Sandra Brown's novel Smoke Screen comes to life on the Lifetime Movie Channel this Sunday night. The mystery, which got an RT rating of 4 1/2 stars when it was released in August 2008, follows TV reporter Britt Shelley as she attempts to prove her innocence after waking up next to a dead cop. Now RT's Morgan Doremus interviews the bestselling author to find out what her fans can expect from this movie adaptation.
What are your plans for Sunday night when Smoke Screen premieres on the Lifetime Movie Channel?
My husband and I will watch together from our "chairs" in the TV room of our house. Dogs Chase and Lucky will be nearby. We'll probably open a bottle of champagne. I'll have a flute in one hand and my phone in the other. I expect calls from family and friends.
Emmy award winning actress Jaime Pressly stars as Britt. Does Jamie fit the picture you saw in your mind for this character when you were writing the book?
I never cast my books the way a movie is cast with actors. I don't superimpose an actor's face or mannerisms on my characters. In my mind's eye, Britt looked like Britt and no one else. But Jaime brought a lot of gutsiness to the role. I was flattered to learn that she had declined several parts for Lifetime, but was immediately attracted to the role of Britt. We hung out in Vancouver during the shoot, and she's a lot of fun. When I met her, they were shooting the car crash scene, where she's hanging upside down with fake blood on her face and in her hair! It looked awfully scary and claustrophobic to me, but she was cool with it.
You were once a newswoman much like Britt. What kind of personal experiences did you put into your story (I’m assuming you never woke up next to a dead body)?
I never did wake up next to a dead body! In fact, I never covered hard news. I reported weather and did features for "PM Magazine," a forerunner to all the entertainment news shows we have now. My stuff was light.
Both of your protagonists find themselves in a similar situation, but they deal with it in different ways. Does gender play a significant role in how they react to events or is it the characters’ intrinsic personalities that influence their actions?
When I write, I put the characters within the framework of my story and wait to see how they're going to handle the situation. Sometimes even I am surprised by the course a character takes. Raley's problem evolved over time, in stages. Britt's problem is more immediate, so she has little choice except to deal with it aggressively. Of course he kidnaps her. That's pretty aggressive! It certainly got her attention.
When books are made into movies, oftentimes changes must be made in the adaptation. What are some changes that your story went through when it was being filmed?
I can't answer that without giving away key plot elements of the script. There were some changes, but they're not major. I was actually surprised that so much of my plot remains intact. It's a complex story, with a lot of characters, each with his own agenda. The script writer did a good job of unfolding the story in a manner very similar to the way I did.
If you had to choose another one of your books to be adapted into a film, which would you choose and why?
Ricochet is presently under consideration by the same producers who did Smoke Screen. Fingers crossed! I'd also like to see Rainwater made into a film, but honestly, I don't know that I could turn that book over to anyone else. I would want to be very "hands-on."
What can you tell us about the next project you are working on?
I'm almost finished with the first draft, but not at a place where I'm prepared to talk about it. I'll just say it's a taut suspense, with a very interesting pairing of characters, and that it has all the trademarks of a Sandra Brown novel.
You can watch Smoke Screen on the Lifetime Movie Channel on Sunday night and mark your calendar because Sandra Brown's latest mystery, this summer's Tough Customer, will be released in paperback on January 4th!