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Erin Kelly on writing Broadchurch

On August 7, 2014

Erin Kelly is the author of four critically acclaimed psychological thrillers, The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air and The Ties that Bind. The Poison Tree was a bestselling Richard & Judy Book Club selection in 2011 and was adapted for the screen as a major ITV drama in 2012. Erin also works as a freelance journalist, writing for newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail as well as magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire and Elle. She lives in London with her family.

Erin has co-written the unmissable Broadchurch novel, inspired by the first season of 2013's mega-hit TV series. Containing never-before-seen material and adding great depth and insights to the unforgettable cast of characters, this is a must-read not only for everyone who loved the TV programme ahead of the second series but for all fans of evocative, atmospheric crime drama.

Did you enjoy collaborating with Chris Chibnall on new material for the novel that doesn't appear in the TV series?
From our very first meeting he seemed to have faith that I would do the drama justice. He was very trusting with his ‘baby’ but I suppose he’s used to handing his beautifully crafted words over to actors and directors so it wasn’t that big a leap for him.
We had one long meeting and then after that we worked by email. Whenever I wanted to make a big change, I’d write to him and ask him if he was ok with that. Most of the time he was fine – and there are one or two scenes that I added to the novel that I know he would have liked to include in the show, but they didn’t have time in that episode, or the actor they wanted to use wasn’t available that day. So I had fun bringing these ‘lost scenes’ back to life.

What new aspects did you bring to the novel?
As I mentioned above, there are a handful of new scenes, and at least one new character, that I think will be a treat for the hardcore Broadchurch fans. The main thing, though, is that I’ve gone into the hearts and minds of the characters, especially Beth, Ellie and Hardy, giving the reader new insights into what they’re really thinking. I found writing Beth particularly moving because I had to imagine what a bereaved mother would be going through. I cried twice while writing her side of the story, something I’ve never done with my own novels. In a strange way, the Broadchurch residents almost seem more real to me than characters I have created myself.

Film adaptations of novels are commonly heard of, but novels that are based on already-popular films or TV series must pose different challenges?
Yes; bringing a book to the screen usually involves ruthless cutting of the novel. My first novel The Poison Tree was adapted for TV in the UK and they got rid of entire storylines and characters! I was lucky because Broadchurch already felt very novelistic, and not just because at eight hours long, it had enough material to fill a book. It was gripping without being too fast, and it took time to get to know every character.
The main challenges for me were technical – restructuring the book so that it was easy to read. The camera leaps about, rapidly cutting from scene to scene in a way that would just be confusing on the page. Frequently I had to string disjointed scenes together to make it enjoyable to read, which led to the odd continuity headache. Fortunately I had a great copy editor who didn’t miss a trick.

David Tennant and Olivia Colman have both won awards for their performances in Broadchurch. Have you based the detectives in your novel on the TV performances of these actors?
Of course! I wrote the book with Microsoft Word open in one window of my computer and the Broadchurch Blu-Ray playing in the other. I couldn’t imagine any other actors embodying those characters, and I wouldn’t want to! I even describe them as they appear on screen. I didn’t need much new dialogue but when i did, I’d run it through my head in Ellie’s or Hardy’s accent to check it sounded right in that voice.

Will you be following up the second season of the TV series Broadchurch with another novel?
I don’t know! But I have loved writing this book, and would be honoured to do another.

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