The conclusion of my Riley Parra posts in honor of the LGBT+ Storybundle! For as little as a dollar per book, you can get stories about people who just happen to be gay going about their lives! Check it out!

One big question I’ve gotten is the difference between the books and the series. How much will change, how much will be the same, etc. There’s a scene in one of the early stories where Riley and crew are trapped in an old firehouse. Riley jumps in the old fire truck and drives it through the closed garage door to escape. I’m not saying Tello can’t do this, I just feel there are much better things they could spend that money on. So that story might one day get adapted to screen, I highly doubt I will write “Riley crashes through a garage door in an antique fire truck” in any scripts. The second story has a crime scene on an elevated train, and I don’t think LA even has one of those.

So I knew going in there would have to be changes. Some big, some small, some cosmetic. In the books, Riley and Gillian have worked together for a while before they start dating. In the series, Gillian is new to the department. A character who was slated for death in a future installment got a new lease on life when I saw who had been cast. And the character of Caitlin Priest, who sadly doesn’t appear in the first season from Tello, will hopefully have the widest casting net of any character. No ethnicity required, no reason she has to be played by anyone cisgendered. If she ends up being played by a white blonde woman, that will be fine! It will be following the source material. But I don’t want the casting to be restricted to that very narrow group.

I was lucky enough to design Riley as a series from the very beginning. Instead of trying to trim a 500+ page book into a single narrative, I was able to use the first story. It still required an awful lot of gymnastics to get it all in there. You think you have all the time in the world and suddenly there’s five minutes of show time left and you haven’t introduced your villain yet.

It’s a strange thing to translate a book into a new medium. I’ve already translate it once – from idea to page – and now I’m taking it another step and bringing it to life. There were adjustments made on the first step, things I did differently than I thought and plot turns I didn’t see coming. The same goes for this next step. I’m getting a chance to retell the story from the beginning with the benefit of knowing exactly how it all played out once. It’s exciting and fun to play with the world and know I don’t have to follow the blueprint exactly.

There’s also the balance for the fans. People who read the books are going to want to see the characters they love brought to life, but at the same time, they don’t want to see a step-by-step performance. You have to find a way to tell the same story without boring them because they know everything that’s happening. You also don’t want to go so far off the track that it’s unrecognizable. Elements of the book will cross over directly. Other things will be changed for plot and realistic concerns (Riley’s guardian angel won’t be revealed by stopping a runaway train with her bare hands). As I said earlier, one character who died is going to be sticking around a lot longer on the show (knock on wood there’s a “longer” for the show!).

But at its heart, the important things will stay the same. This is still the same Riley Parra who was in the books. Her love for Gillian is stronger than anything. Other characters – Kenzie Crowe, Chelsea Stanton, Radio, Aissa Good – are waiting in the wings should we get enough seasons to bring them in, but their introductions will likely be different than the book.

As a writer, you also have to deal with the fact that having a real-life person in the role is going to change the character. I don’t think Riley is going to change very much because, as I said, Marem Hassler is such a perfect choice. But knowing that Liz Vassey will play Gillian is going to change how I write her going forward even if it’s just to add dialogue about how much she enjoys running. ::g::

Basically it all comes down to the story and the characters. If you’ve never read Riley Parra, you can watch the show and understand everything that’s happening. If you read the book, you’ll recognize all your favorite characters and, while they might take you unexpected places, you’ll still end up in the same general place when all is said and done. Hopefully the journey will be just as amazing for both sides of the audience.