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Fat Vampire to Reginald the Vampire: The journey so far
What it's like having your book made into a TV show
In case you’re new to me and don’t know already, I wrote a book called Fat Vampire. The TV/film rights to that book were optioned around five years ago, formally purchased in early 2021 by NBC/Universal, and made into a SyFy Network TV show called Reginald the Vampire. Reginald premiered in October of 2022, was renewed for a second season in early 2023, and as of this post is shooting that second season in Victoria, British Columbia.
It’s been quite a ride, having a book made into a TV show. I’ve given my readers bits and pieces of the adventure so far, but I’ve yet to codify everything in a single place. I figured a nice, thorough online writeup was overdue.
So here we go: The story of my first book-to-TV deal.
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How it began
One random day, an email from an executive at a large television network landed in my inbox. You’d think I’d’ve taken that email more seriously than I did at first, but I was already overwhelmed. In the two days prior, I’d had an email from a William Morris agent and a phone call from a scout of some sort, both asking if the rights to Fat Vampire were spoken for. I wondered why there was suddenly a frenzy: three inquiries at once! But there wasn’t a frenzy. It was just one person trying to reach me through every means possible, like when Ryan on The Office invented WUPHF.
That, apparently, was how badly he wanted it: a WUPHF’s amount of badly.
When I finally got on the phone, the executive told me he’d been boarding a flight, idly looking for something to read, and had come across Fat Vampire on Apple Books. He said it should be a TV show, and he knew “just the two zany guys” who were looking for a new project — guys for whom my book’s style and tone was ideal.
Those two guys turned out to be Harley Peyton (Twin Peaks, Chucky) and Jeremiah Chechik (Christmas Vacation, Benny and Joon), who’d teamed up to form a production company called Modern Story. Harley is on the left.
After a few chats, Harley and Jeremiah decided to option the television and film rights to Fat Vampire in exchange for a small deposit (small relative to the price of the rights themselves). Optioning is when you acquire the ability, but not the obligation, to purchase the rights later on. It’s basically a low-cost way for producers to put their finger on a project and yell “MINE!” to all the other producers lurking nearby, so they can go out and pitch the project to partners and financiers without worrying that someone else will snatch it up while they’re working on logistics.
It was exciting to have my book series optioned and shopped around, but I kept myself in check. A lot of books get optioned, but the rights to very few actually get purchased. It was far, far from a sure thing that the show would happen.
Meanwhile, Harley, Jeremiah, and I kept talking. I set my bullshit detectors on maximum, having heard that the TV industry is a bullshitty place. However, after five years knowing them, I’ve dropped my detectors. Either the industry isn’t as bad as everyone says or I got lucky. Jeremiah actually advised me on the terms of the contract in a way that benefitted me more than what my lawyer told me to ask for, and Harley’s invited my opinion often even though he’s under no obligation to.
If I have advice on the producer-author interaction, I guess it’s to be cool but firm, professional but reasonable. Nobody involved in the production has been an asshole so far, but part of the reason I’ve had a good experience might also be because I haven’t been an asshole either. I did my research and determined that I was getting a fair deal, so there was no need to be pushy. I offered my help, but didn’t force myself on anyone. Everything’s a balance.
I also tried very hard to respect the fact that the show was their project, not mine. The book is my version of the story. The TV show is their version of the story. And that right there is its own revelation: The TV show was never going to be a carbon copy of the book, nor should it be. That’s true because the formats are different. It’s true because the cast and many others involved necessarily inform an audiovisual production, whereas a novel isn’t informed by anything but the author’s imagination.
The fact that I went in with the above attitude — interested and helpful, not protective and precious — went a long way toward making us all friends … and, as it turned out, good cross-media collaborators. When Harley first told me hesitantly that “some things might be different in the TV version,” I could tell he’d gotten bad reactions to changes from authors in the past. Instead of doing the same, I said, “I just want it to be good. Change whatever you want; it’s yours now!” We’ve been copacetic since.
They kept shopping the idea, and the rights to the show finally sold around two years after the original option, amusingly enough on my 45th birthday.
My novels were now officially green-lit to become a SyFy show called Reginald the Vampire. Things could still go wrong (the show could still be scrapped and never made), but we were on our way.
“Reginald the Vampire”? Why not “Fat Vampire”?
Right around the time they green-lit the project, someone up the food chain — someone between our merry band of three and the top brass — changed the title. Maybe the network was worried that the original title would get them cancelled; I’m not sure and couldn’t tell you if I did. It shouldn’t; the story’s perspective doesn’t call Reginald fat; it’s the “perfect and polished” vampire society (allegorically our own society) that does that. The whole point is that someone who’s dismissed because of their appearance might actually have value beneath the surface … and hence that anyone who’d single Reginald out as simply “a fat vampire” is the real asshole. I was being ironic or something.
Personally, I think the title change was a mistake — but it wasn’t my call, so whatever. I can roll with Reginald the Vampire. One thing that’s fun, though, is how often the show tips its hat to the original title. There are at least five or six conspicuous mentions of “fat vampire” in the first season. More than happens by chance.
Then production began … and I was there.
Harley became showrunner. Jeremiah became one of the show’s directors, each of whom took several episodes. Both were producers.
Harley’s first big job was to coordinate the writing of the episodes. That part was done in a virtual writers’ room, where ideas were tossed around for the benefit of whichever individual writer would be in charge of that episode’s script.
I don’t think this is typical, but Harley even invited me to join the room a few times. I just sat with all the other writers and tossed in ideas when I had them. I tried very hard not to be an intimidating presence, but if I were one of the other writers, I’m not sure I’d want the book’s author there. They were all cool, though. Everyone’s been cool — literally everyone, from producers to cast to crew.
In February of 2022, I went to visit the set to see some of the filming. It was happening in Victoria, British Columbia. That experience, my friends, was downright surreal. I mean, the spark of inspiration for the book came randomly one day on a podcast I used to be part of. I spent a month’s worth of mornings in pajama pants and slippers in my home office writing the draft, sitting at my computer and laughing. And now here I was in another country, watching several hundred people spend millions of dollars to bring it to life?
Weird. Crazy. Cool.
By some stroke of luck, I was even there to watch them shoot the scene that opens the book. I stood off to the side and heard my Reginald’s words come out a whole new Reginald’s mouth while cameras rolled. Talk about surreal.
I was there for four days. Almost everything they were shooting at the time was exterior shots at the “Slushy Shack,” which became Reginald’s workplace in the TV version. Because the characters are vampires, the exteriors were all shot at night.
Canada. In February. At night. Yeah. It was really damn cold.
I’ve posted a lot more on-set content and a full behind-the-scenes breakdown here for members of this site, but suffice to say that trip was one of the weirdest, coolest things I’ve ever done. They even let me appear in the background of one of the scenes. (That full story is in the post-series linked above as well.)
Shooting wrapped sometime around March. The show’s debut on the SyFy network was slated for October 5th, with its premiere on Hulu scheduled for April 8th of 2023.
During the intervening time, I not-so-patiently waited. I also kept trying to get the show to send me out to do press (interviews about the show and whatnot), but was largely unsuccessful in getting their attention. The problem, I think, was that most authors are introverts, either unwilling to speak in public or not very good at it. The press plan was likely already in place, and they didn’t want to add me to it only to find out that I was awkward and hard to watch when interviewed.
As a writer, though, I’m weird: I’m not awkward or shy in groups. I actually love public speaking. I’m also pretty good at it, too, if I do say so myself. I like thinking on my feet and make a pretty good interviewee. The Reginald press team didn’t know that, though.
Which actually leads me to another piece of advice, if you end up in shoes like mine: If you want to be noticed, you can’t expect anyone to be on the lookout for you. Instead, you have to toot your own horn.
If you have something to offer or an idea to add, you have to find a way to do it that’s self-promotional without being pushy. You have to show people that your idea is good, but stop short of forcing things if it’s clear they’re not interested. As with everything I’ve already mentioned, it’s a balance.
And so I decided that if nobody planned to put me in the spotlight on the show’s behalf — and if the reason for it was fear that I’d be bad in the spotlight if they gave it to me — I’d just have to show them my chops. Advocate for my own public-speaking abilities, in other words.
I sent an email to the press team with links to a few interviews I’ve done for writing podcasts about the book-to-TV process: notably this one on Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast and this one on Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula. I also sent them this interview I did with Zubin Damania, aka YouTube’s ZDoggMD, about looking at life through the lens of story. For fun, I even included this second interview with Zubin. That one isn’t even about writing. I included it so the press team could see what an actor might call “my range,” as proof that I could be interesting even when I wasn’t talking about books.
I sent the email off, then forgot about it. I had pretty slim hopes that PR would actually be in touch, given the lukewarm reception my send-me-on-a-press-junket pleas had received so far.
But then a curious thing happened: They invited me to moderate the Reginald the Vampire panel at San Diego Comic Con. I guess showing off worked.
Shit gets real in California.
I was thrilled. Not only was I going to go to Comic Con (and not only was I there for the TV show based on my silly little books), but I was going to stand on stage and run the discussion with the cast and producers.
I got to write the questions, within the guidance and requirements of the press effort overall. That felt like a more-than-fair trade. It let me join in on the fun and momentum of the TV show in a way most authors only get to do with the book.
Personally, I think I did pretty well moderating the panel. (I was told there’d be a recording so I could verify it, but the recording never materialized.) My mom said I did pretty well too, as did my aunt and uncle, all three of whom attended. So that’s four people who said I did well. None of them are biased, right? Right.
The panel was great. The cast chemistry, on display at the panel, was fun and super engaging. But in addition to those things, which were expected, two interesting and unexpected things occurred.
The first was show-related: Several people arrived wearing Slushy Shack cosplay uniforms. How the hell did that happen, for a show that hadn’t yet debuted at the time of the panel? I took it as a good sign.
The second thing was actually book-related. I’d kept the discussion about the show rather than my books as instructed — but nonetheless, two questions raised during the Q&A portion were for me instead of the panel. That was curious. Questions are supposed to be for the panelists, not the moderator.
I took that as a good sign, too.
Then, the premiere.
It seemed like October 5th would never come. I spent the time between San Diego and the show’s premiere trying to make time go faster (I was unsuccessful) and trying to figure out just how the hell people watched weekly cable TV these days. We’d given up cable long ago, but the show was on cable: on the SyFy Network. I ended up getting a Sling TV subscription, then fighting with it every week, trying to figure out how to watch live.
My friends were amazing. Our Wednesday Wine Night group moved from its usual routine to my house for ten weeks, where we all watched the episodes live together. There was much excitement for and support of me and the show.
On premiere night, one of my friends even made this vampire-themed charcuterie:
Sitting in my living room and watching a version of my book come to life on the screen was … what’s the technical term?
Oh, right: It was fucking weird.
This, in the opening credits, was weirder. Wonderful, but weird:
Seeing Reginald the Vampire for the first time made me oddly nervous. I literally couldn’t figure out how to watch the show. I just sat there like a fool, unsure what my eyes were showing me. The sense of it is nearly impossible to describe, but I’ll try.
It was sort of like being unable to pay attention. It was sort of like having ADHD imposed upon me by an outside force. Mostly, it was like watching very well-done fan fiction. I mean, this couldn’t be a real show, could it? I’d written a lot of those words, so how could they be on TV? I was restless the whole time. It’s not really even accurate to say I enjoyed the experience, though I did. There was too much … fucking weird … involved for it to qualify as pure, undiluted enjoyment.
The next day I decided I should watch the show again to see if I could watch it correctly, seeing as the adrenaline and weirdness was diminished by then. Still, it wasn’t like watching any other show, so I couldn’t tell if I’d enjoyed it or not. I couldn’t even remember if the parts I liked best had been my creation or things Harley had added.
I had to look up my favorite gag in the book on my shelf just to make sure it was in there. Luckily, it was.
We learned in early 2023 that SyFy had renewed Reginald the Vampire for a second season. This time I’ll be doing a companion podcast for the show, and am already looking to book more flights back to Victoria.
But wait. There’s a P.S. to this story.
It’s clear I’m not the kind of writer the production team expected. I like to speak in public, like to be as involved as I can, and am going to record that damn podcast no matter what.
With my apparent weirdness in mind, I decided to double down and be even weirder. Since my fiction had influenced my life, it was time to bring things full circle and let life influence my fiction, too.
See, I wasn’t 100% finished with the Fat Vampire world when premiere day came. The core series was finished, but I also had a spinoff called The Vampire Maurice, which follows Reginald’s maker through his 2000-year past. That series still needed one final book to end it. (Side note: They won’t be able to adapt The Vampire Maurice because the TV version of Maurice is only 75 years old.)
I decided that a fitting end to the Vampire Maurice series would be to obliterate the fourth wall, intermingling story and real life. And so the plot is this:
Videos of Reginald making a fool of himself go viral on YouTube. This attracts the attention of TV producers who want to (wait for it) make a TV show about Reginald … while, you know, hostile vampires try to kill Maurice for crimes from earlier in the series. A series of strangely familiar events unfold from there, including a filming in Victoria and a trip to Comic Con.
I called the book Fangs and Fame. To my knowledge, none of Reginald the Vampire’s producers, cast, or crew have read it. If they do, I’ll need to remind them that it’s a work of fiction, and that any resemblance to actual persons, living or undead, is purely coincidental.
It’s not a parody version of my own story or anything. Not at all.
If you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes and would like to see ALL of my trip photos and videos along with a detailed blow-by-blow of my time on the set and at Comic Con, check out this behind-the-scenes post for site members. It’s the first of many.
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