Paul Gross’s war movie, Hyena Road, about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, isn’t hitting theatres until Oct. 9. But head to a local bookstore right now and you’ll find a novelization with Gross’s name on it, published by HarperCollins Canada.
A simultaneous cinema release and novel adaptation isn’t a common phenomenon anymore, especially for Canadian films, but it has happened before – with Gross, as it turns out. According to HarperCollins Canada editorial director Jennifer Lambert, the publisher worked closely with Gross’s team to create a novel out of the screenplay for his 2008 film Passchendaele.
Lambert says, “That was very, very successful for us, so when Paul had a new movie, his team at Rhombus Media reached out to us to say, ‘Would you like to collaborate again?’ Of course, the answer was yes.”
From there, a ghostwriter was hired and given access to Gross’s screenplay, a rough cut of the film, and the movie’s military advisers. Changes and additions were made, but it was important to Lambert that the novel honour Gross’s contributions, which is why the book cover credits his screenplay.
“It was our way of acknowledging his primary contribution to the novel and our way to acknowledge that this is based on the story, ideas, and characters created by Paul,” says Lambert.
Gross’s name on the cover also means that in the coming weeks he’ll be able to promote the book together with the movie. “Knowing that we could put the novel out at the same time as the film is really important, so we’ve done a lot of cross-promotions,” says Lambert. HarperCollins is working closely with Hyena Road distributors Elevation Pictures to synchronize efforts, whether it’s simultaneously revealing the movie’s poster and book cover, or offering contests for chances to see the film. But Lambert stresses there will be book-centric events, too. “We have events lined up in which Paul will be making an appearance on behalf of the book. We have signings scheduled in Calgary, Winnipeg, Richmond Hill, and Toronto.”
While the Hyena Road adaptation capitalizes on anticipation for the movie and Gross’s star power, Lambert says it’s also an important story to bring to Canadians, and a chance to tell much-needed stories about the military and what they’re going through.
“Hyena Road is a story about Canadians in another part of the world, doing something that people at home try their best to understand,” says Lambert. “We have very active members of the military putting their lives at risk around the world, so we need to talk about these things as well. Canadians are interested in that.”