Karen Perry – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Paul Perry and Karen Gillece who write under the pen name Karen Perry to the blog. Together Paul and Karen have written Girl Unknown and The Boy That Never Was. Their latest novel, Can You Keep A Secret? is published by Penguin on 30 November 2017.

Paul and Karen kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about Can You Keep a Secret?

It is twenty years since Lindsey has seen Rachel. When they were at school, the girls were inseparable, but their friendship was shattered when a death occurred at a party in Rachel’s family home. Now, twenty years later, Rachel’s brother, Patrick, is selling Thornbury Hall, and he has invited the old gang back for one last hurrah. But what was meant to be a gathering of friends to reminisce about their youth, instead becomes a dangerous game, with the secrets of the past lurking in the shadows, secrets that if revealed will prove to be deadly.

2. What inspired the book? 

I think most writers in this genre are tempted by the Big House Mystery. It felt like the time was right to tackle it. I was drawn to the idea of a reunion of school friends based on my own school reunion a couple of years ago. The twenty-year anniversary of leaving school is an interesting one – as you reach forty, there’s an expectation that certain things in your life will have been achieved both career-wise and in your personal life. Reunions add a degree of pressure because while yes, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, there is the attendant air of scrutiny and comparison, particularly tricky if (in the case of Lindsey) you have something to hide. Add to that mix a dash of deceit and perversion, and you have quite a potent cocktail!

3. What’s your process as a writing duo? Do you plan out the book before you start writing?

We plot out the novel to a certain degree, starting with the premise, the protagonist and peripheral characters, the setting. It’s fair to say that we don’t know the ending until we are some way into the first draft. We try to divide the work chapter by chapter, with regular meetings, phonecalls and emails, to assess progress. Plot ideas often reveal themselves once you’re in the thick of the writing, so we allow each other the leeway to deviate from the agreed plot if it feels right. At a certain point, we swap over our chapters and rewrite each other’s work – a crucial part of the process, as it ensures a uniformity of style.

4. Having been through the publishing process a couple of times is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?

I think the biggest surprise is how each novel feels like the first time. There’s an expectation that the more books you write, the easier the process gets, but I find the same difficulties, the same insecurities and doubts arise each time, in the same way that the joy involved in writing presents itself anew with each book. 

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

It goes without saying that reading is a favourite pastime – I also love watching movies where I often find inspiration for my own work. I am lucky enough to live next to the sea, so I find a bracing walk with my dog down along Dun Laoghaire harbour is a great way to switch off. Likewise, a glass of wine in front of the fire, with a bit of Keith Jarrett in the background goes a long way to soothing the soul. 

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be? 

The Histories by Herodotus.

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

Given the choice, what alternative career would you choose? 

Answer: Landscape gardener.

About the book

It’s time for a reunion

Lindsey hasn’t spoken to Rachael in twenty years, not since her brother’s 18th birthday party at their parents’ remote country house.

A night that shattered so many friendships – and left Rachel’s father dead.

Now Thornbury Hall is up for sale, and the old gang are back there, together again.
A weekend to say goodbye to the old place, to talk about the past.

But twenty years of secrets aren’t given up lightly. Some won’t speak about what happened that night.

While others want to ensure that no one does.

Surviving the weekend is going to depend on whether you can keep a secret . . .

Read more on the Penguin website.

About the author

Karen Perry is the pen name of crime writing duo Paul Perry and Karen Gillece who both live in Ireland. Can You Keep A Secret? is their latest novel and follows Girl Unknown, Only We Know and The Boy That Never Was which was selected for the Simon Mayo Radio 2 book club. All three were Sunday Times bestsellers.

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