MI6 caught up author Samantha Weinberg to look at the second title "Secert Servant" in her new James Bond cross-over trilogy "The Moneypenny Diaries"...

Samantha Weinberg Interview (2)
28th February 2007

Samantha Weinberg Interview - Part 1
Again with Guardian Angel, Secret Servant feels very well grounded in the real world. How did you research both the James Bond and real world aspects and how long did it take?

The James Bond aspect was through reading, re-reading and re-re-reading of all of Fleming’s books. What I wanted to do was add a little more realism into the secret service world and I met a few secret service agents who had been there and talked to them a little bit about it. I read quite a lot of factual books about that time and era a lot. Just looking at my bookshelves I’ve read a lot of spy books and history books about that period. So that was the Bond secret service aspect of it.

Then it was mainly tied into Kim Philby, stories and I read about Philby. The actual locations that Moneypenny goes to, Moscow, Finland and Berlin, I decided that really it would be a very good idea to go there myself. So I managed this time last year in minus 28 degree’s and caught a train form Moscow to St Petersburg.

Above: First edition UK cover art
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Actually managed to write a travel article about it and combined the two things and that was amazing. That gave me such a strong sense of the actual locations, when I was in Moscow I had tea with Kim Philby’s widow - not the one in the book but the last one. It was just amazing going into his apartment and seeing his pictures and his furniture, I was so lucky to be able to do that.

Really just writing these books is a fantastic experience I mean there’s a scary aspect of it. But I’ve learnt so much about a world that I didn’t know very much about. I’m so lucky to have had that experience.

James Bond and his world do touch quite a lot…
It really does and also just writing these books opens a lot of doors, Fleming and Bond are such powerful works. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to talk to people. I had lunch with Oleg Gordievski, a Russian defector, all sorts of things and it’s been really a wonderful, wonderful experience.

What did you think of Double or Die, have you had chance to read it yet?
I haven’t, but I’ve got it beside my bed.

The first two [Young Bond novels by Charlie Higson]I thought were brilliant; I think he’s done such a fantastic job. Every boy of between about 6 and 16 would have read them, a lot of the girls too, and a lot of adults too. I certainly read them very happily. I just think it's very cleaver, they work on so many different levels and if you’ve read and know your Fleming pretty well - there are clues to the James Bond characters which are very well done.

How close are we to seeing book three in your Miss Moneypenny series
It’s coming in, bearing in mind that I haven’t written a word of it yet, it’s coming out in April 2008 to co-inside with all of the Ian Fleming centenary events.

Will there be a updated cover art for book two?
I think you’ll see a different the paperback editions it’s going to be re-designed a bit (editors note: see the above UK paperback cover art). A different image, less lipstick, it’s just a bit girly. I don’t think that it’s a particularly girly book.

Can you tell us a little bit about book three, where you will be taking Moneypenny, and will it tie up all the loose ends?
Books two ends of this cliff-hanger. Basically at the end of book two, Kate Westbrook - everyone is trying to stop her from publishing the diaries, and everyone is warning her against doing it. She’s goes and sees Tanner again and he basically says, look you’ve really got to be careful you’re answering too many questions and he sort of implies that Miss Moneypenny was murdered because she was searching too hard for the mole. So that is basically what informs quite a lot of the characters in book two. Book three will involve a lot more Kate Westbrook because I’m going to be tying up the loose ends with Moneypenny and giving her a story arc of her own, but also, Kate Westbrook really digging into what happened to her aunt and how she came to die so early.

It’ll be much more equally weighted between Westbrook and Moneypenny. It’ll have all the Moneypenny characters in but I think quite a lot of the drama will be taken over by Kate Westbrook and will be in the present day. Hopefully I will be able to weave them both together, but I think that it will almost be the most thriller-ish of the three.

Above: Samantha Weinberg

I intend to tie up every end that I can lay my hand on. I have to admit that some of the loose ends I left at the end Guardian Angel, not really with an idea of how I was going to deal with them in number two and vice versa and they are almost like kind of a challenge for myself, ‘how are you going to deal with this’. But that was quite fun because I really haven’t done a massive really detailed plan for all three of them.

How did the writing process from book one to book two differ?
Not much really. I wrote and spent quite a lot of time on research and then sat down wrote Moneypenny. Put it aside and then wrote Kate Westbrook reacting to Moneypenny. So apart from the fact that it went quicker, book two the actual writing it was very similar. I think that’s probably what I’ll do with book three too.

Above: First edition UK cover art
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Once you have finished book three will there be any plans to revisit the world of James Bond or Moneypenny?
I don’t know, I think we will just have to see. See how they all pan out and the reception they get and if people want anymore. I’ve written the really quickly and sort of bang bang, bang and I’ll possibly take a little rest.

If they suddenly take-off, if the IFP want more and the publishers are interested then maybe. It’s such a seductive world I remember finishing the last Fleming book the first time and thinking, no I don’t want it to end. We’ll see. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t leave it completely, because I’m a little obsessed with it, and have been a total Bond fan for a long time.

Did you get to see the new Casino Royale what did you think?
Twice. I love it I thought it was really good. I thought that he was great. I liked the quite strong echoes to the Casino Royale book. Basically I’m mainly a book fan and I thought it was exciting and classy. It’s sort of different; there weren’t the small wise cracks. I thought he’d grown out of that a little bit. It’s just given Bond such a fresh exciting sort of new cast and I think that everyone should be going to it and enjoying it.

Were there any different working titles for book 2, and have you got any already for book 3?
Secret Servant was the first one I came up with and it seemed to fit. There weren’t really any working titles. There were lots of ideas turning around inside my head, but that was the only one that sort of like went through. There are a couple of working titles for book three. I’m not sure I’m going to tell you what they are....

Data Stream
Hardcover 320 pages
Released: November 2nd 2006
Publisher: John Murray
ISBN: 071956767X

Many thanks to Samantha Weinberg

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