Shelby Township author writes tie-in novel to AMC series ‘The Killing’
by Detroit Free Press Special Writer Kurt Anthony Krug
When Karen Dionne was asked if she’d be interested in writing a tie-in novel to the AMC series “The Killing,” the author confessed she hadn’t even heard of the show.
“It airs on cable and we don’t get cable,” said Dionne, 61, of Shelby Township. A 1971 alumna of Grosse Pointe North High School, Dionne wrote the thriller novels “Freezing Point” and “Boiling Point.”
“I saw the pilot episode and liked the show. I really liked it,” she said. “Before I was even approved to write the book, I quickly got hooked on the show.”
Produced by Fox Television Studios and based on the Danish crime drama “Forbrydelsen,” “The Killing” chronicles the homicide investigations of detectives Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) and Sarah Linden (Mirielle Enos) in Seattle. The show debuted in 2011 and was canceled twice but revived twice. The fourth and final season is slated for an Aug. 1 release through Netflix.
“I was hired to write it in 2011. You’re given three months to write the book and it comes out 6-9 months later,” explained Dionne. “The first time it was canceled, so was my book deal. The second time it was canceled, it was actually canceled the day after I turned in the finished manuscript. That was a low moment; I had only one day to be happy. … That’s really quite unheard of in television land to be canceled twice and picked up twice. When I heard it was being renewed again, that was pretty exciting. The book needs the show to augment it.”
“Uncommon Denominator” serves as a prequel to the TV series. In it, firefighters discover a body with fatal head wounds when responding to a meth explosion at a trailer park. Another body — shot execution-style — is found in a shipping container at the Port of Seattle. Det. Linden is assigned to the latter case and learns both murders are connected.
Dionne spoke with the Free Press about “Uncommon Denominator.”
QUESTION: How did you come up with the plot?
ANSWER: It’s been an interesting process. I had to come up with several story ideas. Fox selected the idea I had for a prequel. The next step was for me to write a detailed outline. … Once my editor approved it, she sent it to Fox and they had to approve it too. It was a two-step process. … I had a conference call with the show’s executive producers (including Veena Sud) and other creative people to discuss the direction of the book.
Q: Did you have access to scripts?
A: As the second season was being filmed, (Fox) sent me the scripts before they were produced and aired. I had to sign a nondisclosure form. It was very helpful to see the scripts because I could read their dialogue in written form and see the stage direction. Fox set me up with a password to watch the episodes any time I needed to.
Q: Were you given a “Killing” bible?
A: As I watched the episodes, I created a bible for the show. Any time a name or detail was mentioned, I’d jot it down so I can get it correct. I was allowed to use any information that was revealed in the first two seasons. I couldn’t create a new backstory because it would affect future episodes and everything was carefully coordinated. The book supports the show; it wasn’t supposed to take over for the show in any way.
Q: Do you have to watch the show to enjoy the book?
A: “The Killing: Uncommon Denominator” is a complete story in itself, so while fans of the show will recognize the characters and thus appreciate the story on another level, readers need not be familiar with the show to enjoy the book.
Q: Was it easier writing licensed characters? Or harder?
A: In a lot of ways it’s easier because the characters are already fully developed. You can easily see their personalities by watching the show. It made my job easier because I didn’t have to come up with any conflicts; those had already been created.
Q: What was one of the challenges of writing this book?
A: One thing that was intimidating — many of my thriller-writer friends are fans of the show. The writing is so good. … As I was writing the book, I realized these authors who are fans of the show are also excellent writers and would one day be reading my book. I hope they like it. … It’s an honor and privilege to be the author chosen to write this book because “The Killing” is such an excellent drama.