The Wedding Veil.
The Wedding Veil.

Alison Sweeney just picked up her first official writing credit. The longtime Hallmark star and former host of The Biggest Loser was handed the pen for the newest Hannah Swensen Mystery, and she delivered a really good entry into the Murder, She Baked canon. But how did that happen? How did she go from lead actress to screenwriter? I asked her during a recent interview ahead of the release of One Bad Apple.

Sweeney told me it was an “organic” process. As a producer, she’s apparently the one that goes through author Joanne Fluke’s novels to figure out a good mystery and some plot development they want to pull. This time around, she created a detailed outline for how she thought the story should play out, and her producing partner Craig Baumgarten suggested she just write it herself. At first she was apprehensive, but after getting positive support from Hallmark, she decided to try it. Here’s her explanation of the process…

It felt very organic, the way it all sort of unfolded. Last year, we were developing ideas for what we’d shoot this year. I’m the one who reads the novels. As a producer, I pour through Joanne Fluke’s great books and try to figure out what the highlights are that we want to feature in the next movie. Then my producing partner Craig Baumgarten and I pitch it to the network, and as it was unfolding with this one, I had really taken ownership of the outline and what the pitch was going to be. Craig asked, ‘Would you ever consider writing one? You really have a handle on what you’re doing and how you want to tell the story.’ I felt a little overwhelmed when we first started talking about it, and then then, the more we discussed it, the more excited I got at the opportunity to write it. Hallmark seemed very enthusiastic about it. That’s the amazing thing about working with Hallmark, how positive and supportive they are. They really gave me a chance to do it, and it all kind of went, knock on wood, pretty smoothly.

Prior movies have featured shared writing credits between Fluke, who handles all the novels, and a rotating cast of writers who have adapted her source material. The adaptations are a little trickier than you’d imagine because they’re not always adapting everything from one specific book and because the franchise, historically, has done a good job trying to forward both the standalone mystery and character growth for Hannah and the other leads. There’s often times a lesser stakes side mystery, as well. Sweeney told me that’s something she picked up from Agatha Christie, as she’s a big fan of the books, and she was able to incorporate that into One Bad Apple.

Once she committed to writing, Sweeney said the process happened very quickly. She really enjoyed sitting down and writing it, but when she finished, however, she realized she needed to send it to others to read. That part wasn’t nearly as fun. Here’s what she said…

The most nerve-wracking part was when I finally finished it and had to send it out to other people to read it. That was the part where I was like, ‘Oh God. No. Now what? Other people are going to read this?’ I hadn’t prepared myself for that.

The great news here is One Bad Apple is a top tier Hannah Swensen Mystery. It has all the elements you’d look for from the franchise. There’s a very solid central mystery involving a fun character. There’s a bunch of delightful baking tie-ins, a really enjoyable side plot involving Hannah’s mother Delores, an all-new leading man and great banter with her sisters.

You can catch One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery when it premieres on Hallmark on April 5th.