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Guest Post: Younger: From Novel to TV Show in 527 Easy Steps

Women and Hollywood By Pamela Redmond Satran | Women and Hollywood April 18, 2014 at 12:00PM

I imagined "Younger" as a TV show or movie almost before I thought of it as a book. It's the kind of high-concept idea that's a natural for the screen: a 40-something mom pretends to be younger to get a job and ends up with a secret 20-something life.
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Sutton Foster, star of TV Land's upcoming "Younger"
Sutton Foster, star of TV Land's upcoming "Younger"

Exactly two years ago today, I got an email from my agent Melissa Flashman at Trident Media saying that Darren Star wanted to turn my novel Younger into the next Sex & The City.

I, of course, said, Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right after I yawned. I'd been around this option block before, and I'd learned that getting your novel optioned is a lot like moving to Hollywood: It may get you closer to the action, but it doesn't make you a star.

I imagined Younger as a TV show or movie almost before I thought of it as a book. It's the kind of high-concept idea that's a natural for the screen: a 40-something mom pretends to be younger to get a job and ends up with a secret 20-something life.

The idea was sparked by an article in Vogue about extreme plastic surgery, but I didn't want to write about the kind of woman who'd have extreme plastic surgery. Then I was going to have my character become younger by magic, a supernatural power I'd take over vortex breath or wall-crawling any day.

And then my friend Christina Baker Kline, whose novel Orphan Train is now a number-one bestseller, had the fantastic idea to have my heroine merely pass for younger. Give herself a makeover, disappear that 15-year gap on her resume, and not lie about her age, exactly, but commit what Sister Miriam Gervase would call a sin of omission.

I wrote the first draft of Younger in a two-week gallop at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, refined it through several long sessions of nitrous-enhanced dental surgery, published it with Simon & Schuster, and waited for the Hollywood deals to roll in.

And they did roll in, only to roll right back out again, with the regularity of the waves at Malibu. Until one night last August, when Google Alerts informed me that TV Land was "fast-tracking" the series Younger by Darren Star, based on the book by Pamela Redmond Satran. I was floored, because not only was the show moving forward, but they actually mentioned me and my book!

My LA agent Dana Spector had just gotten married, my NY agent was on vacation, so all my initial news came from Page Six. The fall brought more news: Sutton Foster was set to star, an inspired choice for a role that demands freshness, combined with soul and serious acting chops. Then the adorable Hilary Duff was tapped for the role of the younger colleague, giving the show big-time Hollywood cred, with Debi Mazar as the main character's best friend -- perfect, as I'd always thought of Debi as my secret best friend. Then I read a draft of Darren Star's script -- this is the first show he's writing and producing himself since Sex & The City -- which I thought was brilliant and hilarious. He not only got my book, but made it faster and funnier.

Still, I couldn't quite believe the show was actually going to happen -- did I mention that I lost my virginity about TV options a long time ago? -- until late one cold February night when in came an email from Darren Star's assistant inviting me to the first day of the pilot shoot. The very next day.

I had plans to visit my dying grandmother, which I quickly jettisoned...

Joke! I drove from my home in New Jersey all the way across the vast New York metropolis to find Darren Star, standing in the snow outside a pretty suburban house much like the one I'd left two hours before. He was smiling, friendly, down-to-earth, waiting to meet me. It turned out that my neighbor John Thomas was the DP on the shoot, an amazing coincidence, and JT very generously found me a perch near the main monitor. Sutton Foster, who I'd met after her show at the Cafe Carlyle, gave me a big hug.

And then there was a moment, as the dozens of crew members and the stars and the cameras and the booms swirled all around me, when it suddenly hit me: Now it's real. These are the characters I imagined alone in my studio in the Virginia mountains, the situations I configured in the dentist's chair, the novel I published so long ago, and now all these people are here making it into a real live TV show.

The official news was announced by TV Land on Monday: The network has ordered 12 more episodes of Younger and the series will debut in the fall. I saw an advance cut of the pilot last night, and I adore it. By chance, the first 100 pages of my new novel, another high-concept idea on the order of Younger, has just gone out to publishers. I hope that Darren Star -- or as I call him, Darren -- will see it soon too.

Meanwhile, I signed up for a TV writing class with sitcom vet Jerry Parzigian at the Jacob Krueger Studios in New York and I've written an episode of Younger. My LA agent is less than encouraging about my chances of becoming a television writer at this late date, but my optimism is as refreshed as my Younger heroine's resume and shoe wardrobe.

Hey, if you read an article in Vogue

 and get an idea for a book that would make an amazing TV show, you would probably be right if you told yourself that probably nothing is ever going to happen. Except that sometimes it does.

Pamela Redmond Satran is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel Younger and more than a dozen other works of fiction and nonfiction. Find out more about her at her website.    

This article is related to: Women Writers, Pamela Redmond Satran, Television, Hilary Duff, Sutton Foster, Younger, Ageism, Debi Mazar


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