Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jessica Brockmole's "Letters from Skye"

Jessica Brockmole's new novel is Letters from Skye. When she's not writing, Brockmole can be found reviewing historical fiction as part of the Historical Novels Review's editorial team.

Here she shares some ideas about how to adapt the novel for the big screen:
I always find this a difficult question. “Who would play your characters in the movie version of your book?” I know many authors who write with actors already cast, soundtracks already orchestrated, directors already hidden between the pages, calling for close-ups. I’ve never been able to do that. While writing Letters from Skye, David and Elspeth, my American college student and my Scottish poet, appeared with faces and mannerisms and personalities all their own.

To me, a more interesting question to ponder is the how rather than the who. Letters from Skye is an epistolary novel. Apart from the odd poem or fairy tale or newspaper clipping, the whole story is told through letters. How might that be presented on the screen?

It would be easy to use letters to segue between scenes. Elspeth standing in front of her cottage, the panorama of Skye behind her, reading a letter as her chores go undone. David—who volunteers as an ambulance driver in the midst of WWI—folded into the driver’s seat of an ambulance, scribbling a response against the steering wheel as the shells of the trenches whine in the background. Reading and writing as a transition into the landscapes of Skye and of war. Excerpts could be read in voiceovers, or the envelopes could remain props.

Words are vital to the novel, as each character weighs them before picking up their pens to write a reply, but place also plays a big role. And the casting for that role is easy. Nothing less than the breath-held beauty of the Isle of Skye would do for filming. Built sets could fill in for Illinois and the trenches of the Western Front, but in this movie, Skye would play herself.

Letters from Skye is a story told in reminisces and frustrations and crossed-fingered wishes. It’s a story that, to me at least, begins with a hopefully penned “Dear Madame” rather than with a director’s cry of “action”. But against such a backdrop, both of history and of place, with characters determined and yearning to see what lies beyond the shore, any film would shine.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

Writers Read: Jessica Brockmole.

--Marshal Zeringue