST KEY.

Nicholas = thrillers with international locales, law and order and justice served up with British style. Yum.

Catherine and I have so much fun creating Nicholas. And who doesn’t want to save the world?

In all these books, I can see the world around me. I write in a very visual way, world building a bit at a time, trying to let my readers see right along with me. I’ve been told it’s very cinematic, which I take as a great compliment. I don’t want readers digging around trying to get a sense of what things look like. It’s vitally important to me to explain just the right sense of what something smells like, looks like. I want my readers to use all their senses when they’re reading.

WHEN SHADOWS FALLSo what would I do if any of these books were made into a movie, or a television show?

Other than jump for joy, that is?

I would like to think I’d be able to get out of the way.

I think adaptation must be the hardest gig out there. Trying to decide what stays in, what goes. How to distill a 500 page novel into a 100 pages of script, with minimal direction, depending on external visuals and the talent of the hired actors to bring things to life? Answering to fans and producers and directors and the multitude of other people whose job it is to shepherd these books into being?

It’s hard work.

Have you ever read a script before? They fascinate me. Where I will write a page about the color of the sky after sunrise, they’ll say – It is a sunny day.

It’s all tell, and very little show. The exact opposite of what we authors do. There is no waxing poetic about the smell of blood, or the facets of a diamond. It’s all there, ripe for the taking, a visual feast for your eyes. It’s rather magic, I think.

I’d love to see my books on the screen. I won’t lie. But it’s more than having the pride and excitement of a television show or movie. It’s the idea of seeing the world in my head interpreted and brought to life that intrigues me.

How do you think Nicholas Drummond or Samantha Owens might come to life on screen? And are you watching Outlander? What do you think?

THE LOST KEY can be purchased in hardcover, eBook or MP3 CD format

J. T. Ellison

J. T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Follow J.T. on Facebook or Twitter @thrillerchick for more insight into her wicked imagination.

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