When fellow author, Corie Skolnick, told me she had optioned her debut novel, Orfan, to a major Hollywood producer, I had to know more about how it happened. And I knew my friends would want to hear Corie’s story, too. Below, she relays her inspiring journey from novel to the silver screen:
When I retired from teaching, I wrote a novel, ORFAN, inspired in part by the panel of speakers that I invited to my Psychology course, “The Psychological Aspects of Parenthood.” I am NOT a writer; I was a licensed family therapist in private practice and a psych professor at California State University Northridge in Los Angeles. Birth moms and adoptees told their stories to my students and broke some hearts. When I retired from teaching and private practice, I took up writing fiction (I was a copywriter in my 20s before grad school so I always had a hankering to return to writing.) I met a “book to film agent” through a grad school friend who “shopped the book around” with no success. I queried about 40 agents for representation and traditional publication. I got requests from a few for a “full ms” and everyone responded similarly: “A great story, I love your writing, I can’t sell this in this market.”
I was in New York (I had just been rejected by Valerie Plame’s agent with a similar refrain), and I met two grad students from NYU’s Music Industry Business program at a coffee shop in the village. They listened to my sad tale and said, “What do you need an agent for? What do you need a publisher for? Look what’s happened to the music industry. The same thing is going to happen to book publishing. It’s all coming down.” Everything they predicted came true. Borders closed. B&N had to re-invent itself as “Crapola R Us + a few books” and the DIY indies would EXPLODE. The deal was, they got to produce and distribute the audio book and they would create an indie imprint to publish ORFAN under the umbrella of their Indie Rock Record Label.
I had to do all my own promotion. I hit the book clubs. The very first book club I went to was within 30 minutes of my house. The woman who invited me to that first book club gave a copy of my book to her step-sister who let it sit on her nightstand for more than a year. When she finally read it, she fell in love. Last December, she called her sister to get my number and she called me up. “Hi, I’m going to give you some names,” she said. “I want you to google them and reassure yourself that I’m legitimate, and I will call you back tomorrow.” They were all names of film producers with major credits. When she called me back, I made an appointment to have lunch. (They do this a lot in Hollywood. They have lots of meetings and they love to have lunch.) She told me that she wanted to develop my book into a film, and with her contacts, she thought it would be possible. I didn’t hesitate more than 10 seconds.
She gave the book to Kellie Davis at Ron Shelton Pictures. Kellie was a personal friend. Kellie read and fell in love with the book, but it took her a few months to get Ron Shelton to read it. When he finally did, he “fell in love” – his words – with my characters. He invited us all to lunch in August and by October, I had a signed option agreement. It arrived in my mail on my 64th birthday. Proving…it’s never to late to realize your artistic dreams.
As of this date, the “project” is fast tracked. Mr. Shelton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his script, Bull Durham, is adapting the book himself. I’m told this is a very good sign. Many options do not become realized as films. Only about 33% of options are executed. Your chances increase exponentially if your producer is a “big.” Mr. Shelton is a “big.” Some big producers farm projects out to low level screen writers. If they undertake the project personally…that’s meaningful.
I got hit by lightning.
Thank you, Corie, for sharing your story! Wishing you all the best of luck, and I hope to see it on the big screen soon! And aside from this fabulous news, Corie has a new book out this May that sounds really fantastic. I can’t wait to read it!
America’s Most Eligible
Athena Cervantes wants to be a writer – a real writer – and that means only one thing to her – she wants to be a great American novelist! Of course this ambition requires an MFA from a prestigious writing program. Check! And she has to read all the right books. Check, again! And, most importantly, Athena must write the truth about what she knows. The only problem is, not a single thing she thinks she knows is true.
America’s Most Eligible is a hilarious romp about an ambitious young woman who has come of age in the pretentious world of Southern California. With great humor, Corie Skolnick satirizes “the bad tweed set” of literary academia along with the self-important characters of Hollywood, Big J-journalism, self-help Psychology, politics, and especially traditional commercial publishing even as the latter languishes in the throes of death at its own hands.
Praise for America’s Most Eligible
“Corie Skolnick is magic – pure, absolute, gorgeous magic. Her book, America’s Most Eligible, is brilliant, funny – truly, laugh-out-loud funny – and superbly written, a stunning satire. She can string a few words together, and turn them into perfect gems so effortlessly. Her characters – each and every one – are filled with so much life, so much wit, so much truth. I can promise you, you will both cringe, and nod in agreement with what falls so effortlessly on to the page. Corie is a grand, stupendous writer.” ~ Amy Ferris, author of Marrying George Clooney, Seal Press
“Corie Skolnick’s writing is so wonderfully unique, I honesty can’t imagine not liking this book, no matter your genre preference. Written through the eyes of Athena Cervantes, the snarky, intelligent journalist and would-be novelist, Skolnick breaks many of the so-called rules writers are warned to heed and proves that if you have a way with words, which this author inarguably does, the “rules” don’t apply. Each time I put this book down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again and that’s not something I say often, even about books I enjoy. With a plot that gets a little twisty toward the end, America’s Most Eligible will definitely make you laugh. Entertaining, funny, and smart!” ~ Shelly Hickman, author of Vegas to Varanasi
About the Author
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised on Chicago’s south side, Corie Skolnick moved to Southern California when Ronald Reagan was the governor. She was a California licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, a consultant to several Los Angeles agencies serving high risk youth and families, and a “sometimes” psychology instructor at both California State University, Northridge and Moorpark College. She currently writes fiction full time, travels extensively, and contributes to the travel site, DESTO3.COM. She is married to the social psychologist and photographer, Paul (Pablo) Skolnick. To learn more about Corie, please visit her website.