Love, Simon author Becky Albertalli talks book to movie adaptation, oreo ice cream and more
Ever since ‘Love, Simon’ hit movie theatres in the US, the Internet has been flooded with thoughts and feelings from like-minded individuals. ‘Love, Simon’ allows and encourages people to share their stories of love, courage and life experiences. Based on the book by Becky Albertalli, we hopped on a call with the author to discuss her journey.
For those who don’t know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! My name’s Becky Albertalli and I’m a YA author. I’ve got two books that are out right now, ‘Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ is probably the better-known one because it just got turned into a movie, ‘Love, Simon’, which is coming out April 6th in the UK. I also have a book out called ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ and two more books on the way this year.
You mentioned that ‘Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ has been turned into a movie, what was your first reaction when you found out that was going to happen?
Oh my gosh, to be totally honest I didn’t even expect I was going to get a book published. It’s been kind of a whirlwind for a couple of years. When the book process started, it’s interesting, I didn’t know much about the process going into it – the one thing I’d been prepared for by my team was to keep the expectations low and they kind of reiterated that most projects die in development. Anything that happened like a film option or whatever was all nice things, but don’t assume that you’re going to be walking down the red carpet at a premiere. As the movie was coming together, I was reading the script and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so obsessed with this script, what a cool thing to have! It’s never going to be a movie but like wow – I’ll always have this script’.
They cast Nick Robinson and they cast Jennifer Garner and I’m like, well it’s never going to be a movie… but how cool is it that these actors have maybe like signed up? I just kind of went on and on like that through the process and at some point they agreed with it and I don’t think I really understood that – I didn’t realise until I walked into the production office like a week before they started filming like, ‘Oh, you guys are making a movie aren’t you?! I guess this is happening!’
It just didn’t sink in at all?
Yeah, I don’t think it’s sunk in even now and I’ve seen it 10 times! Haha
When you first wrote the book did you ever imagine it becoming what it has now? It’s an iconic book for the LGBTQ+ communities.
Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that. Not at all – the thing with Simon that people don’t know is that when it came out it was never a lead title or anything and it was kind of an in-house darling – both at HarperCollins my US publisher and Penguin in the UK. My publishing teams were really, really passionate about it, so I think that contributed to some of the support that was showing up from readers and bloggers. It’s been a slow burner, it’s never hit the NY Times bestseller list. Not only did I never expect it to become a movie just because, I just didn’t think it was a big book – also I remember telling people years ago like, ‘Oh no, I’m not expecting a movie option – this book is half told through emails’. Like every other chapter in the book is an email back and forth chapter and you know, I didn’t see how they could translate that to the screen and when I actually started working with the producers and screenwriters and the whole team got their hands on it, they were able to like solve that problem instantly and I just couldn’t see it.
Obviously there are parts when you do a book to movie adaptation that you do have to change, was that something you were worried about? Especially regarding the email chapters.
You know, I wasn’t worried and I think a part of that was because early on I remember talking to Temple Hill and meeting with one of the producers who had a very strong vision for it. John Hughes was brought up right in the first call, so you know the aim that was referenced was a very strong view of the film as this movie being in the tradition of John Hughes. I just knew that they were totally on the same page. They had ideas of how to kind of deal with the emails and other things that may not be cinematic in the book, but there were ways to work around that and I just knew that they understood the heart of the book. I was always pretty comfortable with them changing some of the details in order to get to that place of emotional continuity, I was just really, really calm about that aspect of the process.
Ethan is an openly gay character in the movie that isn’t in the book. Ethan is more identifiable as gay within the movie and it was interesting to see him and Simon finding common ground.
I LOVE ETHAN!
Omg I know, he’s so cute I want to be his best friend.
Every time anybody mentions Ethan I just start bawling and saying I love him so much.
You’re like a proud mum!
I know! I just feel like he’s my adopted child, he’s not in the books and I hate that I didn’t think of him but he’s just a little cinnamon roll – I love him. I love the actor Clark Moore who plays him.
Were you involved in him becoming part of the story? How did it come about?
I think it was the screenwriters and Greg (the director). It was one of the things that was really important to them. They wanted to show the different ways of expressing being gay and how that can look in high school, how those experiences can be different and yeah, I think it was a really nice counterbalance to Simon. Simon is very conventionally masculine and from a very affluent white family, there are a couple of details about his experience that are not universal. If you take Simon and Ethan and the other LGBT characters in the book and line them all up you’re still not going to come close to portraying a universal experience, but I think it cast the net a little wider as to how people see themselves.
You said on your website you love ice cream! If you had to compare the main characters to an ice cream flavour, what would they be and why?
Simon would certainly be Oreo! He needs no explanation. I think Bram would be Reece’s – not just because he loves Reece’s but I like the idea that he has this mystery… he’s this regular, smooth, basic ice cream but with that little peanut butter cup hitting you when you least expect it. Leah…hmm I don’t know, I have to think about that, that’s an excellent question. Damn, now I want ice cream.
‘Love, Simon’ is out in UK cinemas on April 6th and in the US now.
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