Thursday, August 07, 2008

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Goes to the Movies

I am now less intimidated by having Larry Niven on a panel I'm moderating, since I had a nice chat with him last night in the SFWA suite. Another person and I were explaining the romance genre to him, and then we started talking about mystery novels. We agreed that the topic for our panel is difficult, so we suspect we'll veer off-topic when we run out of things to say from a topic that pretty much has a one-word answer.

Before I run of for the day, I need to post a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit visit. This one's a little different. The book More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglas (aka Lara Zeises) is now out in paperback, and a movie version of the previous book, True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet premieres on the Lifetime network Saturday night, starring JoJo (I get the impression she's a big singing star) and Valerie Bertinelli (and as a child of the 70s, her in a "mom" type role makes me feel rather old).

First, a chat about the new book:
Was there anything in particular that inspired this book?
MORE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET is my second installment in a series about Morgan Carter, who's loosely based on a young Drew Barrymore (and not Lindsay Lohan, as most readers assume). At 16, Morgan ODs outside of L.A.'s notorious viper room and almost dies. So her mother and agent ship her off to rehab for six months. When she emerges, she can't get any work. So her agent cooks up this scheme in which Morgan will go live with a family friend in Indiana and attend high school undercover, then emerge a year later and write a tell-all novel that will re-launch her career. This is all in the first book, TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD STARLET, which was adapted into a TV movie that premiers on Lifetime August 9th at 9 p.m.

So MORE CONFESSIONS picks up a month after Morgan's been outed and has decided to stay in Indiana to finish out her school year. Only instead of constantly worrying about her secret identity getting exposed, now she's faced with a whole new set of problems: the paparazzi stalking her on school grounds, her love interest feeling insecure now that he knows he's involved with a famous actress, her mother pressuring her to lose weight and clean up her image, and an old co-star claiming to be involved with her because it makes for good press.

I've been a fan of Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series since its inception, and I'd really wanted to try my hand at a diary format novel. So I tried to think of whose diary I'd want to read. Drew was the first person who popped into my mind. I chose Fort Wayne as the setting because I lived there for several months after college and it was a total culture shock. I thought, what better way to throw a teen starlet out of her element than to send her to a mostly land-locked state that's a good three-hour drive from the nearest big city?

If you had to choose Hollywood fame or true love, which would you choose?
True love wins every time.

What are you working on now?
The next Lola book, actually. It’s tentatively titled FORGET YOU and was inspired, in part, by the Goldie Hawn ‘80s romp OVERBOARD. That’s about all I can say right now, except that it’s a totally fun project and I’m psyched to be banging out the first draft.

Now, some talk about the process of turning a book into a movie (something in which I have a mild interest!):
Have you had a chance to see the finished product yet, or will you be watching Lifetime to see it for the first time with everyone else?
I've seen the final cut, but I'll still be watching Lifetime on Saturday because hello! It's the first time I'll be watching it on TV. With, like, commercials. I'm even DVR'ing it. Our Comcast guide's info for the movie ends with the line "Based on the book by Lola Douglas." I squee every time I see that!

How well does the casting match what was in your head when you wrote the book, and now that real faces have been put to your characters, does that change the way you now see your characters?
I have to say I absolutely adore the casting, even though not a single character is how I pictured them. Like, I'd always seen Morgan as Hayden Panettiere, her best friend Marissa as Maggie Gyllenhaal, and her Aunt Trudy like the ditsy blond aunt from the Disney Channel Xenon movies. But JoJo is awesome as Morgan, Shenae Grimes kicks ass as Marissa, and Valerie Bertinelli ... well, she's just fantastic. But no, it doesn't really change how I see the characters in my head. Like, if I were going to write a third STARLET book, Morgan would still look like she did when I was writing the first book ... and even then she's not exactly Hayden. She's just this person that lives in my head.

Were you at all involved in the process of turning your book into a movie?
Elisa Bell wrote the teleplay, and while I had absolutely no involvement in that part of the process, I was pretty happy with the script. She used a lot of my dialogue, which I found flattering, and stayed fairly true to the plot. Anytime a 250+ page book gets turned into an 80-minute TV movie, things get cut - and they did here, of course - but the essence of the movie is the same. But also, they were editing the movie during the writers strike and they needed some new voice overs. Elisa refused to do it, because she's in the union, so I actually got to help out. A lot of my lines made the final cut. It's one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do.

What's the one aspect of your book that you hope remains the same in the film version?
One thing I was sad about was the cutting of Janet Moore, Morgan's high school guidance counselor and trusted confidante. I totally understand why it had to be done, but I loved Ms. Janet Moore. I was also bummed to see Emily, Morgan's best friend in Fort Wayne, reduced to a bit part. That I don't completely understand. Also, it's the one casting choice I was baffled by. Movie Emily is NOTHING like Book Emily, but then again, Movie Eli (Emily's twin and Morgan's love interest) went from a geeky yearbook photographer to a black leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle-riding, philosophizing James Dean. One good change that came about was that they expanded Aunt Trudy's storyline beyond how she related to Morgan. It felt very organic, even though it was vastly different from how I'd written her.

Do you get the least bit of a geeky thrill out of the fact that some of these famous people must have at least the slightest idea that you exist? (Or do you think the actors even know it was a book first?)
Oh, they knew it was a book. At least, JoJo did (we talked about it and she signed a few copies for my friends' tween-age kids). She was really fun to meet, because she seems way older than her 17 years. I didn't get to meet Valerie Bertinelli, because my one day on-set she was in Chicago watching her son Wolfie perform with Van Halen. But, in one of the Lifetime promo clips she does say something like, "It's based on this fantastic book by Lola Douglas ..." and I completely freaked. She was actually born in Delaware, where I'm from, and when I was in kindergarten I'd watch her on TV and just want to BE her.

What are you doing to celebrate the movie's premiere?
Originally I'd wanted to throw a red carpet party somewhere with a big-screen TV, but the economy is SO crap I just didn't have it in the budget. So instead, I'm going to be watching it at my mom's house (because she's the one with the 60-inch high def TV) with her, my fiance, my two best girlfriends, and our dogs. I'm actually going to be blogging live while we watch the movie, giving some behind the scenes info and my reactions to the movie itself. I can't wait; while my mom and Joe (my fiance) have all seen the final cut, Candace and Wendy haven't seen a single minute. So watching them watch it for the first time is going to be like Christmas morning for me!

She'll be blogging live during the premiere.

And now I'd better get dressed and face the day. My legs certainly feel a year older ...

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