Adaptations of YA novels are often years in the making, allowing ample time for fans to debate casting choices and nervously anticipate potential plot changes. In the unusual case of the romantic YA drama Five Feet Apart, readers won’t have to wait long at all for the story to hit the screen. As PW reported last year, Five Feet Apart is the story of two teens, Stella and Will, who meet in a hospital while being treated for cystic fibrosis. The two fall in love, but must avoid making any physical contact—staying five feet apart from one another—due to concerns about cross infection. Five Feet Apart (Simon & Schuster) was published in November 2018, and the movie will be released from CBS Films and Lionsgate on March 22. The film stars Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen) as Stella and Will Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) as Will.
Five Feet Apart began its life as a screenplay written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. But something happened on the way to the film’s premiere. As the screenplay was being developed, one of the producers pitched an idea to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers publisher Justin Chanda: how about publishing an adaptation of the story to be released in tandem with the film? According to Alexa Pastor, who edited Five Feet Apart when she was associate editor at S&S Books for Young Readers, “We fell in love with these characters and couldn’t have been more excited to partner with the film group.”
The first step was to find a writer for the project; that writer ended up being Rachael Lippincott, who learned about the opportunity in March 2018 from her former writing teacher, YA author Siobhan Vivian, who publishes with Simon & Schuster. When she heard the details of the project from the S&S team, Vivian thought that Lippincott would be a perfect choice. After reading the screenplay, Lippincott, had a week to pull together a first chapter, and then wrote an entire first draft in just 14 days, frequently working in collaboration with the screenwriters. The film, at that time, was already well into production.
Following a robust social media campaign, Lippincott’s debut novel hit bestseller lists in December and is currently in its fourth printing. The movie tie-in edition of Five Feet Apart—with a first print run of 90,000 copies—was published earlier this month, giving readers even more incentive to read the book before they see the movie.
Lippincott told PW that the whirlwind experience has served as “a validation that this [writing] is what I should be doing.” The first-time author is hard at work on another YA novel—this one may take a little more than two weeks.