Netflix’s The Silence hit the streaming service back in April. Hearing the synopsis might harken back memories of Netflix’s Bird Box or even A Quiet Place. But get past the synopsis, dive in, and you’ll quickly discover the two movies are plucked from the same DNA but have evolved from ideas into screenplays into movies that are quite dissimilar. Also unlike Bird Box, The Silence began its life as a novel written by author Tim Lebbon. I had the pleasure of interviewing the author behind The Silence.
Check out the synopsis for The Silence below, along with my Q & A with Tim Lebbon.
“When the world is under attack from creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, a teenager who lost her hearing at 13, and her family, seek safety in a remote refuge. However, they discover a cult who are eager to exploit her heightened senses”
LRM Online: Were you consulted on the adaptation?
Lebbon: I was very kindly sent drafts of the scripts and asked for my thoughts, but I was always aware that Shane and Carey Van Dyke were the writers. It was nice to see how the process moved and the script developed, and once or twice I was asked for my opinion on a couple of script changes. Overall, I was kept as involved as I’d have wanted without feeling like I was intruding.
LRM Online: You won the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction. What did it mean for you?
Lebbon: It was really nice being recognised by my peers. And it meant a trip to New York to collect the award!
LRM Online: What was it like adapting 30 Days of Night into a Novel? Which iteration of the comic most inspired you?
Lebbon: I adapted the screenplay into a novel, not the comics. I did get to read the comics, but it was the screenplay that was my template. It was a lot of fun, and it led, very indirectly, to me writing the Secret Journeys of Jack London trilogy with my friend Christopher Golden (I wrote a Polar bear scene into the novel, and we jokingly referred to vampire Polar bears … and everything grew from that).
LRM Online: What sort of research went into the vesps found in The Silence?
Lebbon: I looked into cave-dwelling creatures and species, how they sometimes evolved cut off from the outside world in low-oxygen environments. It’s a horror book and film, so of course, liberties are taken, but I wanted to make the creatures as realistic as possible. I love the creature designs for the film. In my imagination, the vesps were flying mouths with lots of teeth, but the film took that on a couple of steps, and I know the designers researched prehistoric species and bats to come up with the great little beasties.
LRM Online: What inspired your book The Silence?
Lebbon: A simple idea: ‘wouldn’t it be cool to write about blind creatures that hunt by sound’. Everything else grew from that.
LRM Online: For readers of LRM Online who may be unfamiliar with you, please tell us about yourself.
Lebbon: I’m in my late forties (very late) and have been published for over twenty years. In that time I’ve written over forty novels, hundreds of novellas and short stories, have won a few awards, made lots of lifelong friends, and The Silence is my second movie (the first was Pay the Ghost, starring Nicolas Cage). I live in South Wales with my wife, son and dog (and my daughter is in university in Wales, too). I love the countryside, and I’m passionate about endurance sports and fitness. On my 50th birthday in July, I’m racing my 5th Ironman in Canada. I might retire from racing after that … but I’ve said that before.
LRM Online: Is there a message in The Silence?
Lebbon: Look after the ones you love.
LRM Online: What was your writing process when working on The Silence?
Lebbon: It was a while ago … but probably pretty similar to now. I tend to write most during the day while my wife’s in work and my son is in school, and I have the house to myself. In the late afternoons and evenings I do all the admin side of writing, and everything else involved that isn’t getting words down on the page –– planning, editing, emailing, interviews, Skyping, reading. When I’m in the saddle on a novel I aim for maybe 2,000 words per day, but that can change depending on where I am in the novel. I find I slow down towards the middle, then speed up again towards the end, because I want to know what happens!
LRM Online: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Lebbon: That varies from book to book. I have loads of scrappy ideas, but forming them into a whole is sometimes difficult. I never find writing particularly easy, but I still love the whole process, and when it’s going smoothly and feels good there’s nothing quite like it.
LRM Online: What role does the subconscious play in your work?
Lebbon: Probably a very large role. But if I knew that for sure, it wouldn’t be subconscious anymore.
LRM Online: Were the Vesps an evolutionary step forward?
Lebbon: In my mind they were a step sideways, a different evolutionary branch from the rest of the world. This does happen. There are cave systems that have been shut off for many millennia and whose lifeforms have evolved independently. Should we go into those places ….. ?
LRM Online: From concept to completion how much did the story for The Silence change?
Lebbon: The story is developed as I work, so there’s no real change, there’s just gradual creation. I have an idea for a novel, I write it, and it grows as I’m doing so.
LRM Online: From completed book to Netflix film, how much did The Silence change?
Lebbon: It’s essentially the same story, but there are a few differences, and I’m fine with that. Film and book are very different media. But I was very pleased with how the core idea––family, and the lengths you’ll go to protect the ones you love––remained.
LRM Online: What’s it like having your work adapted and available on Netflix?
Lebbon: Pretty surreal. I visited set, had a cameo in the movie (‘corpse in drugstore’), and attended a screening at Netflix just a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a wild, crazy, fabulous ride, and sometimes I have to pinch myself. Living the dream, some people have said, and I guess there’s truth in that, as lots of writers live for the moment their work is adapted for the screen. And to see it done in such a great way, with an utterly stellar cast, is a dream come true. Yes, it’s nice.
LRM Online: What can we look out from you next?
Lebbon: The Edge, the final volume in the Relics trilogy, is out this June. I have another completed novel due for release next year. Christopher Golden and I are working on a new novel together (our ninth), I’m developing ideas for a TV series (early days yet), there are a couple of scripts in development, another project optioned that I can’t talk about yet (watch this space), and I’ll soon be starting my new novel.
LRM Online: This last one is more for followers of LRM Online. Do you have a preference between Marvel or DC movies?
Lebbon: I’d probably say Marvel, but I do like the DC movies too. As I’m not an uber-fan of either, it’s probably OK to say that!
Be sure to check out The Silence on Netflix!
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