See if this sounds familiar: An author from Tulsa, going by her initials and last name, pens a wildly popular series of young-adult novels set in Oklahoma. The books draw attention from Hollywood and, eventually, filmmakers arrive in her hometown to make movies based on what she’s written.
That’s exactly what happened in the early 1980s with S.E. Hinton, who effectively created the young-adult genre with 1967’s The Outsiders. Before it was over, she’d seen an adaptation of that novel and two others – Tex and Rumble Fish – shot in the early ’80s in the very locales that provided the settings for her books.
Now, nearly 40 years later, the chances are good it could happen again. Plans are well underway to adapt the bestselling House of Night series by P.C. Cast, a former English teacher at South Intermediate High School in Broken Arrow, into a live-action television series. Its producers, Don Carmody and David Cormican, are industry veterans with many credits. Most recently, they were behind the Netflix series Northern Rescue and the Disney Freeform series ShadowHunters.
The House of Night novels, phenomenally popular worldwide, chronicle the lives and adventures of young would-be vampires who attend the titular school, a kind of finishing academy that prepares students for the challenges of adult-vampire life. These are fantasies, but to those who know Tulsa, many of the books’ scenes impart a real-world aura.
“As anyone who follows the series knows, I use real places,” says Cast, who resides in the Pacific Northwest. “They exist. There is a Philbrook [Museum of Art] in the books. There’s a Tulsa depot. There’s a Gilcrease Museum. There’s a Mayo [Hotel] and an Ambassador [Hotel]. There are tunnels under Tulsa. And, of course, Cascia Hall is the setting for the House of Night.
“Tulsa is not just where things happen. It’s why things happen.”
Cast says it’s important for the series to be shot in Tulsa, even though DCTV, the headquarters of producers Carmody and Cormican, is in Toronto, 1,200 miles away.
“From the very beginning, I have been very consistent in saying I would like as much filming as possible done in Tulsa,” she says.” I have explained to them that Tulsa isn’t just a setting. It’s a character in the series, irrevocably intertwined. It’s part of the package.”
Cast recently brought the two producers to Tulsa, where they joined her for a book-launching event. She also showed them around town and made her case for shooting in the actual settings described in House of Night. Their willingness to travel here at Cast’s request speaks to the mutual trust and respect between the producers and the author of their source material.
“From the first time we met with them, they listened to us,” Cast says. “We’ve actually been in contact with them for months and months, since early in the year, and every single thing they said they were going to do, they’ve done.
“They’re wonderful. And all I can say right now is that it’s progressing very, very nicely. They are living up to their word, they are completely respecting the [House of Night] world, and they’re involving us every single step of the way.”
The “us” and “we” are Cast and her daughter, Kristin, who shares credit on the House of Night novels. Kristin has become a bestselling author in her own right; recently, she and her mother announced that they’re jointly writing a new trilogy called Salem County, described by P.C. as “a fun, witchy series set in the Midwest.”
On the House of Night series, however, the collaboration is a bit more nuanced.
“Kristin is my editor on House of Night, and she has been from the very beginning,” Cast says. “When I started writing it [in the middle of last decade], I was still teaching at South. I’d taught for 15 years, and I didn’t think I’d have any trouble with the teenage voice. But what I found when I started writing it was that my characters, my teenage characters, were talking with ’70s slang. And it terrified me.”
“I was living in a little condo by the B.A. Medical Center, right down the street from South,” she says. “My office was in my bedroom. Kristin would be sitting out in the living room watching MTV, and I would literally shriek at her, ‘What do you call this?’ I remember two words in particular. I was trying to find a current word for drunk, and, another, time, the word for revving an engine. I found out that you used to rev it. Now you gun it.”
After several more questions along the same line, she remembers, Cast came out of her office and said to her daughter, “How would you like to co-author these books with Mama – meaning, just make sure I use the right words?
“She said, ‘Would it be like Kristin Cast and P.C. Cast on the cover of the book?’
“I said, ‘No, it will be P.C. Cast, plus Kristin Cast.’
“She said, ‘Will I be famous?’
“And I said, ‘Sure.’
“She laughs about that now, but at 18 or 19, she really believed. I mean, I was shocked when these books took off. She was not.”
Although they found an audience from the beginning, it wasn’t until the release of the third novel, Chosen, that the House of Night series hit the stratosphere. And while that may have happened more than a decade ago, Cast still recalls with crystalline clarity the moment her life changed.
“You know, off 101st, when you’re going from B.A. to Tulsa, around the Union [school] area, where all those really cool paths are?” she says. “Kristin and I had two Scottie dogs then, and we used to walk them along those paths all the time. Chosen had just been released, and the Monday of the next week, my editor called me and said, ‘We’re going back to press already.’
“Then she called me on Tuesday and she was like, ‘You’re trending big time. You’re doing really well on BookScan [a data provider for book sales].’
“I said, ‘Huh. Is there any chance I could hit the New York Times bestseller list?’
“‘I really don’t know,’ she said. ‘We’ll know tomorrow.’
“So we were out walking our Scotties down the path at 101st, and I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. The phone rang, I answered it, and our editor, Jen, screamed – screamed – ‘You are No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list!’
“I couldn’t even talk. I was just making weird sounds. Kristin was looking at me and saying, ‘What? Is it good?’ And I’m nodding my head yes, and hyperventilating, and Jen’s still talking on the other end. Kristin’s saying, ‘What? We’re on the Times’ bestseller list?’
“I put up two fingers, and she said, ‘We’re 20? 22?’”
Cast laughs again.
“Of course, the Times list is the first 10. But they used to do an extended list with the first 25. And Kristin was going, ‘Twenty? We made the extended list?’
“I shook my head and started to cry. ‘No,’ I said. ‘We’re number two.’ And we lost our minds so much that the dogs started barking and running around. Anyone walking by saw these two crazy women, just screaming and crying and hugging one another and jumping up and down.”
Header photo by Daniel Stark, Stark Photography