MI6 caught up with author Samantha Weinberg to
talk about "Secret Servant" - the second
title in her James Bond cross-over trilogy "The
Samantha Weinberg Interview (1)
20th February 2007
The biggest change to the 2nd book is the format. It’s
gone from a structured diary to a novel, story telling format.
How did this come about and why?
It did seem to evolve naturally, in the first book, I felt that
I was just introducing the diary, so they had to stick close
the diary theme. But tying it to actually historical events meant
that I was quite restricted in what I could do. In the second
one I found the historical event that I wanted to focus on -
the whole Philby case and because the timeframe didn’t
fit with just a year long slot, I thought it might make it more
to slightly expand the dates and slightly loosen the format a
One other thing I did was slightly relax the
whole idea that these are real diaries. I felt that maybe that
conceit was just
a little too rigid and in fact what I wanted to do was to hopefully
make it into a more kind of fluid read as opposed to these are
"real diaries" thing.
earlier interview when you started the trilogy you said
you had an outline for how the structure was going to
well enough and was there anything missed out or emitted?
It was completely different. I had a vague sense of the
subject matter of all three books and the themes that would
carry on, but I didn’t have a very strict structure.
One of the things I wanted was to introduce Kate Westbrook
as more of a character in book two and I find that I can’t
actually play on the Kate Westbrook bit until I’d
written Moneypenny. I sort of write the Moneypenny
then print it out and take it as a received something and
then tackle it as if I were a different person, Kate
and I was looking at this diary.
I couldn’t really think about what was going to
happen to Kate Westbrook. Before I’d written Moneypenny
that bit was sort of off the cuff. I really want to differentiate
the two voices and to do that I sort of have to get into
Moneypenny's head and write in the first person narrative.
of her head and try and get into Kate Westbrook's head.
I can’t think of both simultaneously. I have to
sort of do one and then approach it as the other
So inevitably things changed. During the writing of the
first one I became more familiar with the characters and
that inevitably changed how I approached the second one
and I'm sure that the third will change too.
Above: First edition UK cover art
"Secret Servant" Hardback - Amazon
Was book two easier to write compared to the first book?
Yes, it was easier, definitely easier. I just found that once
I started on book two, once I’d got the structure worked
out and started writing Moneypenny’s voice just came
really naturally. Also, I knew the world that she lived in
better. I’ve become
more family with that and comfortable with her world and I
hope that comes across.
Trying to present the diaries as real in the first
one sometimes really stretched my brain a little too far. I
was getting so muddled and thinking how can this character work
this, if it’s real. The second one I did kind of relax
a little and just had more fun with the story.
Above: Samantha Weinberg
Do you think it helps that you’re
bringing more female readers into the James Bond arena through
the Moneypenny Diaries?
When the concept first evolved I thought "wow, anyone
could read this book". I wasn’t particularly
aiming for women or men, Bond fans or non Bond fans. I
that everyone would like it.
I think its difficult because a lot of women who have the
Bond books are so predominantly read by men that women are
put off and think “I’m not a fan of the Bond
books, I don’t think I can read this” which
I don’t think is true, but a concept, a preconception
that they’ve got to get over. I think that some of
the men are put off by the fact that it’s written
by a woman. So what audience it’s reaching is not
perhaps as broad as I’d hoped. I think the feedback
I’ve had feedback from people has been equally from
men and women and they seem to enjoy it as much as each
How did you feel at the start of the trilogy?
It was really scary in the beginning approaching it
knowing that there are so many people who knew an enormous
amount about Bond and about Fleming and taking on that
world was really daunting, even though I had such wonderful
You don’t want to upset people and I tried as hard
as I could not to make too many mistakes and I tried to stay
true to Fleming - but inevitably there are people who do get
trying to give people a different perspective on a world they
may or may not know, and if they don’t know it,
hopefully it’s a full enough picture on its own.
Book two focuses more on the characters and gives a fuller
picture of the world 007 and his friends inhabit. How did you
decide what journeys to take the supportive character on other
Well Bond’s journeys were dictated by the framework in
the Fleming books, and the other characters, M, Tanner and the
and everybody, their journey was very much bound up in the story
that evolving around Moneypenny. What I tried to do was give
a role in the story and then flesh out their characters so that
they were real people.
In the epilogue there’s quite a massive revelation in
the last few pages and that also gives a lot of clues to the
characters. I knew I was going to make the revelation at the
end of the book, and work backwards through the characters.
Hardcover 320 pages
Released: November 2nd 2006
Publisher: John Murray
Many thanks to Samantha Weinberg
Moneypenny Diaries 2" Preview
Fleming Literary Coverage