Beautiful Killer (Strange Findings, Book 2)
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Go for it, she said. From that point on my working life divided in two. There were dance critic days, when I went to performances and wrote reviews, and there were Villanelle days, when I plotted mayhem. I published the first Villanelle novella on Amazon in early , and the second the following year. They did well. Readers, especially female ones, were intrigued by my heroine and her would-be nemesis, Eve, the intelligence officer who starts tracking Villanelle and ends up obsessed by her.
Both women are brilliant and imaginative, fatally underrated by their male superiors. Both have accepted Faustian bargains. Villanelle is rewarded for her lethal skills with a Parisian flat and limitless funds; Eve has settled for a desk job and a decent and loving husband. Both want more, and circle each other with increasingly reckless fascination. For a writer, there are advantages to self-publishing. You get a decent percentage of each sale, and you get it quickly.
Your e-title is one of millions, none of them offering any guarantee of quality. All that you can do is tell people about it and hope that they buy, enjoy and pass the word on. Above all, you need luck, and lots of it. An option is a fee paid to secure the rights, for a limited period, to a literary property. We really enjoyed the character of Villanelle and the inventiveness of her kills, but we were particularly engaged with the mutual obsession between the women.
Her one-woman stage show, Fleabag , had run successfully at the Edinburgh festival and was now at the Soho theatre in London, where I went to see a matinee performance. Phoebe was, and is, brilliant. I loved the wit and fearlessness of her writing and her performance, and after the show I ambushed her at the stage door. We spent the afternoon talking, and the next day, after reading the novella, Phoebe emailed me.
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Villanelle has captured my imagination completely. Meeting Sally today to rave about it. Over the months that followed, Sally, Henrietta, Phoebe and I met regularly.
We talked about the look of the show. About how Villanelle was very visually led, with her beautiful Parisian clothes and artistically composed kills, and how Eve was fashion-blind, domestically chaotic and wholly unaware of her own subtle allure. Phoebe would ring me at odd hours with abstract, almost existential questions.
On a rare evening off I was fishing with friends, wading waist deep in a Hampshire river, when I felt my phone vibrate. I spent most days in front of my laptop, weekends included. Phoebe and Sally needed material, and I needed to keep the novellas coming. Nicky helped out, taking time off from her PhD thesis to source workwear for Eve. It was fast-paced, sexy and very different from anything else on television, with a distinct feminist subtext.
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The UK channel Sky Living was interested, there were meetings and conference calls, and Sally began to talk about casting. For a time, it looked as if Sky might commission a series. Then, in April , the channel informed us that it had decided to pass on the project.
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This was a blow, but Sally was undaunted. She decided that we should rework our narrative with more emphasis on Eve. We needed a working title to reflect this development, and for two days we batted ideas backwards and forwards.
When I suggested Killing Eve , none of us knew exactly what it meant, but it sounded right. The proposal was for a series of eight hour-long episodes, so there was plenty of ground to cover. Weeks of intense, all-day storylining sessions ensued. At the same time, I was doing my best to keep the dance writing going.
I felt like Stalin, planning murder all day and watching Swan Lake in the evening. The storylining process was enthralling, and I felt privileged to be part of the team. And of course she was right. That autumn, things speeded up.
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In mid-October, Killing Eve was greenlit. Phoebe emailed me. What fun we will have!! The proviso was that Eve had to be American. None of them was our funny, geeky heroine. Variety , the Hollywood trade magazine announced the casting, and insider whispers about Killing Eve began to circulate. We were thrilled to have landed Sandra, but we still needed a Villanelle. In May , Phoebe texted me. Super smart, dangerous, seductive and stroppy.
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Jodie looked, and sounded, exactly as I had always imagined Villanelle. Not exactly a happy ending. He never does. Is this all just a joke on poor Amy Adams? Why did Tony dedicate the book to her? On the surface, Nocturnal Animals plays as a thriller in the Sam Peckinpah mold, a brutal allegory about the worst natures of men, mostly because of the story-within-the-story.
She leaves him for Hutton Morrow, the kind of stone-hewn alpha male who could only be played by Armie Hammer.
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Meanwhile, as Susan becomes transfixed by the book, we see a strange mirroring of its violence in the world around her. Which brings us back to the final scene. For Ford, Tony seems to represent integrity, a person seeking truth and finding it at great cost. Does he also represent, for the sophomore director, the virtues and opportunities of cinema? Susan, then, signifies the empty promise of luxury for its own sake.
At least those cocktails looked good.