Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jenny Milchman's "Cover of Snow"

Jenny Milchman lives in New Jersey with her family.

Here she shares some insights about adapting Cover of Snow, her first novel, for the big screen:
When I am writing, I see my novel in cinematic scenes, but I’m picturing the characters as I created them, versus real actors or actresses. So I don’t have any sort of cast in mind for my debut novel, Cover of Snow, if it were made into a movie.

But I do have a director.

Two of my favorite movies are directed by Rob Reiner, and they’re both based on novels by Stephen King: Misery and Stand by Me (which was the novella The Body). It took me thirteen years to get published, and in that time Rob Reiner went from directing to…not directing. Or so I hear. (I’m not exactly a Hollywood insider).

In many ways, I needed all the time it took me to get published. I wrote seven novels before Cover of Snow, and six of them weren’t publication-worthy. The editor I finally found my way to—through a series of hitches and failed connections and false starts—is the person I feel was meant to transform my book into the one I always wanted to write. It couldn’t have worked out sooner than it did. And yet…that time cost me my dream director.

Novels and movies are very different beasts. When you are writing a novel, you can rely on the characters’ inner workings and psychological backgrounds to give them life; you can use symbol and metaphor and image to flesh out a theme. None of that translates to film. Somehow Rob Reiner has a feeling for both media. By the time he is done you forget that what you are watching ever existed in another form. It is sheer story.

The novella The Body deals with boyhood friendship and the transformation that occurs as boys become men. It’s a deeply interior book, but it does have strong visual elements. Train tracks. Fight scenes. Death. Reiner relies on both interior and exterior. He mines the visual for all its drama, but the film concludes with the main character sitting alone in his car, reading a newspaper article as he mourns a great loss in his life. Both literally and figuratively, Reiner begins and ends with a story.

I wish he could do that for my book, too.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue