Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Acts of Faith (or how Sarwat went to Hollywood)

As some of you may know my background isn't in writing, but engineering. I point this out to remind everyone who's trying to become a writer that degrees in English Lit or a MA in Creative Writing or years as a journalist are TOTALLY UNNECESSARY in becoming a writer. Hey, you don't even need to have had an exciting life (but having one of some sort does help).
I'm not even quite sure how much talent you need, either. We've all read some truly appalling books that have been best-sellers, haven't we?
But what you need is FAITH. Now I'm not venturing into Richard Dawkins/Phillip Pullman territory here with the nature of God and all that, but more belief in what you're doing. The years, the reams of paper and the endless fustration at rejections do not matter if you have faith. If others have faith too. You'll be amazed how far such passion will get you.
You've heard much about my agent, Sarah Davies. She is first and foremost in The Faithful. If you're agent doesn't have faith in your ability, find another agent. Simple as.
But today I'm talking about Jerry Kalajian, my film agent.
Jerry read Devil's Kiss back when it was just a bundle of loose A4 sheets. Now that seems like ancient history but it was just 4 years ago. Surprising how much can happen in that time. Since then he's had faith and HUGE passion that this is a story he could sell. We had a few near misses and most people would have given up. Hollywood turns quickly and things can become old very quickly. Just look at Megan Fox's career (just joking, Megan. Dropping out of Transformers 3 was a GOOD CALL).
But Jerry had faith and believed in Devil's Kiss and Billi SanGreal.
Then, Gale Anne Hurd came on board.
Gale's the producer of The Walking Dead series, and also The Terminator and Aliens. She was married to James Cameron and is an Arsenal fan. I'm not sure how all these facts are related but she was looking for a new female action hero and Jerry sent her Devil's Kiss.
Beatrice, the VP of Gale's production company, Valhalla Motion Pictures (cool or what?) read it and then a meeting was arranged, as I happened to be heading out to LA for the book tour anyway.
So, one morning in March Jerry and I were sitting in the lobby of Gale's office. The wall is covered with posters from her career. We've got The Punisher, Terminator, Aliens, Aeon Flux, we've got the Hulk.
Remember, a few years earlier my career was based on designs of central heating systems. The only posters I saw were the layouts of kitchen units.
The world turns on faith. We need to believe in what's possible more than what's already out there. Jerry has been an amazing example of that and I pity anyone with an agent who's not even half as dedicated. Then with Beatrice and Gale championing Billi the books have now been optioned by Gaumont Pictures. There's talk of a Billi SanGreal tv series, which is insanely cool because now Buffy's retired we need a new kick-ass vampire/demon/werewolf-slaying heroine, don't we? I'll keep you totally informed should such an event happen but, hey, a trip out to Hollywood is nice and there's always the next book.
This isn't about me boasting but telling you, whatever you're doing, you have no idea where it can lead. With writing, there is no reason you can't be as big as anyone already out there. Yes, that includes JK Rowlings. Why not? I really, REALLY do believe that faith will get you further than you imagine. Yes, it must be backed up with work and more work, but believing that you can succeed and be as good as anyone else out there on the shelves is fundamental. There's an awful lot of bad fiction selling by the truckload (most of it involving vampires I'm afraid). You can write better then them, can't you? Look at it this way, even if you do only as half as well as JK, that's £250 million in the bank, isn't it?
Now, where did I put that Aston Martin catalogue..?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Because Ninjas are COOL!

Do you remember when you first came across a ninja? I do. Eric Van Lustbader's book, the Ninja, was being passed around the class (thanks, Robert!) and we were agog at the sheer coolness on ninjas, that they could make poison out of dandelions (or something) and there were scenes with lots of exclaimation marks that, as 12 year olds, we didn't quite understand and wouldn't for quite some time (and for some of us, it would be quite some time).
Anyway, needless to say, I wanted to be one. That didn't happen but I did go through a phase of knocking myself silly trying to use a pair of nunchuks and loosing my shuriken over the fence into the neighbour's garden and upsetting his dog.

And I wrote ninja stories. There wasn't a tale that couldn't be improved by adding a ninja. How MacBeth would have been much happeir if he'd used ninjas to kill Duncan rather than do the job himself. How Romeo and Juliet was like two warring ninja clans (Kyushu and Iga, if I remember correctly) and (my masterpeice, titled 'Dressed to Kill') where James Bond fights a ninja while he's getting dressed for a party (metaphorically dressed to kill) then throws the ninja out the window but stabs himself on poisoned caltrops left on the sill by the ninja (who's literally dressed to kill). My old English teacher, Ms. Masters, despaired a little. I like to think she's forgiven me now.

Yes, but Sarwat, is there a point to this?

Well, it's about writing what you love, no matter what everyone else thinks. I still have a fond spot for ninjas and I recently found a copy of Lustbader's book and reread those chapters I didn't understand the first time around and now completely get why my parents confiscated the book.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress

Please note the following, as they may help later:
1. We have a young boy (Ash Mistry, aged 13).

2. We have a demon king (Ravana, who's age is his own business).

3. We have an Indian setting (glorious, ancient, insanely cool, at least six thousand years old)

4. We have a bad-ass punch dagger (called a katar) because, as all bad-asses know, samurai swords are for wimps.

Oh, and a golden arrowhead. Now that'll be really important.

I'm just back from a jolly nice visit to HarperCollins HQ and have a few spare copies of the arc of this here book. ONE (and only one, alas) copy will be given away this year. So, if you want to read it first and be envied throughout the land, please stay tuned. BUT (big clue) it'll help if you follow me here or on Twitter. Chums on my newsletter will score extra points. Just sayin'.

There are a few minor tweaks still to be sorted but the book's pretty ready to go, though it won't be relased until March 2012 in the UK and Fall 2012 in the US.

I know it's AGES AWAY but some things are worth the wait!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Exactly how BAD ASS are you?

There comes a time in every kid's life when they contemplate the BIG questions. Now I'm not talking religion or who's going to win X-Factor and whether Justin Beiber will have a career after puberty, but the BIG BIG BIG questions.
It struck me, yesterday, when daughter No.1 came out of the garden with half the skin scrapped off her forehead from a swing/ground interface incident. Now that's after a week of falling into a lake (surfing) and, if I remember correctly, falling out of a tree.

Memo to self: get that girl's inner ear checked.

But, as the kind man on security (don't ask) said: it proves you've had a childhood. Scar-tissue, that it.

But it's more fundamental than that. It's when you scrap your knee or get a cricket ball in the face (my particular speciality) or a fist in the mouth (long story, maybe another time) and your lower lip quivers and the tears form when you decide:

Am I BAD-ASS or not?

With my new series on the horizon (oooh, look at the gorgeous cover, soon my pretties, soon!) I've been contemplating what exactly is my book about? What are any of my books about?

They're about BAD ASSES.

Now, I've not wondered into the genre of BAD-ASSNESS by accident. I've studied it long and hard for many, many years. I like to think of myself as someone, like a alchemist, who's trying to filter through the pages of his books tales of pure, untainted and undiluted BAD ASS. Not fantasy. Not urban fantasy or gothic horror or supernatural suspense and certainly NOT paranormal romance but BAD ASS storytellling. Books about heroes who swear and bleed and suffer and never, ever, EVER give up. They would die before surrender.

Are we all clear?

Good. Especially you at the back, thought I saw you nodding off a bit earlier.

Think of this as re-establishing my writing credo. Books of bad-asses. Nothing more, nothing less.

But how do you recognise a bad-ass? Are you a bad-ass? Is your sister? So, to help you work out if you are, indeed, a member of the SOBA (the Society of Bad Assess) I've put together a questionnaire for you. Let's begin:

1. Every bad-ass has some scar. How did you get yours?

a) scrapped your knee when you fell off your bike when you were six.

b) picked at those acne spots when you were told to leave them alone.

c) got those scars on your cheeks when a spear was thrown straight through YOUR FACE.

2. Your surrounded and outnumbered a hundred to one AT LEAST. The enemy commander tells you to lay down your weapons. Do you:

a) think 'fair enough. Wasn't my fight anyway' and go home for a dish of cowardly custard.

b) Ignore him and wait for someone to have a go.

c) yell back 'Come and get them!'.

3. Bad-asses like to PARTAY. Now, you've been invitred to teh house of a handsome Russian prince with plenty of wine, food and fun. How does REAL bad-ass party end?

a) A game of charades and an early bed. After all it is a school night.

b) blinding hangover and waking up somewhere on the end of the Northern line.

c) with being shot, poisoned, stabbed and thrown in a icy river?

4. What are the best things in life?

a) A new highest score on your X-box, a slice of pizza and a marathon Harry Potter session, dressed up?

b) A swift horse, a falcon at your wrist and the wind in your hair?

c) To crush your enemies, to see they driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women?

5. Bad-asses don't stay at home, watching the goggle-box. They're out there, fighting the good fight. They see things. Tell me, what have you seen?

a) Well, she was across the road and it was crowded BUT you think you spotted Paris Hilton down at the supermarket.

b) Your true love standing on the beach, lit by the setting sun. Aah.

c) Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.

6. The Romans have taken over your kingdom, raped your children and whipped the skin off your back Do you ..?

a) curl up in a ball in the corner and cry and cry your little heart out?

b) find someone to complain to and take your complaint to their commanding officer?

c) stick a pair of scythes to your chariot, burn Londonium to the ground and massacre its entire inhabitants?


You answered c) right? Your are wise to the ways of the bad-ass, my young apprentice. Anything else and you'd best stay in bed on days where the weather's a bit clement, we wouldn't want you getting a cold now, would we? Each of the c) answers are based on a epic bad-ass from history or fiction. Anyone of them a worthy mentor to any prespective bad-asses-in-training. If you don't know them, you'll have to wait 'till next week.