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Screenwriter Elan Mastai lands rumoured seven-figure deal for his debut novel

Elan Mastai

Elan Mastai (photo: Caitlin Cronenberg)

Elan Mastai, the Vancouver-born, Toronto-based screenwriter and producer, has attracted the attention of publishers with his debut novel, pre-empted by Maya Ziv at Dutton/Penguin U.S. (North American rights) prior to this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair for a rumoured seven figures.

Canadian rights to All Our Wrong Todays were soon after picked up by Penguin Random House Canada imprint Doubleday Canada, with associate publisher Amy Black as acquiring editor.

“From the first page, I felt like I was being charmed and the appeal of the book just deepened the further I read. Elan’s senses of inventiveness, humour, and poignance were irresistible,” Black says. “We plan to make this the book of the season here in Canada and we’ll be working closely with our colleagues at Dutton in the U.S. and Michael Joseph in the U.K. to orchestrate a worldwide launch.”

The book follows protagonist Tom, hailing from a Utopian alternate universe, who has found himself in our real-life 2015 after a time-traveling mission gone awry. Tom is faced with the decision of whether – and how – to return home, or to stay and establish a life in an unfamiliar world.

Mastai – known for 2012’s The Samaritan, starring Samuel L. Jackson, and 2013’s The F Word, featuring Daniel Radcliffe – says though the shift from screenwriting to novel-writing was a natural one, it also frightened him.

“[Screenwriting] can be a weird form because a movie script is basically a blueprint in one medium for a story told in a whole other medium. Creatively, I started to feel there were all these tools in the literary shed I wasn’t getting a chance to use,” he says. “Novel-writing was an ambient dream for me until I came up with the idea for All Our Wrong Todays … I realized much to my terror that it was going to work best as a novel; at least, a novel first. That was scary because even though I’ve been a screenwriter for more than a decade, I hadn’t written a novel before.”

Though Mastai says he feels the story is best conveyed in a novel, the title is already looking at adaptation for the screen by Amy Pascal at Pascal Pictures and Paramount, which acquired film rights.

A book lover himself, Mastai remains thrilled about the uncommonly high level of excitement his debut has stirred in the industry, and hopes readers will really connect with his characters.

“I wrote the kind of book I was dying to read but couldn’t quite find, and so my hope is that my book finds readers who fall in love with the characters the way I did. As an avid reader, I’m excited to contribute something small to the bookshelves of the world,” Mastai says. “All of this is totally atypical for a first-time novelist and not at all what I expected for a debut book. Karmically, I’m probably going to lose all my fingers and toes when Toronto turns into a deep-freeze this winter, but I will continue typing new stories with my stumps, because I love writing.”