Teri Wilson is a talented author who has had several novels adapted into Hallmark movies. “Northern Lights of Christmas” premiers December 2 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and is based on Wilson’s book, “Sleigh Bell Sweethearts.”
Welcome! Before we begin, would you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming book and movie?
Hi! I’m Teri Wilson and I’m an author of romance, women’s fiction and romantic comedy. I’m the author/creator of the Hallmark Channel original movies “Unleashing Mr. Darcy,” “Marrying Mr. Darcy,” “The Art of Us,” and the upcoming “Northern Lights of Christmas,” based on my book “Sleigh Bell Sweethearts.” “Northern Lights of Christmas,” starring Ashley Williams and Corey Sevier, premieres December 2 on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel as part of their Miracles of Christmas line-up.
I live in San Antonio, Texas, and I’m a major dog lover, which is why there are so many dogs in my books and movies. The dog, Bliss, in the Darcy movies is based on my own nine-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bliss. She likes watching a doggy actor play her on television. (Seriously, she does.) I’m also a big royal fan, and it’s my dream to one day to work on a royal-themed Hallmark project.
When did you first decide you wanted to write a book and what kinds of insecurities did you deal with before landing a publishing contract?
Growing up as an only child, books were my friends. They were a very important part of my life. The first novel I wrote was terrible and will never see the light of day, but it was important because writing it taught me how to start a book and finish it.
I think every writer is insecure to a certain extent, but it’s important not to let doubt stop you from pursuing your dreams. I get rejected sometimes. Pretty much all writers do. But I don’t let it stop me from trying again…and again.
I used to show my dogs in dog shows and a good friend who helped me train my dogs always used to say, “Teri, you can’t win if you don’t enter.” I say that all the time to my author friends because honestly, it applies to everything. You can’t get what you want if you don’t put yourself out there and really go for it.
What advice do you have for writers with plenty of dreams but no publishing contracts?
I think anyone who really loves writing should keep at it and try not to worry about commercial success. The publishing industry is difficult and constantly changing from one day to the next. As long as it makes you happy, keep at it.
The one piece of advice I always give to aspiring writers is to read a lot. I think so much of writing is learned by osmosis. Like a lot of authors, I started as an avid reader. I’ve loved books my entire life.
You maintain an active Twitter profile. Why is it so important for you to interact with fans?
Writing is by nature a solitary experience. Like most authors, I spend a lot of time in my own head. Even when I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about my current book project. But I’m not exactly an introvert. I love people, so I have a lot of fun interacting with readers and Hallmark fans on social media. It also means a lot to me when they tell me how much they enjoyed a particular book or movie. It’s an honor to have people spend their free time reading or watching something I’ve worked on, so I like to thank them and get to know them a little on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
How did your relationship with Hallmark first begin and what were your initial thoughts about having your book adapted for television?
My official relationship with Hallmark first began when my literary agent called to tell me that “Unleashing Mr. Darcy” had been optioned for film.
But it sort of began long before that because I’ve always been a big Hallmark fan/viewer. For years, I’ve watched the Christmas movies and now, like so many viewers, I watch Hallmark Channel year round. It’s the best place across all media to find good romantic comedies, which are by far my favorite type of movie.
I was thrilled to pieces to find out that my book was going to be a Hallmark movie. And now my fourth Hallmark film is set to premiere on December 2. I can hardly believe it.
Book authors aren’t always asked by studios to participate in the screenwriting process. Why do you think Hallmark asked you to work on the writing and what were some of the biggest challenges you faced? In what ways is screenwriting noticeably different from writing for your books?
I have not worked on the actual scripts for any of my Hallmark films. I helped my executive producer bounce around ideas for “Marrying Mr. Darcy,” the sequel to “Unleashing Mr. Darcy,” mainly because there is not a sequel to the book. We worked on the story treatment together and the screenplay was written by James Mattson and Barbara Brauner, who are amazing. They also wrote the script for my upcoming Christmas movie, “Northern Lights of Christmas.”
I think the reason I’ve been pretty involved with my films is because I have a really great relationship with my executive producer. I respect her tremendously and love that she keeps me involved.
I also kind of insert myself into the action more than a lot of writers do, I think. I try to post on social media every single time the films are shown. Of course I live tweet the premieres, and I also live tweet a lot of other Hallmark films, just because I love the channel and the projects they’re putting out. I know some writers don’t like to spend as much time on promo or on social media, which is completely understandable. Everyone is different. But I love the movies so much and I’m excited about them so I want people to watch!
What thoughts and feelings did you experience when watching the first movie based on your books?
Honestly, it was a completely wonderful experience–wonderful to the point of being overwhelming. I cried a lot. It was so surreal seeing something become real after just being a part of my imagination. I wish every author could experience it.
What do you remember about your very first day on a film set?
I remember everything about the entire day. It’s seared into my memory. Everyone was so nice.
The thing that surprised me most was how the members of the cast and so many people in the crew came up to thank me for writing the book. Never in my life did I think Frances Fisher from “Titanic” would be thanking me for writing a story with a role for her. I was also very anxious to meet Ryan Paevey because Mr. Darcy is such an iconic role. He does a fabulous job playing Darcy and I remember I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face every time I watched him film a scene.
My favorite part of being on set was when my executive producer, Sydell Albert, and the script supervisor, Kirsten Hansen (who is now a producer and writer on Hallmark’s popular “Chesapeake Shores” series) gave me a director’s chair with my name on it. I cried when I saw it, and the name placard from that chair is now framed and hanging on the wall in my home.
Are there any co-writers with whom you are working for your upcoming Christmas movie? If so, would you tell us a little bit about them and what they bring to the process?
“Northern Lights of Christmas” is based on my book “Sleigh Bell Sweethearts,” which I wrote on my own. As I mentioned earlier, the script for the movie was written by Jim and Barbara, who also wrote the screenplay for Marrying Mr. Darcy. They are fantastic writers and I hope to meet them in person one day. I’m a book author. I have no idea how to write a script, so I’m very grateful to have their expertise at work on the film.
What kind of interaction do you have with actors who work on your movies?
I’ve been fortunate to be on set for a few days of every one of my Hallmark films, so I’ve met all the actors and had a chance to get to know them during filming. For the most part, we’ve kept in touch afterward via social media.
It was really fun to be on set for “Marrying Mr. Darcy” because we all already knew each other.
I’m especially excited to have Corey Sevier play Alec Wynne, the hero in “Northern Lights of Christmas,” because he was also in my second Hallmark movie, “The Art of Us.” He played Rick, the ex-boyfriend of the heroine (played by Taylor Cole). He is such a lovely person and I’m thrilled that he’ll be playing a lead.
Can you give us a sneak peek of one of your next projects?
Well, after “Northern Lights of Christmas,” I don’t have another Hallmark film in the works (hopefully I will at some point!), but I’m working on a book project for Hallmark Publishing. I’m really excited about writing for them and expanding my relationship with the Hallmark family. I think that’s all I can say about it right now, but when the time comes I’ll be chatting about it on Twitter, like I usually do!