Writer re­veals Scots se­crets of T V queen’s Down Un­der drama

Best-seller on a long jour­ney to TV suc­cess

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Gibb BGIBB@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Itis the drama the BBC hope will keep us glued to the sofa when the Body­guard fi­nally loosens its grip.

The Cry, star­ring Jenna Cole­man, is heartrend­ing tale of a cou­ple in­volved in a cus­tody bat­tle whose baby is snatched when they fly to Aus­tralia.

It has turned writer He­len FitzGer­ald into one of the hottest prop­er­ties in TV with seven pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies fight­ing to bring her next book to screen. And it’s an amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion for the Aus­tralian-born, Glas­gow-based au­thor.

“I’ve lived in Scot­land for 27 years now but I ini­tially came to the UK af­ter I fin­ished univer­sity with £50 in my pocket,” said He­len, 52.

“I fell in love with a Scots Ital­ian, Ser­gio, got mar­ried and made this my home.

“This is my eighth book and two of the oth­ers have been op­tioned for the screen but noth­ing hap­pened, so this is third time lucky.”

The Cry mir­rors ma­jor el­e­ments of He­len’s life. And the four-part adap­ta­tion of the best­selling book, which was filmed in Glas­gow and Aus­tralia, could hardly have more of a per­sonal con­nec­tion.

“Ser­gio and I made a deal that we would go back to Aus­tralia ev­ery year, which was a night­mare,” said He­len, whose two chil­dren, Anna, 21, and Joe, 18, are both now at univer­sity.

“When you see Jenna’s char­ac­ter Joanna sit­ting on the plane in the first episode, it just feels like I’m there. The flights helped me come up with the plot for the book, but they were aw­ful. I re­mem­ber breast­feed­ing go­ing wrong with my baby once. I was too stressed, it wasn’t work­ing and Anna cried the whole time.

“It’s that feel­ing that you are fail­ing as a mother that came to my mind. And I’ve had re­ally good friends go through cus­tody bat­tles like in the book.”

Shoot­ing for The Cry took place in Glas­gow in late spring and the Aus­tralian film­ing was also un­can­nily fa­mil­iar for He­len.

Rather than have some­where stand-in for her book lo­ca­tions, the pro­duc­tion used her lo­ca­tions Down Un­der.

“Queen­scliff in Victoria is where we went ev­ery year when we made those flights,” said He­len.

“They could have filmed in South Africa but I thought that where I had set it would be per­fect.

“It was in­cred­i­ble see­ing on screen where we went with the kids. My mum was there when they were film­ing.”

He­len has worked in so­cial work while writ­ing over the years, and that will be the back­drop for the new book that TV com­pa­nies are fight­ing over. But the fi­nan­cial boost from The Cry has al­lowed He­len to give up the so­cial work and de­vote more time to writ­ing projects.

She will be talk­ing about The Cry on Fri­day at the Bloody Scot­land Crime Writ­ing Fes­ti­val in Stir­ling, which runs un­til next Sun­day.

And He­len, who will be joined by one of the drama’s cast, ac­tress So­phie Kennedy Clark, says she’s still com­ing to grips with the suc­cess and at­ten­tion.

“I’ve been hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing a lot with the ex­cite­ment. It’s all been a bit over­whelm­ing.

“When I saw the first two episodes I’ve never been so proud in my life.

“I knew it was my best book yet. I felt there were no holes in it and while I didn’t think I wrote twists there are a lot in this, so hope­fully peo­ple

will get hooked.”

‘ I knew it was my best book yet. I felt there were no holes in it

The Cry starts on BBC1 at the end of the month.

Alis­tair (Ewen Les­lie) and Chloe (Markella) Kave­nagh) in The Cry

Au­thor He­len FitzGer­ald is one of TV’s hottest prop­er­ties af­ter her se­ries suc­cess

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