Karen Perry

Karen Perry
Edmund Ross Photography

Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece.

Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A winner of The Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award, he is a lecturer in creative writing at Kingston University, London, and course director in poetry at the Faber Academy in Dublin.

Karen Gillece is the author of four critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland).


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Karen Perry

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Q & A

Karen Gillece:

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland.

Who are your favorite writers?
I have a wide and varied list of favorites which has changed over the years: Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood, John le Carre, Ian McEwan, William Trevor, Tana French, Tim Winton, Richard Ford, Richard Yates. Like many readers, I tend to happen upon a book that I love and then frantically try and read everything that writer has written. This first began in my early teens when I became fixated on P.G. Wodehouse – I had a definite crush on Bertie Wooster. In my late teens, after the angst kicked in, I moved on to F. Scott Fitzgerald. In my twenties, I wasn’t particularly discerning and read anything I could get my hands on. It wasn’t until I had a family of my own that I got switched onto thrillers – I think it must be the fear engendered by the responsibility of new parenthood. I felt that fear strongly and needed to feed it in a weird kind of way, and that’s when I started reading thrillers.
While I don’t have a favorite book, there is one book that I return to again and again when in need of the literary equivalent of a hug and a laugh – a comfort book I suppose you could call it – and that book is Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. I love it because it is so full of humor and humanity, as well as offering some great insights into how debilitating writers block can be!

Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
There are two books that come to mind that had a profound effect on me both as a reader and a writer.
First: Misery by Stephen King. When I was about thirteen, I went to stay with my grandparents in the West of Ireland for a long weekend. I was just starting to become a moody teenager and was probably driving my grandmother crazy with how bored I was, so she gave me Misery by Stephen King to read. I sat in my attic bedroom the whole weekend and devoured it. I’m not sure if I have ever been so petrified in my life, and it was certainly the first time that I remember being completely and utterly absorbed in a book. My grandparents also showed me Salem’s Lot’on TV, which meant that I slept with the light on for some time after that. A truly terrifying weekend.
The other book that had a profound (although less frightening) effect on me is Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. Based on real-life murders, its intoxicating mix of sex, death and class conflict (but mainly the sex and death) really got to me, and it was the first time that I forensically examined how a novel is crafted, how a master storyteller like Atwood creates the characters and the backstory, builds the tension, changes the pace, and brings it all together into a killer climax. I remember the first time I read it (and it has been re-read many, many times since) the shiver of wonder that went through me at the thought of someone creating such a story, and how remarkable it must be to be capable of doing such a thing. It’s the book that made me want to become a writer.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?
I’m blessed to live within a stone’s throw of the sea, and I love to run on the strand in the evenings after my girls are asleep and watch the moon shimmering on the waters of Dublin Bay. Travel was a big interest of mine for many years and I’ve had some memorable experiences in Africa, Asia, South America as well as Europe, but it’s taken a backseat for now while my girls are young, although lately I have felt the wanderlust stirring again. I am a bit of a foodie and love cooking and eating! Can drinking wine be a hobby? If it is, then that’s definitely one of mine! Drinking wine while listening to some good jazz (Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Stan Getz and Miles Davis are favorites). I also love cinema and find movies quite influential when it comes to writing, particularly French cinema: films like Tell No One, Hidden and A Prophet.

What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Do what you love.

What is your favorite quote?
Fortune favors the brave.

What is the question most commonly asked by your readers? What is the answer?
Q. How do you write a novel with someone else?
A. The process is threefold: First, it involves a lot of discussion to work out the premise of the novel, the characters, the central plot and how it should unfold. Secondly, it involves what I like to call relay-writing. I write a chapter and send it to Paul; he writes the next chapter and sends it to me; and so on, and so on, until we have a first draft. Thirdly, after we have re-written our own chapters several times, the final stage is when we re-write each other’s chapters. This is a vital part of the process as it ensures a continuity of style throughout the novel.
Collaborative writing involves a lot of trust and diplomacy! The real key is finding the right person to collaborate with. You have to find someone with similar writing and reading tastes, someone who is on the same wavelength creatively, someone whose style and thoughts complement yours, and someone whose company you enjoy and you are happy to work with. I can’t imagine writing a book with anyone other than Paul.

Where do you write?
I have a desk in the corner of my bedroom where I am supposed to write but mainly it is covered in books and clothes and children’s toys and the detritus of family life, so inevitably I end up sitting on the bed with the laptop on my knees. My dream is to have an office of my own, and when I do I’m going to hang a framed poster of the Penguin Classic A Room Of One’s Own’by Virginia Woolf above my desk to remind me of all the years I spent sitting on the bed with the Macbook burning my lap.

 

Paul Perry:

Where are you from?
Dublin, Ireland

Who are your favorite writers?
Donna Tart, Philip Roth, Dermot Bolger, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Tana French, W.S. Merwin, Louise Gluck, Hilary Mantel, … the list could go on!

Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
Dublin writer Dermot Bolger’s The Journey Home made me want to write fiction. It’s a scabrous, brutal thriller of political corruption and innocence ended – a Bildungs Roman to boot. I love the 3 characters and twenty years later the three intertwining and distinct voices of that book haunt me. Of course Dublin and Ireland is a very different place. But Bolger foresaw what was to come. He is a visionary too in that sense. He mapped the city and its under-world before ‘crime’ was ever sexy in Irish Letters. I don’t think that he has been given full credit for this, but really to my mind, we, Irish fiction and thriller writers, owe him a debt. The ghosts of The Journey Home also reverberate for me in our, Karen Perry’s, next book: Carry Me Home. A different set of taboos, another country, as well as Dublin, but the beating heart I hear, the telling tale, the echo,  is Bolger’s voice and the voices he created.

What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Cycling, Running. Family time. Books. Wine, cheese. Poetry. Hanging out with my kids.

What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Work hard.

What is your favorite quote?
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
Robert Lowell - Epilogue

What is the question most commonly asked by your readers?  What is the answer?
How do you write a book with someone else? I compare it to script-writing – frisson and discussion, rather than solitary graft! We write discrete chapters, swop, discuss, revise, re-write, talk, agree, disagree, debate, rewrite, reread – repeat many times!

What inspired you to write your first book?
The Innocent Sleep’s first chapter came to me as I walked through Dublin and became engulfed in a demonstration against the government in Dublin. I rang Karen and wrote it quick! Sent it to her and within a few days we had chapter 2!

Where do you write?
I now write in a cabin in my back garden. But when writing The Innocent Sleep, I wrote on small desk in my son’s bedroom after he had fallen asleep. I sometimes was half asleep as I started – that’s where I find a lot of ideas in the region between sleeping and waking – the never never land of the imagination.

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books
by the author

The Innocent Sleep

Karen Perry
Henry Holt and Co.

"How good’s the big twist? You won’t see it coming."—Entertainment Weekly "Terrific…an unpredictable and unsettling familial drama that has drawn comparisons...


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