“Show Up to Whatever You’re Invited to”: An Interview with Trish Cook

For every movie made, there are hundreds—maybe thousands—of movies that didn’t get made. Great screenplays pile up on laptops and in files, abandoned because of budget woes, casting troubles, or other problems.

Enter Adaptive Studios, which identifies the best of the best unproduced screenplays, turns them into page-turning books, and then—coming full circle—turns those books into movies or TV shows.

We wanted to know more about how this process works. Who are the people who rework the screenplays, transforming them into novels? Trish Cook is one of those writers, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about what it was like to collaborate with Adaptive.

What’s your writing background?
I am the author of five young adult novels, including Outward Blonde, coming this October from Adaptive Studios, and a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Graham School in Creative Nonfiction. My personal essays have been seen most recently in the Manifest-Station, Graze Magazine, and Spittoon. But mostly, I am a kid who loved reading and writing who grew up wanting to be an author. I had no specific background or qualifications or anything when I started writing my first book—So Lyrical, which got published—to make people believe I’d be successful other than enormous passion and an inability to give up. So if you want to be a writer, I say go for it. Give it everything you’ve got.

How did Adaptive find you?
My former publisher—the ones who released A Really Awesome Mess and Notes from the Blender—decided to close up shop in the U.S. I was invited to a goodbye dinner. It was January in Chicago, snowing like crazy, insanely cold. Believe me when I say I was not hugely up for going to a sad goodbye party. But I went, and completely hit it off with Jordan Hamessley, who had just accepted a job as an editor at Adaptive. She had worked for my former publisher but we’d never met until then. I told her before I left that night that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to work with her if she ever found a property that felt like the right fit. Basically, I begged her for a job. A few months later, she called with Outward Blonde. I didn’t even have to think twice to say yes. The moral of the story here is: Show up to whatever you’re invited to. You never know when you’re going to meet your next mentor or find your next job (or even spouse—my husband and I met at a party neither one of us wanted to go to). Just go.

How long did it take you to write the manuscript?
The Outward Blonde manuscript went through a first draft plus three MAJOR changes. The first draft took approximately 4 months to write. The subsequent revisions were all about six weeks long. This is much faster than my normal process, BTW! Nothing like a hard and fast deadline to keep your mind primed and your fingers moving. 🙂

Books published by Adaptive will ultimately be turned into TV series or movies; how did that affect the way you approached the project?
I think my writing has always been very visual and everyone always says how my books would make great movies, but until now, none has even gotten as far as being optioned. So knowing this time this book would make it to the screen just made me more determined than ever to make sure every scene sparkled and every bit of dialogue popped. I can’t wait to see who’s cast as Lizzie and Jack!!!

What was the revision process like?
It was sort of a “now let’s try this” until we got to a place where every scene felt right. There was a lot of trial and error. It was a ton of fun seeing how the manuscript took shape and characters came to life. It worked awesomely well.

Did you communicate with the original screenplay writer at all?
No. I have no knowledge of the writer, or what the original screenplay looked like for that matter. All I had was the log line and the spark page to go on. It was all improvisation/creation from there.

How did writing for Adaptive differ from working on your other novels or projects?
Writing for Adaptive was fun because I started with a spark page, so the basic plot already existed. Writing the actual draft was very similar to my normal process, because I was making it up as I went along. The revision process was very different; it was like I had a superstar critique group—the Adaptive team—all giving me ideas to try to improve what I’d written. The results are fantastic and if I could write this way all the time I would!

If you had to write a logline for your life thus far, how would it go?
When a young mother feels like she’s lost her identity to her babies, she decides to run a marathon, write a novel, and learn to play guitar one summer—and ends up with a finisher’s medal, a published book, and her own band called Playdate. (Fast forward fifteen years: She now has two marathons and countless half marathons under her belt, has written 5 YA books, 1 middle grade book, 1 adult book, 1 memoir and completed a post-graduate program in creative nonfiction, and her guitars still occasionally beckon but the band has gone on permanent hiatus.)

Read more about Adaptive Studios here

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