Paris (AFP) – Bestselling US crime writer Harlan Coben discovered a passion for screen writing during his work on new TV drama “The Five” which now looks set to compete with his career as a novelist.
The 54-year-old writer has sold some 60 million novels across the world, but it was an offer by French producer Sydney Gallonde to work on the adaptation of his novel “No Second Chance” that first brought him to the world of television, he told AFP.
A 10-part British drama which began showing on Sky One on April 15, “The Five” is about a group of children, one of whom disappears, with the story picking up 20 years later when his friends are all grown up and the mystery resurfaces.
The idea came about when Nicola Shindler, producer of the hit British police drama “Happy Valley” asked about the possibility of doing something with one of his unpublished novels.
“I said I have this idea that I had played around in my head. I was thinking of making it a novel but it was more visual. Like a painter who sees an oil on canvas,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the Series Mania festival in Paris where his new drama is competing for the Grand Prix.
“So I said five kids and what happens, she said ‘Sounds good, you think you could make it into a series?’
“Instead of a novel, I thought it would be interesting.”
Impressed by the European series he had seen, Coben jumped at the chance to work in Britain, away from the heavy hand of a US network or studio.
“I like the quality, I just thought that this could be a good partnership… that won’t get too much interference by a network or a studio, that we would get some independence in the UK that we might not get somewhere else.”
– ‘All about collaboration’ –
The series was made in collaboration with Sky One and Studio Canal, both of whom “had the same vision” for the drama, he said.
Working collaboratively on a story was a new experience for a writer whose 28th novel, “Fool Me Once”, has just hit the shelves in America.
“As a novelist, I am the actor, director, star. I find the settings, I do everything… No other people really interfere,” he said.
But penning a TV drama is completely different.
“Series is all about collaboration and presence,” he says, giving the example of a character which is developed by input from everyone involved.
“It is something that grows like a tree, it doesn’t have to be all completely under my control… Working with all these people, it is much more collaborative and I enjoyed that too.”
After working solo for so long, it has been a welcome experience.
“It’s a long time to sit alone. So the fact that I could do it this way, I think it is much more fulfilling,” he says.
But it doesn’t mean his book-writing days are over.
“Well I’m not leaving books! I will still write my novels.”