Why are there no films of your books? Are there any films planned?

No. The chances of any of my books being made into any films are somewhat more remote than that the intelligent aliens from Alpha Centauri will land tomorrow morning waving their Universal Translator in a peaceful and non-threatening manner and start teaching us how to build an interstellar space drive (and a ship that'll hold it. And life support systems to hold us). They will also be surreptitiously putting something in the water so we'll stop making war on everybody, including everybody we meet after we get the interstellar thing worked out.

The problem is essentially money. (The problem usually is money, in this world.) Big Hollywood studios, which are the ones that have the money to throw into splashy special-effects-laden fantasy films, expect to purchase all rights when they stoop to considering some dorky little book as a subject for their megalomaniac efforts. And I mean all rights. I learned this when I was still almost a baby (writer), with the two Damar books, Sword and Hero. Any studio that wants to buy rights for either one insists that we then do not sell rights to the other one — they aren't going to buy it themselves, we just aren't allowed to either, and pardon me whose book is it? — which I could maybe just about understand because yes I do see that any other company making a film out of the other one would be in direct competition.

But that is only the beginning. A big studio wants all rights having anything to do with that book forever. This means that they would have all rights to any Damar story I ever wrote, including ones I haven't thought of yet (yes, yes, I know, but there still are notes to third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh Damar novels, plus a few short stories, it's whether I ever get any of them written out or not, and I don't want Hollywood to have anything to do with it), and this is just a trifle draconian for me, thank you very much. Especially when they can also do anything to any of said books, including changing everything — in which case you do kind of wonder why they want to bother buying the book. (There was one independent I remember who tried to buy the option for Sword. Their first move was that they were going to make Harry a guy.)

And they would have these rights, but they wouldn't have to do anything with them — they could just sit on everything forever, not making any movies themselves and preventing anyone else from doing so. It's in the contract. And if they got as far as making a lousy movie which flopped, they would just sit on everything forever. (I no longer remember the details but an option that never went anywhere runs out fairly quickly. An option that is actually picked up, struggles through development and, wonder of wonders, is made into a film, however awful, takes a lot longer to run out. Furthermore, mud sticks. If somebody made a dreadful film of one of my books, what other filmmakers would conclude is that my books make dreadful films, not that one of their colleagues screwed up.)

On the other hand, let's say they made a brilliant movie that made great roaring tankloads of money. In the first place, I'll have seen none of it. I'd've received a very modest option fee, and a very slightly less modest one-off payment if a movie gets made. And that's it. I believe that some studios in their vast and kindly generosity occasionally give a mere book writer a bonus, but it's strictly crumbs from their table — dog biscuit money, for the dog. (Writers are not well thought of — nor treated — in Hollywood. You probably know the stories.) And they can bring out any tie-in rubbish they want to — pink haired Aerin dolls that say 'Have at you, you bad dragon!' when you pull a string between her shoulder blades? Sure. Sungold sun-catchers with real hair manes and tails (for which you can buy separately a cosmetic hair-care kit)? Absolutely. Constantine lunch boxes with fanged snaplocks? Sure. And computer games where... no, no, let's not go there.

I'm not going to sign one of these contracts. I'd never sleep again. I know writers who've put their kids through college on renewed options that never go any farther, because that's what usually happens, 999,999,999 times out of 1,000,000,000. I can't remember what the odds are against an option actually being made into a film — it's somewhere in the silly numbers. (It's even worse than the chances of getting your first novel published.) You might as well take the option money and smile. I admire the people who do because I know they're right and I'm wrong. But I can't bring myself to sign one of these contracts. The other recourse is to be J K Rowling. Rowling, I believe, has/had quite a lot of input on how they could film Harry Potter, but that's because everyone was dying to have the chance. But I'm not J K Rowling. Ordinary book writers have no input.

And the tiny imaginative film company that might win prizes at Sundance (although I think maybe you don't want to win prizes at Sundance, but then I'm a curmudgeon about movies, as about so many things) and might not insist on so prescriptive a contract, doesn't have the money to film a galloping great fantasy with dragons, vampires, miscellaneous monsters, pitched battles, what have you. Most of my books have one or more of these tiresomely expensive items. Of the rest, well, a lot of my readers seem to think Disney read Beauty before they made their Beauty and the Beast — which is another question I get asked, Did Disney pay me for/acknowledge their debt to Beauty? No. And if I wanted to pursue this, they would say they don't owe me a thing, and stomp me like a bug, so I'm not pursuing it. And with Disney's Beauty and the Beast out there, Beauty's not going to get made, nor Rose Daughter. Costner's Robin Hood came out about the time Outlaws did, and there are so many Robins around Outlaws is unlikely to be plucked out of the backlist ghetto the next time a film company wants to do Robin Hood. And I think Deerskin is unfilmable. Or anyway I don't want to see anyone try. And I'm still hoping to write more about Sunshine or Sunshine's world, so I'm not going to sign any contracts for Sunshine for the same reason I'm not going to sign any contracts for the Damar books. (Although... I probably shouldn't admit this... I've got a half finished vampire screenplay that amuses me very much, but film companies also don't buy screenplays from unknowns — not without a lot of hustling from the unknown, anyway, which I'm constitutionally incapable of — so I imagine I'll eventually have to bite the bullet and try to turn it into a novel.)

I'm a little cranky about all this, yes. But not that cranky. I earn a living doing what I do, and I have mixed feelings about films at best. I can do without the movie money, especially when I get to do without the aggro too. And even — let's get extravagant here — let's suppose a tiny imaginative film company has a really big important angel, like one of the seraphim, bankrolling them, and they option one of my books, actually go on and produce the sucker, do a good job, and the result makes more money than anyone knows what to do with. And oh yes they're also an ethical tiny imaginative film company and they give me a fair percent of the profit.

I wouldn't like being famous. Yes, I'm hopeless. It's very sad. But there it is.

And all of that said, I have signed options occasionally. Hedged around with incredible numbers of caveats about rights to this story only. Spindle's End for example, which so far as I'm aware is a one-off in my personal literary hierarchy, still has tiny passing references to both Deerskin and the Damar books in it. So there's language about how they only have rights to characters with speaking roles in the specific book Spindle's End. This was, somewhat surprisingly, allowed. But the option still ran out, the film wasn't made, and nobody has bought (or re-bought) it.

(I asked my agent to read this answer before I asked my webmaster to hang it, and my agent sighed heavily and said I have a bad attitude. Well, we knew that. And I'm always open to rampant bribery.)