These Broken Stars, the launch title of the Starbound science-fiction trilogy, will be adapted for the small screen. The TV version of Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner's novel, which was published by Disney-Hyperion in December 2013, will have four executive producers: actor, writer, director, and producer Eric Balfour; producer Stephanie Varella, founder with Balfour of Off the Grid Entertainment, an independent film production company; former NBC president Warren Littlefield; and Martin Berneman, founder of the entertainment management company Precision Entertainment.
Stephen Moore, an agent with The Kohner Agency, a Los Angeles talent and literary agency, represents Kaufman and Spooner for film and television projects on behalf of Adams Literary. (Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary represent the authors for publishing projects.) “All these parties bring something to the table,” said Moore: “Littlefield his connections and pedigree, Balfour his star power, Berneman and Varella the skill to put the whole thing together.”
Kaufman and Spooner, who met online in 2006 via their “mutual fandoms,” began writing together before they met in person a year later. “We’d create characters and write scenes together for fun,” explained Spooner. “These Broken Stars started off that way, too, and we played with the main characters of Lilac and Tarver for over a year before it occurred to us that if we found them so much fun, maybe others would too, and we should give writing a novel a try.”
The authors also spent time deliberating on the backdrop for their story. “I wanted the setting to be a shipwreck, and Meg wanted the story to be about space,” said Kaufman. “A shipwreck in space was the result, and the characters stemmed naturally from that setting. We’ve both been science fiction fans since we were tiny, so it felt natural to write a science fiction trilogy together.”
The Internet facilitated the writing process for Spooner, who now lives in Asheville, N.C., and Kaufman, whose home is in Melbourne, Australia. They were able to do their initial brainstorming for the trilogy face-to-face, as Spooner was living in Australia at the time (and was also finishing her debut novel, Skylark). When it came to the actual writing, they relied on e-mail to collaborate.
“These Broken Stars is told in the alternating perspectives of Lilac and Tarver, so we each wrote one character’s point of view,” said Spooner. “When we’d finish a chapter, we’d send it to the other to critique and comment on. Because of our opposite time zones, we can literally write around the clock, each of us taking over while the other sleeps. It's fantastic waking up to a new story, almost like magic elves worked on your book overnight.”
Balfour, who currently stars in Syfy TV’s Haven, was immediately drawn to the premise of These Broken Stars when two of his producing partners, Varella and Berneman, mentioned it as a possible book to adapt for TV. “I thought it was a cool concept, and I asked to read the book,” he recalled. “I wanted it to be as good as I thought it could be, and fortunately it was much better and bigger than I could have imagined. I was sucked in from the very first scene, and I couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with these characters.”
Balfour quickly recognized the trilogy’s TV potential. “Television is the perfect format to take the characters from this world and put them on a screen,” he said. “You couldn’t do it as a movie, since there wouldn’t be enough time to watch the metamorphoses of these characters. We’re very lucky to live in a time when television is pushing all the boundaries. There isn’t another medium out there that allows you to live with characters in such depth.”
Both self-described longtime fans of television, the authors are, according to Spooner, “absolutely over the moon” at the prospect of having their trilogy come to life in that medium. “In my heart of hearts I’ve always dreamed of writing for TV one day,” she added. “We’re also both Haven fans, so hearing from Eric was both surreal and amazing. The first time we video-chatted with him about the project, Amie and I were so silent with shock and excitement that it was almost a one-way conversation.”
Asked who they envision playing the romantic leads in a TV show based on their trilogy, the authors initially equivocated. “We hesitate to list anyone in particular, because there are so many different ways to bring a character from the page to life in front of a camera,” said Spooner. “We never had specific actors in mind, but more an amalgamation of many. For instance, Lilac has parts of many different actresses, like Molly Quinn, Amy Adams, and Karen Gillan.”
Calling the casting issue “a tricky question,” Kaufman mused that the characters on the TV show are likely to be older than the teens in the books, “so the sky’s the limit on who could play Tarver. But it’s all about how the actor owns the role, really – it’s attitude more than looks. But in a dream world? Maybe Dean Geyer, Ben Barnes, or Chris Pine. And, of course, we’ve talked with Eric so much about both the book and the character that it’s hard not to think he'd make a fantastic Tarver.”
Though Balfour called that suggestion “very, very flattering,” he passed on the part – but left the door open for stepping into another role in the future. “I think at a certain point in the story we’ll meet another character I may be able to bring to life even better than I could Tarver,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a huge challenge to find the right actor to play that role. He has to have an innocence but also has to have a strength and security. There are lots of confident young actors, but Tarver is more than just confident. My friend Ben Foster, who’s an incredible actor, is the type who I’d want to play Tarver.”
Balfour noted that he and his producing partners are “exploring many avenues to find the right home” for the series, and expressed gratitude to Spooner and Kaufman. “I can’t say enough about Meagan and Amie’s work,” he said. “Everyone who has read the book is enamored of these characters, of the pace, and of the delicacy of the world the authors have created.”
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 Dec. ISBN 978-1-4231-7102-7