Thursday, 19 August 2010

Reviews, interviews and internetty stuff

There's me, sort of toppish left, next to Sarah R B, hand on chin. See me? No, to the left!
It's been quite a mad few weeks but now everyone's on their holidays I'd like to recap a few things.
Firstly, huge thanks to all who got involved in the blog tour and who are still involved! I just went to Puffin HQ this week and met with Nat, one of the gang involved with Spinebreakers, a website about teen and YA literature RUN by teens, which is sort of how it should be, isn't it?
In case you missed it (how could you, I was, like EVERYWHERE!) I'm going a random summary of a few of the bloggers who took part in supporting me and Dark Goddess well above and beyond the call of duty. The Children's/YA business has a lot of very ethusiastic and dedicated fans, I'm pleased to be part of it. Children's lit, it so rocks. As they say back in the 'hood. So if you're looking to exercise your mouse finger, do browse through a few of these sites. No pressure but there will be a test later.
Spinebreakers, Book Gazing, Rhiana Reads, Book Zone, I Want to Read That, Fantastic Book Review, Readings of a Busy Mom, I was a Teen Book Geek, LoveReadingX.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Grand entrances

When creating a story, be it book, movie or comic, you want the principle character to make an impact and nothing matters more than when we first meet them. It sets the tone, the genre and well, you either win or lose your audience in an eyeblink.
We're talking costume (see left), attitude, the way they walk or just the way they arrive. Here's a few that made an impact on me.
1. Frankenfurter. "How do you do I see that you've met my faithful handyman. He's just a little bought down because when you knocked he thought you were the candy man." I'm watching this clip as I write and OMG, weren't the 1970's amazing?
2. James Bond in Dr. No. A Casino. Gorgeous babe in red. The languid way he lit the cigarrette and delivered the greatest introduction in film history. Dammit, the 1960's were pretty awesome too!
3. MacBeth. Ah, this is interesting because we've already met him before we've met him. The witches mention him in Scene 1 and King Duncan sings his praises in Scene 2., so by the time he does appear the anticipation has been built up around him already. This is a very handy technique, building the perception of the protagonist by the way other characters view him or her. It can also be used very easily to misdirect the reader in a big way, because they have a tendency to believe opinions are honestly expressed.
4. Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. Brilliant reversal by casting a muppet as a jedi master. I know it's hard to appreciate it now when he's an institution, but he defined the otherworldliness of the jedi order, and that the Force was much more than lightsabers. "Judge me by my size, do you?"
5. Eli, the girl vampire in Let the Right One In. Skinny, greasy black hair, gaunt and dressed in kneed leggings and a tatty sweater in the snow-covered playground. She looks so pathetic and tragic but the posture and stillness should tell you that something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Right here, right now.

Scary, isn't it?
Well, this is what life as a writer has done for me. Older, greyer, balder and with a tendency to wear a lot of black. And this is how I am in public, you really don't want to see me during my 'downtime' which is all beard and slippers and shuffling around the street in my dressing gown because, hey, I don't dress for work anymore.
I have been a full time WRITER now for two years!
My, it's gone quickly. And what has it been like? What have I learnt? What would I do differently? So, off the top of my somewhat shiny head here's the list:
1. Worry less. Oh God, where to begin? Crying at my first presentation at Puffin HQ was not the greatest of starts. I can laugh about it now, sort of. Then there's Amazon rankings, lack of five star ratings and wondering why I'm not on 'The South Bank Show', or 'Desert Island Discs' or even 'Woman's Hour' (yes, I listen to a lot of Radio Four) when it seems like every other author and their granny is.
2. Don't read books with exploding planes on the front cover when flying to New York. In hindsight that seems pretty obvious.
3. Don't headbutt other authors at their book launch. It was only a light tap, I hasten to add.
4. Realise most people don't look like their author photos. There's a reason we write, in cold, small, lonely dark dens. We're not meant to out in public that much. It's safer for everyone. Then you go to some event and are introduced to someone and only when they've left does publicity tell you that you've spent the evening spitting canapes over Stephenie Meyer*/Roald Dhal**/Dan Brown***. I've realised that if someone doesn'thave a name tag that's because they're IMPORTANT. Does Obama wear a name tag? No. Point made.
5. The internet is the biggest source of procrastitation ever invented. Facebook does not count as research. But Spotify is GOOD.
6. Make 'tax-deductable' your mantra when on holiday.
7. Editors have lives too and are not sitting around staring out the window just waiting for your call, even though they should be. And let's be honest, when they send you a manuscript with over six hundred comments what they're really trying to tell you is REWRITE THE BLOODY BOOK.
8. Writers don't believe in Christmas or holidays in general. Or sleep.
9. A lot more people make your book work than you could ever thank. So, in no particular order thank you to Lins, Ari, Wendy, Lisa, Jonathan, Stephenie (not Meyer, in case you were wondering), Tamara, George (not actually a bloke), Jonathan (actually a bloke), Jeni, Jo-Anne, Sam, Neil, Telka, Sarah, Sara, Sara, Julia, Helen, Kathryn, Lee, Alan, John, Conor, my girls, my wife, my family.

*Okay, I've not actually met Steph, but I have met her editor.
**Yes, I know he's dead. I'm just trying to make a point, alright?
*** I had a big Dan Brown joke in Devil's Kiss but the lawyers demanded it be cut. I'll have to tell you about it one day.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Billi SanGreal, Book 3#

Or, what I'll be doing over my summer holidays.
Actually, it's not so straightforward as that.
What I can tell you is:
1. I'm writing it.
2.I have no idea if it'll be published.
There was never any plan to publish a third book. One thing I wasn't keen on was a trilogy which had a second book that was all set up. I've come across a lot of trilogies where, as you go through the second book, you really it's all just a long, long build up and nothing's really going to happen except you'll be left with a cliff-hanger. That really annoys me, mainly because I've forgotten what happened by the time the third book comes out. Hence when I wrote Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess each book (more or less) was designed to stand alone.
The fact is, I love Billi's world. I want to explore more of it.
Basically, it's all down to sales. If Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess do well, then Billi 3 will come out. If they don't, ah well, let's look at something new.
Not that something so minor's going to stop me. Sometimes, you've just got a story and you have to tell it.
So, what I can tell you is Billi's turned 16 and her birthday is 14th July, Bastille Day. For those of you who've read either book you'll know the SanGreal's have French background and it's family background which will form the basis of the story. Also, the plot centres around one of the ancient Templar Treasures. There were four and we've had The Cursed Mirror and the Holy Grail (oops, butter-fingers, Billi!) but in Book 3 we uncover the real game-changer.
What else? The action will move to the Middle East (this may change, slightly), so a trip out there is on the cards.
The plan is to work out the synopsis and the first 20,000 words, just to see what's developing. I try not to tie the books down too much so synopses aren't really that significant, but it's always handy to have some sort of plan, even if you go on to develop a better one as you write. For example the final drafts of Dark Goddess (and Devil's Kiss) were nothing like their original plans.
A final word? If you insist.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Classic heroes

I put this picture up because it's Sean Connery, at his most cool (though I suspect he's actually holding an air pistol) and for me he'll be the definative Bond.
However, there's a new version that's been out and about, the Young Bond series, written by Charlie Higson.
They're based on the books rather than the films and take place in the 1930's, when Bond's a boy and just started Eton and living with his aunt, soon after his parents death on a climbing accident.
Then we've got Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane, which I'm just reading right now, and last week a new tv series started on BBC, called Sherlock, which takes our two interpid heroes (Sherlock and Watson) and imagines what they would be like if they operated in the modern day.
Firstly, the question is WHY?
These are classic heroes who work perfectly as they are. Fleming purposefully kept Bond's background obscure, and I'm sure he had his reasons, the man's enigma is part of his appeal. Ditto Holmes. He's barely sufferable as an adult, as a kid you'd imagine the whole school lining up to slap him one for being such a smart arse.
But, but, but...
Young Bond is brilliant. What appeals to me is Bond's innocence. Granted, I've only read the first few, but he's noble in a way he isn't in the Fleming books, but there are subtle hints to how he'll turn out, a blunt instrument serving the government. There's a modern sensibility in the YB books, especially his attitude towards the female characters (remember as an adult he'd treat them as disposable pleasures) that's a necessary change and reflected in the movies too, where the women stick up for themselves a bit more than they used to (and, of course, I'm all for action heroines!).
I'm only half-way through Young Holmes and the Death Cloud and Holmes is smart, but learning from two unlikely mentors, an American and a street urchin. The principles of deduction are steadily forming as the story progresses and there's a healthy dose of straight action too, plus a suitably macabre mystery. What's interesting is (so far) it's not set in London, Holmes's natural stompim ground, but we'll see how the rest of the story develops. Check out the interview with the author at BookZone.
The new tv series I expected to HATE. But it works. The guy who plays Holmes is perfectly suited, smart and arrogant and excitable, very much like Jeremy Brett, the actor who defined Holmes back in the 1980's and 1990's. What's brilliant is Watson. In the original books he's a Afgan veteran, so is a man of action far more than how he's been protrayed in most Holmes' sagas. I think this is the masterstroke, the appealing Watson. Guy Richie did something very similar in the movie last year (which despite everything else, worked because of the chemistry between Downey and Law).
I suppose what I'm saying is that I approached these stories as a bit of a snob, not wanting to like them. We have the classic originals, but with the right writer and right team, they can be seen afresh, allowing you to fall in love with them in a new way. The fundamental character remains, it's clear the writer loves the template he's working from, and what's done is done with love and passion, with wit and a lot of style and charm.