Learn about Alex Michaelides’s new book, the real-life people who inspired his characters and how growing up in Cyprus contributed to the setting.
How did you first come up with the idea for The Fury?
Writing this book was a very organic process.
It was originally an idea I had for a movie or a TV series, intended to be just a paragraph long. But then it grew into a short story, then a novella, until I realised I was actually writing a novel. I had so much fun writing it; I think that’s why I kept going.
The idea came from Agatha Christie and her crime classic, And Then There Were None. I had always been in awe of that book, as have many other writers and readers.
I thought it would be a great challenge to try and take it on and do my own version.
I was also inspired by my time working in Hollywood as a screenwriter and all the larger-than-life characters I encountered there – the writers, the movie stars, the directors. I saw some incredibly bad behaviour from famous people and I stored it all in my mind for later use.
When I came to write The Fury, I thought it would be fun to take those larger-than-life personalities and trap them on a Greek island. And then throw in a murder.
Being born and raised in Cyprus, you have a strong connection to Greece. Did that factor in to your setting for the book, and how does location play a central role in the story?
I have always been fascinated by the Greek islands and particularly the crazy wind that whirls around them. I was once stranded on Mykonos for a few days because the wind was too strong to allow a boat to leave.
The idea came to me then that it would be a great way to trap people on an island for a locked-room mystery.
As you say, I also grew up in Cyprus, so that part of the world feels very real to me. I thought I could do a decent job of rendering it while hopefully providing some escapism, mystery and suspense.
Your book turns many crime/thriller tropes upside down. What inspired you to do this?
As I said, no one can write a book with this kind of setting without being aware of Agatha Christie. She did it first, and I would say she did it best.
As a result of this subgenre she created, we all bring a lot of expectations to a story about a murder on an isolated island. I wanted to try and do something fresh with it and subvert all the readers' expectations. So I had a lot of fun coming up with the twists. I really wanted to try and turn the whole genre on its head.
The narrator, Elliot Chase, has a very distinctive voice. How did you come up with his character?
Elliot is the most interesting part of the book for me. In my first draft, he was just a minor character. The book was written in the third person and Lana, the movie star, was very much the focus.
Yet when I read it through, it didn’t come alive for me. So I asked myself who was telling this story and realised it might be Elliot.
I rewrote everything from the start, with him narrating it, and then he just took over. I think it was the most creative experience I’ve had.
Both The Fury and The Silent Patient follow characters working in the arts. Why have you chosen to focus on this industry?
I’ve been around theatre and film people my whole life. There is something about them that is so dramatic and imaginative.
I started as an actor before becoming a writer, and I really wanted to explore these characters. A lot of them are inspired by people I have actually known – who shall remain nameless!
You’ve said you have had more fun writing The Fury than anything you’ve written. Why is that?
I was quite bowled over by the success of The Silent Patient, to be honest. I wrote that book entirely for myself, and I wasn’t expecting the reaction that it received.
When you are in that situation and you are asked to do it again, you sort of freeze. So inevitably, I had a kind of weird relationship with my second novel. Ideally, I should've taken a few years off, but that’s easy to say in hindsight.
Instead of taking a break, I wrote a book that I was never completely happy with, and it had a very sad and depressing tone.
So with The Fury, I wanted to write something lighter, faster, pacier – and more fun. And I hope I succeeded.
I had a smile on my face most of the time I was writing it.
Which character in The Fury do you think you’d most likely be friends with?
I think I would have a lot of fun with Kate since she is such a party girl, such a badly behaved actress. But there’s something sincere and truthful about Lana, and I imagine she’d be easier to hang out with!
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