It’s easy to be jealous of local author Jennifer Mathieu these days.
The young adult novelist is riding high after getting word that her fourth tome, “Moxie,” a story of a teenager starting a feminist movement in a Texas high school, will be made into a feature film for Netflix. The director will be none other than comedy goddess, “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Rec alum,” Amy Poelher.
“The whole thing is pretty bonkers, to be honest,” Mathieu said over the phone. “It doesn’t feel real at all. I have to keep pinching myself.”
“Moxie” will be made by Poehler’s Paper Kite production company, which is behind the acclaimed Comedy Central series, Broad City, and the amazing Natasha Lyonne vehicle, “Russian Doll,” also on Netflix. Poehler is spreading her wings into the production side of filmmaking and will make her directorial debut with “Wine Country” in May. “Moxie” will be her second film behind the camera.
This makes Mathieu one of the coolest people in Houston by association. And yes, she’s talked with Poehler.
“I got to speak with Amy Poehler on the phone when they optioned it in 2016,” Mathieu said. “She was so gracious, nice, and funny. She explained it would be a priority project for them and I trusted her completely, she totally got the material. And of course, everything I know about her as a person told me she’d be the right person for this project because her politics, the art that she’s created has always been pro-woman. She was my dream person to make it a movie.”
Netflix is a perfect landing spot for an adaptation of Mathieu’s, a platform that released other successful young adult movies and series, like the excellent “Sex Education,” and YA novel adaptations “Dumplin” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Better yet, “Moxie” is set in Texas, where protagonist Vivian Carter, inspired by her mother’s riot grrrl past, writes an anonymous zine to speak out against the sexist culture and toxic masculinity at her high school.
“Moxie” is a fictional work, but Mathieu pulled from real-life memories to inform her characters. She first got into grrrl movement near the end of its cultural moment in the ‘90s, becoming a huge fan of Sleater-Kinney as well as Bikini Kill.
“I really loved making zines and I did have some riot grrrl zines,” she recalled. “I have some that were passed out at a Sleater-Kinney show in Chicago, where I went to college, that I kept all these years. I was into it sort of in a tangential way, but I would say that I’ve thought of myself as a feminist since I was 17.”
In the spirit of sisterhood, Poehler’s production company staff has been keeping Mathieu in the loop about the movie making process, despite owning all rights to the novel. She flew to Los Angeles last summer to meet with screenwriter Tamara Chestna to discuss the adaptation. Mathieu felt Chestna’s vision represented her creation truthfully despite a few changes from the original text.
“They had different scenes that weren’t in the book, but make sense within the ‘Moxie’ universe,” Mathieu said. “It was almost like someone wanted to write fan fiction for your book but it’s these amazing people like Amy Poehler and a really awesome screenwriter. It was so fun to talk to them.”
As for casting, Mathieu doesn’t know which actors will play her characters. But that doesn’t stop her fans from picking who’d they like to see on the small screen, going so far as to DM her on Instagram to offer up their suggestions.
“I don’t know who is hip anymore,” Mathieu, now 42, laughed. “I’m like, Winona Ryder from 1992, she would be perfect for Vivian! Claire Danes from ‘My So-Called Life,’ she’s like 40 now, but she could play the mom! All my references are way off.”
Talking to Mathieu, she’s excited about the project, but seems to take it all in stride. She’s busy in the middle of her 14th year as a high school English teacher, her third at Bellaire High School. She’s also preparing the release of her fifth novel, “The Liars of Mariposa Island,” on Sept. 17.
“I really write because I do love to write, and that’s really the focus when I’m working, even though I’m thrilled it looks like the movie is going to happen for this one,” she said.