Brian Wilkinson attempts to juggle multiple careers as an author, high school teacher, and librarian. He currently lives in East York, Ontario, with his wife, Catherine, and his two children, Owen and Nora, who served as the inspiration for the main characters in his first novels, Battledoors and Paramnesia.
Once I finished writing my first novel, Battledoors, my mother eagerly read it and then said, “Wow, this would make a great movie!” I’ll admit, I got pretty excited at the notion and immediately started dreaming up all sorts of scenarios that culminated in my characters showing up on screen. I remember a few times when I was in a movie theatre and looking up at trailers playing on giant screens and all of the cardboard standees and posters and thinking, “That might be my book someday.”
At that point, I didn’t even have a publishing contract for the book. That in and of itself would be a major success, and yet there I was, aiming for the 1% of books that are lucky enough to be translated into film.
That led me to wonder why the book alone wasn’t good enough. It’s a strange thing, when you really think about it, that the ultimate goal of your artistic creation is to hand it off to someone else to create, potentially, a more popular and consumed version of what you came up with. Maybe it’s because we equate that kind of visibility with success.
And there are lots of examples we can pull from. Twilight, The Martian, Ready Player One, Hunger Games, Divergent, Lord of the Rings (masterful works in both cases), heck, even the Avengers, X-Men, and Batman are all more popular because of the films, while the source material is left over for those who are willing to take the time to read them. And before you mention it, yes, there is the case of Harry Potter, which was a book phenomenon long before it became a film phenomenon, but I’ll tell you now that as a teacher and a librarian there are a lot more kids these days who have seen the films but not read the books.
For me, books are the best form of entertainment out there. My mind gets to create voices, imagine the landscape, and see in greater detail and more depth than the typical film run time allows for. There is a patience that is required and a level of focus that is all too often easily lost by an audience passively taking it in. At a theatre, I can pay attention. At home, I’m often distracted by some device or another. With a book, I have to really be present.
And considering how much time it took me to write the things, I’d like any audience I’m lucky enough to have to be able to take their time with it and see it, hear it, and feel it for themselves however they might choose.
All of that said, I wouldn’t argue if Hollywood came knocking on my door.
I know; I’m a terrible hypocrite. “But you just said that books are better!” you’re shouting at me. And yes, they are. Still, one can’t deny the awe and splendour of seeing someone else’s imagining of the same thing you read and comparing notes. Harry Potter, for the record, was pretty spot-on in its translation. For all of its deviations, Lord of the Rings is a stunning achievement. The Hobbit… not so much. Still, those are books that earned their place on the silver screen by building an audience and by rising to meet the lofty standards that the books set up. It’s exciting to see a great filmmaker do something special with your work and hold it up as the gold standard. I mean, seriously, Ernest Cline got Steven Spielberg to adapt his first-ever novel! How cool is that?
So, yes, I’ll dream big and stare at the movie poster on the wall. And yes, it would be cool. No, I’m not about to put together a “dream cast” for my books, as I would get it all totally wrong. The only actor I ever pictured bringing any of my characters to life was Patton Oswalt in the role of Dr. Westlake from my second novel, Paramnesia. Don’t know why, either. The rest of the characters I’d leave in the hands of others. Why? Well, I never would have tapped Chris Pratt for Starlord. I cringed at Chris Evans as Captain America. And who the heck is Gal Gadot?
See? All of those people are amazing in their roles to the points where the comic characters are adapting to match up. Now that’s something special. Nope. Leave the casting to someone else.
But look, you’ve caught me dreaming absurdly big again. I’m already doing that just by getting published in the first place and hoping, just hoping, that someone finds my books, reads them, enjoys them, and watches the movie versions play out in their own heads. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that the definition already of a huge amount of success?
It’s more than good enough for me.
Battledoors: The Golden Slate
Forced to work together with friends and enemies in order to return home, Owen is faced with a series of choices that will prompt him to find courage he never knew he had, explore the possibility of romance, and try to find a way to let go of his painful past and move on. But is Owen ready to finally take control, and become the protagonist of his own story?
Paramnesia: The Deadish Chronicles
Nora Edwards finally had everything she wanted out of life, including the boy of her dreams, Andrew, until one night that dream turned into a nightmare. On their way home from prom, Nora and Andrew are attacked by a supernatural creature called the Revenant that sucks the souls out of the living in order to feed itself. Nora manages to escape from the creature, but tragically, Andrew is not as fortunate.
Although Nora suffered loss that night, she gained something, as well: the ability to see the dead. Whether the skill is a gift or a curse is yet to be determined, as those around her assume Nora has developed “paramnesia,” a disorder where one confuses dreams with reality. She’s also attracted the attention of the Revenant’s masters, who need to preserve the secret of their supernatural existence. Nora, along with Andrew and her living and dead allies in the Deadish Society, quickly finds herself in a battle for the souls of her city—and her mind.
2 thoughts on “Dreaming Big: Guest Post by Brian Wilkinson”
As readers, we’ll always see the book as being greater than the adaptation in most cases. With acceptations of course. I’m probably one of the few who thought the Harry Potter film franchise was far better than the books, I found the books to be quite dry in comparison. On the other hand, you’ve got one of the greatest middle grade series in Percy Jackson which absolutely destroyed the films, no doubt turning off reluctant readers who thought the films were really naff. Really interesting guest post Sarah and thanks so much for sharing ♡♡
The Potter movies are BRILLIANT! Love Simon, BRILLIANT! To all the boys I’ve loved before, freaking Adorable! But ARRR those Jackson movies *curls into fetal position and sobs quietly*. I think in Rick Riordan’s case his books are just to good, there’s not room for filmmakers to improve them or alter them without trash consequences.