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Interview : Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is the much commended author of five critically acclaimed and award winning young adult novels. Her first two books "That Summer" and "Someone Like You" were combined to form the New Line Cinema release "How To Deal" starring Mandy Moore and Allison Janney. It’s for that reason, LORI KAPES secured time with the talented writer to talk shop and get the lowdown on the film adaptation.

What was it like to get that call and find out that one (actually two) of your books are going to be made in to a feature film?
It was great. Completely surreal. The books had been optioned for about six years, but I’d been told it was so rare that anything would actually happen that I’d sort of resigned myself to that fact. So when I got the call it was a total surprise. I didn’t tell anyone for a couple of days, like I was so afraid if I did it wouldn’t be true anymore.

Since the two books, "That Summer" and "Someone Like You", have been praised as great young adult novels , do you think those great stories can be transferred successfully from page to screen?
I think there’s always going to be a certain amount lost in the transition. As a reader, there are very few film adaptations I like as much as the book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them at all. I think it’s a different sort of experience. My hope is that if people see the movie and are interested in where the characters began, they’ll seek out the book to see it from the other side. I think that’s the best any writer can hope for.

A lot of books have made the transition from paper to celluloid. And, for instance, White Oleander and The Hours have managed to be able to stay true to their literary counterparts. Are you hoping that "How To Deal" will do the same?
I’d love it if there was a lot in the movie I recognized: I mean, it would be great if one of my lines made it in, but I have no way of knowing if that will happen. I think doing a very faithful adaptation would be difficult, because there’s so much happening in both books. The movie would have to be ten hours long to include everything. I think the true heart of the books will make it to the screen, though. That’s my hope anyway.

Do you think it would have been better if one of the books was adapted and not the other?
I think the movie would end up much different if it was just That Summer or just Someone Like You. When they first said they wanted to put them together I wondered how they’d do it…as the author, I couldn’t imagined trying to do so. I think in that sense its good it was someone else writing the script: I would have struggled more, being too close to it. I’m really curious to see how they did it in the end.

How do you like the studio’s casting choices, Mandy Moore and Allison Janney?
I think Mandy is great. I love that she’s a real teenager, and she has a pure sort of honesty that really fits Halley’s character. And I was thrilled about Allison Janney. She’s just great, and I’ve always been a big fan.

Do you predict it’ll be a success?
I’d love to see it do well. It’s like a dream come true for me, so anything that happens would be thrilling, to be honest. I’ve spent so much of my life with these stories. I’m really interested to see what the rest of the world thinks of them.

Lastly, Are you planning on writing any books in the near future?
I’m currently at work on another book, which I’m hoping will be out next year around this time. With everything that’s happening with the movie, the writing is still the most important thing to me. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

HOW TO DEAL Opens July 18th across America

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