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Irish crime writer's London terror novel optioned for major UK TV series

One of the author’s previous books is being made into a film, while another is also due to be a TV show.

Image: Bill Waters

A NEW BOOK by an Irish crime writer – which is set after a London terror attack – has been optioned for a major UK TV station.

Karen Perry’s novel, Your Closest Friend, is set in London on the night of a terror attack. The protagonist, Cara, gets caught up in the incident and is pulled to safety by a stranger named Amy. During the incident, she divulges her life story to Amy, but when she escapes unharmed and goes back to her normal life, she starts to receive anonymous threats.

Karen Perry was initially the pseudonym of a pair of Irish writers – Karen Gillece and Paul Perry – but after their fourth book Perry left to pursue other writing options.

However, the pair are working on the script for the film version of their book The Boy That Never Was, as the rights were bought by Subotica. The TV rights have also been bought for their book Girl Unknown, which it is planned will become a four-part drama on ITV. Now Your Closest Friend makes a hattrick for Karen Perry books set to make the transition from page to screen.

‘I was niggled by it constantly’

Gillece told TheJournal.ie that the pair had decided before their fourth book that it would be their last book together, so there was “no great trauma” in going solo.

Though she had intended on taking a break, she was struck by the idea for the novel and found herself “just niggled by it constantly”, and felt she had to get writing. While the previous Karen Perry book is set in the Irish countryside, this is wholly set in London.

“I really wanted to do something urban,” said Gillece. “The idea itself came from when the London Bridge attack took place last June. I started doing all this reading around the attak and people’s experiences and knew there was a story there that I wanted to write. It made sense to set it in London because it is unfortunately a target for that kind of terror attack in a way Dublin wouldn’t be. And London is a city I absolutely love.”

While it was “strange at first” to write without Perry, after a few months Gillece settled into it. She said she was very supported by her publisher, including in how she delivered the drafts to her in chunks so she could get regular feedback.

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Was she concerned about keeping the Karen Perry voice? “I didn’t think too much about it because I think if I had gone down that route I would have stymied myself in a way,” she said. “If I was too conscious of that I think I would have become too paralysed.”

Gillece was particularly interested in what happens to the people who get caught up in terror attacks: “Those accounts of people hiding, that really interested me. [They were] above pubs, in backs of shops.” It set her off thinking of how frightening that must be, but also of the potential for taking such a situation into a fictional realm.

While Gillece can’t say who, a very high-profile company responsible for an internationally famous TV series has bought the TV rights to Your Closest Friend. There are now talks with a worldwide UK-based channel for a four-part drama.

Perry and Gillece are still working on the script to their film of The Boy That Never Was, and she said that the producers are keen to begin casting. Meanwhile, the company behind Peaky Blinders – Tiger Aspect – has bought the TV rights to Girl Unknown, which is set to become a four-part drama on ITV.

But unlike the books world, nothing is set in stone with TV or movie work until it hits the screen. “My agent always says to me [that it's not happening] until I am sitting with my bowl of popcorn on my knee watching the opening credits,” said Gillece. “There seems to be so many hurdles that have to be jumped over. With the book you sign a publishing deal and you know it’s going to be published.”

‘Leave your ego at the door’

She is going to be involved to some degree with script for Your Closest Friend. “It’s a very different process writing a screenplay than writing a novel,” said the author. “You have to take it apart and build it in different format. Be prepared to leave the ego at the door.”

Writing the screenplay has also been really eye-opening to her “in terms of the different language used to tell stories within film”, said Gillece. “I think it’s been really helpful and certainly informed the ways I write novels now.” While writing Your Closest Friend, she found herself watching a lot of early-1990s thrillers, like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Fatal Attraction.

“I think that’s really tied into the writing of Your Closest Friend – the weird sociopath invading your life scenario, and getting that tense claustrophobia,” she said of her latest book.

And not one for resting on her laurels, she’s currently at work on the next Karen Perry crime novel.

Your Closest Friend, published by Michael Joseph, is out now.

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