Thanks for joining me again today for Part 2 of my interview with Kathy Mackel. You can read the first chapter of Trackers at Speculative Faith on Stuart Stockton’s Tuesday post. Now, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday.
BG: Fox Faith Movies. . . any possibility of working with them?
KM: Many studios have begun to explore faith-based entertainment. I just finished writing the screenplay for The Hidden for Namesake Entertainment. They are definitely among the industry leaders in making faith-based films with studio distribution. Next out the gate for them is Ted Dekker’s Thr3e, followed by the Dekker-Peretti collaboration, House. These two are being distributed through Fox.
BG: That’s great news. I loved the Hidden and can’t wait to “see” it. It’s exciting that Christian novels are finally making their way to the movies and television in a big way. So what do you say to a writer who has multiple ideas just waiting to get on paper in the form of a book? How do you decide which one takes precedence?
KM: It depends where that writer is in their journey. If you’re still learning to put it all together, write what you’re most passionate about. But a writer who makes his or her living has to be aware of what’s commercial. When I evaluate how to spend my time, I still ask: which idea am I most excited about? But if I can’t answer yes to the next question—can I sell it—then I have to set that idea aside.
BG: Screenwriting or novel writing? Secluded on a desert island (how do you like the cliché?) and told to write anything you want– the pay’s the same. . .would you write a novel or a screenplay?
KM: A screenplay—but only if there was someone else on the island to make the movie! Otherwise, I’d write a novel because it’s a more complete experience. Movies are collaborative. The script is only the first step in a process. Novels become an end to themselves.
BG: Interesting. So then what do you see as the big differences between noveling and screenwriting in terms of writing challenges?
KM: Screenplays require a strict structure. When I’m working under contract, I have to write with an eye on the projected budget. For example, in The Hidden, Jacob’s final therapy session reveals a look at evil as it plays out in human history. Even using stock footage, that would be far too expensive for a low-budget film (which all Christian films are at this point). So I created a flashback of his being chained with lots of close-ups so the filmmaker wouldn’t have to create an expensive set. When writing a script, I’m focused on creating moments—images and sound—that add up to a story. The beauty of film is that we can see things that we’ve never experienced (Titanic) and create what our imagination may not be able to grasp (Narnia).
But you sacrifice the intimate moments and interior reflection that prose allows.
BG: Yes, and that’s why I always say the book is better than the movie! Can you share what you consider to be your “dream” project—a project you’d love to do but haven’t yet had the opportunity?
KM: I would love to write the CBA-version of Harry Potter. Obviously, not about wizardry but something that fires up young imaginations while presenting grace and mercy. And though I’ve published a book about fastpitch softball with HarperCollins, I haven’t been able (yet) to persuade a publisher to do a series on girls’ sports. Girls are so committed to their athletics and teams but they are underserved in literature.
BG: Regarding the CBA-version of Harry Potter, I would love to see what you would create with your metaphorical abilities! Can you share what you’re working on now?
KM: I just finished the first draft of screenplay for The Hidden. It came in nice and lean so the second draft will give me room to grow the characters. And I’m writing a middle-reader for Dial Books called Boost, about a girl on steroids. I’m exploring the pressure on young athletes in terms of performance and also body image. The research I’ve done on steroids is frightening. They are readily available and few (if any) high schools are able to test for them.
BG: Tell us about what you consider to be “high point” of your writing career? Any regrets?
Writing Outriders (and Trackers) is definitely my high point. By unleashing my imagination, I experienced the Holy Spirit in amazing ways. I pray my readers will join me in that experience.
As for regrets: I broke into the film industry just as family films were getting fired up. Showtime and Fox had family film divisions and Nickelodeon was getting into family films big time. But the movement was over before it even really took off. Now studios consider their PG-13 offerings as “family fare” even though most are loaded with innuendo and crudity. Companies are still trying to make family films but they’re very few. Even many animation projects come through as PG. It’s sad.
BG: Thank you so much, Kathy, for joining the CSFF Blog Tour and sharing your thoughts on the Birthright Project. We wish you much success and look forward to reading more from you. Please join us again in the future!
That concludes my interview with Kathy Mackel. If you haven’t done so please read the first chapter of Trackers on the Speculative Faith Blog. Don’t forget to post a comment to be eligible to receive the two-book set. And if you don’t win. . please, please consider supporting this genre and author and buy the book!