It was only in March of 2013 that io9 called your attention to Kelly Thompson's novel The Girl Who Would Be King. We loved the modern fatasy, but we're even happier to exclusively reveal that the book has been optioned as a film, and we got all the details for Thompson herself!
The Girl Who Would Be King [TGWWBK], if you don't know, Is a tale of two young women given incredible powers — the quiet, heroic Bonnie and the delightfully psychotic Lola — who are destined by their mysterious heritage to clash (you can read our full review here, or watch a trailer for the book here). Now Thompson reveals how she made her story a Kickstarter success, then got a movie deal, and what's next!
io9: What was your first inspiration for TGWWBK? How long did it take you to write and publish?
Kelly Thompson: The actual very first idea for TGWWBK was a Bonnie & Clyde type of story where the girl ends up with superpowers, but at some point I realized I was mostly interested in the girl and the superpowers and somewhere along the line it became two girls with superpowers. I think I first began writing it in maybe 2005, I got to "the end" (a very terrible one) in 2007 and then completely re-wrote the book in 2008. In 2009 I got an agent with the new draft and we began a long process of revisions together. We tried to sell it to basically "the big six" publishers in 2010. We almost sold it, very very close, like all the way to the editorial board eventually rejecting it.
We spent another year revising, trying to make it more YA and less violent — something I felt conflicted about — and ultimately my agent didn't think we'd done enough to re-sub it and we shelved it and moved on to new projects. We parted amicably in 2012 and in 2012 I felt Kickstarter was really becoming a legitimate option for self-publishing and I thought the time was right for lady superheroes, so I took the plunge with Kickstarter in June of 2012. The book released digitally in September of 2012 and print in November of 2012. So... if my math is correct... seven years? Jeez.
So many Kickstarter projects — especially books — struggle. What do you think helped TGWWBK succeed?
Thompson: I think the most obvious thing that helped me was the incredible professional artwork I had by comic book artist Stephanie Hans. She did a gorgeous cover image that really spoke to people and got them curious about our project. She had also done a couple additional illustrations that felt even more "comic book" which is where Stephanie and I both kind of "live" and a good portion of my existing audience/platform lives. I had spent years writing about comic books for free both on my own blog and then as a freelancer on Comic Book Resources reviewing books and writing a column called She Has No Head! I was very fortunate that the audience I'd been slowly cultivating (over years) followed me to a more creative endeavor.
I also think the fact that the book was completely done with the exception of some editing helped give people who didn't already know me confidence in pledging to a new author.
One of the things that first struck us about TGWWBK was the bevy of beautiful artwork you had for the book, some of which by pretty major artists. How did you manage this?
Thompson: I knew Stephanie Hans — the cover and interiors illustrator — both as a friend and colleague through my own work writing about comics and her incredible work in comics. We were friends, or at least friendly and I simply solicited her to be the professional artist for my cover. I knew she would give me the professional visual edge I needed. She was gracious enough to be interested and I sent her the book, she loved it and so we were off.
Though their work is not included in the book, friends and comic book colleagues Ross Campbell and Meredith McClaren also both donated illustrations to the project, gorgeous stuff that I was able to sell as limited edition prints and swag. I also knew both Ross and Meredith through my and their work in comics. Meredith is actually the artist and co-creator for my forthcoming graphic novel Heart In A Box from Dark Horse. I spent years writing about comics, mostly for free, but it certainly paid off in the incredibly talented and lovely people it connected me to.
You've been kind enough to credit the io9 review for some of TGWWBK's recognition, but did it really affect sales much?
Thompson: To be honest, for a self-published book like mine, the review on io9 was a huge sales boost. I saw a big jump immediately for my digital sales on Amazon and we eventually hit #1 on Amazon Kindle and that of course raised our profile immensely. All of that helped bring TGWWBK to the attention of Hollywood, which was pretty much a dream come true. We also sold a significant number of orders from my webstore for the limited edition hardcovers as a direct result of the io9 review. I didn't quite sell out because of io9 but it certainly moved a ton of product out of my tiny apartment - which was especially great because my boyfriend did not love living in a warehouse/shipping center for my book (neither did I).
How long after the io9 review did it take for Logan Pictures to contact you?
Thompson: Logan Pictures was I think the first company that got in touch and it was fast. Very fast. I think the week after the review went up...it might have only been a few days?
Was there other interest? And what made Logan the right choice for you?
Thompson: We had a lot of interest in the book. I think we had at least half a dozen legitimate companies (by which I mean companies that even someone like me could instantly recognize) inquiring about the rights. We also had some more intimate interest from writers and smaller producers, a couple film agents also came calling. It was all rather overwhelming but in a completely badass way.
Logan was the right fit for a lot of reasons. I liked them right off, and their vision for the book. I also liked that they weren't a huge studio. It's super flattering if a major studio is interested of course, but I worried that a small book like TGWWBK and one that was a little risky (lots of violence, female superheroes) might get lost among hundreds of other interesting and perhaps less complicated projects they had in the hopper. I felt confident in talking to Nick Moceri at Logan that they were genuinely passionate about the project, that we shared the same goals and vision, and that it would be a high priority for them. All of that has remained true and I feel very lucky that they're my partners in this adventure.
Do you have a director or writer hired? Are you in discussions with any?
Thompson: There are a lot of really exciting conversations happening right now in those areas, but unfortunately there's nothing I can say publicly at this time.
What should people expect out of the movie?
Thompson: There's still a lot we're figuring out and that's being decided and the director will obviously ultimately drive those things. However, I think it would be fair to say that we're aiming more for films more like Chronicle and maybe Neill Blomkamp's District 9 than say, the big budget scope of something like Man of Steel.
That said, there are absolutely epic fight sequences and set pieces in TGWWBK and EVERYONE wants to see that, me most of all.
How does it feel to think about seeing your characters on screen?
Thompson: It's incredibly exciting with a certain measure of terror mixed in.
Dream cast for Bonnie and Lola: Go!
Thompson: Oh man, every author's dream/nightmare question. I think there's a certain merit to "discovering someone" for a project like this. This movie, if it does end up being smaller scale, I think that could be a great way to go, especially since these characters are basically 17/18 - their age does make casting existing actresses a little tricky...but pie in the sky?
For Bonnie I will always love Deborah Ann-Woll from True Blood and after this season of Game of Thrones there's no way Sophie Turner isn't at the top of the list.
For Lola I think there are a lot of directions you could go in and it's an especially juicy role for an actress. When I was first writing the role of Lola I actually was inspired visually by Imogen Poots in 28 Weeks Later, and she remains a favorite actress that I think is highly underrated. But I also think Emma Watson would be inspired, someone like Chloe Moretz could be great too.
What's the status on the TGWWBK sequel?
Thompson: It's coming! The sequel to TGWWBK is called The God Slayer and I hope to finish it this fall. I have a lot of other projects in various stages of development and I admit I've gotten side-tracked, but I'm really excited about it, it's a pretty unconventional sequel, but then TGWWBK is a relatively unconventional book so I suppose that's fitting.
Also, I found someone publishing TGWWBK fan fiction online the other day - fan fiction that picks up where the book leaves off - if that's not a kick in the pants to get the sequel done and out there I don't know what is!
If the TGWWBK movie does well, is you mist recent novel Storykiller going to be the next movie?
Thompson: Hmm! We'll have to see how well Storykiller does I guess! The reviews so far are great, but it's still very early days. Also, while I would LOVE to see Storykiller adapted into a series of films (or for television) it might be a little premature with only one book in the series out so far. I hope book 2 will release in early 2015 so... maybe? The Storykiller Kickstarter raised more than double the money that TGWWBK did... so does that mean double the success? That sure would be nice.
All illustrations by Stephanie Hans.