Sarah Pinborough talks fantasy, TV adaptations and female characters

"I'm not sure if the novels I read shaped my writing or if I'm just drawn to those kind of stories." recently had the honour of interviewing Sarah Pinborough, writer of Torchwood, The Dog-Faced Gods and The Nowhere Chronicles. In this interview, Sarah discusses an upcoming TV adaptation of her work, the stories that inspired her growing up and advice for aspiring writers.


SFP: I understand that Netflix is developing a TV series based on your novel Behind Her Eyes. Please can you tell us a little bit about that?

Sarah Pinborough: It’s all done, filmed and edited and ready to go – it should have aired this summer but obviously with the whole Covid-19 scenario things have been moved around and we’re now showing early 2021. It was made by Left Bank Pictures (who make The Crown for Netflix) and is a 6 part series starring Simona BrownTom Bateman, and Eve Hewson. I haven’t seen it yet, but I think I will be doing so shortly. Very exciting. I think the marketing will be kicking in soon from what I last heard from them. It’s been a great experience and I’m now working with Left Bank on a six-parter of my book after Dead To Her – so I’m writing the TV and the novel at the same time which is a bit of a head twister.


SFP: Is there any particular author or creator that you would like to collaborate with on a book?

Sarah Pinborough: I’m a terrible collaborator so no. I’m (very slowly) working on a film with James Barclay though – a Christmas feelgood film of all things, and Tim Lebbon and I have talked about doing something TV or film together but we’re both so busy it’s hard finding the time. I think TV and film is more naturally collaborative – for me at least than books.


SFP: What was your favorite novel growing up and how do you think that has shaped your own writing?

Sarah Pinborough: Gosh, there wasn’t just one. Peter Pan was a firm favorite when I was about 6 and also Treasure Island, and then I think I went through a real love of fantasy ‘other world’ books like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Then at boarding school, I read just about everything. There wasn’t a lot else to do! From the Pan books of horror to the classics, to Judy Blume and of course (James) Herbert and (Stephen) King. I’m not sure if the novels I read shaped my writing or whether I’m just drawn to those kinds of stories.


SFP: What attracts you to urban fantasy/ horror type settings? What is the thrill of subverting the audience’s expectations?

Sarah Pinborough: I like dark fiction and twists and turns in a story, and I like to be surprised or at least pleasantly satisfied by reveals when I read a book, so I basically try to put twists and turns in that I would like. Even my fairy tales which are pretty funny had some dark twists (but of course also happy endings!) I do like magical worlds – like the Nowhere in The Nowhere Chronicles because I think they are a great escape from the humdrum of day to day life but I tend not to read so much fantasy as an adult. The same with horror – I watch more horror movies than read horror fiction, although I do like horror short stories. Most of my work these days is set in a contemporary setting but I tend to explore more speculative ideas in TV and film stuff.


SFP: What is the secret to writing a female character with agency that the audience will root for?

Sarah Pinborough: Ha, you’re asking the wrong person! Most of my female characters are essentially unlikeable – which is what I like about them. You can only write the characters in your head – if they’re interesting and you give them interesting lives and challenges then hopefully your reader will want to know how it turns out for them and find something to like in them. In Behind Her Eyes Louise is the most sympathetic female character but she’s not totally nice. Credible, flawed people is probably what you should try to create.

SFP: How do you show children and adults that reading is a great thing to do that can help them in life?

Sarah Pinborough: I’m not really sure. TV and film have taken over so much entertainment but it’s still not the same as reading. I have an ex-boyfriend who didn’t read until he met me, other than the odd biography, but he discovered he really loved it and some books really made him think about the world in a different way. That’s how I used to explain it to kids at school when I was a teacher long ago. It’s your chance to feel like you’re in someone else’s shoes in a way TV etc doesn’t give you. Books are entirely your own. I think perhaps most people don’t give reading the time or they get put off at school. Maybe we need some kind of electricity blackout for a few days that affects gaming equipment and TVs and then people will remember how much they love books. A lot of people still read a lot though. And I also love TV and movies which also can help us in life.


SFP: Is there any genre you have not written in but would like to?

Sarah Pinborough: Uplit! Kind of like ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.’ Would be nice to write a book that people come away from smiling one day.


SFP: Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring writers who want to take their writing to the next level?

Sarah Pinborough: I’m not a great fan of writers giving writing advice – it’s all so subjective. I would say don’t spend too long on social media and just get on with the work. I’m not really sure what taking it to the next level means – I guess just always try to write your story better than the last one, in both style and content.


Scifipulse would like to extend our warmest thanks and appreciation to Sarah Pinborough for so graciously answering our questions.


You can learn more about Sarah Pinborough on her website, which is at

And you can follow Sarah Pinborough on Twitter @SarahPinborough

I'm a writer on the autistic spectrum who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. I'm also an actor with Theatre of the Senses.
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