As many of you know, a few days before San Deigo Comic-Con this year, the option on my books expired.
What this means is that ages ago, I sold some people the rights (the option) to make a TV show based off The Kingkiller Chronicles. They tried to make it happen, but it didn’t work out. Then, when the option period expired, all the rights reverted back to me.
Just so you know, this sort of thing happens all the time. The vast majority of things that get optioned never get made. The same way that most people that think about writing a book never get it published. Shit happens. People lose interest. Things get complicated. Projects lose momentum.
I don’t have handy statistics at my fingertips, but I’d be willing to bet a dollar that more than 98% of all book options end this way, with no TV show or movie or anything happening.
Anyway, my rights reverted. It didn’t come as a huge shock to me.
This, on the other hand, was a surprise:
(Click on the headline if you want to read the article.)
Because everyone was suddenly interested in the books, I spent most of my Comic-Con having meetings with representatives from every major Hollywood power. At least that’s what it felt like to me. It was a strange experience, and I talked about it in some detail on the episode of Untitled Rothfuss podcast that Max and I recorded out at the convention.
To say that I didn’t know what I was doing in those meetings is a bit of an understatement. In fact, I remember starting several of the meetings by saying, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do in this meeting.” I also dimly remember explaining to someone that there was no way you could turn The Name of the Wind into a movie. I explained it rather, well… emphatically for, like, 20 minutes. I’m pretty sure that’s fairly high on the list of things you’re not supposed to do in a meeting with someone who wants to turn your book into a movie.
I had fun though. It’s nice to be desired. For that brief moment in time I was the prettiest girl at the party, and everyone wanted to dance with me. (Only frequent readers of the blog can appreciate how clean I kept that little analogy.)
The meetings weren’t stressful for this simple reason: I wasn’t that interested in turning my books into a movie. I know for a lot of authors, a movie deal is like the holy grail. It’s kinda free money. And if a movie gets made? Well, then, you get a truckload of cash, a bucket of fame, and your books get to hang out on the bestseller lists for a while. Usually a long, LONG while.
But honestly? Money’s never been a huge motivator for me. And my books already sell well. And I’m already more celebritous than I’m entirely comfortable with.
Most importantly though, I’ve never been that interested in a straight-up movie deal. Pretty much every fantasy movie created so far has been an action movie, or plot centered, or both. And my books aren’t like that. My books are about the characters. They’re about secrets and mysteries and the hidden turnings of the world. My books are all about antici-
-pation. And a movie, even a long movie, simply doesn’t have enough time to fit all of that stuff in. That’s why my original option was for a TV show. I wanted space for the story to breathe.
So when I met with these people from movie studios, I told them that I wasn’t terribly interested in a movie deal. Not to be a dick, but because I prefer to be honest with folks. I’m happy to have meetings, talk about stories, listen to a pitch… As I said, it’s fun to be desired. It’s nice that you think my books are pretty. Let’s have a dance. But I wanted them to know that I wasn’t really planning on jumping into bed with anyone. (Damn. I knew the analogy was going to end up there eventually.)
There was one exception. When I met with Lionsgate, I said, “If you come at me with a movie offer, it’s going to be a hard sell. I’m not that excited about movies by themselves. But you guys are different from a lot of other studios. Those guys are huge. Monolithic. But you’re more agile and innovative. Your movie people and your TV people actually know each other. They could work together. Share resources.
I continued: “If you came at me with a pitch that involved a television show AND a movie, I’d listen to that. I’d listen really hard, because something like that would let us be big-budget while still giving my story room to breathe. It would give people the ability to spend more time in my world. I can’t think of anyone who has really done that, but it seems like we could have the best of both worlds that way. And it seems to me that you guys are one of the only places that could realistically pull something like that off.”
Yeah. I’m from small-town Wisconsin. But I’m not stupid. And it’s impossible to have 15 hours of meeting with Hollywood people without learning something about who’s who and how that world fits together.
But ultimately, I was just shooting my mouth off and I knew it. I was running on too much caffeine and too little sleep, but I still realized what I was saying was something along the lines of, “I see you guys are offering me the moon, but I’d really like the moon AND a chocolate cake with solid gold frosting. And you need to make the cake from scratch.”
So comic-con finished up. I went home. My coach turned back into a pumpkin and my pretty dress turned back into a geeky-tshirt and kinda grubby pair of cargo shorts. Which is probably for the best. As I’m not very good at important meetings or dancing. I’m way too beardy to be a princess.
* * *
Then Lionsgate got in touch. “About that whole TV-show-and-a-movie thing you mentioned,” they said. “If we’re going to do some sort of big narratively intertwined multi-platform development deal based on your books, wouldn’t it make more sense to do a video game along with the TV show and movies? Because seriously, why wouldn’t we want to do a video game too?” (I’m paraphrasing a little here you understand.)
I said, “What?”
* * *
Since then, I’ve been talking with Lionsgate kind of a lot. Going over particulars. Talking serious talks.
And when I say, “I’ve been talking with Lionsgate” I mean “Me and my team of skilled movie-smart people who do this for a living and some of them are powerful, hard-eyed lawyers.” Because like I said, I’m from small-town Wisconsin, but I’m not stupid.
And I’ll be honest, from the first moment I sat down at the table, I was ready to walk away. I liked the way Lionsgate was willing to dream big with me about adapting my books. They were willing to think outside the box. They were willing to make a whole new box just so we could go outside of it.
But… well… Hollywood is scary. The contracts are, to be quite honest, horrifying. And the power differential is immense. Even the smallest of studios is more powerful than some countries. And the biggest author ever is kinda not a very big deal at all.
So yeah. Silly as it might sound, from the very beginning of this process, I was willing to walk away from the deal. I was almost looking for an excuse to do it, because life is too short. I didn’t want to get a sack of money and pat on the head, then spend the next three years watching helplessly as they molested my books.
So we started to negotiate, and that’s where I received my biggest surprise of all.
You see, I never expected a studio would treat me like a human being. But through this whole process, Lionsgate has treated me with amazing respect. I’ve made what to me seem like reasonable requests, and they responded to them… reasonably. And I’m not just talking about pretty words here, they’re making contractual agreements granting me control of things. They haven’t just been reasonable, they’ve been kind, and understanding.
To be perfectly honest, it’s a bit disconcerting. I never anticipated that a Hollywood studio would treat me like a human being. Let alone want to work with me as a creative partner and respect the fact that I do, in fact, know a lot about how stories work. This story in particular.
So… yeah. That’s the news. Me and them, we’re gonna do a thing.
Lionsgate is making its own press release today and there will be stories in all manner of Hollywood news outlets pretty soon. It’s not a coincidence that my blog is launching up on the very same day as their big announcement. In the same hour, even. Lionsgate coordinated with me so I could share this news on my blog at the same time they’re launching their story.
This was important to me because if you read my blog or follow me on social media… well… you’re a part of the reason my books are a big deal. A lot of you have been a part of my team for years, and I wanted the chance to tell you about this piece of news myself rather than have you hear it on the street.
The fact that Lionsgate was willing to go to some lengths to let me launch this blog simultaneously with their press release is another good sign, in my opinion. It shows they respect me, and it shows they respect you guys, too.
Now I know some of you will be reading this news with fear in your hearts. You’ll worry about them screwing it up. I understand. I know you love these books.
But hear me when I say this: You cannot love these books more than I do. You can’t care about them more than I do. I’ve put twenty years of my life into them. They ride next to my heart. They are my tangible soul.
And I’m not stupid. I hope by this point you know me well enough that you can trust me not to rush into… well… anything. If I cut a deal like this, it’s only because I really think there’s a chance for us to make something beautiful.
I’ll talk about this more on the blog later. I’ll answer questions and explain things and give more details.
Later. We’ll do that all later.
For now. Just for the next couple of days. How about we just let ourselves be a little excited about this? There will be plenty of time to fuss and fidget in the days to come. But right now, I’m not going to worry. Right now I’m just going to spend some time being a happy geek, excited at the thought of getting to see the Eolian or the Fishery. There are some scenes I’d love to see somewhere other than inside my own head.
I’m guessing there’s some scenes y’all would like to see, too….
See you later Space Cowboys,