What is My Life with the Walter Boys based on? Origins of the Netflix drama

It's a heart warming coming-of-age saga

Ashby Gentry as Alex and Nikki Rodriguez as Jackie in episode 105 of My Life with the Walter Boys
(Image credit: Chris Large/Netflix)

What is My Life with the Walter Boys based on? If you're wondering about the interesting origins of the Netflix drama, we have everything you need to know.  

My Life with the Walter Boys follows fifteen-year-old privileged Manhattan teen Jackie Howard, in the aftermath of losing her family in a tragic accident. Uprooted from everything she knows in her comfortable New York life, Jackie needs to adjust to a new life in rural Colorado and her new family. Her mother’s best friend, Katherine Walter, takes her in, and Katherine already has ten children. Jackie stays determined to realise her dream of getting into Princeton University, while managing her feelings for two of the Walter brothers. 

Viewers have been asking questions about the origins of the heart warming story, in the same way they've been asking about what fellow Netflix drama A Nearly Normal Family is based on. Similarly, intrigue recently arose over the basis of the streamer's hit series Fool Me Once, and ITV's psychological thriller Platform 7. For those who like to know the origins of their favourite shows, we've looked into the inspiration behind My Life with the Walter Boys - here's what we've uncovered.

What is My Life with the Walter Boys based on? 

My Life with the Walter Boys is based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Ali Novak. However, there's an interesting story behind how the book came to be published.

Ali Novak was just 15-years-old when she began writing the story. Her own father had died young, which acted as inspiration for Jackie's background. She later published the novel on Wattpad, and it's popularity was instant. By the time she'd graduated from the University of Madison Wisconsin's creative writing program at the age of 22, the story had reached over 24 million reads. Unsurprisingly, My Life with the Walter Boys began picking up interest from publishers. In 2014, it was published by Sourcebooks Fire, and became a bestseller.

Speaking to Wild Mind Creative about the start of her success, Ali Novak said "I started writing my debut novel, My Life with the Walter Boys, when I was only fifteen. When I finished, I wanted to share my story with the world, but the thought of publishing my book never crossed my mind. Because let's be real - what publishing house would pick up a kid's rough draft manuscript?"

She continued "So I did what any millennial would do and googled how to share my story. That’s how I discovered Wattpad, an online reading and writing community. After working up the courage, I started posting my book to the website in 2010. That decision changed my life. My story became an instant hit, and since then, my collective work has been read more than 150 million times."

Beginning her career at such a young age meant that a certain level of immaturity was apparent in the first draft of the book. It was originally titled My Life with the Walter Boys, All Twelve of Them, which Novak has said makes her "cringe" whenever she thinks about it. 

Being published shortly after graduation is also unusual. "I was offered my book deal right after graduation, so instead of looking for a job I spent my summer rewriting my novel," Novak told The Hiding Spot.

She added "To pay my bills, I work part time at Hallmark. I can’t say stocking cards has shaped my writing. However, what has shaped my writing is Wattpad. I’ve spent years writing on the website, and the feedback I received from readers made me the author that I am today." 

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak £7.49 | Amazon

My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak £7.49 | Amazon

Read the novel that inspired a major new Netflix series starring Nikki Rodriguez, Noah LaLonde, and Ashby Gentry.

Does My Life with the Walter Boys have a sequel?

Ali Novak has written an unofficial and unpublished sequel to the original novel, entitled My Life as a Walter Boy. Some chapters of the sequel are available on Wattpad. 

The book is set four years after the end of My Life with the Walter Boys, and is written from Cole's perspective, who is one of the Walter brothers. 

In addition, Novak has officially published a spin-off series called The Heartbreakers. A follow-up to this is titled Paper Hearts.

Speaking to The Hiding Spot about the spin-off series, she said "The story takes place a generation later and revolves around Isaac Walter’s daughter. In addition, I’d love to write individual stories about each of the Walter boys. Then again, I have thousands of stories ideas in my head not pertaining to the Walter boys that I would like to explore as well."

These novels have also been well received, with one Amazon reviewer writing "This author is fantastic. Loved this book, the way she sets the chemistry between the characters is wonderfully involving. I hope she writes even more novels for me to fangirl over."

Another added "I really enjoyed these characters and their stories and CANNOT wait till the next novel! The song at the end filled my heart with happiness!"

Corey Fogelmanis as Nathan, Jaylan Evans as Skylar, Ellie O'Brien as Grace and Ashby Gentry as Alex in episode 108 of My Life with the Walter Boys

(Image credit: Chris Large/Netflix)

Who is directing My Life with the Walter Boys?

The My Life with the Walter Boys TV series is being directed by Jerry Ciccoritti, Nimisha Mukerji, Winnifred Jong, and Jason Priestley. 

If the name Jason Priestley sounds familiar, it is because he starred in the popular original teen show, Beverly Hills 90210. Series creator Melanie Halsall spoke about his involvement with the show with Netflix Tudum. "Because he’s an actor, he just understands where the actors are coming from all the time," she said.

"He’s so respectful and so good with the young actors and great technically and with story." 

Priestley recalled his proudest moment on set being able to call a wrap to the end of filming. "It’s not every day as a director you get to do that," he said, continuing, "Hopefully [it’s] the first of many seasons for all the good people who worked so hard on this show."

Nikki Rodriguez as Jackie and Noah LaLonde as Cole in episode 110 of My Life with the Walter Boys

(Image credit: Netflix)

My Life with the Walter Boys: Cast

  • Nikki Rodriguez as Jackie Howard
  • Ashby Gentry as Alex Walter
  • Noah LaLonde as Cole Walter
  • Sarah Rafferty as Dr. Katherine Walter
  • Marc Blucas as George Walter
  • Corey Fogelmanis as Nathan Walter
  • Jaylan Evans as Skylar Summerhill
  • Connor Stanhope as Danny Walter
  • Zoë Soul as Haley Young
  • Johnny Link as Will Walter
  • Alisha Newton as Erin
  • Ashley Holliday as Tara
  • Moheb Jindran as Nikhil
  • Mya Lowe as Kiley
  • Gabrielle Jacinto as Olivia
  • Ellie O'Brien as Grace
  • Dean Petriw as Jordan Walter
  • Lennix James as Benny Walter
  • Alix West Lefler as Parker Walter

Speaking to Tudum about landing the role of Jackie, Nikki Rodriguez recalled telling her friends after her audition "It was really fun, but I just don’t think anyone’s going to see me as Jackie."

The following morning she was making a microwave breakfast burrito, and just as the ping arrived to let her know it was ready, her phone rang. Her manager's voice said "Hey, so do you have a lot of cold weather clothes?" before telling her the role was hers. She remembered "I essentially just sat on the floor and cried for about 30 minutes and did not eat the breakfast burrito."

For more TV show origins, we've also looked into whether Netflix's All The Light we Cannot see is based on a true story. Elsewhere on the streamer, we've also looked at the inspiration behind pharmaceuticals drama Pain Hustlers, and the steamy Burning Betrayal

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.