BEYOND THE SHELF – Adapting Cozy Mysteries for the Screen
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I’d never read cozy mysteries until relatively recently, having been raised on more classic fare like Sherlock Holmes. Granted, I probably stumbled in to a cozy or two without knowing it, but I didn’t actively seek them out. Personally, I like light and fun stuff too for a change of pace, provided the characters are interesting.
I joined Sisters in Crime this past year, just in time to be able to get on the list for the “Adapting to Hollywood” conference, which apparently hasn’t been held in a decade. Though I have a lot of screenwriting background, it really helped me to understand things from the viewpoint of a prose writer trying to break into the film and television market.
One of the big surprises for me came on Sunday, the last day of the conference. I got to hear a one-on-one interview with Alison Sweeney. She discussed not only her soon to be released novel Opportunity Knocks, but also walked us through her experiences as both star and producer on the Murder She Baked television movie series.
What I learned inspired me to read the first book of the series, A Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke, as well as the TV movie that was based on the book. I’d liked the characters in the book but found the storyline a bit slow to read. When presented on screen, the plot ended up being tightened considerably and I felt the movie to be a better product.
While I haven’t picked up another book, I have caught up on the other two TV movies, A Plum Pudding Mystery and A Peach Cobbler Mystery. From what I can gather, they’ve started taking the books out of order and using them more as a basis while presenting the TV movies with a tighter arc for the characters using certain movies as a basis. The one coming out in June is A Deadly Recipe, which isn’t named after any of the books but from what I’m picking up may be drawing from Fluke’s Fudge Cupcake Murder book. I also was stunned to learn there are 19 novels in this series so far, but have a feeling that Hallmark won’t make a film of all the books. Likely, they’ll “cherry pick” to get the best of the crop and make a smaller number of tight films with a strong arc to keep viewers coming back. I’m definitely interested in seeing what they do with the upcoming movie.
Personally, I like the Hannah Swensen of the movies better than the books. However, part of this may be because the books have been able to tell us more about the characters and their world. Since I’ve read the first book at least, I have a preconceived notion of what to expect. It’d be interesting to see how someone coming into one of these adaptations without having read a single Fluke book in advance would react.
So whether you enjoy your next mystery from your bookshelf or your Blu-Ray one, what matters most is the storyline takes you into a world that interests you with characters you enjoy.