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INTERVIEW: If I Stay‘s Gayle Forman on how the film “elevates the book

Just like If I Stay has gone from book to upcoming feature film, so has Gayle Forman transitioned from author to executive producer.

We chatted with Forman about the upcoming feature film starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Forman’s involvement in the project.

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“It seems like the day of giving a writer a check and saying, ‘See you at the premiere,’ is over,” Forman explained. “I think increasingly producers and directors are understanding that there’s value in having the writer involved.”

When the movie transitioned to MGM, Forman came on the project as an executive producer and was very involved in the project, despite insisting that she didn’t want to write the screenplay.

Now, after experiencing the process, her opinions might have changed depending on the film. “It would depend on the book, but absolutely! I feel like with If I Stay it was such a tricky thing to adapt because so much of it was in Mia’s head, and there were the flashback sequences which were nonlinear and present tense. It would certainly not have been the screenplay to cut my teeth on. But, having been involved, and sort of seeing the various stages of a screenplay, I do think that I got a bit of an apprenticeship in it all.”

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“The reason I would love for more of my books to be made into movies is not because I want to write movies,” Forman told us. “It’s because I want to write books. It seems like a good way to make sure that lots of people read your books.”

Forman said from the moment the rights were sold for If I Stay, she became the pessimistic optimist. “It was really the casting that was the moment of, ‘Oh wow, they really get it,'” Forman admitted.

She said the movie captures the “emotional essence” and that “the characters have all made the transition.” She continued, “The movie amps that [the story] up to a whole new level. Seeing that happen is both incredibly gratifying and also quite surreal.”

“You can’t write a cello sonata on the page. You can’t write the energy of a rock show on the page, the same way and with the same kind of visceral, sensory, all-encompassing feeling that you can when you see it on the screen and you can, sort of, see it and hear it. It’s so different because music is such a huge part of this book that I think that that really is kind of a game changer in terms of how the film elevates the book.”

Forman points to The Fault in Our Stars and Maleficent as audiences she would like to capture with If I Stay this year. The author has been vocal about her views on the gender divide in stories, and she would like to see that barrier breached. “I think generally speaking, it’s less acceptable for a young man to enter a female world.”

Forman went on to say, “I think, you know, one of the really great things about The Fault in Our Stars is it gave life to this idea that young men won’t enter the female world.” (In The Fault in Our Stars, the main characters Gus and Hazel trade books and read each other’s favorite novel.)

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She said the problem starts with the covers because it already sets up that discomfort of what qualifies as a girl book and a boy book. Forman said she recently met a librarian who “tears off the covers of books.

“This is the thing, is it a chicken or an egg thing? Is it really the consumer won’t access it, or is the people who package the entertainment are making these assumptions and, sort of, siphoning people this way or that? So I think, you know, that’s the question there and that’s what sort of makes the success of those two films so exciting.”

Forman doesn’t blame anyone for the divide, but thinks it’s important to recognize that one exists. “Publishers have the hardest job trying to come up with those [covers]. I have no idea how they do it. So it’s difficult. And they really just want to put something on there that they think will entice the most amount of readers. But sometimes I think that we have to broaden our idea of what might bring in a broader group of readers.”

Forman says she believes If I Stay is such a resonant story for anyone because “it’s actually a story about the different kinds of love.” From romantic love to familial love, If I Stay covers it all. “Even though there’s a sadness attached to the loss. There’s something quite beautiful about sort of seeing all of this love and feeling it.”

As for her next writing project, Forman says she’ll begin writing again this fall. “I have a couple of different projects that are sort of vying for my attention and usually one of them wins the battle.”

Right now, Forman says she’s looking forward to traveling upstate this month, and just being a mom. Her next novel I Was Here comes out January 2015.

The movie If I Stay will be released Aug. 22 in theaters.

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