Inkpop Blog

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From Book to Screen: Inside the Mind of Sara Shepard

Posted by inkpopbecki on May 26, 2010

So what does it take for your book to become a movie or television. Well we sat down with Sara Shepard, whose book series, Pretty Little Liars, has been made into an ABC Family show premiering Tuesday, June 8th at 8/7c.

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How did your book get picked up for a television series with ABC Family?
ABC Family picked up the option to develop the series a few years ago. I heard that they’d written a script, but then I didn’t hear anything else for a long time. And then, in January, I got word that they were going to make a pilot—they were casting, scouting locations, etc. They filmed the pilot in Vancouver. Most of the actors in the show were also in the pilot, though I think a few were re-cast. Anyway, they circulated the pilot around the powers that be at ABC Family…and they picked it up for ten episodes! Needless to say, I’m very excited. They’re filming the series in LA.

What is it like watching the characters you created being cast and brought to life by actresses?
It’s really amazing. Some of the characters don’t look like the girls I’ve described in the books, but they still embody the heart of the characters I created. It’s pretty awesome that the writer, directors and actors instantly got it…the Hanna on the screen behaves just like the Hanna in the book. Same with Aria, Spencer and Emily. And that’s more important to me than the girls looking exactly like the dolls on the covers.
It’s funny to see how many details the show has preserved from the books, too—like that Aria went to Iceland, that Emily’s a swimmer, that poor Jenna is blind, on and on and on. I worked with great editors to plot these books, but most of the intimate details about each of the girls I created myself. And there they are, on the screen! I never thought anything I wrote would wind up on TV…it’s very thrilling!

What was the hardest part about Pretty Little Liars being turned into a television show?
I think the hardest part will be fan response—I’ve already seen some fan backlash saying they won’t watch the show because the girls don’t look like the characters on the book covers. Undoubtedly some will be disappointed by the changes made as the series progresses. It’s a little disappointing for me, as I want the readers to be open-minded about the show and embrace it as much as I have. But I suppose I could look at it in a different way—they’ve liked the books enough to feel protective about them. I definitely have some die-hard, dedicated readers!
What was the most exciting part?
Oh, the whole thing is exciting. Seeing PLL ads on buses in New York City, seeing the commercial on TV, watching the pilot for the first time, meeting the cast in New York last month…it’s all been amazing. My husband and I are going to Los Angeles soon as well, where we’ll tour the PLL set (which is on the Warner Brothers lot) and meet more of the cast. Never have either of us thought we’d get to do something like that. I feel so fortunate that all of this is happening…all because of a missing girl named Alison and a stalker called A!
In today’s world it is really hard to just write a book. In order to become a bestseller you really have to be a part of a lot of different types of media—film/television, internet, books, etc. What advice would you give to a young writer trying to really make a name for themselves in this new media world?
Well, first off, write the best book you have in you. And then, prepare to be patient. Pretty Little Liars sold five years ago, and I’ve been slowly building an internet presence ever since. But it took a long, long time, and I had great help from editors and publishers. A lot of it I tried to do myself as well, keeping a blog, a Twitter account, and touring as many bookstores and schools as I could. But once you’re out there, try to engage with your readers as much as you can. I’m pretty pressed for time sometimes, but I try to comment and write back to as many fans as possible. They’re the ones who pass your book around to their friends at school, after all. Often it’s a tiny handful of people who blow a trend into something huge. So I try to be as nice and accessible as I can!

2 Responses to “From Book to Screen: Inside the Mind of Sara Shepard”

  1. Laney said

    I love her! She is a brilliant author! I’m only on the first book in the series but my mom has read all of them but two! I’m so excited to see the tv show!

    Great article 🙂

    ~Laney ♥

  2. Nella said

    If an author sells out while doing a movie/TV show, they should expect angry fans.

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