- Why did you decide to do the novelization of 50 Hours, when offered the chance?
Kevin O’Neill, who wrote the screenplay, explained his bare-bones story in such a way that I was hooked, right from the first minutes of our introductory phone call. The more he talked, the more hooked I became. I started visualizing the hospice center. Saw ways I could ‘flesh out’ the characters. Instinctively knew that, in order for the main characters to expose their backgrounds, their hopes and fears, and their flaws, the story needed multiple secondary characters that they could interact with. In his screenplay, Kevin had included a bluejay, and I developed a personality for the bird. It was crazy-fun, writing him into scenes during which it teased and tormented Franco, the male lead in the story! Since then, after reading the glowing endorsements from reviewers who read the advanced reader copy, I’ve realized that a story like this offers immense hope to cancer patients, their families, their friends. That had been a goal, from the minute I started work on 50 Hours. But that goal became a necessity as I made my way toward The End.
2. What scene in the story touched you the most?
This takes place in what I call “The RV scene”: Aubrey has convinced Franco to take her to north Georgia, so she can fulfill the dream of a lifetime, and paint the autumn leaves. He risked his own freedom to make that dream come true…
Aubrey was on her feet, staggering, wide-eyed, and crying. “Let him go! You don’t understand!”
“He’s wanted for kidnapping,” the first cop said, “for starters.”
“But . . . but this was all my idea. He’s only here as a favor to me.”
A sheen of perspiration coated her flushed face.
“You know she’s dying, right?” Franco growled. “Did her control freak mother tell you that? She has a fever, and she’s lightheaded. You jerks need to call an ambulance, get her to the nearest hospital. I won’t give you any trouble. But do the right thing, okay guys? Take care of her before you haul me away.”
As if on cue, a rescue van lurched to a stop and three EMTs rushed forward. Two caught her before she went down, and the driver rolled a gurney closer. In one blink, they strapped her in. In the next, they moved her to the waiting ambulance.
She grabbed the nearest paramedic’s sleeve. “Please, please, at least let me talk to him!”
“She doesn’t look too good,” said his partner. “What could it hurt?”
The cops brought Franco to his feet and walked him over.
“I’m sorry,” Aubrey told him. “So, so very sorry.” She glanced around, at the EMTs, at the cops, at the crowd of curious campers that had gathered. “I did this to you. And now? Now they’re going to take you away and I’ll never have a chance to make it up to you.”
She was sobbing as he said, “You listen to me, Aubrey Brewer, and you listen good! You have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing, you hear? Everything’s gonna be okay.” He forced a smile. “I’ll be fine, and so will you. Soon as I get this mess straightened out, I’ll come see you. So you hold on, okay?”
She bit her lower lip, looked toward the easel and the painting that, except for her signature, was finished.
Franco nodded toward her things. “You guys mind grabbing her stuff? That painting is a gift. It’s the reason she wanted to come here, to paint it for the kid who has the room next to hers at the hospice center.”
“What can it hurt,” the cop repeated, and started packing things up.
“Get her out of here,” Franco said. “She has glioblastoma multiforme. Brain tumor. The worst kind. She needs her meds. Tell the hospital staff to call Savannah Falls. Talk to Mrs. Kane. She’ll tell them everything they need to know.”
The second cop scribbled everything Franco had said into his notebook.
“You came into my life at the perfect moment. If there’s a heaven,” she said, “I’ll be up there, watching over you.” She grabbed his sleeve. “When I get up there, I’ll look for Jill. I’ll tell her all about what you did for me. And then? And then I’ll send you a sign, so you’ll know we’re both all right . . . the love of your life, and your best friend. I’ll watch out for you . . . ”
“Cut it out, Aubrey. You’re not going anywhere just yet, except to the hospital,” he said, his voice cracking. “You hang on until I can get things straightened out, you hear?” He felt selfish and self-centered, asking such a thing of her, because at this point, death would be a welcome reprieve from all she’d suffered. “You try to hang on until I get there. I mean it, okay?”
Her voice was small and weak when she quoted Yoda: “‘Do or do not; there is no try.’”
And as the ambulance doors closed, he heard her say, “I love you, Franco Allessi. Always remember: you’re a good and decent man.”
He was crying hard when they put him into the back of a squad car.
Because he’d never see her again, and he knew it.
3. What is the difference between the novel and the film of 50 Hours?
Kevin’s script is far more bare-bones than the novel, which is natural for screenplays. He has reworked his original idea several times since that first one (which is the one I read). He’s a talented guy, so I’m confident the movie will touch on all the high points that appear in my novel.
4. What’s up next for you?
I’m midway through the construction of The Reformation of Lillie Rourke, my 3rd novel in Harlequin Heartwarming’s “By Way of the Lighthouse” series. Like the first two books in the series, the story focuses on a major life event that separates two people…and all the challenges they face as they find their way back to one another.
Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press
Publication Date: June 30, 2017
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