NU alumna’s novel ‘Are You Sleeping’ to be made into TV series starring Octavia Spencer


Source: Bonphotage

“Are You Sleeping” author Kathleen Barber.

Charlotte Walsh, Reporter


Kathleen Barber (School of Law ’08) had been writing in her spare time for years, but it took a major life adjustment for her to start working seriously on her first novel.

In 2014, she and her husband decided to quit their jobs at law firms to backpack around the Middle East and parts of Africa. It was during this transition that Barber finished her debut novel, “Are You Sleeping.”

“We needed to quit our jobs because we really needed to clear our heads,” Barber said. “But I was like, ‘If I can write this book and sell it, that’s what I want to do instead of finding another job.’”

Barber’s novel, “Are You Sleeping,” tells the story of a woman named Josie whose family falls apart after her father’s murder. Years later, a popular podcast reinvestigates her father’s death and forces Josie to confront her past.

The novel was published in August 2017 and will be released in paperback this March, Barber’s publicist Meagan Harris said. It was recently picked up by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, to be created as a series for Apple TV. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, star of “The Help,” “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water,” is set to act in the series. It does not yet have a release date.

Barber said she is thrilled that Witherspoon’s company — which has previously developed other female-driven books like “Big Little Lies” and “Gone Girl” into visual thrillers — will be involved in the production of the show. Based on talks with producers, Barber said she felt Witherspoon’s team intimately understood “Are You Sleeping” and its characters.

“(Witherspoon) is somebody that really champions other women as artists and has really made a considerable effort to get women-centered stories out there,” Barber said. “So it felt like a really good fit for ‘Are You Sleeping.’”

The novel delves into America’s fixation with murderers and true-crime stories, Barber said. Inspired by the podcast “Serial,” she said she wanted to know more about the families involved in these narratives. Sarah Koenig, the host and producer of “Serial,” is set to consult on the series in an advisory role, according to Deadline.

Barber said having her novel developed into a television series rather than a movie will allow for more character development. She said her story will be a bit more “quiet” than a movie like “Gone Girl,” and will focus on one woman, Josie, and how the murder has affected her.

Lauren McKenna, Barber’s editor and the executive editor of the Gallery Books Group, said she is excited that artists like Witherspoon are using books as inspiration for their art.

“In today’s book world, it takes something like a TV show to make a book explode onto a bestseller list,” McKenna said. “So I’m thrilled about this.”

Barber said her experience with the novel and television series has been “pretty crazy.” Her husband has returned to work at a law firm, while she is devoting her focus to her writing.

While Barber said she is excited to see what the production will do with the book and its characters, she still sees the book as something that lives in the confines of her computer.

“I know (the novel) is out there in the world and people are reading it, but still it feels to me like this Word document of things I made up,” Barber said. “It’s pretty wild to know they will be taking it and bringing it to life.”

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