The Irish author has already become one of the most acclaimed writers of her generation after her first three novels drew worldwide praise. Sally Rooney has also tried her hand at screenwriting for Normal People, the first series for BBC Three and Hulu based on her hit 2018 novel of the same name. However, for the second adaptation of her work, Conversations With Friends, she decided the series was already in capable hands.
Executive producer Emma Norton revealed writer Sally didn’t want to be as involved with the second BBC adaptation of her novels.
Although Sally is back as an executive producer for the series, she left the scripts in the safe hands of her Normal People co-writer Alice Birch and three new screenwriters, Mark O’Halloran, Meadhbh McHugh and Susan Soon He Stanton.
In comparison, the first series featured six episodes co-written by Sally and Alice, who then took sole credit for all but one – written by Mark O’Rowe – of the remaining six.
“With Normal People, when we adapted that, Sally had quite recently written the book so it was still very alive,” Emma explained.
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“So when she came on to that project she was very involved with writing.”
However, by the time came to start work on the new series, Sally’s 2017 novel was already a few years behind her.
The producer continued: “So, with Conversations With Friends she had completed that work, she felt that the work was done.
“I think, the really lovely thing for her was, having been so involved with Normal People, it didn’t feel as much of a priority to her to have to be in the thick of Conversations With Friends.”
Her fans can surely expect a fourth novel to follow soon, giving Emma and Element plenty of modern drama and romance to sink their teeth into.
Thankfully, Sally now knows the team are more than capable of adapting her work, leaving the writer plenty of time to work on her own creative projects.
“So the combination of that trust and the fact she was really immersed with something else meant we could let her know and talk to her about the key decisions,” Emma recalled.
“The casting decisions [especially], she was really keen to be across all of that. And the writers were brought on board, we consulted with her to tell her who was coming on.”
Sally oversaw the process of casting the likes of Joe Alwyn and newcomer Alison Oliver as the series’ romantic leads Nick and Frances, along with Jemima Kirke and Sasha Lane.
Emma continued: “But then, beyond that, it was a really trusting relationship where she let us work with it.
“I suppose on the other side of that was when we first showed her the episodes and really hoped she liked them! And she did, so it was all fine, but it was really nerve-wracking.
“It’s a privilege to be given such great works of literature and then to also feel a really great writer believes in you as a team to do the best with their work.”
Sally has yet to announce whether or not a fourth book is in the works, but hopefully it won’t be long before she returns to shelves and screens.
Conversations With Friends is available to stream on BBC iPlayer and Hulu.