From the white page to the silver screen: Medill alumna Andrea Bartz’s novel may be adapted into Netflix movie


Graphic by Angeli Mittal

Andrea Bartz’s (Medill ’08) recent bestselling novel, “We Were Never Here,” is set to be adapted into a Netflix film produced by Molly Sims and Greg Berlanti (Communication ’94).

Diego Ramos Bechara, Web Editor

When writing a new novel, Andrea Bartz (Medill ’08) always starts by developing the book’s hook. Though she may have no idea how the book will begin or end, she knows the hook will drive readers to turn to the next page and keep them engaged, so developing it is key.

So far, that method has proven effective for Bartz, whose recent New York Times bestselling book “We Were Never Here,” was picked up by Netflix for a potential film adaptation produced by Molly Sims and Greg Berlanti (Communication ’94). 

Bartz said she relies on the “headlights in the dark” approach when crafting a narrative, meaning she doesn’t plan scenes ahead of time. Rather, she simply writes, letting scenes develop and evolve organically. 

“I don’t know where the story is going, just like if you’re on a windy road, you don’t know where it’s going to take you in the dark, but I have these headlights and so I can see just the next curve as I’m about to hit it,” Bartz said. “As I’m finishing a scene, I start to have ideas about what’s next, just as I’m about to get to the point where I need it.” 

Intrigued by the idea of exploring deep fears and vulnerabilities she’s always had, Bartz said she gravitates toward suspense thrillers. Turning her fears into a narrative is a way for her to not only think more proactively about herself but also the world around her. 

“We Were Never Here,” a murder mystery involving two best friends, tackles themes of friendship, trust and loss and also explores fears many women face like the dangers of sexual assault. 

Confronting these fears through writing is something Bartz said she finds cathartic, especially when overcoming those fears by finishing her novels and bringing those themes full circle. 

“These topics have a lot of emotional weight for me because there’s a lot of fear surrounding them and fear surrounding talking about them,” Bartz said. “I love writing novels that have some deeper, darker — and perhaps unlikable and (not) fun — themes to read and issues at its heart.” 

The book makes references to campus, as the main characters befriended each other as undergraduates at NU. As an alumna, Bartz said her time at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and her professors and mentors who helped chart her “Northwestern direction” were essential after graduation.

Jennifer Armstrong (Medill ’96), a freelance writer and Bartz’s mentor, said the most commendable thing about Bartz is her tenacity.

“She put in the work so that she was ready when ‘luck’ came her way, which I think is key to most authors’ successes,” Armstrong said. “She kept going no matter what, and is constantly getting even better at what she does.” 

Medill Prof. Patti Wolter, who taught and regularly keeps in touch with Bartz, attributed her success in the publishing industry to her magazine editing skills, a field she worked at for years after graduating from Medill. 

“Anyone in my classes knows that I teach a lot about ‘magazine think,’ which is about framing stories in unique ways for audiences,” Wolter said. “Any time you can play with how your story is framed, and where it’s being centered, helps work a muscle that will lend itself to the kind of creativity that writing a novel demands.” 

Bartz can’t reveal too much about the adaptation itself, as it’s still in its very early stages, but she did hint at what’s next for her. 

She’s working on her fourth novel, set to release sometime in 2023, which will tackle “complex relationships between high-powered women.” This new novel will deal more with the consequences of romantic relationships as opposed to platonic ones. 

Bartz implores NU students to take advantage of the speaker series and cultural immersion events that the University hosts for free. 

“Though it’s important to party and enjoy your friends, remember that NU is a hub that breeds culture,” Bartz said. “There are amazing speakers, panels and cultural events right at your fingertips so go out and enjoy them, because this is the last time any of this will be directly offered to you for free.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @D_Ramos42

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