In his second novel, The Book of Joe (2004), Jonathan Tropper wrote about a novelist who fears the “sophomore slump” after his debut book becomes a huge bestseller and is adapted into a film.Fast forward a decade, and Tropper’s fiction becomes reality. He returns to BEA on a high-profile panel this afternoon that kick offs Bookcon. With director Shawn Levy and actors Tina Fey and Jason Bateman, Tropper will discuss the movie adaptation of his fifth novel, This Is Where I Leave You (Dutton, 2009). and attendees will be privy to sneak peeks of the film.
“It’s a tremendous sense of completion,” says Tropper, who explained that he has spent the past five years trying to get the movie made. In the book, the protagonist, Judd Foxman—whose wife’s affair with his shock-jock boss has just gone very public—reunites with his dysfunctional family for the first time in years to sit shiva for a week following the death of its patriarch, his father. Character-driven plots like This Is Where I Leave You are not always easy to sell to Hollywood, Tropper points out, but he was happy to write the screenplay for Levy (director of Night at the Museum and The Internship), with whom he had worked before and developed a “shorthand.”
“People—writers, actors—just want to work with him,” says Tropper about Levy, who directed Fey in Date Night. On their panel of “big guns,” Tropper says Levy will show some clips from the film, and the actors, writer, and director will talk about the differences between the movie and the book.
Tropper expects the panel will be “fun for all of us.” But as much as Tropper enjoys his work in Hollywood (he just completed a script adaptation for his novel One Last Thing Before I Go [Orion, 2013]), he says novel writing remains his first creative love.
“Screenwriting and the movie stuff could all disappear tomorrow,” says Tropper, “but to sit down with my laptop and still tell stories is my day job. I didn’t believe I’d actually get to do it for a living.”
One thing Tropper likes about writing novels over working on a film is that he does not have to keep rewriting. “I’ve probably written 40 different drafts for the movie,” he says. “You never have to change a book for budget.”
While Tropper has started writing a new novel, he will not share any details yet, because he knows it will change as he writes it. “I’m just very excited to finally be writing prose again,” he says. “There’s a satisfaction I get from writing fiction that I will never get from screenwriting.”
The panel, 4–5 p.m., is open to both BEA and Bookcon pass holders, but a $10 ticket is required. Earlier in the day, at 2 p.m., Tropper is signing books at the Penguin truck, which will be parked in the Crystal Palace of the Javits.