Just back from a busy couple of days at this excellent festival in Brittany. I took a flight over on Saturday, landing at the tiny airport of Dinard, a few miles from St.-Malo. A vast book fair, with countless stalls, was laid out along the quayside just outside the great grey stone walls of the ancient port town. Here hundreds of authors and publishers hawked their wares all day before heading up to the old town’s restaurants. As well as signing at the Albin Michel stall, I took part in a couple of excellent debates, chatting about ‘The Proper Use of Magic’ with Jasper Fforde and Brandon Sanderson, and discussing ‘The Borders of Reality’ with Sjon, Fabrice Colin and Laird Hunt. It’s always a pleasure teaming up with other authors - each of us has his or her own style, each our own particular enthusiams and insights, but such differences only serve to highlight our shared trajectories, the universal themes we’re all exploring. Away from the platform, I wandered the fair with Oisin McGann, and enjoyed lots of lovely Breton fare, in which seafood and crepes featured prominently. Everyone else indulged themselves in similar fashion: the plane back to London flew noticeably lower in the air.
I had a great visit to the Hay-on-Wye Book Festival this weekend. Arrived late on Sunday and had a splendidly convivial evening with some of my fellow Random House authors, including Mini Grey, Candy Gourlay and the Etherington Brothers. Next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we all went to the festival itself, which was humming with activity despite the heavy rain. Lots of authors were happily wandering about amid the throng; I went to listen to the historian Orlando Figes talk eloquently about the Crimean War. After lunch I did my talk about Bart & The Ring of Solomon and had a lovely Q&A session, with great questions from lots of young and enthusiastic readers. After my signing I reluctantly embarked on the long journey home. As I did so, the sun came out over the western hills; a beautiful end to a perfect day.
I had a great trip to London’s Docklands yesterday for the MCM ComicCon. Andrew Donkin, Lee Sullivan and I were talking about the Amulet graphic novel. As we drew close to the convention centre, we began to see hundreds of amazing costumes - weird, beautiful and funny: the halls themselves were packed with thousands of fantasy and comic addicts celebrating their love of the genres. We did a nice Q & A, then an hour-&-a-half’s signing with some delightful fans. It was my first ComicCon, but it certainly won’t be my last.
Sorry it’s been a while since the last post. There’s been lots going on - mainly me working on the beginnings of a new novel, which I think might become a series… though you can never tell until you get further in to the writing. At the moment there are many scattered fragments of story episodes in a red file on my desk, and each day I play about adding to one or the other, or scribbling notes about how they might fit together. My plan is to work hard on this over the next couple of months, so that by the end of the summer the book outline (and hopefully a clear chunk of it) will be in good shape.
I’ll also be doing a lot of events in the next few weeks: visiting LONDON MCM ComicCon this weekend, Hay on Wye on Monday 30th May, St Malo for Etonnant Voyageurs 11-13th June, and New Orleans for the American Library Association get-together at the end of June.
Further ahead, there’s exciting talk of visiting Estonia in the autumn, and I’ll be in Germany and hopefully Ireland too. Right… time to open the RED FILE…
I arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday, and last night attended the Ceremony for the L A Times Book Prizes 2010. The Ring of Solomon was up for the Young Adult Prize, but didn’t win (the award was taken by Megan Whalen Turner’s Consipracy of Kings). But it was a good evening spent milling about with lots of other authors who’d been clearly dragged through a shower, forcibly dressed in smart stuff, had their hair combed for them and were now blinking dazedly in the bright lights of the Times Building (which had a fantastic giant rotating marquetry Earth in the lobby - like something you’d find in Clark Kent’s Daily Planet). Today I’m off to the Book Festival itself, to talk on stage with Megan Whalen Turner and Rick Yancey about Fantasy fiction. Outside right now there’s nothing but blue skies and bright California sunshine. Should be a good day…
I’m off to Los Angeles tomorrow for the L A Times Book Festival, and also for the announcement of the L A Times Book Prizes. The Ring of Solomon is one of 5 titles shortlisted in the Young Fiction category. There’s a proper prize-giving ceremony on Friday night, for which we have to dress up, so I’ve been zooming about dusting off my suit, ironing shirts and buying new ties (being an author I have a pathetic selection of these) in a doomed attempt to look smart for the occasion.
On my way home from an excellent visit to this year’s Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference. Gave a chat about becoming a writer & listened to interesting talks from Cressida Cowell, M G Harris and Simon & Alex Scarrow, among others.
I’ve just had it confirmed that I’ll be zooming across to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks to attend the LA Times Book Prize ceremony on Friday 29th April (in which The Ring of Solomon is on the Children’s Lit shortlist), and then to take part in an event at the LA Times Book Festival on Saturday 30th April. For more info on the talk (at 12.30 pm at USC campus, Los Angeles) see: http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/saturday-panels/#davidson
Sad news over the weekend that Diana Wynne Jones has died. She was a terrific author, who had a decisive impact on Children’s Literature and Fantasy fiction in general. I first encountered her work as a grubby 10-year-old, when I picked up a copy of The Ogre Downstairs and was completely blown away. It was unlike anything I’d read before – a pungent mix of comedy, fantasy adventure and social realism that felt thoroughly original and completely up-to-date. Instead of some invented Tolkienesque world, full of grandeur, mythic conflicts and general portentousness, we had a dysfunctional modern family of squabbling step-siblings who acquire magical chemistry sets. The result: flying children, general chaos and, unforgettably, packs of toffee bars that come alive and start wriggling round the room. There was a wonderful lightness of touch and an inventive brio that was a world away from so much drab 1970s writing for children. Along with Terry Pratchett, who arrived soon afterwards, DWJ showed how comedy could be fused with fantasy, and she did this without jettisoning grittiness and moral purpose. I’d guess she’s a pivot on which the history of children’s fantasy tilts – most of today’s writers in this genre would acknowledge her importance, and the joy she gave them in their childhood reading. I only ever met her once – we shared a platform years ago at the Cheltenham Festival – and she was everything a (still grubby) younger writer could have hoped for – generous, encouraging, kind, formidable. She’ll be much missed, but she’s not exactly gone: her influence is everywhere.
Almost finished the piece for Andersen Press – it’s required several drafts, but is nearly there. I like writing short stories (though I haven’t done many), but I find them paradoxical. There’s a sense of freedom, in that you can suggest all kinds of things about the world or characters without going into details, simply because you haven’t got the room. But at the same time you have to be far more precise and careful than in a novel, where a bit of slack can sometimes go unnoticed. If you’ve only got 5,000 words, you need most of them to count. At the moment 75% of ‘Green Fields’ (the piece’s current title) is pretty tight, but the rest needs a bit of fine-tuning. A nice task ahead for a sunny Spring day.
After all the recent website work I got back to some real writing last week, beginning my first bit of fiction since The Ring of Solomon. Anderson Press has invited me to contribute a story to an anthology about the afterlife, to be published next year. I’ve begun to work on an idea for this – although some of the things I’m toying with might conceivably end up as something longer… Anyway, it’s that exciting preliminary stage again, with fragments and pieces of text strewn across the desk, and the possibility of ploughing off in infinite directions.
An exciting day: the new Bartimaeus website is finally up and running. For a couple of months I’ve been working with my web designer, Dan, on the new look for the site, and I’m thrilled by the way it’s turned out. It’s got some of the best material from the original site – including the Bart Guide to London and Bart’s Blog, but lots more fresh stuff too, including far more comprehensive Media and Links pages, and lovely insights into the making of the Amulet graphic novel and the Ring of Solomon. One of the highlights for me is the new Chronology of Bart’s career. When I was beginning The Ring of Solomon, I had to make sure I didn’t contradict any of the information in the original trilogy. The only way I could do this was read through those three books and make comprehensive notes of everything Bart said he was up to at various times in history. This list became a chronology, which I’ve now filled out with info from the new book, along with one or two extras that have occurred to me since. As and when more info about Bart’s misadventures comes to life, I’ll add material to it, so it’s always up to date. Meanwhile I’ll turn my attention to the Jonathan Stroud Author site, and begin refreshing that too.
Wonderful news! Just heard that The Ring of Solomon has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 2010. It’s one of five finalists in the category, the winner of which will be announced during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the end of April.
Took part in a Creative Writing Day at St Albans School, which was my old school back in the days of yore. The classes came dressed up as their favourite literary characters, and it was noticeable that things had changed a bit since my last Creative Writing visit here three years ago. There were several glassy-eyed zombies sitting in the front row – though this may well have included several boys who hadn’t in fact dressed up – as well as some spies, pirates, and old-time classics such as Oliver Twist and the Mad Hatter… But wizards? Nope. No wands or pointy hats to be seen. Literary fashions seem to be moving on.