Book to screen: When your book is adapted for TV


24 May 2024
Author Alice Hunter writes about her TV adapation journey, and the excitement of seeing her book turned into an on-screen series

As Bad Apple is published, I'm reminded of the myriad of emotions that come with the territory of being an author. Each novel brings with it a sense of achievement and pride, yet the apprehension and nerves don't seem to diminish as I await those first reviews.

I embarked on the literary path later in life, taking a leap of faith by leaving my job as an Interventions Facilitator, delivering offender behaviour rehabilitation programmes in a prison, to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Though I possessed grit and determination to succeed, I couldn't have imagined then that I would now have four novels and a TV series to my name.

The news that my first book The Serial Killer’s Wife was being optioned for a television series was a surreal and massively exhilarating moment. When I opened the email from my editor at Avon, HarperCollins with the subject heading: ‘Exciting news’, I was expecting something along the lines of a foreign rights deal (which, of course, is exciting) not that there’d been an offer for TV rights for my book to be adapted into a four-part television series!

Initially, I only read half the email before proceeding to jump up and run from my writing room 'whooping', but unable to string a sentence together to explain my reaction to my family. With very shaky hands, I typed out a quick response to my editor (consisting of: OMG. OMG, OMG!) and then attempted to read the content of the email to my husband. I could barely breathe, and experienced palpitations to the point I thought I might have a heart attack.

Once I recovered from the shock and had calmed down a little, I managed to read the rest of the email and respond more appropriately. However, I didn’t fully come back down to Earth and required some ‘tethering’.

The tethering came in the form of those who knew more about the industry advising me to be realistic – that I should reduce my expectations. Just because a novel gets optioned doesn't guarantee it will be made and many factors need to align for the project to move forward.

Despite this being the first time one of my novels had been optioned, I was aware of some of the challenges and pitfalls from reading and hearing about other authors’ experiences, therefore I knew this advice was wise. Admittedly, though, I still held on to my belief that it was absolutely going to happen!

I was lucky because the production teams – Blackbox Multimedia and Clapperboard Studios – had a commitment from Paramount Plus to greenlight The Serial Killer’s Wife and were keen for the series to fill a broadcast slot at the end of the following year. Knowing this gave me confidence that it would be made, and within a matter of months, I was informed that filming had begun.

From the outset, I knew I wouldn’t have any input in the scriptwriting. However, as a screenwriting MA student at the time, I couldn’t let an opportunity to learn more about the process pass by, and after some organising, I was thrilled to step onto the set in Kent on the penultimate day of shooting in the UK.

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Seeing how the producers, director, and actors brought my characters to life was amazing. Witnessing the hard work of so many individuals coming together to rework my story and transforming my written words into an exciting visual medium was truly a remarkable experience and one I won’t forget.

All-in-all, from the first email I received until The Serial Killer’s Wife debuted on Paramount Plus in mid-December 2023 it had barely been a year. It was a real whirlwind of a journey and, I think, quite rare with its speed!

The adaptation of my book for television has been the highlight of my writing career so far and has opened doors to new opportunities while challenging me to evolve as a storyteller. I am eternally grateful to everyone involved in the adaptation process – from the rights team at HarperCollins to the producers, actors, director, and the dedicated crew behind the scenes. Their passion and dedication have breathed life into my words, and for that, I am truly thankful. Moreover, I’m indebted to my agent, editor and everyone at Avon, HarperCollins for putting their faith in me as a writer, and to the fabulous readers who have bought and read my novels.

The adaptation of The Serial Killer’s Wife for television is not just a milestone in my writing career but a testament to the power of perseverance. It serves as a reminder that dreams know no age limit and that every story, no matter when it is told, has the potential to resonate with others.

I will continue to write thrilling stories with women at the heart, and hope readers enjoy my latest novel Bad Apple – a story about betrayal, courage, and the darkness that can hide behind a seemingly trustworthy façade – and who knows, perhaps there will be more adaptations in the future.

Bad Apple by Alice Hunter is published by Avon


Interested in the art of adaptation? Read this Q&A with author and dramatist Brian Sibley, who has adapted classic fantasy writers for radio