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Guest Post: Malinda Lo on the making of a book trailer for ADAPTATION

It’s my pleasure to welcome Malindo Lo back to Shelf Elf. Malinda is here to give us a behind the scenes look into the creation of the book trailer for her new release, Adaptation.

Welcome Malinda!

Over the past few years, book trailers have become quite a thing in YA. I’ve never been entirely sure if they succeed in making people want to read a book, but I’ve been fascinated to see how book trailers have developed. They used to be slide shows of still photos with text — remember 2009? But recently, some book trailers have become elaborate productions with casts, crews, costumes, and very! dramatic! music!

I wasn’t initially planning to make a book trailer for Adaptation because I didn’t think I was up for such a big ordeal. However, when I saw the book trailer that author Nina LaCour shot for her novel The Disenchantments, I thought: Whoa. That is the kind of trailer I would like! So when I learned that Nina and her friend, Amanda Krampf, had launched a mini book trailer production company, Less Than Perfect Productions, I knew that I wanted to hire them to make a trailer for Adaptation. Even better? Nina and Amanda live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we could work on this in person.

I immediately emailed Nina to see if she was up for it, and I was very excited when she and Amanda said yes. After that, I emailed my editor at Little, Brown to get her input. We talked about different concepts for the trailer, and ultimately settled on a very quick, 30-second video that would act as a teaser for the novel. The goal was not to summarize the whole book in 30 seconds, but to get viewers to want to read the book. That meant the trailer had to convey the hook of Adaptation as well as show (visually!) the mood of the novel.

While many book trailers have text crawling across the screen, I knew that I wanted to have a voiceover narrator. I took the text that is excerpted on the back cover of Adaptation and built the voiceover narration around that, because I thought it expressed the novel’s premise pretty clearly. Then, Nina, Amanda, my editor and I thought about various images that could convey some of the things that happen in the novel.

In one of the scenes in Adaptation, the main character attends a funeral at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, CA, which is just south of San Francisco. (Notable fact: Colma was founded in 1924 as a necropolis; 1.5 million people are buried there. Also, nobody is buried in San Francisco anymore — they’re all in Colma.) When I was writing Adaptation, I visited Cypress Lawn as part of my research. It has a giant, beautiful mausoleum that looks like a palace. I suggested that we film part of the trailer on location at the mausoleum, where we could shoot the main character running after a man in black within the mausoleum itself. I thought it would not only look gorgeous on film, it would look creepy, and I wanted to make sure the book’s creepy vibe came through.

Additionally, Nina arranged to have some video shot that showed other aspects of the novel: driving down a highway, some scenes in an an airport, and the main character waking up in a hospital gown. Rather than a soundtrack, Nina suggested using the sound of a human heartbeat. I liked this idea a lot because sometimes I find the music in book trailers to be too dramatic; I wanted a minimalist yet creepy (again!) vibe. Continue reading

Adaptation

Malinda Lo’s latest, Adaptation, is a Sci-Fi Thriller Romance which means it has aliens and conspiracy theories and kissing. Sound fun? It is. Oh, and if you have ornithophobia (fear of birds), then it might not be for you. There are some scary birds in this book. In fact, that’s where the story starts.

Reese and her debate partner, David, are stranded at the airport with their coach on the way home from a tournament. A series of plane crashes, reportedly caused by large bird strikes, causes all flights to be cancelled and airspace to be closed until the authorities can be sure they understand the circumstances of the crashes. So the three rent a car to drive back home, only as panic builds in the general population, the roads are far from safe. Reese and David end up driving alone on the Extraterrestrial Highway and then another accident happens. A bird flies into their headlights and they crash. When they wake up in a military hospital in Nevada, no one will give them much information about their injuries or the treatment they received, and they must sign nondisclosure agreements before they can go home. They can’t even tell their parents about what happened to them. Keeping everything secret only gets harder when the massive scars from Reese’s injuries fade so quickly she can’t believe it, and she begins to have strange sensations that she has never felt before. Then she meets Amber, who is mysterious and beautiful and a welcome distraction, and Reese begins to have other feelings she’s never experienced, which is confusing enough, but even more so given that until Amber, she’d thought she was crazy about David. What really happened to Reese and David, and what are the implications for their futures, and for society at large?

The opening of Adaptation is super suspenseful and tension builds immediately. Lo does a brilliant job capturing the fear and the increasing panic after the bird attacks. You’ll be turning the pages fast. The pace does slow quite considerably once the romantic plot thread with Amber is introduced, and while you have to adjust to this a little bit, I think that the shift in pacing is true to Reese’s situation. It is entirely believable that she would throw herself into this new relationship as an escape, in order to feel something other than fear and worry. Also, the fact that her relationship with Amber gets a lot of focus makes it more believable and nuanced than I think it otherwise would be if it was introduced only in passing. I was surprised that it took centre stage, but not disappointed, as I think that their relationship mirrors and develops some of the themes Lo explores in the main plot: isolation, self-discovery, secrets, and connection.

There’s a sequel coming next year, and good thing too, because that ending is about as cliff-hanger-y as you can get.

Adaptation is published by Little, Brown.