Yet another Countdown to Christmas movie is headed our way November 19th, and it is entitled A Gift To Remember. It has become a popular trend for Hallmark to find quality books already in print and adapt them for their network, and that is exactly what happened with this particular film. I was honored to be able to conduct a quick interview with the author, Melissa Hill, who penned this auspicious book-turned-movie, and I hope that all Hallmark fans will learn a bit more from her intriguing responses.
RH: Why did you decide to become a writer? What kind of training have you had in writing?
MH: Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been writing since before I could walk! As a child, I was always scribbling little adventure stories and compiling “books” for myself, so I guess that’s good training as any. I’ve never taken any professional writing courses and I always say that being a writer is not what I “do” but who I am.
Please tell us a little bit about your books as a whole.
I’ve written fifteen novels now; all heartwarming stories of friendship, family, and relationships (along with that all-important element of romance), but I always try to do something different with each book so that readers never get bored.
What inspired you to write A Gift to Remember?
A few years back, I was in New York City for a visit and was about to cross the street on the way into Central Park when a cyclist ran a red light and almost ran me and some other pedestrians over (like Darcy does in the story).
One guy beside me was walking his dog and I wondered what would happen to the dog if its owner/handler had been hit and injured. From there, I immediately imagined all sorts of possibilities, and thus the inspiration for A Gift to Remember was born.
Please tell us about the process of Hallmark making this into a movie? Did you have the opportunity to visit the set?
A producer initially contacted me a year or so ago about optioning another story, but throughout our conversation, she mentioned that she also felt A Gift to Remember might be a good fit for Hallmark. She took the project to them last year, they went for it and everything went into production pretty much straight away.
I was completely taken aback by how fast everything was as I have another project under option with one of the big Hollywood studios, which is moving at such a snail’s pace by comparison. Whereas Hallmark seemed to know exactly what they wanted and the wonderful producer got everything set up and ready to go without delay. She was also fantastic about keeping me up to date all throughout the process – even sending through photos from the set while filming.
In this case, everything happened so quickly that sadly I didn’t get an opportunity to visit the set, but I would absolutely love to do so for any future projects.
Before your book came to the Hallmark Channel, what was your relationship with the channel?
I’m based in Ireland and I’m sorry to say that we don’t actually get the Hallmark Channel in this part of the world. I believe the UK Universal Channel broadcast a great selection of Hallmark movies during the Christmas season though, and I’m really hoping they’ll show A Gift to Remember this year.
How do you think fans of the books will feel about the movie adaptation?
I hope they’ll love it and I really think they will. There have been some changes to the plot which I’m absolutely fine with – broadcast TV is a very different medium – but most importantly, the actors who play Darcy and Aidan (Ali Liebert and Peter Porte) are so perfectly cast I could almost have chosen them myself! From what I’ve seen so far, Hallmark’s wonderful screenwriters took the best elements of my story and transformed them into a magical Christmas romance.
What are your other current and upcoming works?
As mentioned, another of my novels, A Gift from Tiffany’s has been optioned by one of the Hollywood biggies (sadly I’m contractually gagged from saying which one until production begins). That project is moving along slowly but surely, and I hope to have more news about it all very soon. And I’ve also just been offered a TV series option for my most recent release Keep You Safe (along the lines of Big Little Lies) which I’m really pleased about, so there’s a couple more irons in the fire.
I understand you and your husband collaborate on a series as well. Briefly tell us how that came about and how well that has worked.
Yes, my husband Kevin and I write a forensic crime series (along the lines of Patricia Cornwall’s Kay Scarpetta series) under the pen-name Casey Hill. There are seven books in the series now, centred around CSI investigator Reilly Steel, who is American but comes to work with the police in Dublin.
I’ve always been a huge mystery reader and I made a start on Taboo, the first book in the series many years ago, but with my own writing didn’t have enough time to commit to it. My husband loved the idea and decided to try his hand at finishing it (and actually dreamed up way better plot ideas than I) and when that first book found a publishing deal, we decided to collaborate. The series has a great following among US readers in particular who seem to really enjoy the “fish out of water” scenarios Reilly Steel faces in a very different culture/police force to that of the States.
In all your writings, are there one or two characters that you most closely identify with? Please elaborate if you can.
I feel like there’s truly a part of myself in all my characters, so it’s impossible to pick any in particular as I’m so close to them all! Though of course, Darcy in A Gift to Remember is a major book-lover like myself, and I very much enjoyed revisiting and sharing all my favourite books/literary quotes via the story.
What writers have affected you the most personally and/or professionally?
Stephen King is a major inspiration; for me, he is simply the greatest writer alive. I also adore John Grisham for his incisive characterisation and almost effortless writing style. Jodi Picoult is so brave and fearless in her choice of topic and Karin Slaughter blows me away every time – that lady cannot write a bad book. There are so many more I could go on forever, but I’d say those four writers, in particular, inspire me the most, and I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for everything they’ve achieved.
Personally, I find Melissa an enchanting woman whose journey may appear deceptively simple. In this day and age, “everybody” is writing a book about something. Within that vast pool, very few are able to find their specific niche, but it would seem that Melissa is doing exactly that. While she didn’t speak of rejection and difficulties, I have no doubt she has had those moments just like anyone else has who attempts to accomplish one’s dreams and goals. As she has capitalized on her innate skillset and written stories that resonate with others, she has honed her craft and discovered where her passions lie. Every step of the way, she has carved out her little alcove in the writer’s world, and because of that, she is finding true success and fulfillment. Not only will her first Hallmark film premiere in less than twenty-four hours, but there are other exhilarating opportunities in the works for her as well.
So please be sure that you tune to the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, November 19th and watch the magical premiere of A Gift To Remember. Additionally, I invite you to take a look at all of Melissa’s links below and possibly consider following her and/or purchasing one of her books for your own reading pleasure. While this is her first movie premiere, I can only hope and pray that its success will lead to many more in the future. Indeed, Melissa has done things the right way, and I envision more serendipitous moments for her in the days, weeks, months, and years to come!