Just last night on Twitter, I touched on the challenges that writers of original screenplays must be facing in an industry climate dominated by adaptations or continuations of existing properties – adaptations of novels, comic books, plays, video games, TV shows, live-action versions of cartoon series, sequels, prequels, reboots, etc. As I noted, looking over the top 50 films released in 2016, the vast majority of them fell under one of those categories. In fact, the highest ranking film based on an original screenplay that also wasn’t a family cartoon, was at number 19 – “La La Land.”
When I asked what screenwriters who follow S&A on Twitter are doing to survive, a few responded stating that they were writing novels, short stories and novellas instead, hoping that they might get optioned.
One of the top grosses of the year thus far that’s also based on a book is “Hidden Figures,” which has grossed over $225 million globally. And its author, Margot Lee Shetterly, would maybe like to repeat that kind of success with one of her future books, as she’s just inked a deal with Viking publishing to pen 2 more books, the announcement was made today.
And like Hidden Figures, both books will explore “the idea of the American Dream and its legacy by excavating stories of other ‘hidden figures,’ extraordinary ordinary African-Americans whose contributions to American history have, for one reason or another, been untold, unseen, or overlooked,” says the press statement.
The first book takes place in mid-century Baltimore and chronicles two African American families who were alike in power and vision: the first family, the owners of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, as it was called when it was launched in 1892 (commonly known as The Afro). It’s said to be the longest-running African American family-owned newspaper in the United States, established in 1892 by John H. Murphy, Sr., whose family’s story will be made “unhidden” in Shetterly’s first book under the new deal with Viking; and the second family, the Adamses, who were influential African American philanthropists and investors. Willie Adams, whose original fortune came from the numbers racket, and his wife Victorine Adams, a schoolteacher turned politician. They would go on to become philanthropists, investors, and among the most ardent patrons of entrepreneurship and economic development in the city’s African American community.
The first book doesn’t yet have a title or release date yet. And no details have been released on what the second book will tackle.
And while this isn’t a book blog specifically, we do cover books that we know are being adapted for the screen; and given the immense success of the author’s first book, “Hidden Figures,” as well as the industry’s ongoing definitive push to tell more diverse stories, especially historical – introducing knowledge that was previously “hidden” – we can only assume that there will most certainly be interest in what Ms. Shetterly uncovers in print next.
A book like the first under her new deal with Viking, will probably take a long time to write, given the amount of research she’ll likely have to do; assuming she isn’t already knee-deep into writing it. But don’t expect a publish date anytime soon.