In the interval between approving final page proofs for The Ghost in the House and waiting for it to actually appear in the flesh, as it were, I’ve been idly imagining how I would adapt it if I were writing the screenplay. I quickly decided I wouldn’t hold myself responsible for being at all faithful to the text—have developed characters and added new scenes while ruthlessly cutting others. The biggest decision I’ve faced so far is whether to give my main character some clothes once she faces the prospect of appearing on the screen instead of on the page.
Imagining strategies for adapting books into films has been a long-time pastime of mine. I hesitate to tell you which books I have my beady eye on in case I get preempted but looking at recent Canadian fiction, it seems there is plenty of material to go around so here is my very personal list of books ripe for screen adaptation.
Strange Heaven, by Lynn Coady
Lynn Coady’s brilliant debut novel could be the Canadian answer to Normal People. Actually, I just said that to get your attention. Unlike that book, Strange Heaven actually deals with consequences of teen sex and beautifully delves into the sort of suffering it is all too easy to forget in our adult lives. The Cape Breton setting is a bonus—we really need to see that landscape showing up in more than just car ads.
Tattycoram, by Audrey Thomas
This is a Canadian novel but not a particularly Canadian subject so we may be looking at a co-pro on this one. Audrey Thomas takes a minor character from the Charles Dickens novel Little Dorrit and brings her to life as first a resident of the Coram Home for Foundlings and later Dickens himself. It’s a deeply sympathetic look at someone proving herself to be the hero of her own life.
The Mitochondrial Curiosities of Marcels 1 -19, by Jocelyn Brown
We need more films about clever young girls suffering the agonies of being clever young girls.
Dree is an inveterate crafter, an unwilling inhabitant of Edmonton, and someone whose idea of affluence includes having access to a car in order to visit the best Value Villages to procure supplies for her crafts. I love her.
Ellen in Pieces, by Caroline Adderson
In Ellen McGinty, Caroline Adderson has created such a messy and complex mid-life character that it would be a joy to see her roaring her way onto the screen. I’d either like to see this as a limited series in the style of Olive Kitteridge, or as a feature choosing one of the stories to focus on and using the others as back story. But how to choose just one?
Another Kind of Cowboy, by Susan Juby
Another YA novel, and this one by one of my favourite YA writers. Susan Juby’s Alice, I Think series was made into a television series but I see this as feature material. One of the things I really liked about this book when I first read it is that it’s a story about a gay kid without it being a story about being a gay kid. I have to confess I knew nothing about dressage before reading this book and still would need some heavy-duty consulting to make sense of It in a script, but I do think all it could make for strong visual storytelling.
The Little Shadows, by Marina Endicott
This novel about three sisters forced into life on the Vaudeville circuit after the death of their father has the potential to make stunning television. Props and sets and costumes would be outlandishly expensive, but so worth it. Endicott’s characters are beautifully drawn and there is so much plot potential in her story that I’m sure If we could just get this off the ground, it could run for years.
What if a ghost were haunting your house? What if you were the ghost?
Everything in Fay's life is perfect--living in the house she dreamed of as a child, married to a man she loves, and planning her life as an artist. Her life seems full of possibility. Then, late one night, Fay realizes that something has gone wrong.
Things have altered in the house and somehow time, and Fay's husband, Alec, seem to have gone on without her. Fay--who thought her life was on the verge of beginning--finds it has abruptly ended. And she comes to learn that sometimes the life you grieve may be your own.
This glimmering and darkly comedic novel explores both the domestic and the existential, delving into the dark heart of marriage and the meaning of a life.
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