Tag Archives: Orphan Black

The Intel: Laura Lam

authorphoto01Organised crime, a sinister cult, psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming. Ingredients guaranteed to give any rollercoaster futuristic thriller an extra kick.

In her first mind bending thriller for adults, Laura Lam takes the lid off a supposedly perfect city – and discovers decay and corruption.

False Hearts is set in a near future San Francisco and follows twin sisters who were born conjoined at the heart. They were raised by a cult which banned modern medicine, so had to escape in order to have the surgery to separate them. When one of the twins, Tila, is accused of murder and police suspect involvement with a powerful drug, her sister Taema makes a deal with the authorities to impersonate Tila in order to prove her innocence.

It’s a fascinating premise from a fascinating author. Laura was born in the late eighties and raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. After studying literature and creative writing at university, she relocated to Scotland.

In this terrific intel interview, she talks about her conjoined twin heroines, her counterculture upbringing — and the difference between writing YA and adult thrillers…

False Hearts has been described as Orphan Black meets Inception – tell us about the near future you have created in False Hearts…

It’s set roughly 100 years from now, though I don’t give a specific date. The United States has fractured as a result of tension from climate change reaching a tipping point: Pacifica (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii), Atlantica (East Coast), the South, and the Great Plains. San Francisco in the future is obsessed with perfection. Everything is transient—ordered from replicators only to be recycled.

People do not age thanks to excellent gene therapy and walk in flesh parlours where they can walk out with a new face. Crime is nearly gone, and anyone who is prone to being a criminal either becomes addicted to the dream drug Zeal, or is frozen in stasis. There’s still underground crime through the mob, called the Ratel. Poverty is almost gone, wars are pretty much a thing of the past. At first glance, it looks perfect, but everything has a price.

Who are Tila and Taema?

Taema and Tila are twins who were born conjoined at the chest with a shared heart. They were raised in a cult called Mana’s Hearth outside of San Francisco, where Muir Woods is now. This cult is cut off from modern society, frozen in 1969 technology. When their shared heart starts to fail, the twins know they need to escape, but the leader of the cult doesn’t want to let them go that easily.

False Hearts features drugs, conjoined twins, shared dreams and cults – what kind of research did you have to do for the book?

I read a lot of nonfiction and watched documentaries on cults and conjoined twins. I also have identical twin nephews (not conjoined), so I observed their relationship to each other. I researched a lot about neuroscience, specifically how memories are formed and how drugs affect the brain. I looked at concepts for futuristic architecture, food production, and tech. Research is one of my favourite aspects of writing, as I end up learning a little about a lot of things.

9781509818075Your own parents were hippies in San Francisco – did your upbringing influence your writing, do you think?

It did, and I see it more now that the book is finished and I’m looking back. My parents both went to art school and encouraged creativity in all forms. We went to the library all the time, spent a lot of time outdoors. They were pretty laidback parents; as long as I told them where I was going and what I was doing, they were usually fine with it. As a result, I didn’t break their trust. Once, my dad said if I ever wanted to try hallucinogenics, he’d get some for me and stay sober and we’d go into the woods and he’d made sure I had a nice trip. I never took him up on it—sort of wish I had now, as it would have been great research.

My brother and I were raised in a religion called Religious Science or Science of Mind, which is like a hippie gnostic branch of Christianity. I went to church camp every summer and winter in the redwoods of California, and it was right out of Mana’s Hearth. Religious Science is nothing like a cult, but I did borrow certain aspects for the cult in False Hearts.

False Hearts is your first books for adults after writing YA – did you approach the writing any differently?

I was able to swear and have more sex and violence on the page, maybe, but otherwise I don’t think my approach was particularly different. The main change is my main characters have more baggage and are more jaded than my teen characters usually are.

How did you start writing?

I’ve wanted to write as soon as I learned it was an actually a job people did. I started writing a terrible (TERRIBLE) book when I was fifteen about fairies and cat people, then sort of put it aside. In my undergraduate degree, I studied English and Creative Writing, so that forced me to actually finish things and put it out for critique. I seriously started writing for publication at the tail end of 2009, after I moved from California to Scotland, and just kept at it. I had my first break with Pantomime, my intersex magic circus book, through Angry Robot’s open door in 2012.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

You can’t control anything but the words. You can’t control if your book sells or what the advance is. You can’t control a lot of aspects about the marketing. You can’t control if something sells in translation or gets a film option. You can’t control how many bookstores the book will get into, or how many people pick it up and buy it. Literally all you can do is keep your head down, write the best books you can, and always try to improve.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

Robin Hobb is my favourite author—her prose, her world building, and the way her characters get under your skin is incredible. If you haven’t read her, start with Assassin’s Apprentice. She’s also just a really lovely person and very supportive of new writers. I also really admire Margaret Atwood (amazing prose in varied genres), Tana French (excellent crime), Neal Stephenson (for worldbuilding), Patrick Ness (so clever), and countless others.

Give me some advice about writing…

Put your butt in a chair and your hands on a keyboard, and figure out what works for you. No two writers will have the same process or approach writing the same way. Everyone will have their own career path. The most important thing is to work at it regularly—not necessarily every day, but regularly enough you’re producing and finishing stuff at a rate you’re happy with. Be really stubborn—that’s a good character trait in writing.

What’s next for you?

I’ve False Hearts out in June, and then the paperback re-releases of Pantomime and Shadowplay near the end of the year. The third book, Masquerade, will finally be out in March 2017, and then right after that I have my next thriller, Shattered Minds, out in June 2017. After that, who knows? I’m writing other things, but what happens with them is out of my hands!


False Hearts by Laura Lam is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now in hardback, priced at £12.99.

TV Crime Log: Prey, Hinterland, Happy, Orphan

I hope your concentration levels are in tip-top condition today, because this is going to be a long one.

Those telly people are positively hurling new dramas at us left, right and centre – there’s something for everyone: you, sir, and you, madam – but I can’t get to the end of this blog post alone. I need you to stick with me. So, load up, and let’s go.

PreyAs if appearing in misery-fest The Village wasn’t harrowing enough, John Simm takes a return trip through the wringer as a nice guy who’s accused of murder, in ITV’s latest three-part thriller mini-series type thing, Prey. This is a doubly embarrassing state-of-affairs for Simm because he’s a copper.

The blurb is in need of an alibi for that night:

When Detective Sergeant Marcus Farrow looks into a seemingly forgotten case he has no idea about the chaos and heartache that will soon follow. When Farrow is put in the frame for murder he has no choice but to make an escape and can clear his name.

Desperate to be reunited with his eldest son Finn, Farrow does everything he can to get to the truth but with Acting Detective Chief Inspector Susan Reinhardt in hot pursuit how long will it be before Farrow’s caught?

Prey begins tonight at 9pm tonight on ITV.

HinterlandTired of rooting through old copies of the Scandanavian Radio Times for quality crime dramas to pilfer, BBC4 has turned a little bit closer to home for its latest acquisition. Turns out Hinterland, about a detective returning home from London to Aberystwyth, was already shown on BBC Wales earlier in the year, when it racked up tidy viewing figures.

Here’s the blurb, but:

Having just left the Met police in London for a new life in Aberystwyth, DCI Tom Mathias has hardly had time to unpack before he’s called to the scene of a brutal attack at an isolated chalet in the sand dunes.

The victim is believed to be a 64-year-old God-fearing woman, Helen Jenkins, but she is nowhere to be found. The investigation leads him to the remote village of Devil’s Bridge, where Helen Jenkins’ body is found at the bottom of a deep ravine, not far from the site of the old children’s home that she ran for many years. The home was closed 15 years ago, and the building is now a hotel, but the untouched attic reveals a snapshot of a tortured past. Only by unlocking the secrets of the children’s home can Mathias crack the case.

Hinterland, which is partly in Welsh, is on tonight at exactly the same time as Prey. Bah!

How are you guys doing? Alright? Take a breather here, get yourself a cup of coffee. Do some light stretches.

Right, let’s get on.

Happy ValleyTomorrow night, BBC1 rolls out another of its Identikit Gobby Northern Lady Dramas, featuring loads of people you recognise from countless other things. This one is about a Police Sergeant trying to crack the case while juggling a stressful home life. It’s called Happy Valley.

The blurb always puts others first:

Catherine Cawood is the sergeant on duty when flustered and nervous accountant Kevin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire police station to report a crime. He’s reticent about the details and Kevin loses his nerve. The crime he was trying to report was Kevin’s own brain-child, a plot to kidnap his boss’s daughter and keep enough of the ransom to put his kids through private school.

And now local drug kingpin Ashley Cowgill has put the plan into action, and Kevin’s fantasy has become a grim and dangerous reality. The botched kidnapping of Ann Gallagher and its fallout unfolds…

Catherine is used to picking up the pieces of everyone else’s lives, but the hunt for Ann Gallagher will get right under her skin. Catherine becomes convinced that only by finding Ann alive and bringing her captors to justice can she avenge the death of her daughter.

So Happy Valley stars Sarah Lancashire – of course it does – and is on tomorrow night. That’s Tuesday – on BBC1 at 9pm.

Still with us? Good – you’re doing really well. Just one more programme, and then you can go.

Orphan BlackConspiracy clone thriller Orphan Black is back this week for a second series.

Tatiana Maslany stars as the young lady who discovers that she’s just one of a number of clones and goes on the run in a Canadian urban environment mostly wearing a short skirt. This second series, in which street smart Sarah, in a bid to find her missing daughter, goes to war with her alters, has already begun in the US – doubling its original audience, if not its hemline, in the process.

You can can see Orphan Black on BBC3 – I won’t be saying that for much longer – at 10pm, Friday night.

Phew. Done, dusted. Thanks for the company.

TV & Movie Crime Log: Orphan, Means, Call & Night

I’ve got a bit of a sore throat today and will be blogging in a hoarse whisper, so you’re going to have to come a bit closer, a bit closer, a bit closer.

Woah, what do you think you’re doing? I didn’t ask you to sit in my lap! My goodness.

608Let’s talk about Orphan Black first. BBC3 tonight at 9pm. It’s kind of science-fictiony, but there’s a crimey element, so it’s going in the Log. Eyes left for a picture of a lady from it.

It’s about a girl – an orphan, correct – who witnesses the suicide of a girl who looks exactly like she does. So, yes, you’re way ahead of me here, she assumes her identity. As a result she is ‘thrust headlong’ – I’m copying from the programme notes – ‘into a kaleidoscopic mystery.’

Sarah Manning finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy involving cloning in this ‘exciting and ambitious’ 10-part drama. It’s a BBC America production, actually, and as is blatantly evident from the trailer, is filmed in Canada. But it’s done the business in the US, or about as much business as you can modestly achieve on BBC America, and has been commissioned for a second series.

I don’t think I’ve watched BBC3 except in error, so it’ll be a new experience for me, at least. Oh wait, 60 Second News – that’s good. It’s like the news, but in only 60 seconds.

Someone in the BBC trails department has dug out the old Hustle music to whet our appetites for By Any Means, which begins on BBC1 on Sunday night at 9pm.

It’s about a clandestine unit ‘living on the edge and playing the criminal elite at their own game.’ So, a bit like Hustle, then.

I’m just going to cut-and-paste the next bit because I need to take a Strepsil.

Working in the shadows, the maverick team inhabit the grey area between the letter of the law and true justice.

In the first episode of the series, the team, led by Jack Quinn, are brought on board by their mysterious handler Helen Barlow when infamously crooked businessman Nicholas Mason, is acquitted of robbery and the murder of an innocent man, due to lack of evidence.

Although Mason never gets his hands dirty, Helen knows that he is behind the crime – and countless others. Jack is determined to bring the elusive criminal to justice with the help of his team, sassy Jessica Jones and tech genius Thomas Tomkins.

However, their job is made even more difficult when it’s revealed that a police officer appears to be feeding Mason information. Will the team be able to find Mason’s weakness and catch him red-handed? And will they be able to uncover which officer has been playing for both teams?

imagesWarren Brown is in it. You know him. He was in Luther, until he wasn’t, and Inside Men – which I really liked – and that other cop thing. It’s him on the left, not the guy from Primeval. Keith Allen, he’s in it as well, and Gina McKee.

By Any Means is created by Tony Jordan – who, er, created Hustle.

And so we move to the glamorous world of the big screen.

The Call is a kind of high-concepty thriller about a 911 operator who must confront a killer who’s abducted a girl. Halley Berry, as the operator, is on a headset for most of the film, but I’m guessing she’ll be able to venture further than the office vending-machine to save the girl.

The Call is directed by Brad Anderson, who made the terrific The Machinist, the one where Christian Bale looks like Peter Crouch, and the not so terrific Vanishing On 7th Street.

I’m going to dial up a trailer.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yes, that hair looks like it takes a lot of work. The Call is opening wide.

The awkwardly-titled Cold Comes The Night is about a motel owner and her daughter who are taken hostage by a nearly-blind career criminal. It stars Alice Eve, her off Star Trek, and Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston. Good luck getting anymore information about it than that. You will not be totally knocked-out to discover Cold Comes The Night doesn’t open wide.