With book sales still strong, 'The Help' will begin filming

Kathryn Stockett's debut novel 'The Help,' once rejected by 60 agents, continues to make headlines.

Author Kathryn Stockett says that her book "The Help" had a slow start and "didn’t set the town on fire when it came out."

Is there a novel reader anywhere in the US today unfamiliar with "The Help," Kathryn Stockett's debut novel about three African-American maids and the white families who employ them in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s? It would be hard to miss the book, which has had a more or less permanent place on bestseller lists for about a year now.

It wasn't always that way, however. "I had been soliciting it, trying to find an agent, for two ... years and got about 60 rejection letters," recalls Stockett in an interview with The Women on the Web. Eventually, however, Stockett found both agent and publisher. Today, 15 months after the book's February, 2009, release, "The Help" is "being published now in 35 countries and in three languages," says Stockett.

It is also moving rapidly toward the big screen. DreamWorks Studios announced yesterday that shooting for the "The Help" will begin late in July, mostly in Greenwood, Miss., a rural city of 18,000, located in Mississippi's Delta region.

The book is actually set in Jackson, Miss., but according to the Associated Press, Greenwood appealed to the movie's producers in part because of its reputation for "blues music and cotton fields" and in part because the small city has "a lot of similar aspects of Jackson in the 1960s." A few of the movie's scenes also will shot in Jackson and other cities in north Mississippi.

Stockett told the AP that her "heart would be broken" if the movie – which will star Emma Stone and Viola Davis – were filmed anywhere other than Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times book blogger Carolyn Kellogg noted this week that "The Help" is only two weeks away from having held the No. 1 position on the LA Times bestseller list for a year. "That's an impressive run," writes Kellogg, who added that – while she expects to see "The Help" hit the one-year mark at No. 1, she still has to wonder who has yet to buy it, as "it also seems like everyone and her mother has already read it."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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