In Michaelides’s The Maidens (Celadon, June), London psychotherapist Mariana Andros is convinced that a charming professor is murdering students who belong to his secret, all-female society.
What inspired you to use Euripides’s tragedies, Greek myths, and Tennyson’s poetry in a modern thriller?
Growing up in the Mediterranean, I was heavily influenced by Greek myths and tragedy; Greek mythology shaped my creative imagination—it’s very much where I “live” as a writer. In this case, I began with Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripides, thinking about the themes of sacrifice and grief. Grief led me naturally to Tennyson—I started reading In Memoriam for inspiration and then gradually it worked its way into the book.
Would you agree that in both The Maidens and The Silent Patient, your first novel, you take a cynical view of psychology?
I would say “ambivalent” as opposed to “cynical.” I’ve encountered many wonderful therapists over the years, but also an equal number who were as dysfunctional and damaged as any of their patients. But honestly, I don’t tend to impose moral judgments on my characters, and I think of psychotherapists as very much like the rest of us: flawed, troubled, deeply human.
How important is the Cambridge University setting to The Maidens?
The setting was a big part of why I wrote the book. I studied at Cambridge University and have always wanted to write about that experience. Also, from a genre perspective, a Cambridge college provides a perfect enclosed location for a Christie-esque thriller.
What was your biggest challenge in writing or in researching for The Maidens?
At the time, the biggest challenge was that I had to write it during lockdown. But now, looking back, I wonder if that might actually have been an advantage. There is nothing like being locked in your apartment to concentrate your mind! And writing the book gave me something to focus on every day, which was a real blessing.
The Maidens is a standalone thriller, yet has a sly reference to The Silent Patient; do you envision your novels as a loosely tied series?
I think of The Silent Patient and The Maidens as companion pieces; they are very much set in the same world. And I would like to revisit that world again, for one more book. But not yet. I’d like to do something quite different next.