Forget novels, just write the movie

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The Independent Online
The day of the novel as draft film script has arrived, with publishers reading manuscripts as screenplays rather than as literature.

Travel agent Keri Beevis, 25, who writes horror stories in her bedroom in her spare time, has just received a pounds 750,000 advance from a publisher for three novels - the highest advance paid in Britain for an unpublished author.

But her agent, Peter Willis, last night gave an insight into the rationale behind a particular trend of 1990s big-money advances. He said: "This is not a big advance, because we are not really talking novels here. We are talking screenplays. And in Hollywood terms this isn't big money." This was endorsed up by the man who has paid the advance, Emrys Bowen, publishing director of Huntingdon-based publishers Buckley-Bennion. "Keri writes very well for the screen," he said. "Her books are very much written in dialogue form."

Mr Bowen says he is close to sealing a deal with a Hollywood studio for pounds 1.5m per book. He is also securing a deal to publish Miss Beevis in America, while publishing her here for the first time in September.

A screenplay-friendly novel leads to film rights, which in turn spur more sales of the book. The mutual trade-off between book and film has reached its apogee in the nineties with John Grisham. All his books become films. Some 400,000 copies of a special paperback version of The Pelican Brief were published simply to tie in with the film release. The most celebrated British case until this week was that of first-time novelist Nicholas Evans, given a pounds 375,000 advance for The Horse Whisperer. Before the tale of a man who could talk to horses was even in the shops the film rights were sold to Robert Redford's production company, Hollywood Pictures, for pounds 1.9m

Sales certainly profit from the publicity of a large advance and a film tie-in.

Ruth Killick, spokeswoman for Dillons booksellers, said: "There's no question that we sit up and take notice when there is a story of a first- time novelist getting a huge advance. It helps sales and we will generally stock the book. Film tie-ins are increasingly vital for boosting sales."

But the tale of Keri Beevis is still likely to be the exception rather than the rule. Susan Blishen, of the Publishers' Association, said yesterday: "This sort of thing is still uncommon, particularly with an unknown novelist and a small publisher. The sort of book that translates into a film is rare."

Meanwhile, Miss Beevis who was back at work at Grand UK Holidays in Norwich yesterday, was being made into a limited company by her agent. The mood in the travel agents was remarkable, according to Mr Willis.

He said: "It's like walking into One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. They score Brownie points if they come up with the most macabre way to kill someone."

It would appear Miss Beevis, who writes under the pseudonym Keri Leigh, is not in need of advice.

One of her books has a murder carried out with a drinking straw, though she will not reveal how before publication."

A horror-story fanatic who twice failed her English GCSE, and in fact only received one pass - in art, she wrote one of her horror trilogy in six weeks on the computer in the bedroom of her parents' house where she lives, writing only at evenings and weekends.

A rather bewildered Miss Beevis yesterday claimed to be "an everyday girl who just happens to come up with these really sick and nasty things."

"My teachers at school used to despair of me.

"They could not understand why I was not writing nice stories like Jane Austen or Emily Bronte."