Today on the blog we talk writing, music and reality television with director, screenwriter, reality TV contestant and debut YA author – Hilary Weisman Graham!


Welcome to the blog, Hilary! Could you give us a brief synopsis of REUNITED (Simon and Schuster, 2012)?
1 Concert. 2,000 Miles. 3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends. Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3. But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books. Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show. Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse.  And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

What contemporary bands does Level3 sound like? Would you have listened to them in high school?
I totally would have listened to Level3 in high school!  I’d say they’re a cross between 30 Seconds to Mars, Fall Out Boy, and Paramore.  If you’re interested, here’s the link to Level3’s blog where soon, you’ll be able to find free music downloads, videos, and other fun extras.

You debuted as an indie film writer and producer at the age of 23, and went on to work as a freelance television producer and later, reality contestant (we’ll get back to this one!)  What was it that turned you on to writing YA?
Getting into YA was a natural fit for me since I write a lot of teen-themed screenplays.  As far as writing fiction, a few years back, when I refocused my career from filmmaking to writing, I was specifically hoping to write screenplays and novels.  And I really enjoy going back and forth between the two.

What do you think is the biggest difference between writing for the screen, and writing a novel?
With fiction, you have the opportunity to write internal dialogue, whereas in screenplays, you need to come up with other ways to show a character’s inner life.

How did you find your publisher, and how would you say this process compared to selling a screenplay?
The way REUNITED came to be is a total anomaly.  My editor at Simon & Schuster (who was not my editor yet) had the idea for a story (as in a two-sentence concept) about ex-best friends getting together to see a band they once loved.  She sent it to my agent (who was not yet my agent), who sent it to my manager, who sent it to me.  Inspired by the idea (I’d had a friendship break-up of my own freshman year in high school) I wrote a short outline over the weekend, which prompted my editor to ask for a longer outline, which lead to me writing the first three chapters, and the rest is history!

The stories of how I’ve sold screenplays all vary, but mostly I think it comes down to having the right material for the person you’re selling it to and presenting it to them at the right time.  In Hollywood, the spec market has shrunken so much over the past few years that a great idea and great writing are just a small part of the equation.

Okay, reality TV time.  I am a fan of terrible reality television (not Jersey Shore terrible, but Real Housewives terrible.  Also, Intervention, Hoarders and anybody in a wedding dress behaving poorly.)  You made it to the top 9 on Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg’s ON THE LOT: THE SEARCH FOR AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT DIRECTOR.  What don’t us reality-TV watchers know about reality television? 
To me, the weirdest thing about being on a reality show was the artifice involved.  For example, the bungalows where we lived looked great on TV.  But one time, I went to move a coffee table so I could do yoga, and the whole thing fell apart because it hadn’t actually been assembled—just put together well enough to look good for the camera because we were living on a set, as opposed to an actual house.

What did you do with your downtime, when the cameras weren’t rolling?   (Was there ever a time when the cameras weren’t rolling?)
Thankfully, the show focused on our work rather than our personal interactions, so there was plenty of time when the cameras weren’t rolling since.  That being said, there was very little downtime since we were always busy writing scripts, prepping for shoots, doing wardrobe fittings, going to camera rehearsals, or giving interviews.  During one particularly busy stretch, I had just come off of an all-day shoot, which was immediately followed by an all-night edit, then a luxurious two hours of sleep from 5:30 to 7:30am, after which I had to make myself “camera-ready” for an interview at 8:00am.  Lord knows what came out of my mouth at that point.

How did it feel to go from someone who was behind the camera, to someone who was in front of it? 
Horrible!  I think it was particularly hard for us as filmmakers because we were all painfully aware of how easily what we said could be taken out of context.  I chose my words VERY carefully.

When you watched the show, did you pick up any changes in behavior?  (Things you would have said if you didn’t have a camera on you, etc.?)
The only change in my behavior was that I ate less than usual, seeing as how the camera adds ten pounds. 😉

How did that experience change your career as a writer/director?
Being on the show was a life-changing experience for me in that it lead me towards the realization that writing was my true calling.  Also, being on the show helped land me a great manager who’s been instrumental in helping me grow my writing career.

What projects are you working on now?  Any plans for a second YA novel?
Right now I’m writing a movie script for The Disney Channel.  It’s an adaptation of a Korean film, but the title will surely change, so I’ll keep you posted on that one.  And in my “free time,” I’m working on a book proposal for a new YA novel.

You can find Hilary on Twitter at @HilaryGraham, on Facebook and on her blog.

Thanks for stopping by, Hilary!

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