We are very pleased to be participating in the blog tour for YA historical fiction adventure Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr. Following on from our review yesterday, today we have Wendy here with us to discuss what it’s like to have your book turned into a film, which is what happened to Wendy’s Nim’s Island books. Before we get stuck in, here’s the blurb for Dragonfly Song from Allen & Unwin:
Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits
– until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.
The firstborn daughter of a priestess is cast out as a baby, and after raiders kill her adopted family, she is abandoned at the gates of the Great Hall, anonymous and mute. Called No-Name, the cursed child, she is raised a slave, and not until she is twelve does she learn her name is Aissa: the dragonfly.
Now every year the Bull King takes a tribute from the island: two thirteen-year-old children to brave the bloody bull dances in his royal court. None have ever returned – but for Aissa it is the only escape.
Aissa is resilient, resourceful, and fast – but to survive the bull ring, she will have to learn the mystery of her true nature.
A riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure from award-winning author Wendy Orr.
What is it like having your book turned into a movie?
An emotional roller coaster – and just like any roller coaster ride, I can now only remember the thrills.
It all started when an independent Hollywood producer, Paula Mazur, got Nim’s Island out of the library for her eight-year old son. She emailed me a few days later, painting me a beautiful picture of the family listening to the story – and asking for the rights.
I was lucky enough to know nothing about how hard it is to get a movie made. She was so passionate that I always believed it would happen, even when things looked bleak – and of course, there were some bleak times in the five years between that first email and the red carpet. And because we quickly became friends, and once it was optioned I became a consultant on the script, I knew what was happening, every step of the way. It was a very intense time, intellectually (there was a lot to learn!) and emotionally.
Probably the luckiest thing of all is that Paula contacted me before three other queries came in. None of them seemed to have any particular feeling or insight into the book, but I could easily have signed anyway – and the film would probably never have been made. A film like this, that doesn’t fit the mold – one article claimed it was the first adventure feature film with a young girl hero – needs a passionate advocate.
Actually there was lots of luck. Like Jodie Foster wanting to play Alex Rover. Jodie Foster is a reader, and Nim’s Island was the book that got her oldest son into reading. She fought hard for the part – and changed what I’d imagined as a quiet little movie, into something big. The amazing thing for me was that she looked so like my concept of Alex. The brilliant Abigail Breslin signed on as Nim, and Gerard Butler as her dad Jack and Alex Rover’s fictitious hero. Gerry Butler is better looking than my Jack, but I coped with that.
The first time I arrived on set, Abbie/Nim was running through the rainforest with Fred on her shoulder. It was exactly as I’d written the scene in the book; there was something surreal about seeing it happen in flesh and blood (and TV monitors). I met one of the two sea lions who played Selkie, which tipped my emotion right over the edge – I cried so much that Gerry Butler interrupted some publicity shoots to ask if I was all right.
Then we had the premieres. One at Sea World in Queensland, with Jodie Foster and Leah the pelican who played Galileo, and one at Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, with all the cast and crew (minus the animals), blue ‘island’ ticker tape blown down the road, and thousands of screaming fans. But the biggest thrill was simply seeing the film, to see the characters from my head come to life on the screen. I had the same reaction watching Return to Nim’s Island, which was much more loosely based on Nim at Sea – but Bindi Irwin was still so definitely my Nim, and the plot line was so true to Nim’s spirit, that I forgot it wasn’t the story I’d written.
It’s the ultimate expression of letting your story fly free to make its own way into the world.
Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $16.99, available now
Thank you Wendy for sharing your experiences with us here on the shelf. Dragonfly Song is available now and the perfect way to escape on an adventure if you aren’t lucky enough to be travelling somewhere exotic yourself these school holidays!
Until next time,