This past summer, I contacted the author of The Convenient Groom, Denise Hunter, because I wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to ask her some questions about her upcoming book-turned-film. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I forgot to follow up after our initial contact. Thankfully, one of her books is also featured in Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas (A December Bride), and so I breathed a sigh of relief and asked if she would be willing to answer a few questions about both books/films. Graciously, Denise took the time to share her thoughts and some sage advice for other authors who may foster dreams of their books becoming movies as well.
RH: Why did you choose to become a writer? Tell us a little about your journey to become an author.
DH: I’ve always been an avid reader. I wrote a bit throughout high school–poetry and such–but I didn’t start dreaming about writing a novel until I was in my early twenties. By then I was married, taking college classes, and had young children, so I thought it wasn’t the right season of my life. Time was so limited.
But when my grandfather suddenly passed away, I felt God pressing me to take my dream of writing a novel off the back burner. I didn’t want to finish life with regrets. So I started writing my first novel during my boys’ nap time. I wrote several books this way
What is a typical day like for you when writing–schedule-wise, that is?
Well, it’s a lot easier now than it was when I started twenty years ago! I only have one son at home now—and he’s a senior. After he goes to school, I head to my local coffee shop and write until I meet my daily quota, which is six good pages. Sometimes I can get them done in a few hours. Other times . . . not. Afterward, I run errands, keep any appointments, do marketing things, exercise, and take care of household responsibilities.
Was The Convenient Groom your first book to be made into a film? How did that process happen?
Yes it was! My publisher, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, actively pitches their novels to producers. Last year one of those producers showed interest in The Convenient Groom, and in the spring I signed the option. To say I was excited is an understatement. I tried to temper my enthusiasm. After all, a lot can happen between signing an option and the actual film debut. I’m friends with enough authors who’ve experienced the big letdown. I’d even experienced it once before myself. So I crossed my fingers, said a lot of prayers, and waited patiently. Then in March of this year, I was notified that filming on The Convenient Groom was soon to begin. The movie was really happening! It aired in June as part of Hallmark Channel’s June Weddings programming. Truly a dream come true!
What were your feelings turning over your book to a network screenwriter? Did you have any concerns, or were you pretty confident about the process?
Surprisingly, I didn’t have too much trouble letting go. I’ve always known that the author typically has little control over adaptations to film, so I was prepared going in, and I trusted the producer to choose the right screenwriter.
Were you actively involved in the process of your books becoming movies? Did you visit the set? Did you have script approval?
I wasn’t involved at all. They notified me early on about a major change to the plot in The Convenient Groom. While, of course, it would be ideal if there were no changes, I realize that’s unrealistic. Film is very visual and limited by time and other factors. In a book you can jump into a character’s head and hear their thoughts. In movies, the actor’s body language and words must tell us all we need to know. They are very different mediums.
A December Bride was optioned in March 2015, by the same producer and filmed just over a year later. It airs November 20th as part of this year’s Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas. I was thrilled with the casting: Daniel Lissing and Jessica Loundes are the leads. I know the Hearties are going to be very happy!
How involved were you with this film? Did you visit the set at all? Have you gotten to see any of the film?
As with The Convenient Groom, I left the screenwriting to the experts. I was able to keep in close contact during the filming, though, and read through the script at that time. I’m happy to say the adaptation is very close to my novel. 🙂
I did get to go on set for the filming of A December Bride. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. What an experience to see my scenes come to life on screen! Truly a dream come true. My husband and I even have a brief cameo in the movie. 🙂
Do you have any other upcoming books that you can mention? Any other books possibly that will become movies?
I turn in a book every six months, so I always have a new book coming out! My latest one, Just a Kiss, released in September. It features a marine returning home, injured, and torn by his secret feelings for his best friend, Paige.
What is your favorite genre to write? To read?
I love to read the kind of stories I write—sweet, small town romances that tug on the heartstrings and leave me with a happily-ever-after sigh. The stuff of Hallmark movies, you might say. 🙂
What is your advice to other writers hoping to have their books become a film or TV series?
A few things: Publish with a publisher that actively pitches books to producers. Constantly improve your craft. Write sweet, uplifting romances, and make the tropes your favorite playground.
In this world where so many people gravitate to edgier entertainment, why do you think your books have struck such a chord with the public?
I think the more complicated life gets, the more we long for a feel-good escape. Story is a safe place to experience loss and pain and relate to people who are a lot like us. In the process we learn more about ourselves. With Hallmark movies—and my books—you get the bonus of a happy ending. In a matter of hours you can get lost in another world, fall in love all over again, and end your day inspired and uplifted. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
In my opinion, the most striking thing about Denise is her ability to “trust the process” when it comes to her books being adapted to the screen. As a writer myself, I cannot imagine entrusting stories and characters that have become so precious to one’s soul and heart to what may be the cold and callous hands of a screenwriter, producers, directors, actors, and more. However, because Denise relies on the Lord for guidance and strength, I believe that may be what has seen her through the process and kept her grounded. Additionally, Hallmark is probably one of the best networks to which she could grant rights to her books as their entire focus is wholesome and uplifting family entertainment. Therefore, in retrospect, in spite of any nail-biting moments or minor disappointments she may have had along the way, she understands and respects the process, and in the end, she was able to sanction and enjoy the film adaptations of her beloved tales. I appreciate her willingness to share her talents with us viewers (even if we have not read the books), and I look forward to relishing A Decemer Bride on the Hallmark Channel when it makes its premiere on Sunday, November 20. Be sure that you tune in and watch what may be hailed as the penultimate romantic movie of the holiday season, and be sure to follow Denise at the links below so that you don’t miss a second of her phenomenal career!
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