In this Michael Grant interview, we chat about hit dystopian series GONE, as well as Michael’s wider writing career with Animorphs.
Michael Grant’s GONE novels are in the early stages of a television adaptation. How long could the potential show last for?
GONE is a six-novel dystopia/science-fiction/horror series written by Michael Grant and published between 2008 and 2013.
Although there has been serious talks of a potential television adaptation since 2013, elements did not start to come into fruition until six years later. GONE TV has the backing of Engage, a UK production company as well as the recent shooting of a marketing tool teaser that starred actors as Sam, Edilio, Dekka, Albert and EZ.
As the potential TV series is based on an existing work, it has the advantage of at least some of the audience already knowing the setting, core characters and story. This allows for some deviation to keep everyone on their toes.
This post is a character guide for the casual viewer, someone who may not have read the books though has seen the hype. Here’s a chance for you to catch up.
The first thing you need to know is this: GONE focuses on children aged fourteen and under in Perdido Beach, a fictional Californian beach town. One day, for unexplained reasons initially, everyone aged fifteen and over mysteriously disappears into thin air. Poof. Vanish. GONE.
The stranded kids, now trapped by a mysterious dome, create a new society known as the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone), named due to the town having a history of nuclear disasters and having a power plant to prevent such an occurrence.
Here are some of the important characters that you should familiarise yourself with:
Sam Temple is the overall protagonist of the novels, although the focus does shift around various people.
He lives in Perdido Beach, CA and is the son of a single mother, Constance (Connie), who works as a nurse at Coates Academy, a nearby private school. Sam attends Perdido Beach School.
Like his best friend, Quinn Gaither, Sam is a surfer and even after being thrust into the FAYZ, he still craves the familiarity and comfort of the waves.
Prior to the events of GONE (which is the name of both the first book and overall series), Sam had a crush on Astrid Ellison, a fellow student and she later becomes his girlfriend. More on Astrid below.
His main rivalries throughout the series are with a mysterious being known as the Gaiaphage and Coates Academy students Caine Soren and Drake Merwin. Sam’s relationship with both evolves significantly from a simple teenage boy rivalry, however these are deep spoilers, so I would say watch the show to learn those.
Sam also develops new friendships with other characters such as Honduran student Edilio Escobar as well as Coates Academy newcomers Dekka Talent, Brianna (The Breeze) and Computer Jack.
Astrid Ellison – known as Astrid the Genius, is an extremely intelligent girl who attends Perdido Beach School and is known for being very smart as well as attractive.
She lives with her parents, of whom her father works in the local power plant prior to the town-wide disappearances. Astrid also has a younger brother, Peter (known as Little Pete), who is severely autistic.
Although Astrid would have been aware of classmates such as Sam Temple due to being from the same small town, they did not really interact until after the FAYZ came into effect.
Caine Soren is the intelligent, charming and diplomatic leader of the Coates Academy students, who link together with the kids from Perdido Beach at the start of the FAYZ. However, his amiable personality is a facade as he is truly a ruthless dictator who wants power and control.
His rivalry with Sam Temple is one of the main story arcs of the novels and as mentioned earlier, has a much deeper reason than just clashing teenage boys.
Caine’s strongest relationship in the novels is with Diana Ladris, a fellow Coates Student and his right-hand woman, who later becomes his lover. He has also worked with Drake Merwin, Howard Bassem and Orc throughout the series although he never fully trusted or liked these individuals.
Diana is a student at Coates Academy, who was sent there for assaulting her father after discovering he had a mistress.
She, like Caine, can present a charming and friendly facade, though drops the act behind closed doors. Like many of the other characters, Diana possesses mutant powers, with hers being the ability to guage the level of everyone else’s.
Without going too deeply into novel spoilers, Diana is much more than simply a ‘female sidekick’ or ‘Caine’s girlfriend’ and we see her grow and change as the books progress.
Diana’s alliances and friendships by the end of book six are practically the polar opposite of where her loyalties were placed in the first novel.
Albert Hillsborough, before the FAYZ hit, was simply a near- anonymous African-American student, one of the few at Perdido Beach School and not particularly important in the school’s social hierarchy.
However while the nightmare of the FAYZ was a horrible experience for most people, Albert truly came into his own as a powerful business magnate, starting with the local McDonalds and later the whole FAYZ.
While at the start of the series, Albert is basically just another kid who takes control of McDonalds, he slips further and further into neutrality as the story unfolds. While he, like many, prefers Sam as a person, he does not actively show preference to either him or Caine.
Little Pete is Astrid Ellison’s four, later five-year-old autistic younger brother as well as, to the surprise of many, the single most powerful individual in the FAYZ.
Due to his autism, Little Pete does not directly engage with many of the other characters, including his sister, though his actions directly influence the events of the whole series.
Many of the other kids encountered by Astrid are disrespectful and crude towards Little Pete. Such behaviour has included insulting his intelligence (calling him ‘retarded’) and throwing rocks at him.
Whenever you find a book or series that is compelling, has interesting characters and feels real, there is a natural desire for screen adaptation. It has been done countless times, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to the superheroes from Marvel and DC Comics.
As fans of adapted material have learned over time, the source text is usually changed and reworked for the screen, for various reasons. It could be changing the order of events, or eliminating moments and characters completely.
GONE, a popular Young Adult collection of novels by Michael Grant is in the beginning stages of potentially having a television series based on the books put into production.
Firstly, as a fan of these books, this is very exciting news. Grant’s world of the FAYZ is cruel, unpredictable and very vivid. A visual take on it would be highly interesting to see.
However, we all must accept that as much as we would like it to, there is no way that this potential television series could resemble the books in every aspect. Some elements have to change in order for this process to work. One thing we do know is that Michael Grant would be scripting the show, should it be made.
Another factor is quite simple: money. Television projects usually have a much smaller budget than film and as such, there will be a financial limit on what could appear in each episode/season.
Obviously subject matter such as Gone would not work without the use of special effects but whereas they could be easily written in the books, there is a lot more practical work involved in filmmaking.
The issue of actors’ aging must also be contended with. In the novels, Michael Grant had the luxury of having years to write a story set across a much shorter period of time and as such, kept the characters the same age across each book.
If authentic teenagers are cast, then they will quickly start to look older.
On another note, I think it would be fair to say that most fans would prefer quality over aesthetic for this series.
Meaning, rather than obsessively find someone who resembles book-Sam and cannot act, instead perhaps hire people who may not exactly look like the descriptions but embody the parts and bring the familiarity that is needed for potential viewers who read the novels beforehand.
As I already said, while the events laid out in GONE (both the first book and overall series) tell a wonderful story as they are, it is highly likely that they will be altered, rearranged or removed in the production phase – no pun intended.
One indicator of this already is the recently shot teaser, which – Spoiler Alert – used the opening sequence from Hunger, book number two. It occurred to me then that the television series could use this horrific turn of events to kick us off. Following that, work backwards with flashbacks in the style of LOST to give an insight into the pre-FAYZ life only briefly touched on in the first book.
However, that could potentially alienate fans who just decided to watch a cool-looking TV series and had never read the books. While many would be very familiar with what is going on, there will be others that are not who might find this route hard to follow.