How did you first come up with the idea of Undiscovered Gyrl?
In 2007, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. Every morning I would walk the picket line with my colleagues and we would lament the fact that we were under strict instructions from our union to stop writing. Since I had already published two novels, I wondered if I might take advantage of this downtime from screenwriting to write another novel. When I sat down in the cold dark one morning I heard the voice of Katie Kampenfelt. She was based on many girls, some of whom were bloggers whose work I had stumbled upon while promoting an earlier novel.
How was writing about/from a teenage girl’s point of view different from your other work?
Whenever a novelist tells a story in the first person he is taking a huge gamble. If the narrator's voice is not pitch perfect, then he or she has nothing. The book is worthless. The whole time I was writing I was aware that I was on a high wire and if I did not get it right I would fall to my death. When the book finally came out, it sold well among teenage girls (even though it was written for adults.) Only once in all these years since did I receive an email from a reader telling me that Katie did not ring true to them. It was from a middle-aged man! Three of my other novels are narrated by a tall, fat, bald, chemically imbalanced, gay alcoholic. In other words, I am comfortable channeling voices unlike my own.
What was it like take transform your novel into a screenplay?
Remarkably easy, because I had let two years pass. This gave me the objectivity I needed to make the million tiny decisions of what to keep and what to cut.
Did writing the screenplay reveal things about Katie or her story that you hadn’t been aware of before?
Not really, but making the movie did. Putting a body onto the voice changed everything. In the book, Katie's language is what draws the reader in -- her wit, charm, and open, buoyant spirit -- but in the movie, there is a flesh-and-blood human before us whose actions must resonate for the viewer. It is her behavior not merely her language that must engage us, and the tiniest gesture can speak a thousand words.
What was the most challenging thing about making the movie?
Because we shared our lead actress, Britt Robertson, with another film whose schedule had been disrupted by Hurricane Sandy, we were forced to shoot for five days in October, six in November, five in December, and six in January. This was brutally difficult and stressful. I wouldn't wish uncertainty like this on my worse enemy.
What was one of your favorite moments while shooting?
The one that makes me smile every time I think of it was when the wonderful Max Carver was filming a hot-and-heavy love scene with Britt. I am pretty meticulous about what I want in any given scene, so I found myself in the corner telling Max exactly how I wanted him to orgasm. It was hilarious for both of us.
What do you hope audiences take away from Katie’s story?
A few things: I want everyone to understand that what we read on-line is no more real than what we read in a novel. The internet is a fictive medium. Everyone is self-dramatizing, self-protecting, self promoting, and self-deceiving. Also, I hope Katie's story will serve as a cautionary tale to those who avoid the journey inward by venturing out recklessly in search of love. But, most important, I hope they think of Katie with love and affection, accepting her for all her myriad flaws.
What is next for you?
I want to direct my own adaptation of a wonderful novel called Inside Out Girl, by Tish Cohen. A fabulous story with a gigantic heart.