Mindy Kaling wears many hats: actress, screenwriter, author, comedian, producer. A new endeavor with Amazon now brings many of her careers together.
Frustrated with a lack of diverse voices in the publishing industry and on the screen, Kaling partnered with Amazon to launch Mindy’s Book Studio in late 2022. Kaling selects books to be published under her imprint with Amazon Publishing (APub), and Amazon Studios gets a first look to adapt them for streaming. The emphasis is on voices from women of color.
“One of the reasons I was most excited to launch my imprint with Amazon Publishing was the idea that these powerful and entertaining stories could find a second life on screen,” Kaling said.
Her unique collaboration with Amazon began in 2019 with the Studios film 'Late Night', which Kaling wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in alongside Emma Thompson, quickly followed by Kaling’s memoir collection with APub, 'Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes)'.
Now, Amazon has announced that two books from Mindy’s Book Studio—Sonali Dev’s 'The Vibrant Years', published last December, and Kaling’s newest selection, Amy Lea’s Woke Up Like This, set to be released in October—have been optioned by Amazon Studios.
'Woke Up Like This' gives a modern spin on a classic
Woke Up Like This focuses on a high school senior by the name of Charlotte Wu, who falls off a ladder while decorating for prom and wakes up as a 30-year-old woman who’s engaged to her archnemesis. Together, they retrace their steps in order to return to being teenagers, learning what has changed for better or worse along the way.
“I was intrigued by the hook,” said Carmen Johnson, Lea’s editor, and APub’s associate publisher, leading Mindy’s Book Studio. “The pitch was originally13 Going on 30 with a modern spin, and I love that movie. And then I started reading Amy’s novel, and I fell in love with the voice. And by the end, I was blown away by how Amy was able to capture that nostalgia.”
Lea launched her writing career by publishing adult rom-coms, but she decided to write for young adult audiences because adolescence, in her opinion, can represent some of the best and worst times of one’s life. Lea’s ability to switch into that nostalgic mindset is what led her to Amazon. In addition to Johnson’s editorial guidance, which she said has made the partnership “a dream experience,” Lea was excited about APub’s business strategies.
“A lot of Amazon Publishing’s push is the digital format, and it’s on the horizon of what’s going to be huge,” Lea said. “I think it makes books a lot more accessible.”
After Lea got the call from Amazon Studios saying they wanted to option Woke Up Like This, she found it to be a dream come true, especially considering that her vision was in alignment with the production team’s.
“We were on the same page in wanting to evoke the romantic vibe of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the comedy of Never Have I Ever, and the nostalgia and magic of 13 Going on 30,” Lea explained. “Not only were they already familiar with my characters, but they really understood them, as well as the heart of the book.”
The tone of 'The Vibrant Years' was inspired by, and inspired, Kaling
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dev found that the best antidote for loneliness and anxiety was humor, and she was inspired to write more prose that made people laugh. One of her biggest inspirations was Kaling; so much so that Dev even created a vision board featuring her.
“I learned how she breaks down scenes and approaches comedy from a character’s perspective,” Dev said. “When she connected with the book and connected with that, there was this beautiful serendipity for me.”
Dev’s book The Vibrant Years is about three generations of women—Bindu; Aly, Bindu’s ex-daughter-in-law; and Cullie, Aly’s daughter. When Bindu inherits millions, their lives are changed, upending Aly’s ideas about independence and Cullie’s about dating.
I’m so excited for audiences to meet Sonali and Amy’s characters through a new medium, for readers to become viewers, and viewers to become readers. Our partnership with Amazon Studios is one of the things that makes Mindy’s Book Studio so special—we can’t wait for all that is to come!
Similar to Lea, Dev’s previous books had been with a different publisher. Though Dev found much critical success, commercial sales had been an uphill battle.
“What can I do to break this up?” Dev wondered. “What can I do to break through this?”
Amazon was an intriguing alternative for Dev because of what she called its “ocean of readership.” Working with APub editor Alicia Clancy, Dev has evaded some of the intense solitude she experienced during her writing back in 2020.
“It never feels like I’m alone,” Dev said. “To have an editor who dreams about your book in the middle of the night, tries to find solutions to things you’re struggling with, and still gives you creative independence, is a gift.”
As for Kaling, the warm feelings surrounding Lea and Dev’s books are mutual, and she’s thrilled that APub and Amazon Studios will bring them to new audiences.
“I’m so excited for audiences to meet Sonali and Amy’s characters through a new medium, for readers to become viewers, and viewers to become readers,” Kaling said. “Our partnership with Amazon Studios is one of the things that makes Mindy’s Book Studio so special—we can’t wait for all that is to come!”
Visit Mindy’s Book Studio to discover books selected by Kaling from emerging and established diverse voices.