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News Article

Dark Deals 9: Optioning and Waiting with Heather Graham

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Many authors are what one might call prolific. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Brian Keene all might fit the bill. But how about over 150 novels and novellas? The leader of this pack is former Horror Writer's Association Vice President and bestselling author Heather Graham also known as Shannon Drake.

This queen of the gothic has been published in approximately twenty-five languages and hasn't stopped yet despite having over seventy-five million books in print with more on the way. But don't limit her to only gothics. She also writes thrillers, vampire novels, paranormal suspense and short stories. I know because I was lucky enough to publish one of her original spooky tales ("Mist on the Bayou") in my book Dark Delicacies III: Haunted. Yet despite all of her success there has never been a version of any of her work brought to the screen large or small. As we have harped about over and over again in this column getting an option is a lot easier than getting the project completed.

Her first year of publication, in 1983, was unprecedented wherein she saw five titles hit the stands. She followed that up the next year with five more and hasn't stopped since, neither have the options.

"Almost from the beginning," she admits, "I've had an option on one book or another. I currently have an option on one of my historical novels."
That many options has to be like a drug. But the high is never as good as it was the first time.

"Yes, and it was the closest it came—a major network had it but it went askew Hollywood style; apparently, the directors and the producers had a disagreement, and the whole thing was dropped."

Many times options are renewed and renewed again and still no film is ever made. The record for Heather? Five times. But those types of close calls have got to affect your outlook on this entire option business.

"Early on I came up with the feeling of, hey, when it's really there, let me know. And when it's not, I'll just say thanks for the option money. Hey, great if there's money. If you need me call me. If it's in production, call me. If something is a maybe, hey, let's wait until you call me!"

But the entire Hollywood thing and option process really was not that foreign to Heather going in. She had showbiz experience behind her.

"I was a theater major and did stage and commercial work for a long time after college. I saw what was done with a number of books. I also remember a friend who had written a great series that was funny a lot of the time because the setting was Miami. Her work was turned into a television movie—she didn't even know until she saw it that the location had become Phoenix. It wasn't great—but she did have a very casual attitude as in, well, hell it got my son through his last year of college!"

Heather is a writer of nearly every genre. One would think that she, of all the people we have interviewed for this column, would want to write a draft of the script for her screen debut.

"I would love to be consulted. I'm not really a script writer and I believe a script writer could bring things to the table that I couldn't. I'd love the learning process, though."

There have been three decades of novels and no film. Has Heather's writing style altered or become more cinematic in an effort to catch Hollywood's eye?

"I think—or I hope!—I still write books I love to write and my readers expect that from me. You just never know; I recently had one up that looked good, like it could really go all the way. But the producers got cold feet because it had period time changes in it." (A witch saves her brother from hanging as a Revolutionary spy, but lands him in contemporary Massachusetts in the middle of a dysfunctional family trying to get the turkey going.)

"I'd still love to see something made—preferably in my lifetime!—but I've learned not to believe the hype on anything until you see it come through. I'm always hopefully optimistic—I just don't let the longing get out of hand."

"From what I understand, Hollywood works more on concept, so if the powers that be like the idea, then they read the book. I've also heard stories about a producer's mom, dad, brother, etc. falling in love with a property and the next thing you know, it's a movie."

Bottom line is that only time will tell. Our fingers are crossed for Heather. As usual I try to end the column with a word of advice to the writer who is looking to get optioned.

"Every writer is different. In novels, first and foremost, you really should go by the oldest advice known—write what you love. If you happen to be cinematic with it as well, that's great!"

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Heather Graham's latest novel is the vampire detective story Bride of the Night. You can find all things Heather at www.eheathergraham.com

Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies "The Home of Horror" in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com. If you have any information on the optioning of horror books he would love to hear from you.

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