With Grace Unplugged targeted to hit the big screen nationwide October 4, Believe.com sat down with the acclaimed Christian novelist, Melody Carlson, who put the much-anticipated movie into words.
As the author of Grace Unplugged — a new novel based on the upcoming film of the same name — Carlson is quite excited to discuss the powerful and inspirational message behind the story. In Believe.com’s exclusive interview, Carlson shares about the heart behind Grace Unplugged.
What is the story of Grace Unplugged about?
Melody Carlson: It’s sort of your prodigal daughter story. Grace Trey is this talented young person,18 years old, very gifted. Her dad [Johnny] is the worship leader at her church. His background is that he was in the music industry, and had a pretty rough go of it. He is adamantly opposed to [Grace] going into the music industry. She ends up connecting with his manager who comes to visit and sneaking off to Hollywood.
A lot of hard things happen as she gets involved with some of the wrong people and trusts the wrong people. Meanwhile, her dad is falling apart. It’s about their reconciliation in the end and learning some lessons.
How did you become involved with this project?
MC: The publisher approached me. I’ve written a lot of books for teens and really have a heart for teenagers. I hadn’t done a novelization before; I’ve done the opposite, turning some of my books into screenplays. I thought, “This would be really a good learning experience for me,” and it really was.
What are some of the challenges you faced adapting this movie into a book?
MC: The script is such a fraction of the work that the book is going to be, and you’re not in the screenwriter’s head, and you haven’t seen the movie. So I’m putting a lot of flesh on these bones and hoping that the flesh is going to match up to what the screenwriter had in mind and what the producers and directors had in mind. I think I came pretty close, because when I did see the movie, very little was different. [For] my story, I had to make up a lot of things you didn’t really see in the screenplay, but they felt true to the development.
Who is playing the main characters, and did you keep them in mind as you wrote the novel?
MC: AJ Michalka plays Grace. She is a nationally gifted singer who’s been on the Disney Channel. [Johnny is played by] James Denton, whom most people know from Desperate Housewives. Kevin Pollak plays the manager.
[The casting] was about the only thing that I really knew, as far as any kind of visual thing that you would use. I had their pictures. As far as their motives and why Johnny Trey was acting the way he did, I just kind of had to make that part up. There’s things I have in the book that a person would have to use their imagination watching the movie.
Why will people want to both read the book and watch the movie? How do they complement one another?
MC: I know a lot of people who like to read the book and watch the movie. Some people like to go into a movie knowing what’s going to happen, because they can thoroughly enjoy the movie; they’re not distracted with trying to figure it all out. The opposite way, [after watching the movie], you get more insight [from the book]. And then it becomes more of a full experience.
What do you hope readers and viewers will take away from Grace Unplugged?
MC: The whole reconciliation thing, that we never get in so deep, so bad, so far that we can’t be reconciled. There’s always hope because of grace.
Before hitting the Big Screen
Melody Carlson’s novel, Grace Unplugged, published by Broadman and Holman, can be found in bookstores nationwide and here. A companion book, Own It: Leaving Behind a Borrowed Faith by Michael and Hayley DiMarco, is also available. This challenging read is featured in the film and plays an important role in Grace’s spiritual growth.
The PG-rated Grace Unplugged, hits theaters October 4 and has a soundtrack with an all-star lineup. The movie’s album, which includes songs from TobyMac, Chris Tomlin, AJ Michalka, Jamie Grace, Josh Wilson, Colton Dixon and Shawn McDonald, is also available and can be purchased here. For a free download of the song, “Welcome to Daylight,” by Luminate, you can click here.