Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hilary Weisman Graham: YA author, TV writer

Today I’m talking with Hilary Weisman Graham, YA author of Reunited and the newest member of the writing team for the TV series Bones. Hilary will start by telling us what it’s like to write for TV, and we’ll end the interview with more information about her book. To learn even more about Hilary, be sure to check out her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, and add Reunited to your “to read” pile on Goodreads!


How many writers work on Bones?

Nine. I am the new girl.


How long does it take to write an episode?

Typically, it takes about a week or two to break the plot (which is done in the writers' room), a week to write the outline (done solo), and two weeks to write the script.


Do the writers work an eight hour day and is it a year-round job?

More or less, depending on the day. We break in May when the show goes on summer hiatus.


What is your work day like?

At any given point a couple of writers will be off on script or outline and one writer will be on set shooting the episode they wrote. The rest of the writers will be split into groups in two smaller writers' rooms , the tone of which varies, depending on the story we're breaking and how well it's going at the moment. As a new member of the staff, I've discovered group procrastination involves a lot more raucous laughter and spontaneous dance parties than my former procrastination technique (surfing the internet) back when I was writing alone at home. But I eat about the same amount of snacks.


What’s the most surprising part of this job?

How many ways they've killed people on BONES! I was pitching murder ideas the other day, and after every pitch, one of the more seasoned writers would say, "We did that, back in Season __," literally, like Every Single Time. At one point I threw out something really wacky thinking I'd finally hit upon something unique, then I saw that look in his eye...


Take us through the steps of story development?

Well, BONES is a procedural, so each week we have a murder to solve. But every story starts by creating a cool world to put our characters in for that episode--like the world of competitive chess, sperm donors, or food science. From there, we figure out who our victim is, how they died, and who the suspects might be.


How did you land this job? Is this the typical path to this type of job?

1. Wrote a good spec script. 2. Agent sent script to BONES head writers. 3. They liked it. 4. I met them and apparently came across as a normal person. 5. Voilà, job offer. So, it was a relatively easy gig to land, which came after countless near-misses, brutal rejections, and many, many years of very hard work.


Once you knew you had this job, how did you prepare for it? (Had you already seen most of the episodes or did you have to binge watch them?)

Though I do watch BONES, I wasn't caught up on all ten seasons when I got the job offer, so thank god for Netflix. Basically, I binge-watched my way through about 80+ episodes in the month between the job offer & my start date.


What other experience in TV/movie writing have you had (if any)? Did you study screenwriting formally?

I graduated from Boston University with a degree in Broadcasting & Film and spent the first part of my career as an indie filmmaker/documentary TV producer. But seven years ago, I decided to focus my career on my writing, and I'm happy to report that I've been working pretty steadily ever since, between selling various screenplays and TV projects getting my book deal for REUNITED.


Are you continuing to write YA novels?

I have a really fun middle grade novel that is a work-in-progress that I hope to get back to as soon I find the time.


What was your favorite scene to write in Reunited?

The scene in the van with Alice and Quentin. But if you want to know the juicy details, you'll have to read the book...


Kristin Lenz said...

The TV script writing process is interesting. So different to be writing as part of a group on the spot, rather than on your own, slowly working your way through a novel. Even more interesting that Hilary can do both!

Colette Ballard said...

Writing for TV sounds so fun--tons of work--but so fun! I think I'd love to work with other writers brainstorming and creating magic--then watching it come alive on the screen! Thanks for the awesome interview, Hilary & Tracy! :)

Colette Ballard said...

Oh, and the book sounds great too--i will def add this to TBR list! Congrats on your success in both arenas!:)