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Author took time to decide ending of 'If I Stay'

Posted: August 20, 2014 - 11:04pm

Mia, the main character in Gayle Forman’s book “If I Stay,” has to make a major decision between fighting for life or giving up after an accident leaves her in a coma.

You’ll have to read the book — or see the new feature film opening Friday — to see what happens.

Forman says she had to wait, too. It wasn’t until she was halfway through writing “If I Stay” that she decided which way the story would go.

“I am not sure why I chose the way I did. But, as I got further and further into the book, I had all these scenes from her past of love and beauty. I began to see her transformation and, when she was in the ghost state, coming to understand the strength that makes her do what she does,” Forman says during a promotional stop in San Francisco.

The author, along with the movie’s star Chloe Grace Moretz, have been on the road talking about the film. Moretz plays 17-year-old Mia, a serious 17-year-old whose passion for the cello has her on the verge of musical greatness. A tragic turn of events affects everything Mia has lived for in her few short years <0x2014> her family, friends, music and her relationship with Adam (Jamie Blackley), a fun-loving rock musician who is also on the path to fame and fortune.

Forman based the book on a tragic accident that took the lives of two close friends and their children. One of the children stayed alive longer than the rest of the family. During her grieving for the loss, Forman began to think about whether the child knew what happened and if that had any effect on his eventual passing.

While Forman didn’t hear their voices while she was writing, she does believe the family was in the room with her as the book began to take shape.

“There’s a note in the paperback that says ‘love can make you immortal.’ You do keep people alive when you think about them. They will truly never be gone,” Forman says.

Despite some starts and stops, Forman released “If I Stay” in 2009 and it earned her the NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association) Book of the Year Award, as well as the 2010 Indie Choice Honor Award.

The book means so much to Forman, that it’s only natural she had a few qualms when Shauna Cross was hired to turn the book into a screenplay.

Forman, whose background is in print journalism writing for Seventeen Magazine, Elle and Cosmopolitan, didn’t want to write the screenplay. But she also didn’t want the script to feel like a distant cousin to the book. Both Cross and director R.J. Cutler consulted her as the script came together, which erased her concerns.

The most important part of the book and film is the decision Mia makes and why that choice is selected. Forman says she’s often asked about the ending of the book. Considering the type of books being generated in the Young Adult genre, Forman likes to joke, “they all die and turn into sparkly vampires.”

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