Thursday 30 January 2014

Paws And Whiskers

I received an amazing book this week: Paws And Whiskers.  It's a brilliant anthology of animal stories, chosen by the great Jacqueline Wilson... and Varjak Paw is one of the stories she chose!

It's an incredible honour, especially when you see the other writers in the book.  There are some of my all-time favourites: Rudyard Kipling, Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, Philippa Pearce, Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Dick King-Smith, Joan Aiken, Noel Streatfield, Dodie Smith, Kate DiCamillo – and of course Jacqueline Wilson herself.  Her introduction to the Varjak Paw excerpt is so lovely, I have to quote it!  She says:
"I think my most delightful and interesting interview ever was with SF Said.  He knew so much about children's books and we found we had all sorts of things in common – we even shared a passion for gothic silver jewellery.  He told me that he'd written a children's book himself and so I asked him to send me a copy when it came out.  
I was thrilled when I read Varjak Paw.  It's new and contemporary and original, and yet it already reads like a true classic of children's literature."
It's absolutely amazing to see one my favourite writers saying such things about my work!  Here's a link to the interview she mentions, which we did back in 2001; and here's some more information from her own website.  Please do buy a copy of the book if you can – royalties from every copy sold will go to Battersea Cats and Dogs Home!

Monday 27 January 2014

Phoenix Inspirations: Writing Music

I've made a few posts before about the music that I listen to when I write.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you won't be surprised to hear that I listened to quite a bit of the The Cure again while writing my new book, Phoenix!  But there were some new bands on my soundtrack this time.

This is the first song I ever heard by Sigur Rós. They're a brilliant Icelandic band who make music as epic and huge as the sky. To me, they make the sounds I imagine when I think about the stars singing, as they do throughout Phoenix, from the first page to the last.

This is a song from their untitled album ( ).  It's the song I listened to the most in the seven years of writing Phoenix.  It's what I was thinking of when I wrote that the stars made "a small, soft, silvery sound, like the chime of a faraway bell."  And it's the kind of thing I had in mind when I wrote about how the sound "surged and swelled, rising up into the sky."

The concert that Lucky, Bixa and Frollix go to on Scorpio Six definitely owes something to the various Sigur Rós concerts I've been to in my time... like this one, at Alexandra Palace, back in 2008! Though there were a lot of other concerts in the back of my mind... and lots of other music, too!

If you've enjoyed this post, and would like to hear the whole () album, I've made a Spotify playlist for you here.  And I'll be posting another blog soon with more music that inspired Phoenix...

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Writing Tips #2: Everyone Writes In Drafts

Here's the second tip that I would give any writer (if you want to know the first, it's here).

No-one can write a great book in one draft.  I've never met a single writer who could do that; a book is just too big and complicated.  You need to build it over a number of drafts.  Everyone does this differently – but believe me, everyone does it.

The best example I can think of is Jon Stallworthy's Between The Lines: WB Yeats's Poetry In The Making.  I found this in a second-hand bookshop, and it changed my life.  Stallworthy meticulously went through all of Yeats's discarded drafts, and reconstructed evidence of exactly how he'd written his poems.

Here's the finished text of my favourite Yeats poem, The Second Coming (click on the image to see it large):

Brilliant, isn't it?  Hard to imagine it could ever have been any other way.  But have a look at the first draft:

"The germans are now to Russia come"???  And look at this – several drafts later:

"The second Birth"?  Clearly, he didn't even know what the poem was going to be called, well into writing it!  Even very near the end, he was circling around the incredible final image that now seems so inevitable – developing it through sheer bloody-minded trial and error:

When I read this, I realised that even someone I thought of as a genius had to build their work layer by layer, draft by draft.  No-one just sits down and has perfect work pour out of them.  And if this is true of a poem, how much more true must it be of a novel?

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I'd like to wish my readers a very happy new year, and all the best for 2014!

Thank you so much for all your comments & questions in 2013 – I've really enjoyed hearing from so many of you.  Please keep them coming!  I'll be posting lots of news in 2014 as we build up to August, when Phoenix is published in paperback, and I'll be doing lots of events to support it.  If you haven't read Phoenix yet – please watch this brilliant book trailer by Dave McKean!

I'll also be working hard on my next book, TYGER.  I've just finished the second draft, and I hope that by this time next year, I'll have something I might be able to show a few people...  In the meantime, I'd just like to share this amazing image with you.  Happy New Year!