Their fantasy is her reality in this bright and uplifting contemporary coming-of-age novel by the acclaimed author of Breaking Sky and You Were Here.
Iris Thorne wants to blaze her own path. That’s easier said than done when you’re the granddaughter of M. E. Thorne, famous author of the Elementia series, hailed as the feminist response to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. And with a major motion picture adaptation of her grandmother’s books in the works, Iris can say goodbye to her dream of making her own way in the music industry.
So when Iris and her brother get invited to the film set in Ireland, she’s pretty sure the trip will be a nightmare. Except Iris can’t deny the rugged beauty of the Irish countryside. And brushing shoulders with the hot, young cast isn’t awful, especially the infuriatingly charming lead, Eamon O’Brien. Iris even finds the impassioned female director inspiring. But when the filming falls into jeopardy, everything Iris thought she knew about Elementia—and herself—is in question. Will making a film for the big screen help Iris to see the big picture?
Praise for Now a Major Motion Picture
“A war cry and a love letter all at once.”–Kirkus
“This is simultaneously a whimsical teen romance and an emotionally compelling story about family, creativity, and courage.”— School Library Journal
“Joyful and authentic. With a vivid cast of unique characters, the story is engrossing, right down to the sometimes wryly self-referential, on-point chapter titles.” –Booklist
Excerpt from Now a Major Motion Picture:
I DON’T WANT TO ALARM ANYONE, BUT THERE’S AN ELF AT BAGGAGE CLAIM
The guy was probably a painter. Possibly a drummer.
College age and wearing all black, he’d been the unique focus of my thousand-hour red-eye. My inflight boyfriend. It was a torrid, imaginary romance. We’d gone on at least a dozen dates and told adorable anecdotes to our future children about how their parents met a few miles in the air.
Now we were no longer separated by two Aer Lingus seats. We were shoulder to shoulder, dazedly watching the baggage belt spin. Just say hi. Ask him something.
I hugged the neck of my guitar case. “Do you know the time?”
He checked a large, silver watch. “Half twelve.”
“What?” I blurted. The bags began to emerge, and I was suddenly under new pressure to break the ice before we parted ways. After all, an entire transatlantic daydream depended on it. “Is that six? Eleven thirty? I’m so jet-lagged it could be either.”
“Twelve thirty.” His Irish accent made his words feel like lyrics to a decent song.
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. Half of twelve is six.” I smiled.
“Americans,” he muttered with a snicker.
And he continued snickering as he reached for a suitcase, leaving me with the unparalleled awkwardness of being embarrassed by and disappointed in a complete stranger. I’d mentally dumped him four exotic ways—my favorite involving a baseball stadium video screen—by the time my little brother came running back from the bathroom.
“Iris!” Ryder yelled. “I peed for like two whole minutes. I should’ve timed it!”
The baggage claim crowd parted for him—people tend to do that when someone’s yelling about their urine. Now I really felt like a gross American. Thanks, Ireland. We’re off to a great start.
“Eleven days,” I murmured. “Only eleven days.”
Ryder showed no sign of jet lag. He wrestled a foam fantasy axe out of his backpack, spilling weapons everywhere. He then engaged imaginary opponents in fierce battle while the people from our flight continued to back away. My ex-in-flight boyfriend even gave him a dirty look—before giving me a dirtier look.
“I’m not his mom, you know,” I said as I collected Ryder’s weapons off the floor.
A well-meaning Irish granny stepped up. “Is this your first time in Ireland?” she asked Ryder, placing a steadying hand on his shoulder. My brother nodded and squirmed. I checked my desire to tell her that, in America, we don’t touch kids we don’t know, but I didn’t want to call more attention to our swiftly amassing cultural differences. “Are you going to see the Giant’s Causeway? Or the Cliffs of Moher?”
“No,” Ryder said, breaking free from her hold. “We get to meet famous people and help out on set and probably even get bit roles.”
“No bit roles, Ry. You know that,” I said.
McGranny looked to me for an explanation. I zipped up Ryder’s backpack and said it fast. “He means the adaptation for Elementia. They’re filming here for the next two weeks. We’ve been invited to…” What were we supposed to do? “Watch, I guess.”
“Our grandma wrote that book!” Ryder said so loud we now had an even larger audience. Everyone who’d been groggily waiting to claim their luggage had tuned in.
“Excuse me?” My ex-love was back in the picture, not snickering this time. “Did you say your grandmother was the author M. E. Thorne?” The spark in his eyes seemed desperate to rekindle our imaginary flame.
Get out of your own head, Iris.
“Yeah,” I managed.
“Have I got something to show you.” He started to take off his shirt.
“Oh, for the love of…” I whispered, staring down at my red Chucks.
“Look!” Ryder proclaimed. “Iris, look! He’s got the map of Elementia on his ribs!”
I had to peek. It was an awfully big map. Alas, my curiosity was rewarded by a rich paleness smattered in black chest hair.
He put his shirt back down and smiled, but I kept hearing the way he’d grumbled Americans. “So are you excited about the film adaptation?” he asked. “Are you having a hand in its development? How do you feel about them changing the ages of the characters?”
I braided my hair back and said nothing, reminded once again of my life’s golden rule. People usually treated me one of two ways. One: like I was M. E. Thorne’s granddaughter, gifted with an otherworldly glow. Two: no one. I’d give anything for a third option.
“This is all you talk about, isn’t it?” he continued. “You’ve probably been reading your grandma’s books since you were a kid. I discovered them a few years back. Then again, I bet you can’t say anything because of the movies. Top-secret insider information, right?”
I chewed on my response. The gristle of this fantasy talk would not go down. Everyone assumed I’d be over the moon about the adaptation, but it meant the story’s fandom would triple. Quadruple. Soon everyone would revise their interest in me, just like this guy.
“Ryder, see if that’s our bag,” I said, moving us to the other side of the carousel. When I had my back to everyone from our flight, I squeezed my eyes, a little scream coming up from deep inside.
“You okay, Iris?” Ryder put a hand on my shoulder. I opened my eyes. Not his hand—it was his foam dwarf axe. At least his little-kid expression was earnest.
“I’m fine.” I rested my forehead on the top of my guitar case. I knew better than to check out when I was on Ryder duty, but I couldn’t help it. One moment later, my brother was lunging for his luggage, and the next, he was on the carousel, disappearing through the plastic hanging strips and into the bowels of Shannon Airport. “Hey!” I yelled. “Ryder!” Fear slapped me awake, and I almost crawled through the plastic strips after him. “Hey!”
“Need some help, then?”
I turned toward a new Irish voice and almost fell over. “Oh no.”
The boy had elf ears. Honest to God, pointy and flexed into his hairline elf ears.
“Oh no?” he returned, his eyebrows sky-high.
“What’re you… What are you?”
“I’m an elf,” he said as casually as if he were telling me he was an art major. “I’m here to give you a lift.” He held up a printed sign that read Thorne.
“Put that down. These people are already too curious.” I grabbed the paper and balled it. “And if you’re here to help, solve that equation.” I pointed to the baggage exit. “One brother went in. No brothers are coming back out. He’s probably on the runway by now.”
“Ye of little faith,” Elf Ears said, crossing his arms. “He’ll pop back through in a moment.” He leaned over conspiratorially. “It’s a circle, you know.”
I couldn’t believe that a stranger with artificial ears was “ye of little faith”-ing me. “What if security catches him? In the United States, the TSA confiscates firstborns for this kind of thing.”
On cue, Ryder came back through the plastic strips, sitting on my duffel and wearing my sunglasses he’d pillaged from the outer pocket. He knew he was in trouble, and yet he grinned. Then he saw the guy beside me, and his mouth dropped open. Ryder jumped down and ran over, leaving me to fetch both of our bags from the carousel.
By the time I’d returned, Ryder’s face was a full moon of excitement. “Iris. This is Nolan. Nolan.”
Nolan held out his hand as though we hadn’t previously met, i.e., argued. “It’s Eamon. Eamon O’Brien.”
I dropped Ryder’s bag to shake Eamon’s hand. “What a name. Did you spring from the roots of Ireland itself?”
I had to hand it to him—he didn’t flinch.
“And you’re Iris Thorne. Nothing to slag there, right?”
Ryder pulled on my shirt, revealing way too much of my bra, while hissing, “It’s Nolan.”
I grabbed his hand and yanked up my neckline. “Stop it or I’ll snap your dwarf axe over my knee.” I plucked my sunglasses off Ryder’s face and put them on in time to catch quite possibly the dirtiest look an elf has ever given a human. “Oh, come on. I don’t really break his toys. And how come there are three of us, but I’m carrying all the bags?”
“It’s not a toy,” Ryder snipped. “It’s a costume replica.”
Eamon continued to glare, proving his eyes weren’t blue but a crystal color that felt digitally enhanced. No wonder he’d been cast as the famous elf in Grandma Mae’s books. Nolan—Eamon—whatever his name was threw the strap of my huge duffel over his shoulder and tried to take my guitar.
“Don’t even think about it,” Ryder said for me. “She’s married to that thing.”
“Is that legal in America these days? Do you share health care?”
I stuck out my tongue, and Eamon grinned wildly, which encouraged me to put my tongue away and wonder how he’d reduced me to Ryder’s maturity level in a matter of minutes.
We passed under the green banner of Nothing to Declare, and I tried some light conversation. “So, if you’re one of the actors, why are you doing airport pickups?”
“I volunteered. I’m a huge fan.”
“Hey, I read about you,” Ryder said. “This is your very first movie!”
I couldn’t help myself. “Then how’d you get the role?”
“That’s a fine story. I love Elementia. It’s in my blood. I first read it with my mam when I was, oh, about this high.” He held his hand to Ryder’s head, making my brother beam. “When they announced the movie and open casting, Mam and I decided to dream big. We made an audition video in a wooded bit on Saint Stephen’s Green.”
“Elijah Wood did that to become Frodo,” Ryder said.
“Right, right.” He knocked Ryder’s shoulder, best friends already. “I thought, if it worked for Elijah, why can’t it work with me?”
“Because Elijah Wood had an established film career before he did that,” I muttered.
“What was that?” Eamon asked.
“Nothing.” I knew where this story was going. Without a doubt, it would conclude with “then I met the grandchildren of M. E. Thorne and it was the most magical thing to ever happen to me.”
Eamon continued. “Lo and behold, I’m cast as Nolan. And today I’m getting fit for my ears when Cate Collins, wonder director, needs someone to pick up M. E. Thorne’s grandchildren. I volunteered, quick as light.” Eamon shifted the bag on his shoulder and glanced at me. “This is when I meet a tiny, axe-wielding hero and his mountain troll of a guardian.”
My guitar case slipped out of my hand, banging hollowly on the ground. “What the…”
Ryder’s smile was wider than both of the hands he used to cover it.
“Pardon that.” Eamon winked at me—the sassiest thing I’d ever seen a guy manage. “I’m prone to descriptive exaggeration, me springing outta the roots of Ireland and all.”
I blushed, an odd mixture of offended and ashamed.
“Iris Thorne!” an unfamiliar voice yelled from behind.
I turned, my pulse turning into a drum. Just like there were two ways people treated me, there were two kinds of Elementia fans: the ones who loved the trilogy—and the ones who’d reconstructed their lives for it. The latter group called themselves Thornians. They wrote letters to my family. They knew my birthday.
And one of them tried to abduct Ryder when he was six.
I was sort of relieved to see it was my ex-in-flight boyfriend, the newly redubbed Mr. Nerdy Torso Tattoo, jogging over. “How do you know my name?” I asked, my voice breaking a little as I put out an arm to keep him from getting too close to Ryder.
“Your brother was yelling it. I didn’t even know M. E. Thorne had young grandkids.”
I relaxed slightly. “I’m not that young.”
“I’m crossing my fingers you’re eighteen.” The guy leaned close with flirtatious wickedness, reminding me of what had drawn my attention to him during the flight. Lanky gorgeousness. The glasses. Blue eyes. Dark, tight swirls of hair. He rested a long-fingered hand on the top of my guitar case. Definitely musician’s fingers. Also, it was suddenly quite obvious that I’d been wrong; he was well beyond college age.
Earth to Iris. Walk away, Iris.
“I’m…seventeen.” I stepped back, oddly relieved to bump into Eamon. “Have to go.”
The guy pulled out his wallet and handed me a business card. “Shoot me a message around your birthday. I’ll take you out, and we can talk about the movie, or the books, if you prefer.”
Neither, thank you. “I live in LA.”
“I’ll make the trip.” He smiled at the person he thought was me. He walked away. And I hated M. E. Thorne more than usual, which, to be honest, was already a lot.
We walked toward the parking lot, and I kept my head down.
“You work fast, Lady Iris,” Eamon said, low enough that Ryder couldn’t hear.
“No way,” I muttered back. “That guy has the hots for my dead grandma.” He glanced at me, concerned. “I’m fine,” I added, hoping I looked annoyed—bold and unflappable—but from the way his expression fell, I think maybe my sad was showing.
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