Thursday, October 25, 2007
THE BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL
PLUS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND DRAGONS VERSUS HELICOPTERS
Thanks to those who were there for the reading/talk I gave at the Art Worker’s Guild as part of the Bloomsbury Festival on Saturday 20th October. The event was filmed too, for use by Great Ormond Street Hospital TV, so I suppose more people may eventually get to see me talking about my dragon-boy trilogy, Worm in the Blood, Beast Beneath the Skin and Heart of the Serpent. As part of my talk, I read an extract from Heart of the Serpent, a chapter near the end of the book, which describes a dragon (Fen) attacking and destroying a helicopter in flight. This reminds me of a film that came out some ten years ago I think, called Reign of Fire. It was in the Sci-Fi post-apocalyptic tradition. In Reign of Fire, huge fire-breathing dragons had laid waste to modern Britain. The poster advertising the film showed dragons on the wing and, in one corner, a flight of helicopters homing in, as if to confront the giant beasts in aerial combat. This never actually happened in the film, a fact that was noted with disappointment in a review I read somewhere. Remembering this, and with the cost of special effects not being an issue when you’re writing a novel, I resolved to make sure there was a dragon versus helicopter encounter somewhere in my book if at all possible.
Monday, October 15, 2007
THE NOTEBOOK FILES
I keep a notebook. I always ask for notebooks for my birthday, and usually get given two or three, which is great because they last me the year. My notebooks are part diary, part shopping-list, part sounding-board, part scribble-pad, part scrap-book, part note-pad, part address-book, part sketch-book, part mole-rat. No, not that last one. In my previous entry on the subject I referred to some notes made on a pigeon I encountered at a bus stop in North Woolwich back in 1982. I said I hadn’t made use of those notes directly in any writing. But my daughter recently pointed out that, in fact, there is a scene in one of my books (THE HOUSE OF EYES, winner of the Stockton Children’s Book of the Year Award, 1998) which features a pigeon and a boy named Keith. What’s more, it’s a scene that apparently made her cry when she first read it. (This makes me feel pleased that she found my story moving, but also a bit guilty that it upset her). Thinking about it now, I'm sure the Woolwich pigeon was a major influence behind the writing of that particular scene.
Monday, October 08, 2007
When I first heard The Happy Ending Foundation mentioned, in a brief aside saying they were planning an airport protest at the arrival of Lemony Snicket for an “Unfortunate Events…” book tour of the UK, I took them to be an invention of the Snicket camp, a piece of promotional American-gothic tomfoolery to go with the neatly designed books and the fanciful pen name. The notion that such a group could actually exist seemed preposterous. But unless Lemony’s publicist has persuaded a considerable slice of the British media, not to mention former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, to play along with the wheeze, it seems the group are real. And they really do want to ban children’s books with unhappy endings. Not only that, but they are apparently planning a series of “Bad Book Bonfires” for the offending volumes later this month. It must be true, I read about it in one of those free papers you find littered about the London Underground. The newspaper named Marcus Pfister’s Milo and the Magical Stones as an example of a book the Foundation want banned (I don’t know this book, but presumably all does not end well for the protagonist). The next day I heard Peter Allan interviewing Michael Morpurgo on the subject on Radio 5. Morpurgo delivered a thoughtful riposte to the Foundation, saying he understood their aim, that children should be happy, but countered that this could not be achieved by lying to them about the true nature of the world. As for me, I’m still not entirely sure that this isn’t all one big and rather subversive advertising campaign. After all, it’s brought the works of at least three authors to my attention over the last couple of days. And it’s hard to believe any group would organise something as offensive as a book burning heedless of the parallels with Nazi Germany and the like, which such activities always conjure up. The title of this entry, by the way, is apparently what used to go through the mind of Radio 5 presenter Peter Allan as a child, whenever he encountered the classic fairy tale ending “happily ever after”!
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