Deep Water: from page to screen
‘How do you feel?’ people keep asking me. ‘You must be so excited.’
In mid-August, the adaptation of two of my novels will be aired in the UK for the first time. And I am excited. But more than that I just feel really, really lucky. Because, out of the thousands of authors whose books are published each year, some will sell their work to production companies, but only a handful will see their work make it to the screen. It’s a long, long process, and I’ve had my hopes dashed many times along the way.
I heard that the show – Deep Water – had been greenlit around eighteen months ago when I was on holiday in Spain with my family. The producer called me, very excited, with the news that ITV wanted a fast turnaround, so they would begin filming shortly. Soon, the village of Windermere (where I live) and the surrounding villages in the Lakes, were filled with cast and crew, traffic was being diverted, car parks were overrun with production trucks and catering vehicles, and suddenly it was all happening.
I’d had the experience of seeing my work adapted for the screen once before – my first novel Just What Kind of Mother Are You? was turned into a mini-series in France last year. I visited the set in Annecy and it was wonderful to see the characters speaking my dialogue, arguing in French about stuff I’d made up. But living in Windermere, the village where the books are set, and coming across scenes being filmed when I was out and about, or walking the dog, was pretty magical.
Deep Water combines two of my novels: again, the first book, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? and the third, The Mistake I Made. The producers have done away with a few of the darker, more criminal aspects, and have marketed the series as ‘emotional crime’. They wanted to focus on the difficulties faced by normal women in normal situations who are overloaded when trying to balance children and full-time work. And they’ve done a fantastic job. The producers stayed loyal to my characters and to the books in general, and the feel of the show is very similar to what I was aiming for when I sat down to write.
I didn’t envy them the task of trying to make a coherent story out of two very different storylines but it was such a wise move. Combining the two has taken my work to a new level. And it’s very plot-heavy. In the first two episodes there is barely a moment to breathe. I sat there looking at my husband after we watched it and asked, ‘What do you think?’
‘Well, it’s not boring,’ he replied.
Before I published my first book, I would fantasise about who would play such-and-such character on the screen. I passed many long car journeys happily this way. But by the time I got to book 6, this game was not interesting to me anymore. So when Deep Water was cast, I was open to anyone to be honest. The only guideline I gave to the producers was that I didn’t want an actor who couldn’t do a convincing Northern accent. This would have ruined it for me. They honoured my request and cast Anna Friel, which amused me as we’re both from Lancashire, brought up not far away from one another, and we were born two years apart. If anyone can speak my dialogue in the way I intended it to be spoken, it’s Anna.
Turning my books into a series has been such a happy, creatively fulfilling process for me. The people I’ve worked with have been enthusiastic, sensitive to my vision, and willing to include me as much or as little as I wanted to be. They are now hard at work creating Deep Water 2, in case we’re fortunate enough to be granted a second series. And I’m in talks to try and bring my new novel, Clear My Name, to the screen as well. Hopefully, it will happen. But as I said, this stuff takes YEARS. You just have to forget about and get back to writing.
Don’t miss the first episode of Deep Water on Wednesday 14 August at 9pm on ITV1.