by Mary Yuhas
William P. Wood on turning books into movies, catching lightning in a bottle, and working with his father
William P. Wood is the author of nine novels and one nonfiction book. His work in the District Attorney’s Office inspired him to pen an array of acclaimed legal thrillers.
Many of his books have been translated into multiple languages and optioned for motion pictures, two of which were produced. Wood’s latest release is, Sudden Impact. He currently lives in Sacramento, California, where he is working on his next novel.
LitVote: Do you write about the cases that most disturbed you?
LitVote: Your book, Rampage, was optioned and made into a film. Court of Honor was made into a TV movie, Broken Trust on TNT. Can you explain the process once a producer expresses interest in adapting a book into a film?
Bill: I was lucky. Both of those books became movies quickly. Other books were optioned, had screenplays written, and shopped around and nothing happened. Turning books into movies, especially today, is like catching lightning in a bottle. The basic straightline process, which rarely happens, is that the book is optioned, a screenwriter and or talent, like actors, like the idea, and folks come up with the money to film. But it is an eccentric process.
LitVote: Were you happy with the adaptations?
Bill: Very much so. Rampage had one of the world’s most talented and visionary directors, William Friedkin turn it into a striking film. He was incredibly gracious and generous throughout the shooting, editing and later events associated with Rampage. The cast was superb too, starting with Michael Biehn. Likewise, Broken Trust was a terrific film. Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne are not only superb writers but extraordinary screenwriters, which is very different process. Tom Selleck turned in a profound, layered performance in the lead with Marsha Mason and Elizabeth McGovern giving the whole enterprise depth, suspense, and drama.
LiteVote: How long does it take you to write a book?
Bill: Pick any time. I’ve written novels in forty-five days and my one nonfiction book, The Bone Garden about female serial killer Dorothea Puente took nearly four years. On average a novel, from first to last draft, takes about eight months.
LitVote: You also were a co-writer for several episodes of the CBS-TV series “Kaz” starring Ron Liebman (a former car thief-turned-criminal attorney Martin “Kaz” Kazinsky.) What was that like?
Bill: Wonderful. Frustrating. Fun. One episode starred the great late character actor Eugene Roche as a judge going crazy during a trial. He was astonishing. But as the series went on, there were more people trying to shoehorn ideas into scripts and things got very cumbersome. My late father, Preston Wood, and I wrote three episodes together, based on my experiences as a deputy DA like my novels, and working him was one of the proudest and most satisfying experiences of my life. He wrote for almost every major TV show, “Adam-12”, “Addams Family”, “Emergency!”, “Bonanza” for example.
LitVote: What is the single most important thing an author can do to improve his or her writing?
Bill: Read a lot. First last and always. Rewrite. Okay, that’s two things.
LitVote: Any tips for first-time writers?
Bill: Write because you enjoy it. Write because you have something to say. Don’t worry about anything else.
LiteVote: What’s next for you?
Bill: A movie version of my latest novel, Sudden Impact, I hope. And finishing a new novel.
Author Mary Yuhas, is the author of the upcoming memoir, QUIT AND BE QUIET, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother, featured tree times on Scribd.