Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Jay Bell, author of an ever expanding list of books of which Something Like Summer has become the most well known and probably best loved. Jay is one of my favourite new authors in this genre and he has a large fan base that keeps on growing.
Hi Jay! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on the site. This is a different type of interview because it’s not really about your writing career to date, although in a way it is, as Something Like Summer has the potential to change your career direction for the rest of your life.
For me this all started last December when I received a press release from screenwriter Carlos Pedraza which announced that Something Like Summer by our Jay Bell was going to be made into a movie by Jade Knight Productions.
The press release went on to say that “the book was optioned by Jade Knight Productions of Seattle and producer Tom Ly. With Blue Seraph Productions on board, the project moves into development immediately.” This is the same group that produced the indie sci fi fantasy movie Judas Kiss so they have a track record.
The film will be directed by J.T. Tepnapa and co-produced by L.A. based Blue Seraph Productions – production is scheduled to start in the spring of this year.
My first question is, how did this all come about? Were you even remotely aware before you were approached with the film deal that Something Like Summer was being considered to be made into a movie?
It all began with me dressed up like a Japanese schoolgirl and loitering outside the offices of famous movie producers. When that failed, I went home to discover an email from Tom Ly, who was curious to know if I had pursued getting Something Like Summer made into a movie. When he discovered how clueless I was about such things, he expressed interest in producing.
I have to admit I was wary at first. Tom had prior experience in the film industry but had since chosen a different career path. But after reading the story, Tom felt inspired to pick up where he had left off. I appreciated that, since Something Like Summer has always been an underdog. I tried for over a year to find a publisher for it and couldn’t, but I believed in the characters and their journey, so I began self-publishing. Tom obviously felt similarly inspired. So what if he wasn’t a big time producer yet? This, along with his persistence, encouraged me to sign on the dotted line. Tom soon proved his resourcefulness! Within a matter of weeks, I was on the telephone or Skyping with some of the most respected gay directors out there, which was thrilling.
What was your first reaction when the deal was presented, other than being over the moon? 🙂
The process was so gradual that the “over the moon” feeling didn’t come until we landed the director and screenwriter I wanted. I had the honor of speaking with so many talented people that choosing was extremely difficult. In the end, I opted for not the most experienced or successful director, but the one that I felt would be the best fit for the story itself. The underdog theme continues in that way, not that J.T. Tepnapa hasn’t proven himself. Judas Kiss is a huge accomplishment, both in terms of execution and storytelling. I was especially impressed when I spoke with J.T., since he very much understands the emotional aspect of the plot, having lived through similar experiences himself.
Fans of the book are very concerned about protecting the integrity of the characters. Will you be involved in the movie script as a consultant? If not, how will you ensure that the characters remain true to the book? Are you at all concerned that your characters may be unrecognizable in the movie?
I hope to consult on the screenplay, but this isn’t a condition of the contract. I understand that a writer needs freedom to create, so I’m staying out of the way for now. The screenwriter, Carlos Pedraza, is one sharp cookie, so I don’t have any real worries. Both he and J.T. were very upfront with me about the film being different than the book. You simply can’t tell the story in the same way, since the novel relies on being inside a character’s head and feeling what they do. Movies are a very different medium, especially when it comes to emotionally driven narrative. I expect the movie to be Something Like Summer in spirit, and many ways in plot, but it will ultimately be its own beast. I’ve already created my version of that story. Now it’s time for someone else to take a shot at it.
As for the characters, I suspect they can remain essentially the same, even if some events have to change. It’ll probably be weird when we first see who they cast, since everyone pictures the characters differently. I once sent a reader a photo of fashion model Bruno Santos, the perfect Tim Wyman in my mind, and the reader wrote back saying that’s how he pictured Jace, another character entirely. If they cast well, we’ll probably have a more unified vision of these characters, sort of like the Harry Potter kids. Once those movies came out, I think a lot of us updated our mental images.
Will you be able to visit the set while the story is being filmed? Can we look forward to you being chased by paparazzi while in disguise, with maybe a few stories in US Weekly or People? 😆
That Japanese school girl uniform might come in handy after all! And yes, I absolutely have to be there for a least one day of filming! It’ll be a unique opportunity to shake the hands of the characters I’ve created. They might have to pull me off whoever plays Tim Wyman. I would also love to have a sneaky cameo. I’ve always thought it would be cool to be an extra in a film, preferably just a head in a crowd, so I could pause the film at home and annoy my friends by pointing myself out. At the very least it would be nice if they could have the print version of Something Like Summer laying around in one of the boys’ bedrooms or something. Or maybe they could cuddle with it after one of the sex scenes, my book on a pillow between their two heads. … Or maybe not.
Do you know who will play the parts of Ben, Tim and Jace and if so, are they well known actors?
Casting hasn’t begun yet, but when it does, there will be a big casting call as they did for Judas Kiss. That was another selling point for me. The casting for their first film is brilliant. A good example is how gay films often have the eccentric older woman character who inevitably comes across as fake or annoying rather than charming. Judas Kiss successfully pulled off this character type with Mrs. Blossom. Her role in the film isn’t huge either, which shows how much attention they gave each character, no matter how small their part.
This is what you said on your website a few weeks ago:
“Something Like Summer was published one year ago today, and man, what a year it has been! Over a hundred positive reviews on Amazon, book of the month on many wonderful sites, a movie deal, and now a sequel!”
This book spans over a decade and I believe it won Best Young Adult Characters on Goodreads.
That’s right! It won awards in the categories for Best Young Adult Characters, Best Story That Should Have a Sequel, and Best Cover.
I was wondering if you could give us an idea about the sequel, other than it will be Tim’s story?
There’s been a lot of demand to hear the rest of the story, but to me this doesn’t necessarily mean moving forward to the future. Something Like Summer spans more than a decade, so naturally there are tons of scenes that weren’t more than exposition in the first book. That, and for much of the story Ben and Tim are separate. We know what Ben got up to, but the reasons why Tim slowly changed over the years are important to understanding and sympathizing with his character. Lastly, I think what all of us want from a sequel is “more of the same but different.” I’m hoping the second book executed in this way will scratch the itch that Something Like Summer keeps giving people. It’s not an STD, I swear! 😮
What would you like us to know about the creative process while you were writing Something Like Summer other than the anthem was a song called Faster Still by The Fold. 😀
Digging deep into my past for all those angsty feelings that still bubble up to haunt me while purging myself on paper of both my hopes and fears. That’s the gist of writing Something Like Summer, but I don’t mean to make the process sound tortured. I loved every minute of it, and returning to that world for the companion novel has been amazing.
I know it’s in the future but how much of a thrill will it be to see your characters on the big screen and your name in lights as the author of the book?
I often imagine sitting in the theater and watching the story come to life on screen, and I suspect they’ll kick me out of the theater fairly quick. I’m not
prone to squeeing, [is that like humming Jay? :)] but I’ll definitely be running up and down the aisles while chanting “Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!” Probably while not wearing any pants, because that’s how I roll.
I understand you have a few new projects underway including a contemporary romance due out February/March of this year and a sequel to The Cat in the Cradle which will be released in the summer. What would you like to tell us about the storyline of these two books without revealing too much? 😀
Kamikaze Boys is the title of my next book and is the story of two guys versus the world. So often romances are about people struggling to come together or maintain their relationship. I wanted to tell a story where the couple is perfectly fine. It’s the outside world that’s the problem. Kamikaze Boys is also a tale of rising up against those that try and keep you down. I’m hoping to have it released by the end of February.
From Darkness to Darkness should be out this summer and is the sequel to The Cat in the Cradle. The story centers around a young man named Cole who loses everything dear to him but gains power over death—a very dangerous combination. It also deals with how we love and protect each other, both in good and bad ways. Writing this book was up there with Something Like Summer in terms of the emotional experience I went through.
On another topic, one of the things I mentioned to you was my regret in not including the wonderful cover by your husband Andreas for Something Like Summer in My Top Book Covers in 2011. I had over 150 covers on my final list and somehow this one was overlooked. However, I have since corrected that omission so that other readers are able to see and enjoy your husband’s work.
That’s very kind of you! My husband works his delightfully firm German ass off, so it’s always great when he gets recognition. For those that aren’t familiar with Andreas, he does all the cover art for my books and the interior illustrations for The Cat in the Cradle. Without his support, I would have thrown in the towel long ago and there wouldn’t have been a Something Like Summer in any form. He’s so awesome! If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go make out with him. Thanks for having me, Wave!
We don’t appreciate what teenagers go through every day, especially gay teens, and I love the way you captured some of that teenage angst in Something Like Summer. I hope that a lot more readers get to enjoy the story by reading the book and when it’s released, that they will go see the movie.
Love your books Jay. They are a breath of fresh air in what seems at times like a world of copycats. Hell’s Pawn is one wild ride. 🙂 Maybe that’s next on the movie list. :popcorn: