Author Sarah Beth Durst On Bringing YA Novel Drink Slay Love to the Screen

Young adult novels have been attracting Hollywood’s attention since before the category existed (The Outsiders, anyone?), and in recent years, many of the most successful box office hits and buzziest television series have come directly from the YA shelves. Page to Screen is a series in which authors whose novels have been adapted for the screen share their unique perspectives on the process. Some have little to no involvement, others are writing scripts and sitting in monogrammed chairs on set, but all have experienced seeing their work in a new way. Check out previous Page to Screen posts here.

Today, Sarah Beth Durst shares the story of how her 2011 novel Drink Slay Love made it to the screen. The process was pretty smooth, and the movie airs on Lifetime this Saturday, September 16, at 10 p.m. ET (right after the adaptation of Gretchen McNeil’s novel Ten.)

When did the book first get optioned?
Drink Slay Love was optioned in 2015 by Kim Roberts and Tina Pehme of Sepia Films for development with executive producers Sheri Singer and Bella Thorne (Freeform’s Famous in Love).

You know Snoopy’s dance of joy? That’s what I did when this happened. Complete with singing the entirely instrumental theme song aloud!

Exciting! What was the first step in the process?
The first step was an email from the producers to my agent, and I tried to be more cautiously optimistic than wildly. You hear so many anecdotes about the million things that can go wrong on the long, twisty road from book to screen. Plus everyone warns you not to get your hopes up…but I’m naturally an optimist. (Seriously, when a computer fails, I’m that person who will reboot it ten times, convinced that the tenth time will be the one that magically fixes it.) So I veered pretty early on into “wildly optimistic.”

Were there bumps along the way?
The option led right into productionit was renewed once before principal photography began, but it never lapsed. There was roughly a year between when we signed the contract and when filming began and then roughly a year between filming and the airdate (which is Saturday, September 16, at 10pm ET on Lifetime! Eeeeeeeeeeee!).

What did you learn about the business aspects of an option?
This was my first film option, and before this experience, I had no idea that all the financial stuff for the entire production is decided at the option stage. I found that rather fascinating. The contract specifies everything from how much you receive at the beginning (the option) to how much you receive if it actually becomes a movie or TV movie or TV show or whatever (the purchase price), as well as all the other associated details. Many thanks to my awesome agent, Andrea Somberg, for all her work on it!

Typically (and this was the case here) the option is roughly 10% of the purchase price.

When did it hit you that your book was truly going to become a movie?
Despite what I said about my wild optimism, the whole thing really still feels surreal. Maybe it will fully sink in when it airs? I’m planning to live-tweet during it, and I’m pretty sure my tweets will be comprised of primarily vowels, like “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” And “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”

How involved were you along the way?
I spoke with the director, the incredible Vanessa Parise, before filming commenced, but after that, it was their baby. I consider my job to be cheering enthusiastically from the sidelinesand I am so very thrilled with everything I’ve seen so far! The cast is all incredible. I love the location and all the sets. Wait until you see Minerva’s classroom! It’s spot-on.

Did you visit the set?
It was filmed in the Okanagan region of Canada, which is absolutely gorgeous and also nowhere near where I live, so I wasn’t able to visit the set. But I have compiled a bunch of photos from filming on my website.

Have you seen any versions of the movie or even uncut footage?
Yes, I’ve seen a couple scenes, and my thoughts/feelings can be summed up as aeeeeee!!! THIS IS AWESOME!

It’s so very cool to see people pretending to be characters who, once upon a time, only existed inside your own head. And all the actors look and sound and act fantastic!

Cierra Ramirez (Freeform’s The Fosters) plays Pearl, a sixteen-year-old vampire, who is stabbed through the heart in a mysterious attack and suddenly begins to develop a conscience (which is highly inconvenient for a girl who just wants to be evil and suck blood). Gregg Sulkin (Marvel’s Runaways) is Jadrien, her vampire boyfriend, and Zack Peladeau is Evan, a cute boy who lives in the daylight.

Does the movie feel separate from your book, or does it feel closely connected?
Both, really. Movies and books are so fundamentally differentthey’re distinct storytelling forms with different ways of approaching and experiencing the story and its characters. So it does feel separate because of that. On the other hand, I do feel a close connection because the book birthed the movie.

Is the show buzz helping book sales?
Drink Slay Love has been rereleased with a cool red sticker on the cover that says, “Soon to be a Lifetime Original Movie.” Actually bought myself a copy of the book so I could have one with the sticker, which was probably a dorky thing to do, considering I have a whole box of books in my closet. But sticker!

What’s next from you?
I have three books coming out in 2018: First up (in April) is The Stone Girl’s Story, a middle-grade novel about a girl made of stone, forever twelve years old, who has outlasted the father who carved her and gave her life. But now the magical marks that animate her are fading, and she must leave home and find help if she wants her story to continue.

Next (in May) will be The Queen of Sorrow, book three of The Queens of Renthia, an epic fantasy series for adults. It’s set in a world filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and only certain womenthe queenshave the power to control them.

And in the fall comes my next teen book, Fire and Heist. It’s essentially Ocean’s Eleven with were-dragons.

That’s it! I hope you’ll watch Drink Slay Love on September 16 at 10 p.m. ET on Lifetime!

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