Author Kristin Hannah, of Bainbridge Island, knew there were no illuminating fireflies in the Pacific Northwest 14 years ago when her editor suggested “Firefly Lane” as the title of her 2008 novel.
“Take it from a Washington girl,” Hannah told her editor.
The second episode of Netflix’s adaptation of “Firefly Lane,” set in and around Seattle, includes a scene where teenage Kate explains to best friend Tully that there are no fireflies on the street where they live but, if it gets dark enough, it can become like an optical illusion.
“The stars turn into all these yellow dots and they start to fall around you,” Kate says. “If you squint your eyes or pretend, they really do look like fireflies.”
Hannah thinks she wrote a similar conversation in her book — it’s been more than a decade; she doesn’t remember exactly — so chalk it up to dramatic license or perhaps Kate’s imagination when lightning bugs make an appearance at the end of the second episode of Netflix’s series adaptation of Hannah’s novel.
The author of 24 books, Hannah’s breakthrough novel is the first to be adapted for a screen and begins streaming Wednesday, Feb. 3, on Netflix.
Hannah has a co-executive-producer credit on “Firefly Lane,” which stars Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy”) as the adult Tully and Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) as the adult Kate.
“This was the first of my books to really break out and be a big commercial success,” Hannah says by phone from her Bainbridge Island home. “The core reason is it is simply about the female friendship that starts when they’re 13-years-old between the cool girl and the nerd and lasts your entire life through all of the ups and downs. I think women prize our friendships so profoundly.”
Hannah’s book unfolds in chronological order, but the Netflix series, set in the 1970s through the early 2000s, uses the time-hopping format of NBC’s “This is Us” with each episode featuring scenes from multiple time periods.
Hannah’s novel generated comparisons to the movie “Beaches” — one of the friends gets diagnosed with a terminal illness — and early episodes suggest the TV iteration, executive-produced by Maggie Friedman (“Witches of East End”), may not shy from that story line. But Netflix describes “Firefly Lane” as an original series, not a limited series, so in success there can be additional seasons.
Other producers have been interested in “Firefly Lane” over the years, Hannah says, but she always felt protective of this book because of how it reflects her generation growing up in Seattle.
“I didn’t care so much that it was slavish to the material,” Hannah says. “I want it to be of a piece with the novel. … They have taken these characters and this situation and both embraced it and expanded it.”
Born in Southern California, Hannah says her adventurer father tired of ’60s California traffic and moved the family to Washington where she attended high school in Issaquah, Port Angeles and Snohomish.
“I moved around a lot so it was always my dream to have a friend who had known me throughout my entire life,” Hannah says. “That’s where the Tully and Kate relationship was from.”
Hannah gave notes on the scripts for the Netflix series and she was “over the moon” with the casting of the leads. She visited the set in Vancouver, British Columbia, to watch some 1970s-set scenes being filmed.
In addition to “Firefly Lane,” Hannah’s “The Nightingale,” a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, is being adapted into a movie starring Dakota and Elle Fanning as sisters living in France during World War II. It was filming when the pandemic hit and hasn’t resumed production, Hannah says, but producers hope to get up and running again soon to meet a scheduled Dec. 22 release date.
An Alaska-set novel, “The Great Alone,” also a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, was set up as a movie at TriStar Pictures and was in preproduction before the pandemic; Hannah’s not sure where it stands now.
Hannah’s latest novel, “The Four Winds,” set during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, will be in stores Tuesday, Feb. 2, and she’ll embark on a virtual book tour to support it.