Posted on 06/08/2018 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
At first glance, we assumed that having a novel optioned for film by a major studio would be a clear high point of author Matthew Mather’s fame.
We were wrong. Not that it’s no big deal — he assures us it’s definitely a thrill.
It’s just that he spent the first chunk of his professional life in the artificial-intelligence field, working for prestigious organizations like the McGill Center for Intelligent Machines, founding a tactile interface company, creating a brain training video game, and joining a variety of tech startups.
And after that, he struck gold in the timing of his first novel.
Since no agents or publishers had picked it up, he self-published The Atopia Chronicles right as the Kindle took off.
As ebooks in general caught on, so did his reputation as a writer.
Next came CyberStorm, a dystopian thriller that combines worldwide Internet outages, a viral epidemic, and a suffocating snowstorm.
The book emerged at the same time as high-profile cyberattacks and hacking incidents from the likes of WikiLeaks and Anonymous.
No surprise, then, that Mather has now sold over a million copies of his books, been translated into eighteen languages, been published in twenty-three countries, and landed on best-seller list several times.
Oh, and he’s had 20th Century Fox pick up the film rights to CyberStorm.
We chatted with Mather mostly about this development, and to learn more about him, we highly recommend checking out this interview he did over at Medium.
SADYE: What was your reaction when you heard a studio wanted to adapt your work into a film?
MATTHEW: The first time it happened — and my agent emailed me to say a major studio wanted to option CyberStorm for a film—I was totally blown away.
For a few days, I felt like I was living in a dream, but not because it was so amazing or changed my life (film options don’t usually get that much money, at least for the initial option), but more because I felt like I’d reached a new plateau with my writing.
After a few years, however, and all the delays, I’ve become a lot more sanguine about it.
It’s an amazing place to reach as a writer, but the next stage is getting one of them actually into production and “greenlighted.”
So far I’ve had eight of my books (all of them except one) optioned for film or TV adaptation, so it’s become a regular thing now.
Now I kind of expect it, as funny as that sounds, but each time is new and exciting.
SADYE: How involved do you get to be in the process?
MATTHEW: Major studios don’t really involve you in the initial stages. They mostly just option works in case they need something to go to if that genre comes up, I think.
From what I’ve heard from other writers, the chances of an option making it to the greenlight stage—when production begins—are about 1 in 20, but this depends on a lot of factors.
That being said, I’ve just optioned my Nomad series directly to a screenwriter and director, and in this process, I’m directly involved in the pitch process and even started consulting on editing the screenplay, which is much more exciting and gives me confidence that we will get to an end product.
In other options with major studios, they do sometimes ask me to update a pitch or provide some background.
I’ll be able to report back more in a year or two (I hope!).
SADYE: What has been the most surprising part so far?
MATTHEW: Mostly just the length of time this process takes.
With most books, it will take ten years or more, if they even “win” the 1 in 20 dice roll for greenlighting.
In exceptional cases, like The Martian, this can be shorter, but often it’s even much longer.
SADYE: Are your readers concerned about the books being “butchered” on screen?
MATTHEW: At this point, I think my fan base would be excited to see any of my works turned into film or TV.
That being said, I bet a lot of people might not be happy with the adaptations.
It’s a tough thing turning a book into a screen version — much like a totally different language, or even more than that.
But I would hope that I could stay involved in the process, and at least make it faithful to the ideas I had originally.
SADYE: Any other noteworthy moments about it all so far that you’d like to share?
MATTHEW: When I first found out that CyberStorm was optioned, I was traveling to the UK.
The book went up for auction with multiple bidders, and when I didn’t respond to a first (and very generous offer) because I was in an airplane, the bidder ended up adding an extra 50% to their original offer by the time I landed.
How’s that for negotiating!
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