Chronicle: How San Diego author Laura Preble took a complicated heroine to Hollywood

She’s a germaphobe whose fear of what she might inhale, touch, or otherwise ingest keeps her mostly confined to her home. She also suffers from trichotillomania, a condition that causes people to compulsively pull their hair out. Then there’s this obsession with his therapist. More on that later.

When they look at the heroine of Laura Preble’s 2020 novel “Anna Incognito,” most people would see a mess. But much to Preble’s shock, some key people read his book and saw a movie. After two years and more than 20 script rewrites, the Rancho San Diego writer sees it too.

In addition to authoring five novels, including the young adult series “Queen Geeks,” Preble is now an award-winning screenwriter. So far this year, Preble’s adaptation of “Anna Incognito” has won Best Screenplay honors at the California Indies Film Festival and an Honorable Mention at the Big Apple Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

Her unproduced screenplay was also selected for inclusion at festivals such as the Boston Independent Film Awards and the LA Independent Women Film Awards.

Like any screenwriter, Preble knows that not all scripts become movies. But even if “Anna Incognito” never makes it from page to screen, the 60-year-old writer has already gone on an adventure she didn’t see coming. Which is probably just as well.

“I thought writing a screenplay would be pretty much the same as writing a novel. I thought, ‘It’s a story. It’s dialogue. I did that. But it’s not the same,” said Preble, who retired from her job as a librarian at Monte Vista High School in June 2020.

“With the first draft I wrote, I realized, ‘I really don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve no idea. It was much more difficult than I thought. »

When Preble wrote the new version of “Anna Incognito”, she thought it would be the only version. The universe had other ideas.

The novel was released in February 2020, which was a terrible time for a new book to come into the world, even though the main character’s obsession with germs was about to be very relevant. A month after “Anna Incognito” was released, the pandemic shutdown was suddenly upon us. Readings and book signings were off the table, and it looked like Anna’s future was in limbo.

But a few months into the pandemic, Preble’s story of a locked-down heroine embarking on the road trip of her life headed in a whole new direction.

The book was a finalist in the annual Script Pipeline screenwriting competition, a long-running competition that connects writers with production companies, agencies and managers. As a finalist, Preble got the chance to write the screenplay adaptation herself, with help from Pipeline Media COO Peter Malone Elliott and senior executive and partner Matt Joseph Misetich.

She dug into the adaptation in the fall of 2020. She finished in December. From 2021.

“I described the process to someone like trying to get an elephant into a kennel,” Preble said of the challenge of turning a 272-page book into a 110-page screenplay.

“A producer told me that she never tells the writers to adapt their work into a script because it is very painful to amputate parts of your baby. But Pipeline was very encouraging. I got discouraged several times, but they said to me, ‘You can do it. You have talent. You have to keep doing it.’

What got Preble through the painful pruning process was his love for his complicated heroine and the journey that begins as a desperate plot to sabotage his therapist’s wedding, but becomes something else entirely.

And what made Pipeline invest in Preble? Again, it all comes down to Anna, who besides being a wreck is also an inspiration.

“What drew me to this character was the fact that she’s kind of a broken person, but she tries. She’s willing to go all the way to get better, she just doesn’t know how, which I think is very universal,” Misetich said.

“Laura is really good at character and character dynamics. It’s a very difficult story to understand, and she’s done a really solid job of building everything up and peeling back the layers really well. You’re never quite right. makes sure of the direction of Anna’s story or background until the very end.

For the moment, Anna’s future in Hollywood is still unwritten. Pipeline submitted the book to a few producers for comment, and Preble’s script was sent to some production companies.

And while Pipeline pitches, Preble writes. His new novel in progress is a “very weird and quirky” modern take on Dante’s “Inferno.” She is also working on “Handy Tips for Dating Jesus”, a screenplay inspired by her Catholic school days.

It’s unclear where the “Anna Incognito” script will end, but agoraphobic Anna is now in the world. And for the writer behind the heroine, it’s a liberating start.

“I think seeing a character go through these hardships and finding an unexpected way to heal is important for a lot of people around the world who don’t have a lot of hope,” Preble said. “No matter how damaged you are, there is hope for recovery.”

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