What's Fresh with Dominique Paul's The Possibility of Fireflies
I am sitting on my front stoop. I think it's about midnight. I was busy reading up until an hour ago, but my eyes started to hurt from squinting. Now it's just me and the waiting.
It's 1987 and fourteen-year-old Ellie Roma doesn't have much of a family. She lives with her mother, who has taken a break from parenting; and her older sister, Gwen, who is on her way to becoming a juvenile delinquent. Her father left them to start a new life.
So Ellie spends a lot of time alone, especially at night, when all she has to keep her company are the fireflies that flicker in the summer air. Then one day a mysterious stranger enters her dark world. He is Leo, twenty-one, who is on his way to Hollywood to become a rock star. Ellie and Leo connect instantly, and Ellie hopes Leo will be the one to rescue her from her unhappy life. But instead, Leo teaches Ellie that no one can save you. You have to go after what you want. So one night -- one terrible, frightening, thrilling night -- that's exactly what Ellie decides to do.
With a fresh perspective, first-time novelist Dominique Paul deftly weaves a family drama about chaos and dysfunction, with a young girl's journey of triumph. Full of humor and sorrow, heartbreak and hope, The Possibility of Fireflies is really a story that we all have to tell: the story of the summer we grew up.
Also read Kelly's take on The Possibility of Fireflies.
Hello Dominique, thanks so much for agreeing to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you sold your novel, The Possibility of Fireflies, to Simon & Schuster?
Dominique: Hi! Thanks for having me. Like many authors, the road to getting published was not a straight line. This is the first book I’ve written, and apart from keeping decades of journals and a Bachelor’s Degree in English, I had virtually no professional experience. Writing was something I’d always done, not something I thought I could actually do for a living. I finished my book in 2002, but didn’t find my agent Diane Bartoli until almost two years later. Once she got on board, the book sold within a few months. There was even a bidding war for it! It was amazing. Ultimately we went with S&S.
Please tell us about your debut novel, The Possibility of Fireflies, and what we can expect from your characters.
Dominique: The novel is a coming of age story about a girl growing up in Maryland in the late 80’s: those torturous years when you don’t fit in, you’re totally insecure, and to add to your Hell, you fall in love with someone who can’t love you back. Then, of course, there’s also the dysfunctional family to contend with.
The main character, Ellie, is fourteen years old and trying to figure out who she is in the world. She lives with her mother, who drinks and can be abusive, and her older sister Gwen, a rebellious metal-head who has declared war on her mother. Things are not easy for Ellie and the book is really about Ellie’s will to survive, to not let her spirit be broken. The thing I love most about Ellie is her unrelenting hope and utter determination to find happiness and love in spite of her circumstances.
I was going through a break-up when I wrote the book and needed a place to channel my pain, so the novel ended up being kind of heart-breaking. But still, I think Ellie’s observational humor and stubborn optimism make it very funny and light-hearted too.
I can attest that The Possibility of Fireflies has all these emotional aspects and is a wonderful read. :) The word is that your novel, The Possibility of Fireflies, is being turned into a movie starting this spring in Rhode Island, and that it will star Kelly Preston. Wow! Would you share with us how this developed?
Dominique: Yes, it goes back to that straight line (or lack of), which I referred to earlier. In the two years it took me to find an agent for my book, I met a TV agent who recommended I turn the novel into a screenplay so he could get me work as a screenwriter. I followed his advice, but still no sale and no TV work either. I was on the verge of giving up. Then, one day-- and I remember it well because it was pouring rain in Los Angeles--I got a phone call from a producer. Turns out, my ex-boyfriend had (unbeknownst to me) slipped the script to one of the producers of the movie Monster. So it’s pouring rain and I pick up the phone and the guy says “My house just fell down the hill in the mudslides…but I love your script! I want to meet you!” Now, that’s what I call passion. So, we set up a meeting, and by the end of that meeting he optioned my screenplay and I’d been given the chance to direct the film myself! That same week we sold the book to Simon and Schuster. Sometimes I still can’t believe it!
Indie filmmaking is a grueling process, but we have great people on our team and we are finally shooting this Spring. The movie version is a bit “edgier” than the novel (although I hate the word edgy). But it is definitely an R-rated drama. It’s also a love letter to Maryland and to all the awesome Hair Metal music and fashion of the day. It captures what I most like to explore, the juxtapositioning of humor and emotional intensity. Darkness and light.
What an exciting story! What's up next? Do you have another fiction project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Dominique: I will be working on the film for the remainder of the year. We’re hoping to have it completed in time for Sundance. I’m also working on a sequel to Fireflies. I’ve gotten emails from so many girls who were affected by the book and especially by Ellie. Everyone wanted to know what happened to her after the book ended. I found myself thinking of Ellie and wondering too. I’m writing it now, and let’s just say her life gets better, but it is by no means perfect. And Leo makes an appearance!
Looking forward to both projects, Dominique. Thank you again for sharing! I wish you the best with your writing and film career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Dominique: Thank you so much! A writing tip? I would have to say that when searching for subject matter, it is always best to write what you know. That doesn’t mean it has to be factually accurate. Just emotionally true. There is such richness in our everyday lives to be tapped into and drawn from. Oh, and one more thing – never ever ever ever ever give up.
Dominique Paul grew up in a Maryland suburb just outside of Washington, D.C., and received her BA in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. Currently she lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a screenwriter. The Possibility of Fireflies is her first novel.