If you’ve always felt that the whole ‘Chosen One’ thing just isn’t you, then you’ll love Patrick Ness’ new book.
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here imagines what it would be like being the regular teenager at a school where a Buffy-esque Chosen One lives. The hero might be trying to save the world, but all you’re trying to do is graduate from high school. Which is stressful enough as it is.
We sat down for a chat with Patrick at the Young Adult Literature Convention about his new book, and about the upcoming film adaptation of his book A Monster Calls, starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson.
How was the experience of writing the screenplay for A Monster Calls?
That was a great experience. I’m really really lucky. I wrote the script first. I always wanted to start the conversation. I’m not a filmmaker, so I wouldn’t complete the conversation, because there are things I don’t know, but I wanted to start the conversation because I thought there are ways that it could be changed where it wouldn’t work, so I thought why not at least begin and say ‘this is why’.
And so I worked on it by myself for a long time, just to get the script right. Which I think feels like a good way to go about it because you can say ‘well here it is, this is my vision’ rather than discussing it first. So I had a finished script and then I started talking to filmmakers about it, met [Juan Antonio] Bayona and we just started chatting and it kinda worked. He brought some ideas and I brought some other ideas and, yeah, it was great.
We’re done shooting, so it’s in post-production. A lot of post-production, because there are a lot of special effects, but special effects in the way that you want them to not be ‘wow, special effects!’ You want them to be really natural and feel really, really real. So it’s time to work on that and get it exactly right, make the monster feel completely real and organic and not a distraction, but an addition. So yeah, next October. October 2016.
Has it given you a taste for more screenwriting?
Yeah, well, weirdly when I wrote the A Monster Calls script and people started reading it, I did not expect it but I got a bunch of job offers. Which is kinda cool. So yeah, I’ve been writing a lot. And it’s interesting. Books are my number one thing, I am a novelist, and they’re mine. But a script is always someone else’s, in a way. So they’re completely different, and I like that, because that keeps me on my toes and it keeps different muscles strained. It’s been a really good experience. And I’ve enjoyed some of it – I haven’t enjoyed all of it, it’s Hollywood – but I’ve been getting some really interesting stuff, particularly lately. So fingers crossed.
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – just to clarify, am I right in thinking that this book is about what it’s like to be one of the normal people living in Sunnydale?
I eschew the word normal, I don’t like the word normal, but it is like… a lot of people have mentioned the Zeppo episode where it focuses on Xander, but Xander is part of the Scooby Gang. Xander is one of the Chosen Ones. This is not even about Xander, this is about the kids in the back row who are like, “Oh for fuck’s sake, can’t we just graduate without being eaten by a snake?” That’s what it’s about. There’s a huge end-of-the-world story going on, 100% in the background. It criss-crosses in tiny ways but it’s not what the book is about. The book is about these teenagers living a life in this town, trying to graduate before the high school blows up again. That to me was funny.
The Chosen One trope exists for a reason: it’s really powerful. It says, ‘there is a reason you feel different, here it is’. That’s very powerful and I would never take that away. But I began to worry, what about those kids who don’t even feel like that kid? You know? And I thought, ‘Okay, no, there’s more stories to be told here.’ So it’s an addition to the Chosen One thing. It’s like, okay, let there be Chosen Ones, and the rest of us will be okay. We’ll be okay too, we’ve got our own things to deal with and they’re just as important and they’re just as funny and moving. So that’s what it really, really was. So the stories bump off one another but that’s fun. It’s a loving satire, it’s not mean. It’s loving.
I thought, ‘Well, there’s amazing things going on in the life of an average kid. Amazing things.’ And what I’ve always said, it’s just as brave to say ‘I love you’ to someone when you’re 17 years old, as it is to save the world. So that for me is what it’s about.
Patrick Ness appeared at Book Trust’s Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) at London Film & Comic Con in July. YALC is presented by Book Trust in partnership with Showmasters, with the support of headline sponsor Prudential plc. The Rest Of Us Just Live Here will be published on 27 August by Walker Books.