The novel follows the exploits of Camille and Caleb Fang—outsider performance artists with a penchant for public chaos—and the effect this bizarre lifestyle has on their children, Annie and Buster.
Click here to read an excerpt.
The author secured a Hollywood agent and was surprised when several production companies were interested in the strange story, including Blossom Films, founded by actress Nicole Kidman.
Wilson appreciated the ideas and dedication Kidman’s company brought to the project, and he agreed to partner with Blossom. After signing off on the project, he decided to step back instead of being directly involved.
"They asked me if I wanted to have any input, and I really didn’t," he said. "I didn’t want to ruin anything. I trusted them because they had such great ideas, so I kind of stayed out of it."
A screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Lindsay-Abaire. And the good news just kept mounting.
Jason Bateman—star of "Arrested Development"—recently agreed to star in and direct the film.
Wilson was understandably floored by the announcement.
"It’s really hard to say what it’s like because it’s unreal," he said. "I write this book. I am, and still am, a nobody. You’d never in million years ... you’d be insane if you thought this will be a movie."
Bateman has been a favorite actor of Wilson’s for years. A big fan of "Arrested Development," the novel features a nod to the show with the character Buster. In one scene, Buster is shot in the face with a potato gun while reporting; and as he goes with his parents, he screams, "I’m a monster!"
"I did that specifically because the same thing happened in 'Arrested Development,'" Wilson said. "'Arrested Development' is one of my favorite shows of all time, and it was just a shout-out to the show."
"It’s just so bizarre that my favorite actor from that show has signed on to work on the movie," he said. "But I love the show, and I love the absurdity and awareness of it ... just how complicated and complex it is; yet, at the same time, it’s incredibly silly."
Wilson was born in Winchester, Tenn., and spent much of his childhood between Nashville and Chattanooga while living a primarily rural existence with his sister, Kristen, and his parents.
In the novel, the Fangs' family home is set in the same Tennessee of Wilson’s childhood. When Annie and Buster find themselves in trouble, they retreat back to their parents' home and once again fall prey to the antics of their parents.
Wilson remembers his own childhood as a test. He told The New York Times that his parents treated him and his sister like adults. He said, "They created this kind of world that was just the four of us, and they allowed us to be weird, as weird as we wanted to be without making us feel like we were strange."
He recalled having to ration his book consumption between infrequent trips to Nashville bookstores.
"I lived that kind of rural life where you don’t have access to the things you want, so you make do with what you have," he said. "I think that shaped a kind of weird worldview. It made me a bit weirder than I would’ve been otherwise."
This weird worldview helped shape the structure of the family dynamic of the Fangs, which is also something he’s trying to do with his wife, poet Leigh Anne Couch, and children in Sewanee.
"There’s that feeling of ‘What are we now?’" he said. "Are we still making stuff, or are we just parents now? There’s a fear of letting your life take over and not getting the work done. I saw Caleb and Camille in the book when I was writing it, that sense that nothing is going to stop us from doing what we want to do with our art."
Wilson is 200 pages into another novel, but he’s toyed with the idea of writing a prequel to "The Family Fang." The story would revolve around how Camille and Caleb Fang became artists.
"They’re kind of awful people, but I love them," he said. "I really enjoyed writing those characters. So I’d like to take another crack at them as sympathetic characters"