Killing Eve’s creator brings his antiheroine back to life in a Substack serialization
Authoris no stranger to alternative forms of publishing. His Killing Eve trilogy, featuring the murderous adventures of an assassin called Villanelle, first appeared as a self-published series of novellas for Amazon Kindle.
Villanelle—and the story of her entanglement with MI5 agent Eve Polastri—grew an international fandom following the adaptation of the novels into a BBC drama by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, starring Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh. But in 2022 the televised version of the series came to a shocking end, and fans erected makeshift shrines all over the world. Villanelle’s creator, a former journalist, decided to revive her—and in a new way.
“I knew that to steer a new Villanelle adventure through the conventional publishing channels would be a long process,” Luke wrote. “With fine serendipity, I ran into a writer friend who asked me what I knew about Substack, [and] a couple of hours’ research was enough to tell me that the online publishing platform was the right home for my own book. Vitally, I could offer it for free, which I felt I owed readers in return for their loyalty.”
Luke’s story goes beyond Substack as a promotional tool to sell books. It is the book. He joins a growing list of authors serializing fiction in weekly chunks, direct to readers’ inboxes: from serialized classics to’s The Other Cheek, ’s Greener Pastures, ’s sci-fi thriller Tales from the Triverse, ’s dark comedy In Judgement of Others, and fellow British author ’s The Experiment.
When the first installment ofdropped in November 2023, readers responded with weeping. We interviewed Luke about Villanelle’s journey so far, and the reaction from readers.
What’s your Substack about in one sentence?
It’s where I’m serialising my new novel, Killing Eve: Resurrection.
What do you uniquely offer readers?
I’m offering Substack readers a first look at our heroines’ wild new adventure. This time we see events unfolding through Villanelle’s eyes. It’s a unique perspective. Murder’s easy, but a relationship?
Why did you decide to serialize the next Killing Eve novel on Substack?
I wanted to try something different, and Substack seemed to fit. I like the direct engagement with readers and the civilised feel of the platform. It’s a new way of publishing fiction, but the idea behind it is as old as storytelling itself.
It’s a privilege to have your work published by a major publishing house, but it’s a slow process. I’ve watched my books move through the hardback/paperback cycle for years now; it’s gratifying and frustrating in equal measure. Going the e-book route is more immediate—I got lucky with the novellas that became Codename Villanelle—but it’s a desperately long shot. The Substack process has a real-time feel that I like. Thrillers are of the moment; they should smell and taste of now.
The ease of it is also attractive. I also think readers are much less daunted than they would be by a 1,00,000-word book. It’s something you can read on the way to work. It’s episode by episode, and people like that rhythm.
Why is a direct relationship with Villanelle and Eve’s readers important to you?
My readers are passionately engaged with Villanelle and Eve. At heart, for all its twisted and perverse character, theirs is a love story, and in telling it I need to strike a very precise note. Writing on Substack is like being onstage. The audience is right there, and you can sense how your words are landing. It’s you to your readers, unfiltered. And that’s exciting.
Writing on Substack is like being onstage. The audience is right there, and you can sense how your words are landing. It’s you to your readers, unfiltered. And that’s exciting.
Has anything surprised you about your readers?
I’m always thrilled to see how many readers identify with my murderous heroine. But then, this is the trick Villanelle pulls: to charm her admirers into knowing what she is, and still choosing to care about her.
Can we expect more Killing Eve novels on Substack?
Anything’s possible. Right now I’m concentrating on fulfilling the promise I made after the TV series finale: to bring Villanelle back. And here she is!
Who’s another Substack writer you’d recommend?
It’s early days in my exploration of Substack, but I like; — ; and — .
Read more: Substack for book authors
If you’re inspired by Luke to start a Substack, writing your first post is just a few clicks away: