Natalie Baszile has had the kind of pipeline success every first-time novelist dreams about. A few years ago, she read a chapter of her then forthcoming debut, Queen Sugar, at an artists’ retreat. The excerpt caught the attention of Leigh Haber,the books editor at Omagazine, who later asked Baszile to send her an advanced copy of the finished story. A few months after the book’s release in 2014, the author got an exciting message: Harpo, Oprah Winfrey’s production company, wanted to option her work.
A Winfrey whirlwind followed. The media queen teamed up with filmmaker Ava DuVernay to transform the book, about siblings taking care of their late father’s sugarcane farm in Louisiana, into a TV series for OWN. DuVernay connected with Baszile, and they became friends as they discussed their adaptation strategy.
“I actually met Ava a long time before I ever heard Oprah’s voice,” Baszile tells VF.com. A conversation or two later, though, DuVernay passed on a message from Winfrey, asking if Baszile would like to meet at her Montecito estate. Here, the author shares details of what came next, as well as how she connected with DuVernay to bring Queen Sugar to life.
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