Stylist Live

Marlon James on how he wrote his Man Booker winning novel and why he wants all-British cast in HBO adaptation

Posted by
Sarah Biddlecombe

The winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize has revealed he wants an all-British cast for the TV adaptation of his novel because "we're not afraid to show a bit of penis".

Author Marlon James said he would like both Idris Elba and Naomie Harris to star in the HBO adaptation of his winning novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Speaking at Stylist Live, his first public appearance since winning the prestigious award on 13 October, he praised British actors for being "more versatile and having more training". Having always been inspired by film, the author is currently writing the script for the adaptation himself.

James became the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker prize with A Brief History of Seven Killings, his third novel to date. He described the feeling of winning as "totally surreal".

The author has spoken out about how having his debut novel, John Crow's Devil, rejected 78 times by publishers had almost put him off writing altogether.

a brief history

A Brief History of Seven Killings delves into the attempted murder of Bob Marley in Jamaica in the late 70s, a topic that is clearly close to James' heart. He said, "there's a cloud around the assassination attempt - it's why I wrote the book, because we don't talk about it. It's one of those moments in history that just vanished, but we can reinvent a moment that was snuffed out."

Describing the process of writing the novel, James revealed he has an unusual trick - he believes total silence would "drive him crazy" so he always has to write to noise, whether it be music or the background noise of a packed train carriage. He revealed he listened to "lots of" Massive Attack and Adam Ant during the writing of his prize-winning novel, and that when listening to Bjork "parts of her philosophy seeped in" to his writing.

The author also spoke about how fluid a writer must be when creating a novel, stating, "This started out as a different book. You have to remember that the first page you write will rarely be the first page a reader reads." 

shortlisted authors

Marlon James (far right) with this year's shortlisted authors

Come along to Stylist Live, our four day urban festival of culture, catwalks and cocktails, from 15-18 October. Click here to buy your tickets - we can't wait to meet you.

Share this article


Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Commissioning Editor at Stylist. Twitter

Other people read

More from Stylist Live

More from Sarah Biddlecombe