Michael Marshall talks about setting

Category: Author Post

This month, we’re talking about Michael Marshall’s THE INTRUDERS in our brand new Goodreads book club. Here’s Michael to talk a little bit about the setting, and why he knew he wanted to set it in Seattle…

Once I had the idea for THE INTRUDERS, I realized I already knew the place to set it, too. The story wanted to be placed in the Cascade Mountains, and the coast of Oregon, and Seattle, a city in which I’d previously spent only a few days. Generally this kind of thing doesn’t bother me, as my job is basically to make shit up, but on this occasion I felt it might be a good idea to get to know the place better. The prospect of escaping for a while from the sleeping patterns of a very young child had absolutely no influence on the decision.

Accordingly I flew to Seattle and spent a week there by myself, walking the streets nine hours a day stopping only for coffee, beguiling the evenings in a variety of bars, reading local history and drinking rather too much local amber. The scene in the novel in which Jack Whalen slips and falls on his ass when walking down vertiginous and icy Madison Street, for example, is closely modelled on an incident in real life. Doubtless for cogent creative reasons, this scene doesn’t appear to have made it to the screen adaptation.

Though shot mainly in Vancouver and its environs, the show totally captures the look and atmosphere of the parts of Seattle in which it’s set. Here are a few photos I took on that trip…

Post-Alley-low

Post Alley, close to the Pike Place Market. It features a stretch of wall where local custom dictates that people stick their pieces of used chewing gum, creating an intriguing piece of “art”. It was a glass-fronted business down here that provided the inspiration for the office for Kerry, Crane and Hardy — Amy Whelan’s employers.

Intruders-treat-low

My favourite alleyway in Seattle, not far from Pioneer Square. Yes, I do have favourite alleys, and Good Christ I’ve got a lot of pictures of this one. I like the man in the sweater carrying the suitcase: albeit dressed wrongly, he puts me in mind of the character of Shepherd.

Door-low

My favourite doorway in Seattle, the astonishingly verdigrised entrance to the Seattle Steam Company, again not far from Pioneer Square. This door has no bearing whatsoever on the show, but is a very pretty colour.

Hope-Flies-low

A bird, flying on a typical sunny Seattle afternoon, across the back of the building I had in mind when I was writing the climax for the novel. In fact, I think the production have found a better building in Vancouver for the TV show…

Road

The highway from Portland to Seattle. The Pacific Northwest does, to be fair, look a bit like this a lot of the time. But the point of this picture is that it’s close to the Sutter Creek Rest Area, at which — though renamed for the show — some non-lovely things happen…

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

This post originally appeared on Michael Marshall’s website

How the number 9 inspired Michael Marshall’s THE INTRUDERS

Category: Author Post

We’ve just launched a brand new book club over on Goodreads, and in October we’ll be discussing Michael Marshall’s chilling thriller THE INTRUDERS, which will be airing on the BBC this Autumn. We’ll be discussing the book in the group between the 27th and 31st of October, but in the meantime, here’s Michael himself to tell you a little bit about his inspiration for the novel…

The core ideas for my books are cautious in their approach, arriving in dribs and drabs, sometimes over the course of years, until they start sticking together and finally achieve critical mass. There’s a degree of spoiler-dom in this first section if you haven’t read the book, but the trailers for the show have already made it pretty clear what we’re talking about…

THE INTRUDERS was basically inspired by four things:

1. An awareness of how dualized many of us are, in ways major and trivial, how we daily and inherently act and feel as more than one person. How we can be merrily going through our lives, watching our weight, knowing we’re definitely not going to have that cookie, then suddenly finding it’s in our hands and we’ve eaten half of it already. How we can be fascinated by other countries or historical periods, without any obvious reason from our (known) past, deeply consumed by passions that seem to have a life of their own. The secrets people keep, too, the things they’ve done or wish to do, or have happened to them, and how these hidden elements of their psyche define their lives forever. As Carl Jung said, “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” And he should know, because he’s dead.

2. I was also intrigued at the time by people who seemed to enter the world with an inside track, as if starting the game of life armed with prior experience and a strong following wind. There are many examples, from Mozart’s precocious composition skills, Bach’s apparently effortless genius and other artistic prodigies — to entrepreneurs who were already selling their parents’ possessions back to them at the age of two. My most compelling personal marker is a little-known fellow called Sam Mendes, whom I knew at university. While the rest of us spent the first term flallopping around the place like baffled puppies, newly-released into neo-adulthood and agog with self-doubt and exhilarated confusion, Sam was busy putting together his first theatrical production. I didn’t even know where the theatres were. In time, I was directed in a play by him and we were both part of a barge tour of pubs, performing wordy skits to audiences of perplexed drunkards who’d probably been hoping for strippers. Been decades now since we spoke, but luckily my father keeps me updated on just how jolly well my old acquaintance is faring, which barely causes a beat of chagrin. Sam is an infuriatingly decent guy on top of it all, and when I heard he’d won an Oscar for his first movie my reaction (while howlingly envious, I’m only human) wasn’t one of surprise. Well, yeah, I thought — he would: that makes perfect sense. And good for him.

Though I didn’t care for SKYFALL at all, dude. So there. Ha. Loser.

3. Another trigger was an incident with my infant son and a toy saxophone. Tiny children will go for any old thing with their grabby little hands, raise it to their mouths — and suck on it. But one afternoon I saw Nate pick encountering a yellow plastic sax for the first time, put it to his mouth, and blow. He then picked up something else, and sucked as usual. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, but it made my bleary sleep-deprived mind wonder how he’d known that’s what you did with this particular kind of object…

4. And finally, the number 9 has long fascinated me, almost as if I knew it would one day come to have special relevance. Years back, mainly as an excuse not to write the current novel, I got interested in curiosities of math. To avoid writing a previous book I taught myself to write in hieroglyphs — a skill I have now forgotten, along with all the math stuff (which fell quickly out of a head not fundamentally suited to holding it). I was interested to discover, however, that the number 9 has some fun properties.

Try this, for example: pick a three digit number in which the digits are all different, then reverse it — you could start with 367, for example, and get 763. Subtract the smaller of the numbers from the larger: in fact, don’t do this yourself, but get someone else to do the math, without telling you either number. Then ask them for the last digit of the result, and you’ll be able to tell them the whole number in a way that appears divertingly remarkable. How? The middle digit will always be nine, and the first and last will add up to nine: 763 – 367 = 396. You can then do the process again, with a variation, getting them to pick a new starting number, and allowing them to make their own choice about whether to tell you the first or last digit this time. Feel free to use this nifty trick to score large sums of money in bars. If you do it more than twice and get beaten up, however, you’re on your own.

My son, to whom the novel is dedicated, will be nine years old when the show airs.

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

This post originally appeared on Michael Marshall’s website

THE CITY, by Dean Koontz

Category: Author Post

We’re thrilled to welcome No.1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz to the Killer Reads blog today, to talk about his new novel, The City


083077-FC3DGerda, my wife and first reader of my manuscripts, is an honest critic of my work, and a good one. For years, the male ego being what it is, I listened to her thoughts on a script, generally expressed my disagreements with her suggestions—but then went into my office and quietly fixed things according to her observations before sending the book off to my editor. Eventually, I grew up and learned to acknowledge the wisdom of her suggestions at the time she made them.

When she finished reading the manuscript of THE CITY, she came into my office and said, “I think this is the first time I’ve ever said a book is perfect in every scene.” I expressed my concern that she was trying to spare my feelings. “No,” she said, “when it comes to your writing, sweetie, I don’t care about your feelings, only about the book.”

Later, at dinner, when I pressed her to tell me what she really thought, she said, “This pasta is delicious, isn’t it?” When I asked again as we were about to brush our teeth to go to bed, she said, “Have you flossed?” I almost woke her in the middle of the night to pose the question once more, but our dog, Anna, sleeping at the foot of the bed, growled softly as though with psychic awareness of what I was about to do. In the morning, when I asked again, Gerda said, “Have I ever not said what I mean?”

She is the most straight-forward and honest person I’ve ever known, so I said, “I’m an idiot.” She said, “Have you always known, or is this a new realization on your part?” I’ve always known.

– Dean Koontz

Order your copy of The City today!