The writing on the wall – from ancient graffiti to hard news: presenting the digital dalliances of Elodie Harper.

There can't be many people in existence who have joined the most secretive wing of the Church of Scientology and become immersed in Berlin’s far right hip hop scene. In fact, Elodie Harper may be the world’s sole person to have done both – and all in the line of duty. Yet, as a reporter for ITV News Anglia, and formerly a producer at Channel 4 News, such are the breaks. One can only imagine that, with such a wealth of stories accrued through the rigours of her daily work, she makes an exceptionally interesting guest at dinner parties.

Thankfully, however, the rest of us too can delight in her gift for storytelling, thanks to her latest book, The Wolf Den (Head of Zeus), the first tale in a trilogy of female empowerment set inside an infamous Pompei brothel. Her clever and spirited protagonist, Amara, is sold into sex work after her father loses the family’s fortune; now, owned by a man she despises, Amara is determined to escape what would otherwise be her fate.

Elodie’s reimagining of the lives of women whose tales were never recorded for posterity and whose value lay only in how much men were willing to pay for them feels both profound and unflinching. It is, too, a compelling story of sisterhood and of courage – vividly set against the backdrop of a doomed city. The Times called the book ‘a triumph’, while The Observer described it as ‘vibrant and thrilling’. This is, we predict, just the beginning of a stellar career.



Here, she takes us on travels back in time to the ancient graffiti that informed parts of The Wolf Den, and to the geekiest – but brilliantly enlightening – pocket of YouTube, courtesy of The British Museum’s Curator’s Corner.

My favourite website...


That would have to be ancientgraffiti.org which is a truly amazing resource. It allows you to go through Pompeii and Herculaneum street by street and building by building, seeing what graffiti has been recorded there – both phrases and drawings. This was absolutely invaluable while writing my book The Wolf Den, which is set in ancient Pompeii. The graffiti closely informed the story as I wove in real examples, especially in relation to the brothel where the novel starts. Some of my fictional characters are named for the real women (and men) who worked there.

My favourite app...


That has to be WhatsApp – it’s been a lifeline for chatting to friends and family during the isolation of the pandemic. I also love Spotify for music and podcasts.



My favourite blog...


I follow a lot of news, and you can get to a saturation point with so many outlets, but I find Robert Peston’s blog for ITV is both incisive and always several steps ahead.

My favourite podcast...


I am going to have to pick two for this! I really enjoy podcasts about the ancient world, in particular Let’s Talk About Myths Baby! and The Exploress. Both Liv Albert and Kate Armstrong are fantastic presenters, who go out of their way to look at the past in an entertaining and more inclusive way. It was a real treat to go on both podcasts recently, to chat about The Wolf Den.

My favourite YouTuber...


At the risk of sounding completely lame, I would have to say The British Museum (do they count?!) They have lots of useful resources, and a feature called Curator’s Corner, which is the height of nerdiness.

My most recent buy online...


I’d like to put something very exciting here, but I’m afraid it was my weekly grocery shop. I never used to buy food online, but the pandemic has got me into the habit.

Last book you downloaded or read...


Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Daughters of Night, which I cannot wait to read. I’m also a sucker for loading up my Kindle with 99p bargains. So many fabulous books keep going on offer!



Favourite tweeter...


I have loads, so this is hard to answer but maybe @lewis_goodall from Newsnight and the US comedian @sarahcpr. There are also lots of fabulous book bloggers and writers on #BookTwitter – I find that section of the site can be a very supportive space.

Favourite Instagrammer...


I love the account @pompeii_parco_archeologico, which always posts stunning images and is also where new discoveries on the site are announced.

Favourite tech gadget...


Asides from my laptop or phone, I don’t really have any. But both of those are fairly massive parts of my life!

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...


Again, I don’t have one. I write at the kitchen table, and when I’m in the newsroom, we hot desk.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown...


A cliché but it has to be Zoom. Both for staying in contact with friends but also in order to do my job. I work as a journalist at ITV News Anglia and this enabled me to do so many interviews remotely in the pandemic.



Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...


I have found the comedian @aliwoodsgigs videos about lockdown life on Instagram both very funny and spot on about the challenges.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...


I’m trying to avoid doing this, but it will invariably be a doom scroll on Twitter or, if I’m reporting that day, my emails to make sure my assignment has not been changed.

Last thing you binge-watched...


Game of Thrones. I normally have reasonable willpower about spreading a series out, but not with that one.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...


This would have to be music. I enjoy listening to Ruelle and Allie X whilst writing.

Social media allowed me to meet...


The wonderful Dr Sophie Hay who is @pompei79 on Twitter. Sophie is a leading expert on Pompeii and has worked on the excavations at the site. I started out by enjoying her tweets, then getting in contact to ask for help with my research and we recently met up to go for a walk around Roman London. This was such fun, a particular highlight being the slab of Roman wall sitting across bay 52 of an underground carpark.

The best digital advice I've been given...


Try to limit social media. Not that I always take it….

My screensaver is...


I’m a Mum so the answer to that one is very obvious!

My standout online memory...


Moments of solidarity between strangers on social media during lockdown. I sometimes found comfort in so many people going through a difficult experience together, though at other times the weight of the shared sadness could be too much.



My pet online hate is...


Online bullying. It happens a lot on Twitter and is always horrible to see.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions?


No, but I keep meaning to….

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?


Definitely good. I cannot imagine my writing or reporting life without it!

By Nancy Alsop
July 2021

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