Every writer aspires to achieve international recognition and a wide readership for their work. Nowadays, that’s not enough. A Netflix adaptation is also a must-an essential item on the bucket lists of most writers (this author included).
Enter Soman Chainani, who has done all these things by the age of 43.
We recently had a talk with the author at the international press conference for the Netflix adaptation of his first novel, “The School for Good and Evil.”
Apart from discussing the film adaptation and how closely he worked with the production, we also talked about his journey from a struggling writer to a successful author.
How did you start out when you were writing your first novel?Coming out of film school, I was supposed to have directed a movie and then lost the project because of a financial implosion on the studio side. I was broke, I was living with six people. I was also in debt from grad school. So basically, I didn’t have a career, and I didn’t have a job-there was nothing.
How did you come out of that slump?I just really believed in the story. And so I had a job at night tutoring kids. I would do that from four o’clock to 10 o’clock, seven nights a week. And then I would write from nine to three every day. This was just a story I believed in and was obsessed with. And I believed I could do a good job with it. And I wrote it on blind faith. Simple as that.
How do you think “The School for Good and Evil” will affect the way the younger ones now looking at fairy tales?I think what it’s gonna do is make people reconsider that happily-ever-after myth that we’re told over and over and over again. So instead of just going into a story, blindly accepting that the villain is the villain, they would reconsider the story. I think it will challenge the old assumptions of how we think about heroes, villains, good, evil-you know, the usual tropes of fairy tales. I’m hoping it makes a big difference over time, as people begin to incorporate this way of thinking into their lives.
Any tips for young writers? Why do you think your books became so successful?I think, to me, it’s about your voice. You have to believe in the way you tell a story. When I write, I just write the truth of what is true to me. I don’t think about an audience. I don’t think about anything else. I’m just saying purely what I believe inside. You know, and I think that’s what makes the book successful-is that they’re honest.
Did you really plan on becoming a writer and did envision yourself being a successful writer and making a real living out of it?I don’t think of myself as a writer. I still don’t think of myself as a writer necessarily. I think of myself as someone who’s looking for stories to tell. I’m a storyteller more than anything. And it just happens that novels have been where I get the most joy but, you know, that might change as time goes on. I’m open to whatever version of being a storyteller comes next.
Where is your favorite place to write?In terms of where I want to write, I can write anywhere. I’ve written in the back of Ubers. I write on planes and trains, you know, I’ve written everywhere, and that, that as long as I have earplugs, I’m happy.
Based on the epic international best-selling series by Soman Chainani, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL is directed by Paul Feig, stars Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Flatters, Kit Young, Peter Serafinowicz, Rob Delaney, Mark Heap, Patti LuPone and Rachel Bloom, with Kerry Washington and Charlize Theron. Now available to stream on Netflix.
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