Flight Attendant's First Thriller at Center of Bidding War (Exclusive)

FALLING-Book-Cover-and-inset-of-Author-TJ-Newman
Courtesy of AVID Reader Press

A onetime flight attendant landed a seven-figure book deal — and, now, a Hollywood pact is expected to follow.

On Feb. 4, the Associated Press broke the news of T.J. Newman's journey from flight attendant to first-time author, with a two-book pact with Simon & Schuster imprint Avid Reader Press. The 36-year-old has said she wrote the first book, the thriller Falling, on the backs of airplane napkins and on iPads during her red-eye route.

The premise: 140-plus passengers on a crowded flight from New York to L.A. don't know that a half-hour before takeoff, their pilot's family was kidnapped. Now, in order for his family to live, the pilot must follow orders and crash their plane. While much of the story takes place in the air, there is also said to be a relentless FBI agent trying to save the family on the ground.

Within a day or two of the wire story hitting, more than 14 major studios, networks, streamers and top filmmakers were already pursuing the screen rights, which are being handled by Shane Salerno at The Story Factory and CAA. By Monday, there were at least two formal offers, according to a well-placed source — one from a studio interested in giving Falling the film treatment, the other from a network eyeing a limited series.

The Hollywood heat for a thriller that's being described by some as "Speed at 35,000 feet" comes on the heels of another popular airplane thriller, The Flight Attendant, which scooped up a cadre of Golden Globe noms just last week. It also follows nearly a dozen other seven-figure film and TV deals negotiated by The Story Factory in the last two years alone, including The Chain (which Edgar Wright is attached to direct at Universal) and Brilliance (with Will Smith starring for Paramount).

Falling won't be published until July. In the meantime, Newman, who's already at work on book two, has quit her gig as a flight attendant.