Top 5 Characters to Lock in a basement from Sunday Times bestseller Katerina Diamond

Category: Author Post

In The Secret by Sunday Times bestseller Katerina Diamond, a policewoman is kidnapped, left in a basement, and has her memory mysteriously wiped every night by her kind, gentle captor. So, naturally, we asked Katerina Diamond which fictional characters she’d want to lock up in a basement if she had the means to…


“Obviously there are several different angles to approach this from – first of all I would need to check my own motive? Why am I locking people in basements? Am I trying to kidnap them? Protect them? Protect other people? Imprison them? Or finally have that dinner party no one can get out of – literally. I love characters, I really do – we are allowed to love them and we are allowed to hate them because they aren’t real, except to me. I love it when a character is alive on the page, there is nothing more exciting. I decided that these would be characters I would lock up because – well – if I was nuts (if?) then I would want their company, as and when I chose.


How do I pick 5 people? I would need categories – wit, intelligence, storytelling ability, charm and quirkiness.


Wit: A character I find witty is Tyrion Lannister from the Game of Thrones series of books, his brilliant quips and comebacks would definitely keep me entertained. No stranger to imprisonment either.


Intelligence: Kissin’ Kate Barlow – from the book Holes. The school teacher driven to revenge when her one true love ‘Sam’ was murdered for being the wrong colour, taking the money of the people in the town and avenging poor Sam, leaving behind only a lipstick kiss on the face of the men she murdered. She would certainly keep everyone else on their toes.


Storytelling ability: Captain Nemo of the Nautilus – from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. When I was a kid I loved Jules Verne’s books and I loved the idea of travelling the world in a luxurious submarine. He kept diaries of all of his adventures – hours and hours of entertainment! Plus he would be used to being kept in claustrophobic spaces.


Charm:  This one is tricky, because what I find charming isn’t actually that charming. It’s got to be Batman, dark and brooding in the corner, constantly plotting a way to get out, analysing my weaknesses in an attempt to escape – what’s not attractive about that? Also he might feel right at home in my dark and scary basement.


Quirkiness: There’s quirky and there’s quirky, and I would rather err on the side of harmless quirks. So I pick Trillian from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books: the Female space adventuring Human Pilot who flies around with Zaphod Beeblobrox in his craft – she’s used to being abducted, too.

Seriously why isn’t the Holodeck from Star Trek a thing yet? Imagine all the fictional fun we could have?”


John Harding guest post: Mystery lurks in dark corners…

Category: Author Post

Today, in celebration of Halloween coming up this Friday, we have John Harding, author of Florence and Giles and The Girl Who Couldn’t Read, on the blog talking about gothic horror and what inspired him to write two very sinister stories…

My introduction to Gothic fiction came not from the books themselves but as a small child watching BBC TV Sunday teatime classic serials. Decades later I can still recall the terror of Cathy reaching through the broken window to grab Lockwood’s hand in Wuthering Heights, the hideous cackle of the mad woman in Jane Eyre as she set fire to Mr Rochester’s room, and the haunted midnight sobbing that woke little Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden.

These last two were a huge inspiration in the writing of Florence and Giles and its follow-up The Girl Who Couldn’t Read. But the initial spur came from an author who like me, was not really a writer of ghost or gothic stories, Henry James. When I first read his novella The Turn of The Screw I found it so terrifying I could only read it if my mum was in the house. I was 21 at the time! Similarly, considerably older now, I can’t watch the DVD of Jack Clayton’s wonderful film of the book alone – I only hope the filmmakers who’ve optioned Florence and Giles do half as well.

James’ story is perfection itself. It’s told by an unnamed governess to two children (orphans like Jane Eyre and Mary Lennox) neglected by their absent guardian uncle, and left to run wild in a gothic mansion where they may or may not be visited by the ghosts of their former governess and their uncle’s valet. I was on my way home from seeing Benjamin Britten’s opera of the book when I began to think it would be interesting to see the story from the children’s angle, especially that of Flora, the most unregarded character in the book. I pretty soon ditched the idea of doing a pastiche of James’ book; I didn’t want to do anything so unoriginal as using his characters. What appealed was the set-up: remote crumbling mansion, orphaned children, absent guardian, possible ghost, to which I added an abandoned library and a narrator forbidden to read.

Florence and Giles is a book about the power of literature upon our imagination, its influence for good or ill. Whenever I write a book I’m always trying to create a story I would want to read but nobody else will write for me. Much as I enjoyed Jane Eyre the book tailed off for me when Jane left Rochester, and met up with the bland religious St. John Rivers. Similarly I had no interest in the later horticultural bits of The Secret Garden. I wanted a story where the mystery and terror only ends when the novel does.

In writing The Girl Who Couldn’t Read, I wanted a setting as full of mystery and threat as Blythe House in the first book. What better than a Victorian lunatic asylum, a place seemingly built to instill terror in its unfortunate inmates, and this time, instead of Florence, another unreliable narrator, a man with a secret to conceal, just as the young patient he befriends has a secret, as does the head doctor of the asylum, mysteries that are not entirely resolved until the final page. Mystery lurks in the dark corners of the gothic novel; the joy of reading comes not simply from being frightened while reading beside the safety of our own fireside but from finding out just what it is we are frightened of.

John Harding is the author of Florence and Giles and The Girl Who Couldn’t Read, both out now.

Production on THE INTRUDERS TV series

Category: Author Post

Soon THE INTRUDERS will be hitting our screens, with an incredible cast including John Simm and Mira Sorvino, with  writer and executive producer Glen Morgan (The X-Files) at the helm. All this month, we’ve been looking at Michael Marshall’s terrifying book, which we’ll be discussing next week in our Killer Reads book club. But what’s the process like of turning a book into a TV series? Michael Marshall shares his thoughts…

Jess Pope at the BBC in London optioned the book soon after publication, and invited me to be part of the development process — deciding how to adapt the book, and coming up with a bible for a series. I tackled this with vim, but soon came to realize that spending the foreseeable future tying my brain in knots as I cut out stuff I’d spent the previous nine months putting into the book would swiftly have me committed to a padded cell (a fate which may be coming down the line anyway, but let’s not hurry it along, eh?) Eventually a novel deadline hauled me off the project and I handed it with some relief to a series of writers who came up with at least three different script approaches that I’m aware of — all had merits, but none really landed.

Part of the problem was trying to re-site the story to the UK, which just didn’t work. Eventually, with regret (and after an astonishing amount of dedication and hard work), Jess let the project go — at which point it emerged that Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner had been waiting patiently in the wings. Jane picked the book up for BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles, we had initial phone conversations, there was exciting talk of Glen Morgan getting involved, and then it all went very, very quiet. I stoically accepted this as the standard story of potential interest fading like the morning dew, toward a future time where everyone would not only deny that they’d ever been interested, but claim that the novel had even existed in the first place. But then suddenly late one night there was an email from Julie, giving me the heads-up that the BBC would be greenlighting a series worth of scripts the next day. Things seemed to go pretty quickly after that…

A lot of people have asked me if I wrote the scripts, or wanted to. Hell no, is the answer. When someone like Glen Morgan is on deck you’d have to be insane to do anything other than stay out of his way. I’ve been consulted throughout, however, and he and the other writers (Darin Morgan and Kristin Cloke) done a superb job of porting the novel to the screen. Adapting a book to a visual medium requires a lot of changes, as I know from my own time in the script mines (including over a year spent adapting Clive Barker’s WEAVEWORLD as an eight-part series, way back in the mists of time. Why has someone still not screened that book, for crying out loud? I still have my scripts. They’re right here. I’m just saying.) While much of the series stays true to the novel, new material has been added and the timing of some of the reveals (as will already be evident from promo materials) has been pulled forward to work better for television. The scripts do a fantastic job of retaining everything I cared about in the book, maintaining both the slow unfolding of the narrative and the sense of ominousness.

The web site io9 reacted to the press screening of the first episode by saying it was “Bananas. Creepy bananas”. I’ll take that. I’ll do more than take it. I’ll put it on my business card.

Something I would never have expected is the sheer class of the cast who’ve become involved. Though American audiences (so far) mainly know him for a compelling stint as The Master on Dr. Who, John Simm is not only an incredibly accomplished and versatile actor, but a hallmark of quality. There’s simply no-one better at playing a complex everyman, drawn into a conspiracy and forced to fight for his — and other people’s — lives, while he uncovers the truth. Mira Sorvino’s ability to play the multiple sides of her complex character is spell-binding. James Frain nails his pivotal role as Shepherd with a chilly grace spiked with vulnerability, Tory Kittles is perfect as the grenade thrown into Whalen’s life from his past, and Daryl Shuttleworth should simply be given his own show. And as for Millie Brown… the trailers barely hint at how extraordinary this young actress is. When you write a novel with a big, difficult role for a nine year old girl you don’t even think about how impossible it might be to film the damned thing. Luckily, with Millie, it turned out to be perfectly possible. She’s something else.

Authors are understandably protective of their books: the only safe way of trying to ensure they turn out well is to have the luck to have them worked on by the best people available. Add these actors to Glen’s creative direction, the directing talents of Eduardo “Blair Witch” Sánchez and Daniel “The Last Exorcism” Stamm, the production designs of Mark “Breaking Bad” Freeborn, the producing vision and drive of Julie Gardner, Rose Lam and Jane Tranter, the music of Bear McCreary and all the other talents in camera, sound design, costume and everything else, and INTRUDERS turned out far better than I could have dreamed.

And no, I’m not just being nice for the good of the show. It was my book. If the adaptation sucked, I’d say so. Loudly. The series very much does not suck. You heard it here first.

I couldn’t be happier, too, with the ballsy way in which Glen, Jane and Julie have allowed the mystery to take its time. The thing that saved the television industry, and has raised it so far above movies in the quality and depth of its output, is this willingness to engage with viewers as adults, to expect an attention span and use it to tell a story in the way it’s meant to be told.

Stories are like people: if you can get to the bottom of them immediately, there’s not much bottom there. It’s the process of getting to know them (stories, and people), that journey of uncovering their wondrous depths and unexpected corners, that binds you. Approach slowly, carefully, and with a curious mind and an open heart, and they can become a part of you, forever.

Anyway. The show’s coming soon. I hope you enjoy it. Just remember this:

Everything in it is true.

Want to talk about THE INTRUDERS? Head over to Goodreads and join the book group!

This post originally appeared on Michael Marshall’s website