Coming-of-age film “Love, Simon” follows a closeted teenager, Simon (Nick Robinson), as he learns to accept his sexuality and, through anonymous emails with a fellow student, falls in love for the first time. The movie is based on author Becky Albertalli’s novel, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” and will be released in theaters nationwide on March 16. On March 10, Editor-in-Chief Rachel Schonberger was one of three people who participated in a round table interview with Albertalli.
“I was the last person to realize it was going to become a film,” Albertalli said. “It had been drilled into me that it’s more common for a book to be optioned for film than it is for a book to actually be made into a film, and most projects die in development.”
Albertalli wrote the novel in 2013, and five years later she said she still has not registered that it is being released as a motion picture.
“Once the producers were interested and it was optioned, I was like, ‘This is so cool. What a fun thing to daydream about. Obviously it’s not going to become a movie,’” Albertalli said. “Even as [director] Greg Berlanti came on board, I read the script, they start casting it, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. There was never one moment when I realized it was real, and because of that, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Albertalli said she was excited for director Greg Berlanti, who also produces the CW’s “The Flash,” “Riverdale” and “Arrow,” to put his own voice into the story, as he adopted this as a passion project. Quoting her friend and fellow author Angie Thomas, Albertalli referred to the book and movie as “fraternal twins.”
“Having seen the film five times, the changes work so well and the film really stands on its own,” she said. “It really feels like the book and most of the major points are the same. I see it as a very faithful adaptation.”
After working as a clinical psychologist and learning the struggles of many LGBT kids, Albertalli said she wanted their community to be represented.
“Simon is not based on any of my clients, that would be a horrific breach of confidentiality,” Albertalli said. “I do think that experience gave me a richer awareness of some of the issues that kids in the community were grappling with when I wrote it.”
When she started working on the book, Albertalli was also involved in author Ellen Oh’s organization, We Need Diverse Books.
“Some of these conversations in the book community about diversity were certainly taking place and it continued to evolve,” Albertalli said. “I want to do everything I can to make sure this is not ‘the’ gay rom-com. This should be one of many.”
Since writing her first book, Albertalli said she realized Simon’s story may not be hers to tell; however, she hopes this opens the door to more mainstream representation of gay characters.
“Let’s broaden the communities that we tell these stories about. Simon is one experience; he doesn’t represent his entire community, he doesn’t come close to it,” Albertalli said. “I hope that Simon can get his foot in the door and the floodgates will open.”
Author Becky Albertalli most recently wrote “Leah on the Offbeat,” which will be released on April 24. The sequel follows the story of Simon’s best friend Leah, played by Katherine Langford in “Love, Simon,” during her senior year as she explores her own love story.