After the phenomenal success of ITV’s major dramatization of Our House, which stars Martin Compston, Tuppence Middleton and Rupert Penry-Jones, we talk to the Sunday Times bestselling author Louise Candlish about what it felt like to visit the set, meet the cast and then view the end result!
1. Louise, you were lucky enough to get to spend some time on the set as they were filming and meet some of the cast. What was that experience like, seeing something that you created come to life?
It was quite surreal to arrive at the studio and enter this huge space with massive photographic backdrops of the Alder Rise neighbourhood, to step into this incredible house they’d built, all perfectly furnished, with a real kitchen.
The first person I laid eyes on was Tuppence, who was also the only person there that day who I’d met before (she performed the audiobook of Those People and we’d met in the studio). She was clutching a packet of custard creams, which you wouldn’t expect someone so slim to eat, but I can vouch for the truth of this. I met Martin too and can report that he is exactly the warm, kind, thoughtful guy that comes across in interviews. I found it amazing how they switched from their real carefree selves into anguished characters, which I know sounds ridiculous because that’s their job and they’re brilliant at it, but I suppose I imagined actors being all method-y and intense.
2. How much control, if any, did you have over the script?
I had no control, though I was a consultant and read the finished scripts, which I thought were excellent. The novel had to be simplified and pared down and it was clear that Simon Ashdown, a BAFTA-winning screenwriter and a genius at adaptation, was a lot better placed to do this than I was! I knew that if I was more closely involved, I would be obsessing about details from the book that were important to me but disposable in terms of plotting for the screen. I learned a huge amount from the experience and have since written a pilot myself for an original drama.
3. The finished series was incredibly tense and gripping. Was it everything you hoped it was going to be?
Absolutely, I was actually very touched by how faithful it was to the book. The casting of Martin and Tuppence meant the characters were ten years younger than they are in the book (and considerably better looking) and yet they did a magnificent job portraying the unfolding nightmare of Bram and Fi’s predicament, really wise and mature. In terms of styling, it was more beautiful than I had expected. I’d thought it might have a very real Doctor Foster feel, but the look is more designed and Hitchcockian. Some of the compositions are almost painterly, like when Fi and the detective sit under a circular window, with a perfectly framed tree. That shot could have been composed by David Hockney.
4. Have you any more novels under option for film or TV?
Yes, quite a few of my other books are under option, including The Other Passenger (which has been transplanted from London to New York), The Heights and The Swimming Pool. I’m also hoping to work with the Our House team again – Red Planet Pictures, ITV, and Simon – on something.
5. Did you have a favourite episode or scene?
I particularly like Episode 2, when Toby (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Wendy (Buket Komur) are introduced and the screws start to tighten. Again, inspired casting: both are quite different from the book but completely superb, really charismatic. The Sex and the City fan in me loved the scenes where Fi and her three friends meet for lunch or drinks and are just bantering. I loved them playing on the beach with the kids too. It’s a dark, claustrophobic show and that was a lovely moment of light.
6. You have been called the ‘Hitchcock of modern crime fiction’ for the twists and turns that your plots take. Do you plan those, or do they arrive organically when you’re writing?
If there is a big twist, it will be planned, especially if the narrative structure has been built around it. Smaller surprises might strike me as I go. The last line of Our House, which readers talk about far more than the more showcase-y twists, was just a very natural, on-the-spot realization that this well-intentioned act of dramatic irony was the only way the story could end. I didn’t plan that at all.
7. When you write, do you have a visual in your head of who would play your characters on screen, or even what they look like, or do you just have the outline?
Sometimes I do think of a specific actor. When I was writing The Other Passenger, I pictured Steve Mackintosh as Jamie and it really helped make him real to me. He later voiced the audiobook and hearing it really gives me the shivers. I think he would find it very creepy to know that I spent the best part of a year thinking about him, but to me he’s such a Gen X figure, jaded and cool, a perfect match for my middle-aged male characters.
8. The paperback of your latest book, The Heights, publishes in June, can you give us the elevator pitch for it?
It begins with a woman called Ellen Saint spotting a man from her window who she’s pretty damn sure should be dead – given that she herself killed him two years ago. It’s a twisty revenge thriller about a mother whose grief turns criminal. It has a lot in common with Our House, not least the complex structure that drove me slightly insane (I don’t know why I do this to myself!)
9. Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re working on next?
My next novel is a deception story based partly in the 1990s and partly in the present day, loosely inspired by Barbara Vine’s A Fatal Inversion. I loved writing about the 90s, which from our 2022 perspective seem quaintly innocent.
10. Final quickfire round:
(i) Favourite character from a book, movie or TV show?
Don Draper in Mad Men.
(ii) Which book would you most recommend?
Anything by Patricia Highsmith. You’ve probably already read The Talented My Ripley, so I’ll go with The Two Faces of January.
(iii) Where do you want to visit most now travel has resumed?
France, New York, Japan, which happen to be the last three places I went before lockdown, so I haven’t broadened my horizons. My sister is moving to Thailand, though, so I’m fantasizing about a spa break there.
(iv) Who would play you in a biopic of your life?
I would love Cate Blanchett, but she’ll need to gain a stone or two and be prepared to dress like a hobo.
You can order the TV tie-in edition of Our House, here; and the paperback of Louise’s new book, The Heights, publishes on 9 June, so pre-order now, here!