I’m thrilled to share Part 2 of my Book Club’s interview, this time with screenwriter, Cheryl McKay. Never the Bride is Cheryl’s story in more ways than one We hope you enjoy this Q&A with Cheryl. The Screenwriter
RBC:~ Did you ever envisage your screen play as a novel?
Cheryl:~ After Rene adapted The Ultimate Gift into a novel from the screenplay, we started talking about if we should team up for her to do more of those. So even though I didn’t write Never the Bride with a novel in mind, I wrote the script the same year she novelized Ultimate Gift so it all sort of happened at the same time.
How long did it take to write the screen play from conception to final draft?
The first draft took a week. I had a draft I was willing to let people see in less than a month. Then I took a long break from it because I had another script I had to write. I’ve been honing and shaping it off an on for the past two years since I finished it. (A script is never really finished until the movie version is edited.)
What joys and challenges did you encounter as you collaborated on this project?
I found the whole process a joy. You can go deeper in a novel than in a screenplay because of the inner thoughts being right on the page. I loved seeing the inner thoughts of my main character come to life in novel form. Rene did an outstanding job.
Given that this story was originally a screen play, did you have any actors in mind to play the roles? If not, who do you imagine now?
I pictured Drew Barrymore while I was writing it as Jessie and Eduardo Verastagui as God. I’ve seen Ali Hillis from Ultimate Gift read the script at a table reading, though, and she was fantastic. Very fresh and original and she brings a lot of life to Jessie.
I’d also like to see how Zach Levi from NBC’s Chuck would handle God and Brittany Snow as Brooklyn, the fun and untameable sister.
Why did you make God in a human image?
I wanted to be able to hear God speak to her. I knew a prayer life by itself wouldn’t work or some disembodied voice. It was the only way to do the story right and be able to have conversations (including arguments) between Jessie and God. Plus, I wanted God to be real and personal to her in the same way I believe God is personal to all of us and wants a real relationship. I really enjoyed doing this with his character. Many authors talk about ‘meeting their character’ unexpectedly or that the character took on a life of their own despite the author’s original plans.
Was Jessie more of an intellectual plan or a bit of a surprise?
Jessie is based on me. So she wasn’t very surprising. I knew what she’d been through and how she felt about it. What surprised me about the story was the ending. I prayed a lot of about how to end the story of a girl that’s loosely based on my experiences of a single in my 30s when I don’t know the ending of my own story. So I had to wrestle that out a bit with God to figure out how to end her story. (But naturally, for those who haven’t read it yet, I won’t tell you what that answer is.)
I knew the story had to be unpredictable because God is fresh, new and innovative and I can’t predict my own life. So, neither should Jessie.
How do you both experience God speaking into your lives?
I sometimes hear God through what I call God Winks (those crazy coincidences that aren’t really coincidences. They are God confirming.) Sometimes, the still small voice, sometimes a dream. Or quite often through other people and experiences and his Word.
Could you please share some of your faith journey, maybe with regards to this book?
Sometimes it’s hard to deal with a story that is so ‘in my face’ my own and be out there talking about surrender when that serves as a constant reminder of what I don’t have that I desire—marriage. I’ve had more surrendered seasons in my life when it’s not nearly as present on my mind as it has been during the work on this story because it’s had to be front and center.
Did you consider what the story may have become if Jessie Stone never actually found her man ? I know the story would probably not be as satisfying to the popular market… but maybe it would answer the question for all those women who don’t find their ‘prince’.
What I love about this story is that Jessie may end up with a man but God warns her that she will go through many seasons when she’ll wonder what God was thinking when he set her up with that man. She is in for a reality check (which is part of what the sequel explores.) I’m glad we at least got her to a place where she was okay with God (on her birthday) before she got what she asked for.
What is the one thing you would like readers to take away from this story?
The message that just when you think God is doing nothing, he’s actually at work behind the scenes and wants your faith in the midst of seeing no evidence he’s doing anything.
Are you someone who reads the same book more than once?
Only Dialogue with God by Mark and Patti Virkler. I think I’ve read that 5 times at least.
What is your favourite genre to write for? and perhaps read?
Romantic comedy and family drama.
What dreams do you have for your writing careers?
I want Rene and I to get to do more of these novelizations. I want to get the script version done of the sequel to Never the Bride (It’s currently called Finally the One.) I’d like to see Never the Bride get made into a film as well as my family’s mining disaster story Song of Springhill, based on actual events from Springhill, Nova Scotia. My grandfather survived a huge disaster there. I just want to work on projects that can touch hearts and point people toward God and closer relationships with God.
A special thanks to you, Cheryl for taking the time to answer these questions while you were on holiday! We have appreciated your candour and look forward to reading and/or seeing the sequel, Finally the One
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