Brian McGreevy and Philipp Meyer bonded back in 2005 while they studied writing at the University of Texas in Austin. Now the two authors are adapting "The Son," Mr. Meyer's widely acclaimed novel about three generations of a family of Texas ranchers, for television. Lee Shipman, a Los Angeles-based author and producer, is the third writer on the project.
A Western Pennsylvania native, Mr. McGreevy, 30, wrote "Hemlock Grove," a gothic horror novel that became a series available for streaming last April on Netflix. The author grew up in Charleroi, Swissvale and Edgewood and set his book, published in 2012, in the Mon Valley.
Mr. Meyer, 39, joins his friend at 7 p.m. Saturday to discuss their work in Waverly Presbyterian Church in Regent Square. The moderator will be Tony Norman, a columnist and book editor for the Post-Gazette. (The congregation's pastor, the Rev. Rebecca Hickok, is Mr. McGreevy's mother.)
During a recent telephone interview, Mr. McGreevy said the writers' goal is to attract a movie director to oversee all eight or 10 episodes of "The Son" so it has cinematic production values. He is a founding partner of ShineBox SMC, a production company.
The success of "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" has drawn more filmmakers to television. Mr. McGreevy pointed to Steven Soderbergh's commitment to direct all 10 episodes of "The Knick," a drama set in a New York hospital during the 1900s. "The Knick" is slated to air on Cinemax this year.
Mr. McGreevy and Mr. Meyer have many common bonds and talk regularly over glasses of whiskey in their neighborhood of Manhattan's East Village.
"Both of us grew up in industrial Northeastern places. Both of us had this entrepreneurial attitude that emerged from a certain native iconoclasticism. Both of us dropped out of high school at a pretty young age," Mr. McGreevy said.
When Mr. Meyer, a Baltimore native, was working on his first novel, "American Rust," Mr. McGreevy told him, "You don't realize it, but you are writing about where I grew up."
That prompted Mr. Meyer to come to Pittsburgh regularly to do research, visit Mon Valley bars and stay at Rev. Hickok's Charleroi home. "Hemlock Grove" and "American Rust" differ stylistically, Mr. McGreevy said, but both stories "deal with the ramifications of the death of the blue-collar middle class in America."
Mr. McGreevy is glad that Shinebox SMC will produce "The Son."
"There was a heavy level of competition for this book. Some pretty powerful people were trying to beat down Philipp's door," Mr. McGreevy said.
The two friends decided to adapt "The Son" so they could retain artistic and financial control. "As a writer in this economic climate, you really have to think about diversification to maintain financial autonomy, and probably that means, at least in terms of film, you pretty much have to be a producer as well," Mr. McGreevy said. He is also at work on a new novel.
Mr. Meyer, reached by phone while en route to Austin, Texas, summarized the television version of "The Son" as "Deadwood" meets "Lonesome Dove" meets "East of Eden."
His "American Rust," published in 2009, received high praise from book critics nationwide and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. "The Son" was published last year. With two successful novels to his credit, Mr. Meyer's calendar is filled with book tour appearances in addition to his work on "The Son."
"When I am writing a scene for fiction, I need to see the scene in my head. I need to have a sense of the landscape and even plant and animal life, which is sort of a pain when you are writing because it slows you down," he said.
That visual bent has helped him write television scenes. Mr. Meyer is also at work on a new novel.
"It's my take on Dante's 'Divine Comedy.' What would the 'Divine Comedy' and the Inferno look like set in the modern day?"
Marylynne Pitz: email@example.com or 412-263-1648.