Friday, February 23, 2018

Q&A with Karen Perry

Paul Perry and Karen Gillece, photo by Edmund Ross Photography
Karen Perry, the pen name of writers Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, is the author of the new novel Girl Unknown. Their other books include The Innocent Sleep and Only We Know. They are both based in Dublin. This interview was conducted with Karen Gillece.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Girl Unknown?

A: When Paul and I were thinking about a subject for our next book, I remembered a conversation I had had in a pub many years previously. I was meeting a guy I used to work with for a catch-up. We knew each other well – I had met his wife on several occasions, he knew my boyfriend at the time.

After a couple of drinks, he let slip that he had a child from a relationship that pre-dated his marriage, a child his wife knew nothing about. It was fairly shocking news to me, but more than anything, I couldn’t help thinking that the day would eventually arrive when his child would come looking for him, and how would he explain this deception to his wife?

I lost touch with the guy not long after that, and his revelation got buried in the back of my mind. It was only when Paul and I began discussing our ideas that the memory resurfaced. It became the seed of the plot for Girl Unknown.

Q: You tell the story from the alternating perspectives of the married couple David and Caroline Connolly's alternating perspectives. Did you write the novel in the order in which it appears, or did you move things around as you wrote?

A: When we started work on the book, we initially planned to write a single narrative, looking at the story solely from David’s perspective. So the initial draft of the opening “David” chapters, starting with his first encounter with Zoe, were actually written by me.

It wasn’t until we were some way into the book that we realized that the story would be richer and more complex if we were to include Caroline’s perspective. This necessitated some reordering, as well as the creation of whole new “Caroline” chapters.

The book went through several drafts with input from our editors on both sides of the Atlantic. Ironically, the prologue was the very last thing we wrote!

Q: How do the two of you collaborate on your books? Can you describe your writing process?

A: At the heart of our writing process is conversation. We discuss the idea a lot, tossing different ideas back and forth. Once we have settled on the bones of a plot, we do some work on character.

Generally speaking, we each take a character and offer alternating perspectives with each new chapter, although this is not always the case (see above). We do a sort of relay-write, whereby we send each other our chapters as soon as they are complete.

We try to meet regularly to offer feedback. After a first draft is complete, we swap over and re-write each other’s chapters.

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?

A: In the crime/thriller genre, I love Tana French (who also happens to be a close friend of mine). I adore Daphne du Maurier and John le Carre, and I think that Jane Harper is a terrific new talent (The Dry was my favourite thriller last year).

Outside the genre, I love Sarah Waters, Hilary Mantel, Tim Winton, Michael Chabon, Rose Tremain, William Trevor…. The list goes on and on!

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Paul and I are working on a screenplay for the movie adaptation of our first novel together: The Innocent Sleep. It’s been optioned by a terrific Irish production company called Subotica. This is our first foray into the screenplay world, and while it’s very different to novel-writing, we’re finding the process exciting and fun!

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I think that’s about it!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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