Nightbooks Writers Talk Bringing the Terrifying Family Tale to the Screen

Netflix kicked off the road to spooky season with the debut of Nightbooks, a family-friendly horror film from Brightburn director David Yarovesky, based on the novel of the same name by J.A. White. The film has been a hit so far, keeping hold of a place in Netflix's Top 10 movies list since its initial premiere on the service. Part of the reason the film is such a hit is that, like the book, it really is scary, while remaining appropriate for viewers of all ages. It serves as a great gateway into the horror genre for younger audiences, just as White's book was for so many.

Adapting any book to the screen is challenging, but it's especially so when the writers are trying to keep such a specific tone from the page. Thankfully, Nightbooks was in the ultra-capable hands of writing duo Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. sat down with the two writers to chat about their experience with Nightbooks, how they brought it to life, and why they fell in love with the book in the first place. 

"It's storytelling, obviously. It's the feeling trapped, the wondering who your real friends are, thinking and you can't trust anyone, and then finding that one person there with you, who you can trust," Daughtry explained. "And then storytelling. And storytelling your way out of a mess and leaning into who you really are. There's so many really universal themes in the book that I think that J.A. White perfectly conveyed to children, like you can be yourself, you will have real friends, you will find your tribe. Just distrust it and go with yourself."

"And it was genuinely scary," added Iaconis. "Not inappropriately so for children. It's a hard line to walk and J.A. White did it really well in the novel. And that was the big challenge for Mikki and I, and for the whole team on the movie was to find that line, make it scary, but keep it fun for the intended audience. And so I think that was one of the things that really popped out to me for the book was it was really, it was kind of scary, which was great"

Both Daughtry and Iaconis credit the collaboration of the rest of the creative team on crafting a real balance of chilling horror and family-friendly stories. 

"We were lucky, we had Dave Yarovesky helming it. So we weren't worried at all," Daughtry said. "Tobias has said this before, but our job is neutral, we had our voice on it and we had our ideas, but once the director comes in and the director like Dave, who has his own vibe and his own way that he wants it to feel, we rewrite it for him. So once Dave came in, we definitely worked for him and had voices in what we were doing. And Naketha Mattocks and the Netflix team were also brilliant. So we leaned on them a lot to say, 'How far do you want us to go? How much do you want us to pull it back?' We were very much part of a collaborative team on that."

Even though Daughtry and Iaconis weren't the only voices influencing the final product, their relationship and personalities are directly reflected in the film's two main characters, Alex and Yazmin. The two writers come from very different backgrounds, and have very different personalities, but they make perfect creative partners for one another. 

"It's funny because we were just discovering this. It's deeper than you think," Daughtry said of her partnership with Iaconis. "Because I am not the most trusting person. I'm very suspicious. I'm very paranoid. I'm just like Yazmin. I don't trust you. I don't know what you're up to and what you want. And Tobias is so Alex. He's like, 'I just want to tell my story.'"

"And nerdy and socially awkward," Iaconis joked, alluding to even more commonalities between himself and Alex.

"And he is," Daughtry added with a laugh. "We just discovered like, 'Oh my God, we were kind of leaning into to that, in ourselves,' which has made it that much more poignant for us to be able to do that because we are very from completely different backgrounds. He's from Germany, I'm from Georgia. You don't get much different from that. I mean, I am a mess. I'm a walking tornado. He is a walking like logistical statistical perfect machine. Everything comes through the terminators."

Unlike other modern movies that are more concerned with building franchises rather than telling singular stories, Nightbooks sticks to the tale of Alex and Yazmin without trying to build too much more for the future. That said, the ending does include a single scene that teases the potential for more. According to the writers, that ending came straight from the original book, which does have a sequel of its own.

"The dual endings are very much from the book," said Iaconis. "They changed in some of the sort of granular detail about how each ending was executed, but we basically stayed true to the book in what you see in the movie is basically what J. A. White had laid out."

The creative team behind Nightbooks wasn't necessarily working for a sequel, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't love to see one happen. Both Iaconis and Daughtry seem more than delighted with the idea of coming back for more.

"We would love a sequel. We would love a franchise," Daughtry said. "We are so in love with the characters, the story, the world, Natacha. We would love the Krysten Ritter come back for 17 more movies. But we would be incredibly blessed if it goes that far."


"We have hopes for more, we'd love to spend more time in this role," added Iaconis. "Like Mikki said, it was such a pleasure and hopefully we get another shot at it."

Nightbooks is currently available to stream on Netflix.