Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Author event by Skype

So, I just visited America, for an hour, to do a school visit, by Skype.

The photo shows students from Gilbert H Hood Middle School, in Derry, New Hampshire.

This is the first time I've done an event by Skype - it was the idea of librarian Kathy Lane, and it was enormous fun. As I sat in my writing shed as dusk fell in England, I spoke to the students in Derry, about writing in general and about Revolver in particular.

The picture was great throughout, and with the aid of a roving mic I was able to hear the students' questions. Though I would normally use powerpoint to do an event, I was able to wave various things at the students that related to their questions - my notebook, the shell case that inspired Revolver in the first place, and so on. It was a very different, exciting kind of event, and I got to speak to students I would normally never be able to.

A taste of the future, and a very enjoyable one at that. Thanks to Kathy Lane, Mr Keeley, and all the students of the PACE group at Gilbert H Hood Middle School. Great fun to talk to you.

The only sad thing, maybe, was that I couldn't sign a book for anyone :-(

(Though there's even a machine that can do that now - they have one Waterstones Bookshop, Picadilly, London...)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Cave - Mervyn Peake

Last night I went to see a performance of The Cave by Mervyn Peake, in  its world premiere run at the Blue Elephant Theatre.

In attendance, and in conversation afterwards with Neil Norman, was Peake's eldest child, Sebastian, who explained how after the death of their mother, he came into the possession of a suitcase of his father's effects. Understandably sorrowful after losing his mother, he didn't feel like rummaging around in the case. It was therefore over ten years later that he properly investigated its contents, and discovered bundles of unpublished writing by his father, including ten plays.

The Cave is the first of these plays to receive a production, selected as much as anything we were told, because it would suit the forces of the Blue Elephant Theatre. It's a short but powerful piece about a family across thousands of years, and deals with many things - conformity, rebellion, belief, love, I could go on here. I won't.

I really enjoyed it, the end in particular was genuinely chilling,  and it's exciting to think there is more 'new' Peake material coming, for all the plays will be published by Methuen over the next three years. What was as fascinating for me, however, was the discussion afterwards.

Peake has always remained something of an acquired taste, on the fringes, a cult writer perhaps, maybe a writer's writer. I've got my own ideas why this may be, but last night I got the chance to ask Sebastian if he had an explanation for why his father, unlike his contemporary Tolkein say, never achieved the fame, success and to be blunt, money, that his work deserved. Sebastian's answer was the one his father's publisher once gave to the same question; he was too good.

He finished with a lovely quote I would like to reproduce here: It was once said that the difference between Tolkein and Peake is this: Tolkein stood on the top of the mountain, and he directed his forces from there. Peake was down in the valley, alongside his troops.

If you think of the difference between the Lord of the Rings and Gormenghast, I think that's true, and that unsettling, uncomfortable feeling you sometimes get when reading Peake is maybe another explanation for why he never fully entered the mainstream.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Raven Mysteries - Book V - Magic and Mayhem

Book five of the Raven Mysteries series is not published until next Spring, but I've just received a full set of layouts with illustrations now in place, and I thought it would be nice to give a shout out to the wonderful man who makes the pictures for the words - Pete Williamson. Have a look at his wonderful website.

I'm not going to give too much away at this stage, but since I don't often mention the Raven Mysteries here, I just want to say that I think this is going to be the best one yet, largely due to the depiction of hundreds of little white bunnies and thousands of large green cabbages. And also the depiction of the deadly, yes, deadly, combination of the two.

Witness poor Edgar here, just imagining what it would be like to have his tail feathers accosted by just one small, but determined bunny.

In the words of Solstice; "I love bunnies. They're so uncool, they're cool."

Friday, 24 September 2010

Super Fanboy Geek Attack

Yesterday I had the enormously wonderful privilege of speaking at Eltham College. This was not only because it is a very nice school to visit, but also because it happens to be where Mervyn Peake went to school.

That's him, second from the left in the back row of the 1928/1929 Rugby team. I was told he didn't make much of a player, well not compared to Eric Liddell who had recently passed through the school too, but that even then he was drawing drawing drawing all the time, even all over his English books.

I don't tend to lean towards hero worshipping generally, but yesterday I ignored that fact, and became the teenager I once was, obsessed by his writing: it reminded me how wonderfully strange Gormenghast was the first time I read it, and it reminded me why to be strange and unusual is a good thing in writing, much more fascinating than the mundane and the commonplace. Well, for my money anyway.

Thanks to my Dad for introducing me to Peake in the first place, and thanks to Stephanie Fearn of Eltham College for the invitation to visit the home of, yes, a hero.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

So, about that book I was writing...

A while ago, I posted some words on My New Book...

That was at the front end of the summer I think, and back then, it was all going along really well. I'd done ten thousand words fairly speedily (and it's aways been my belief that fast writing is good writing, because it shows that it's all flowing properly) so I was quite content.

Then, this thing happened. Namely, I went off to Sweden for a month or so, in order to finish the book. In fact, two things happened. Firstly, I wrote not a single word of the book while I was away. Secondly, and of even greater concern to my and my editor's sanity, was that I didn't want to write any more of it either.

I'm not entirely sure why this was, but let's just say that I didn't feel it. Not really. So I threw away the ten thousand words. That will teach me to blog about word counts...
And hence the long silence about the book.

However, thanks to the gods of writing, another idea popped into my head one day as I cycled round the island I was living on, an idea so exciting and weird that I knew I wanted that to be my next book. And the idea was not only almost fully formed, I knew I could write it very quickly.

So after a few weeks home, I went back to the island, and started to write. 37 days later, I have it. Pretty much done.

To say I'm relieved is an understatement of the highest order, but I'm also excited. I know there will be LOTS to do in rewriting, since it's all happened so fast, but I'm excited about it, and that has to be the main thing.

And if I'm wrong about that, well, somebody show me the exit...

Friday, 3 September 2010

Marcus Sedgwick - School Report 1986

In the words of my headmaster, back in 1986:

"I said last year that Marcus needs to show more ambition. The remark still stands."

Well, today, I wrote six thousand words of my new novel, yesterday I wrote a three thousand word early reader, tomorrow I'm flying to New York to finish writing a contracted screenplay with my brother, so reaching out across the years to 1986, I have only one (printable) thing to say to Howell Griffiths, and that is this....
Actually, that's unprintable too.

Sigh. There were somemore favourable comments to be found, way back at the end of Easter term, 1986, such as this from my lovely form tutor, Mr Burgoyne: "He seems to have a sound analytical mind." Note the use of the word 'seems' in there. Mr Burgoyne was the teacher I wanted to have for all subjects, not just History, but he's probably the reason there's so much historical stuff in my novels.

And not so many Maths-based plot lines: Some accurate comments from Mr Neeve: "Marcus is not a gifted Mathematician." Shame I was doing two Maths A-levels, then.

Still, my other Maths teacher had this to say "His written work, although not always neat, is well documented, and it is easy to follow his train of thought." As one would that of any simple creature of the forest, perhaps.

Why am I telling you this? Because I just found the offending article in a drawer while looking for my passport and it made me chuckle.

In an almost entirely good way.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Edinburgh and beyond

I have just slept for three and a half days. This may be an exaggeration but it certainly feels like it. Having had a delayed flight back from Sweden, I got two hours' sleep before flying to Edinburgh for the book festival. After four events in three days there, I then came home to organize a small but fun film festival in the village where I live.

All good fun, and three successful things; words written in Sweden, events went well in Edinburgh, with Mal Peet, Ian Beck and Philip Reeve, and a small but satisfied crowd for each of the two nights of our film festival.

On the first night we showed the wonderful A Matter of Life and Death, which was timely because it's providing inspiration for the screenplay my brother and I are writing just now. This is another project which is going well at the moment, and brings me to my next trip: we're off to NYC on Saturday to scout some locations for some scenes of the film.

Including this one, the only active cemetery left in Manhattan.

New York is one of those cities that cemeteries don't seem to belong in to me. I know this is illogical but maybe it's because it's just so full of life...

New York, that is, not the cemetery.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Monday, 23 August 2010

Swedish Haiku - #1


Vinden viskar i
björkarna. Jag är hemma, men
jag har forsvunnit.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

My Swordhand is Singing in Swedish

Not much to say about this apart from the fact I think it must be at least the twelfth foreign edition* of My Swordhand is Singing, and one with a special place in my heart.

It's not out till next year, but the cover seems to be fixed on, or rather the title, since the cover is the wonderful UK one.

The titles translates as 'Those who walk again.'

Heh heh heh...

*I've checked with people who know; it's actually the thirteenth :-)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

White Crow: enhanced e-reader

I'm really excited to say that White Crow is now available as an enhanced e-reader. Not only that, but it has the honour of being the very first enhanced e-reader that Orion have published. For a pound more than the physical book, punters can buy it for iPad, Kindle and Sony e-reader, and get a bunch of extra material, for example, a photo gallery, which not only contains photos of the village of Dunwich which inspired the book, but also things like pages from my notebook, an example of which is shown here.

The main reason for buying it I suppose, would be the addition of a short story, called Dreams of the White Crow, which gives a little vignette into Ferelith's world...

Being Orion's first, it was a steep learning curve for everyone, including me, but I'm pleased with the results, and impressed with the speed with which the project came about.

And this morning it enabled me to do the slightly perverse thing of buying my own book online, just for the fun of doing so. Not the best idea financially perhaps, but, yes, fun, nevertheless.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A Day by the Sea

A few short weeks ago, the lovely "Louise from marketing", Miles "he can do anything with Final Cut" and I took a day out by the sea, to film a short video piece to promote White Crow.

After days of sunshine, the weather was not promising. White Crow is set in a hot, hot summer (this very hot summer of 2010, in fact, so please feel free to come to me with your weather forecast requirements from now on...) and so it was a tad disappointing to see the clouds, and yes, even (gasp) drizzle coming down on the Suffolk coast.

In order to get around this, we made two quick decisions. First, we concluded that since White Crow is a Gothic novel, a trailer filmed on a murky, rainy day would be much the best thing anyway. Second Louise and I went to the 'caff' for tea in polystyrene mugs and Mars bars. This is when I realised why Louise is lovely :-) Miles toughed it out on the beach, filming pebbles.

In the caff we were suddenly entertained by three things. One, the lad behind the counter trying to rig up a totally old TV set in order to watch the World Cup. Second, the lad behind the counter telling us all about the film crew that had been there the day before, and asking were we part of it, and impressing us with how many vans and crew they had. And third, the lad from the behind the counter asking if we knew who anyone who could film his really good band for him. 

At this point, Miles staggered in, looking in need of tea and a Mars bar. We gave him both, and a really promising lead for some filming we were sure he'd love to do. "He can do anything with Final Cut, you know" we assured the lad from behind the counter, sauntering back out into the drizzle.

Anyway, the filming day was enormous fun, and just as we left the coast behind, the sun came out, scorching hot once more. Shucks.

The results of the filming are now up: click here to view. My thanks to Miles and Louise.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

White Crow flies the nest

Today is publication day for White Crow, so it flaps off over the horizon and into the great beyond. Kind of literally in this case, as the whole damn point with this book is one of the biggies: vad finns efter döden? ie What is there after death..?

Personally I'm hoping for a chance to put your feet up with a nice cup of tea and nice chat about this and that. You know the sort of thing, all those big questions you always wanted to ask. Like Why did You invent evil? Why do Bad Things happen to Good People? And Where do you get those crazy sandals from?

That aside, I would like to say I'm really happy with how the book turned out, looks wise, and I wish it well. So how am I spending publication day? Big do? Bottle of champagne? Nope, off to the jetty at the end of the island I'm living on, where I'm told a thing called the ölbåt is arriving later to bring merriment to the dancing Swedes. That's 'beerboat' by the way, if you're working in old money.

Ha det så bra, vi ses...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

White Crow

White Crow will be out in a couple of weeks time in the UK (next Spring in the US).

It's my attempt to write a modern gothic story, and in that vein, it features a couple of tragic heroines. One of them, Ferelith, likes her music :-)

This is what's on her iPod (all Spotify links if you're a user...)

These song titles also happen to be the titles of chapters narrated by her.

Blue Roses – Rebecca
P!nk – I'm Not Dead
Evanescence – Bring Me To Life
London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) – Four Sea Interludes Op. 33a (from Peter Grimes) (1976 Digital Remaster): I. Dawn (Lento e tranquillo)
London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) – Four Sea Interludes Op. 33a (from Peter Grimes) (1976 Digital Remaster): II. Sunday Morning (Allegro spiritoso)
Andre Previn – Four Sea Interludes Op. 33a (from Peter Grimes) (1976 Digital Remaster): III. Moonlight (Andante comodo e rubato)
Andre Previn – Four Sea Interludes Op. 33a (from Peter Grimes) (1976 Digital Remaster): IV. Storm (Presto con fuoco)
Adam & The Ants – Catholic Day
Kylesa – The Warning
Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder: Nun Will Die Sonn' So Hell Aufgeh'n
Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder: Nun Seh' Ich Wohl, Warum So Dunkle Flammen
Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder: Wenn Dein Mutterlein
Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder: Oft Denk' Ich, Sie Sind Nur Ausgegangen
Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder: In Diesem Wetter
Julie London – Cry Me A River
My Chemical Romance – This Is How I Disappear
Gillan – Dead Of Night
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – What Must Be Done
Bauhaus – The Passion Of Lovers
Sonic Youth – Pattern Recognition
Skinny Puppy – Candle
Porcupine Tree – Kneel and Disconnect
Sonic Youth – 'Cross The Breeze

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Nope, not a fat Gaul but the new arrival in my garden; thanks to the help of three hefty neighbours and some swearing, I now have a small menhir standing outside my writing shed.

This is good because it makes me ludicrously happy for some silly reason, but bad because it's one more thing to distract me when I should be writing :-(

However, the good news is that despite the arrival of the obelisk, I've (at last) started writing my new book. Four thousand words in, and so far we have three deaths and a funeral.

Business as usual then for Sedgwick? Maybe, but this one feels a bit different from recent books, I think more in the style of The Book of Dead Days, but as Ron Manager would say, it's early doors yet, game of two halves, anything could happen.

Which reminds me, it's only ten days till that greatest distraction from writing of all. The World Cup! Thank God it only comes every four years....

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

One book, four covers

Well from the left we have the UK hardback, UK paperback, US hardback and German editions of REVOLVER.
I love seeing the way one book gets a different look in each country it's published in. The big debate we had in the UK was whether to put a gun on the cover of the original HB. All sorts of issues to be considered, of course.

The final decision was no, but for the PB the answer has been yes, and the new look is pretty lovely. Interesting that both the US and German editions include a human element, even though you have to look fairly hard to see it.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bologna book fair

I've just about had enough sleep since getting back from the Bologna children's book fair...

In one morning I happened to meet eight of my publishers from overseas, which is great in itself, but also slightly blows your mind.

Why? Well, there you are, in your shed, writing a book, and struggling with that, and for not one tiny moment does it cross your tiny brain that you might make sure your book will have 'international sales appeal'.
Maybe it does try to cross your mind, and maybe you just blot it out, because if you started to think like that, you'd go doo-lally pretty sharpish.

Anyway, the pasta's great in Bologna, that's the main thing :-)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Is this the 1960s...?

So I'm on campus at Bath Spa University, the sun is shining, there's some guy with an acoustic guitar singing songs about how Jesus is going to invade or something, and I feel like I'm living the 1960s education dream...

So far today, that education has taken the form of tutorials with MA students, and it's been interesting how the same issues can crop up. This evening, I'm taking part in a debate on how far, as a creative type, you should think about the realities of the commercial world. How much should it guide what you do and so on. Is it selling your soul to write something because you think it might have a greater chance of selling more copies...?

Personally I think you have to practice the art of holding a paradox in your head - on the one hand to ignore the real world totally, write just what you love, and do it just how you want it, and on the other hand, and at the same time, to have a part of your mind focusing on what is realistic, commercial and viable. And if Alice can believe in six impossible things before breakfast, then a paradox a day should be well within our reach.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Revolver PB cover

New covers a-go-go, at the moment! This is how Revolver is going to look in paperback when it comes out in May. Although most people seemed to like the smoking match thing on the hardback, we're going for a more commercial look now.

I always like those words; "more commercial". Let's hope it does the job. I'm very happy with it, though, on the basis that it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Monday, 22 February 2010

a graphic piece of work...

So I am so utterly and absolutely delighted to be co-writing a graphic novel with my brother. We're about half way through now, and the team-writing thing is working well. In fact, so well, that I think I might not want to write on my own again!

It's called Dark Satanic Mills, and is V for Vendetta meets the Wizard of Oz, with a side-helping of William Blake. Won't say too much about it now because it won't be published for a good long while yet, but it's a dystopian vision of a future Britain on the verge of becoming a fundamentalist Theocracy. Bit sci-fi, bit noir, bit of a laugh. And writing with Julian is the best thing of all...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Author in Residence

I've just got back from my first day at Bath Spa University as Author in Residence.

I'm feeling a little guilty because although this is a paid position, I think I may have got just as much out of it as the students who I'm mentoring. (Mentoring: a friend of mine defined it like this: are they "meantta" do what you say??) Anyway, I'm looking forward to the rest of the program...

The picture is of the building wherein my tutorials took place - known as The Castle, an opportunity which could hardly be passed up by a writer of the occasional gothic novel!

Monday, 11 January 2010

New methodologies...

I've just finished what I hope will be the final edits on White Crow, published in July. Of course there's bound to be some tweaking to do, but I think it's ready, by and large.

This is just as well as I've been writing without the benefit of central heating this morning - this certainly sharpens the mind, and stops one dithering over the exact position of commas quite so much. Perhaps this could be a new writing technique...? How about writing standing up? Or in a sauna? That would certainly encourage one not to hang about...

Right, I'm off for a walk on the basis it can't be any colder outside than in.