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Author takes 'Ferrymania' from China to Hollywood

China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-31 11:06
Scottish author Claire McFall has become an international literary sensation with more than a million sales in China, but remains relatively unknown in her homeland. [Photo/Agencies]

LESMAHAGOW, Scotland-A small-town Scottish schoolteacher has become an international literary sensation with more than a million sales in China and a Hollywood movie deal-but remains relatively unknown in her homeland.

Claire McFall has signed over the rights to her Ferryman series of teenage novels to Legendary Entertainment, the United States production company behind blockbusters such as director Christopher Nolan's Batman saga and Jurassic World.

The 35-year-old mother has also been mobbed by fans in China, where her debut novel Ferryman, first published in 2013, has been a top 10 bestseller for more than two years.

"My agent calls it 'Ferrymania', which is slightly cringe-worthy," she said. "It's mind-boggling how successful it's been in China. They seem to be astonished that I would want to come to China to see them, and I was like, 'Are you kidding? You love my book!'."

McFall was teaching when her agent called in November to say she had been offered a film deal.

"I did a bit of embarrassing dancing round the classroom," she said. "It still feels quite surreal. I can't imagine seeing it up on the screen."

Despite being a huge hit in China, Ferryman has sold much more modestly in Britain-30,000 copies by June 2017.

Ferryman and its sequel Trespassers, published in September last year, follow a teenage girl on her journey to the afterlife following a train crash.

She is accompanied by a guide inspired by the Greek mythological figure Charon, who carries souls across the rivers Styx and Acheron.

The desolate wasteland between life and death was inspired by the sparsely populated and rugged landscape around Lesmahagow, a small town around 35 kilometers southeast of Glasgow, where McFall grew up and worked as a teacher.

Ferryman has been translated into Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese and McFall has also recently signed a publishing deal in France.

She said she believed the book's theme of the afterlife found particular resonance with Chinese readers.

"In China they have a belief called The Black and White Impermanence, two ghosts that take the spirits of the dead to the afterlife, and that has parallels with the themes in the books," she said.

In China, the book was marketed for adults-unlike in Britain where it was targeted at teenagers-and a large part of the Chinese readership are women aged under 25, she added.

"The people I spoke to at signings also had a real love for British culture, the books and the landscapes, and they were really attracted to the male lead. He's handsome, he's charismatic, he's brave, what more do you want?" McFall said.

The third and final novel in the Ferryman trilogy is due to be published in 2019.


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