Little Fires Everywhere author on adapting her best-selling book for TV

Celeste Ng worked alongside series stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerri Washington.

Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng has revealed why she decided against writing the TV adaption of her best-selling book and explained her role as akin to a “tuning fork”.

The acclaimed 2017 novel has been turned into an equally lauded series starring Hollywood actresses Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, both avowed fans of Ng’s work.

Like the book, the TV adaption is set in the late 1990s in the quiet Ohio town of Shaker Heights, where the author grew up.

Little Fires Everywhere
Reese Witherspoon stars in Amazon Prime Video drama Little Fires Everywhere (Erin Simkin/Hulu/PA)

It begins with the home of Witherspoon’s character burning down in a suspected arson, one of several small fires sparking a story exploring class, race and privilege.

While authors often take charge of adapting their books for the small screen – including Sally Rooney, who co-wrote the screenplay for Normal People – Ng decided against being so hands-on and compared the adaption to a cover song.

She said: “I didn’t want to be the screenwriter myself, because I think I would be the wrong person to adapt my own work. I can’t see it in another way. But they brought on people who I think were all looking at the project in the same way.

“And so I got to be sort of their tuning fork. They’d think about what they wanted to do. And they’d come to me and say, ‘here’s our idea – what do you think about that?’ and kind of see if it was, if not the same note, then harmonising with what I wanted to do in the book, and pretty much it always was.”

NG added: “I’ve been comparing it to a cover song. You want to hear familiar melodies and the same words, but you also do want the new band’s take on it or else why don’t you just listen to the old one?

“And so I came in really with the attitude of, you know, there are going to be some changes because this is screen, it has to be somewhat different.”

Little Fires Everywhere is on Amazon Prime Video now.

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