The Shape I'm In: Author Paul Perry on writing for the movies

WRITER Paul Perry is dipping his pen into the world of film and loving it. The bestselling author and his partner in crime writing Karen Gillese are working on a screenplay version of their book, The Boy That Never Was.

Paul Perry is working on a screenplay with Karen Gillese. Picture: Gaby Gerster

“Of all the writing endeavours, it has probably been the most enjoyable because it’s so collaborative,” he says. “We work closely with producers and the director and even though we are writing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting it’s still a tremendous amount of fun. And because you’re working with a team it’s less pressure on you individually.”

Given the uncertainties of the film business, he’s aware that the project — backed by the Dublin production company Subotica — may never reach our screens.

Regardless he’s enjoying the experience. “ It’s a completely different medium — it’s been a really exciting learning process.”

Aged 45, he lives in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, with his wife, Aoife, a professional violinist and their three children, Bláithín, 10, Fionn, 8, and Leonora, 6.

Officially, he divides his week between teaching creative writing in UCD and writing. “That’s the principal. I have found myself after a day of teaching and the administrative work sitting down to the desk for a writing deadline.”

Also a published poet, he is stepping away from the Karen Perry partnership to make time for other creative projects. “The last five years have been really labour intensive. It’s great fun but you don’t want to feel the books are just being churned out. I’m stepping off that merry go round for a little while — for my own sake.

Can You Keep a Secret? by Karen Perry, Penguin, is out now.

What shape are you in?

Terrible shape. I came off my bike last year and fractured my hip in two places. I’m still hobbling about and loading on the weight. It’s been a
painful process of scans and rehab. I was once upon a time a recruit to Brown University in the US on a running
scholarship, so I was very fit in my 20s. Now, I’m trying to get excited about swimming, and failing.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

When I cut down on meat, and eat more veg that would be a healthy time for me: Summer months are good for this. Winter means stew and hearty foods. I’m conscious of the diet with three young children. I want them to eat healthy.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I had a cigar on my holidays. It felt decadent. It’s a guilty pleasure because I know it’s not good for me.

What would keep you awake at night?

A writing deadline, an episode of Game of Thrones, bills. More bills. One of the kids tip-toeing their way into the bed — I am a very light sleeper.

How do you relax?

By turning off my phone, social media, and not looking at email. Sitting in the garden and reading. Walking. Listening to music.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I’ve friends who live in far-flung areas around the world: Japan, America, Australia, the UK, Sweden, etc. I’d love to get them all together. Friends from school, college, work — there’s nothing like seeing them in the flesh, breaking bread and having the banter.

What’s your favourite smell?

Coconut. It has the allure of elsewhere about it, sun, heat, that kind of thing.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’m not that bothered, halt the receding hairline maybe.

When is the last time you cried?

My youngest daughter, Leonora, was hit by a car this year. She’s fine, but the whole incident was very upsetting. And I cried yesterday, but I can’t tell you why.

What traits do you least like in others?

Selfishness, self-regard, intolerance.

What traits do you least like about yourself?


Do you pray?

I’ve reconnected of recent with the spiritual side of life — getting older is one reason. Knowing people who have passed away is another. I have read and written poetry for 30 years. If I look at back at those 30 years of poetic engagement, I would call it a form of prayer.

What would cheer up your day?

Hearing the laughter of my children. Or chatting or meeting some friends in particular. My best mate has nothing to do with the writing world, and his irreverent take on life usually gives me a giggle.


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