Unlucky London Landmarks


Wotcher. Got a few different bits and pieces for you, this time.

First up, I was delighted to see a certain giant monster make a topical appearance in the current issue of one of my favourite magazines, namely Private Eye. Their ‘In the City’ column traditionally examines shady goings-on in London’s financial district. So imagine my surprise, when….

HEE HEE HEE! :)

Next up, here’s a question from Matthew – yep, the same Matthew who made the awesome Chinj pic from the previous post! – who really got me thinking when he asked:

After finishing The Black Tattoo and studying Hinduism, I wondered if the Dragon, the Brotherhood and the Scourge had any links with the three Hindu gods Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva, ie Brahma – the Dragon; Vishnu – the Brotherhood; Shiva – the Scourge. I was just wondering and thought I would point it out.

Wow.

Um, to be honest with you, Matthew, the short answer is ‘no’. Hinduism had no direct influence on Black Tat – or none that I was conscious of, at least. While I’m familiar with some bits and pieces of Hindu mythology and theology, by the sounds of it you know more about it than me! But I’m sure I was influenced unconsciously by it – as I am in everything I write, by everything in the world around me.

Nothing that anyone writes or creates can ever be completely original. Whatever you do will be influenced by things that have been done before – including the things you’ve experienced or read about, the things you learned from, let alone archetypes, standard elements of a creative work such as, for stories like Black Tat, heroes and villains.

For a long time, when I was younger, that fact used to bother me. The impossibility of making something that was completely new was very frustrating. Sometimes it even seemed like if I couldn’t be completely original then it just wasn’t worth the bother of creating anything. But then I changed my mind.

Everyone has influences – a vast, bubbling mixture, some elements of which an individual won’t even be aware of. While you can (and should, I think) add to the mixture – expand your influences, by experiencing and discovering and finding out about as much as you can – there’s no subtracting from your influences or getting away from them. There’s no going back.

But here’s the thing: it’s the mixture that makes us different – the particular combination that gives a creative work, or even a person, their own special style and flavour.

The expression of that mixture in a way that excites me – and, I hope, other people! – is what I chase after in my stories.

I wish you the best of luck in chasing yours.

Lastly, while we’re talking about Black Tat, here’s something very cool that arrived in the post this week. It’s another edition, this time published in German!

As you can see, like the US paperback, my German publishers Blanvalet have gone for the classic black on white look first developed by the design team at Random House Children’s Books UK (yay!) – isolating the figure of Charlie [actually posed by Mr P's son, Ian, fyi!] from John Jude Palecar‘s awesome painting. But that red sticker on the front is a cheeky new twist! If you can’t read it, it says “‘Kotzende Fledermause? Ich bin begeistert!’Neil Gaiman“. For a translation of that quote – and the story of how I got it! – check out this interview. Hee hee hee HEE!

Meanwhile, on the same day as my copies arrived (how’s this for speed…?) the first comment from Germany came in on the Black Tat Guestbook. If you’re reading this, Vanessa, thank you very much indeed for your kind (and beautifully expressed) words!

Floof. A longish post this time, but it’s deliberate. Fact is, I’m about to go intermittent on you again while I return to PHASE THREE, so I wanted to leave you with a decent meaty chunk to chew on while I’m off back down the story-mine. As ever with a first draft, there’s a lot of work to be done. But I’m doing what I love, so I’m not complaining! Hope you’re doing the same. :)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Today’s mission was four quickish (thirty to forty min-) sessions at the City of London School, which – if you happen to be a certain GIANT MONSTER – is located at convenient stomping distance from lots of deliciously vulnerable London landmarks, notably this:

Yep, it’s poor old St Paul’s!

When I explained to the students that Tim basically involves the total and utter destruction of everything visible from their school’s windows…

…their reaction surprised me. A number were extremely keen to discover whether the school itself was also trashed in the book. I just can’t imagine why, can you?? I mean, I thought the place looked rather nice! ;p

A thunderous thank you to Mr Rose and everyone else I met today for their wonderfully warm welcome. :)

Tomorrow I’m off on my Isle of Wight tour! Three days of three talks a day to around 250 people in each session – it’s going to be AWESOME. However: internet access at the B&B where I’m staying is apparently dial-up only. I’ll do my best to keep in touch, but if I don’t manage it (and I survive the tour!) I’ll be back soon to tell you how it all went. Scrunch you later!

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Blimey. What with the rest of the New York trip and one thing and another, this last week has been a bit manic. But I’m here, I’ve survived [vodka pizza is DELICIOUS, btw! ;) ] and all is good.

I’ve got some more events and appearances lined up over the next few months – watch this space! But I’ll let you know now, my intention is essentially to spend the UK’s summer (or, heh, whatever summer we get!) with my nose pressed firmly to the grindstone.

Yes folks, it’s time to put the serious hours in on PHASE THREE of my sinister masterplan to conquer the universe, by which of course I mean my NEXT BOOK! I’m very excited, and I hope when the time comes that you will be too. I may even drop some hints about it in forthcoming posts. But since it’s currently TOP SECRET, and this blog, er, still needs writing(!) here are a couple of other bits and pieces to keep you ticking over instead… ;p

First up, here are a couple of pics I’ve been meaning to post for a while. The plan is for them to end up on the Tim site’s Unlucky London Landmarks page, where I’ve already got some other photos I’ve taken of the real places mentioned in the course of the book. The proviso with this location, however, is that it’s one of the few that doesn’t get DESTROYED! I’m talking, of course, about the British Museum.

Here’s a shot of the front entrance, looking impressive as ever…

The British Museum

And here (below) – albeit rendered into patented ‘WonkyVision(tm)’ by a certain ham-fisted author-photographer! – is the museum’s Great Court.

The Great Court

The relevant passage of the book occurs on page 11, and goes like this:

‘On a summer’s day it would have looked spectacular, with streaming shafts of sunshine making the marble floor gleam and the whole room seem to dance with light. But this was not a summer’s day. The gloom from the leaden London sky above made the Great Court feel a bit like an oversized fish tank – and one that hadn’t been cleaned properly at that.’

Well, the sun was shining so I didn’t time this quite right for you I guess. But the eerie Matrix-style green cast this pic seems to have developed might help give you some idea of the scene, at least! ;p

In other news, ANOTHER edition of TIM has just been launched! It’s the US unabridged audio version, read by Bryan Kennedy, and it’s available to download, right now, via Audible. If you go to this page, you should be able to listen to a sample.

I haven’t had a chance to check this version out properly for myself yet, but it does nicely illustrate one of the lovely things about audiobooks (and, indeed, books generally!) which is that every reader’s interpretation is different. When you’ve checked out the US version, click here (and scroll down to the bottom) to hear the difference. Mr Kennedy, unlike Nigel Greaves, has chosen not to give Dr McKinsey a Scots accent, for a start! He’s gone instead for something much flatter and rather sinister. The interpretations are different, but they’re both very cool. I’m a lucky guy and no mistake. :)

Finally, I’ve got to apologize for something. Due to a technical glitch, for most of this last month new posts to the Tim and Black Tat Guestbooks were not appearing as quickly as they should – GAH! This was especially annoying – for me and the WebSphinx as well as presumably for the people who posted, btw – because the posts themselves have been particularly fabulous lately: do click on the links to check ‘em out. Meanwhile, if you’re reading this Cris from Anaheim, Phoebe from St Mary’s, Taryn from New Jersey, Libby from Dublin, Andrew from Missouri, Victoria from TO, Mexchina from Boston, Sophie from Leigh, Sienna from Toronto, Twinkleberry from Bristol and Hannah from Stratford… then humble apologies from me and the WebSphinx, and a MASSIVE thank you for sharing your awesomeness with us. Having people write in to the sites is one of the very best things about this website caper, and you have put some delightedly huge and cheesy grins on my face. Hee hee hee!

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

…Erm, not me! ;p As you may have read by now on the Waterstone’s site, their Children’s Book Award was won this year by Sally Nicholls, for her debut novel WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER. Here’s a pic of her making her prize acceptance speech…

Sally Nicholls

…and here’s a link to an interview with her on the website Write Away. Congratulations, Sally!

Honestly I feel no ‘sour grapes’ about this at all. On the contrary, the book sounds like an incredibly ambitious piece of writing, and one that must have taken an enormous amount of talent – not to mention courage – to pull off. [Check out this review by Mal Peet]

I’ll admit, however, that when the first letters to come out of the judge’s mouth were ‘SA…’ I did get a bit of a jolt. Fact is, the Enthoven’s agent Penny had just taken me out for a rather powerful spicy dinner in London’s Chinatown. If I’d ‘ad to make a speech, there might have been some unintended extra sound effects: URP! (‘scuse me) ;p

Everyone

All the authors who’d been shortlisted were invited up on stage and given bottles of champagne (see? I ain’t complaining!) And while the cameras flashed at us, the current UK Children’s Laureate, the inspirational Michael Rosen, kept us grinning with an impromptu song, the words of which appeared to be… ‘Weeeeeeeeeee’re top of the league, top of the league, top of the league; Weeeeeeeeeeee’re top of the league, top of the league.” -So, while he might accidentally look half-asleep in the photo above, I can assure you he most certainly was not. HEE HEE HEE HEE! :)

It was a fine do all round, with lots of people saying kind and lovely things about TIM (aw, shucks). But a particular highlight was when the indispensible LAURA H. (of whom I’ve already written, see below) managed to sneak me up to the booksellers’ staff room balcony on one of the highest floors of the Waterstone’s Piccadilly building, there to take some spooky photos of the foggy London night. Check out this one, of Nelson’s Column

Column140208

…and this one, of The London Eye:

eye140208.jpg

As some of you may know, over the course of the story of TIM, DEFENDER OF THE EARTH not just one but BOTH these iconic London landmarks are ignominiously and utterly destroyed. I’m therefore trying to take as many pics of them as I can, partly to help people really visualize those bits of the book, and partly for a possible future competition, to be held on these pages. [Can't tell you about that now, but watch this space... ;) ]

Meanwhile, as if all the excitement of being up for this year’s Waterstone’s Children’s Book Award wasn’t enough, this morning I ‘eard that the Enthoven’s ‘orrible first book, THE BLACK TATTOO, has just made the shortlist for another, namely the Leicester Book of the Year Award for Teenage Fiction! Over the next few months everyone who attends a Leicester City secondary school will get to vote on which is their favourite out of the following:

BEING, by Kevin Brooks

THE BLACK TATTOO – feh, you know the fool wrote that one ;p

THE ANGEL COLLECTOR, by Bali Rai

JUST LISTEN, by Sarah Dessen, and-

BERSERK, by Ally Kennen

Here’s a link to the award’s blog.

…I’m tense! I’m filled with tension! It’s a TENSION CONVENTION! URP (‘scuse me) Ahhh, thass better… ;)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)

Thursday 17th January 2008

The UK launch date for Tim has actually shifted forward several times now. The original plan was for the UK edition to appear in April – the month after the release of the book in America this coming March. Then Jan 31st was apparently going to be the date – before today was finally settled upon, some time just before Christmas. The reason for the change, as I’ve mentioned before, is that (much to my continuing astonishment) Tim has already been shortlisted for an award, namely the 2008 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize. Waterstone’s is the biggest bookshop chain in the UK. Today (the 17th) is when the booksellers put out their displays of the shortlisted books. An opportunity like that – having Tim on prominent view at shops all over Britain! – is obviously too good to pass up. So, today was the launch day for the book.

I was a bookseller myself for nearly ten years, and one of the many secrets I learned about the trade is that (unless you’re J K Rowling of course!) the actual launch day of a new book doesn’t matter all that much. The fact is that only the very top-selling authors have the marketing clout behind them for a massive event on a specific day to be worthwhile. For a ‘noob’ like me (even, as I hope, an up-and-coming ‘noob’!) a few weeks either way doesn’t make much odds in the grand scheme of things.

Now don’t get me wrong: on Jan 28th I’m heading off on a tremendous full week of events arranged by Random House. After that, I’ve been filling my diary with as many appearances as I can: a minimum of one gig a week for the next six months. It’s going to be mental! [Keep checking here for details]. But today, the launch day itself, I was at a loose end. Serious work was out of the question: since getting the book in my hands I’ve had an attention span a gnat would be ashamed of. So, wisely – to prevent me becoming even more of a basket-case! – my wonderful girlfriend Laura kindly took the afternoon off from her own work so we could go out and celebrate, just the two of us together. Folks, it was lovely.

Nominally our plan was to go to the Tate Modern to catch one of the last days of an exhibition by the awesome artist Louise Bourgeois. That was absolutely gobsmacking, full of exactly the kind of wriggly body-horror that gets the juices of my nasty mind flowing! And from the Tate Modern we walked along the Thames and into the West End, taking the chance on the way to shoot pics of some of the famous London landmarks that get pulverized, kaiju-style (heh!) in the course of Tim. As another early taste of the story, I therefore hereby present the following…

Trafalgar Square

This is Trafalgar Square, shortly before its utter destruction on around page 35 of the book. I included a lot of sky so you can imagine the size of the creature responsible. ;)

London Eye, Houses of Parliament

This is The London Eye looking spectacular as ever, with, in the background (of course) Britain’s Houses of Parliament. It’s a crying shame, what happens to everything in this picture: Oh dear, oh dear… [HEE HEE HEE HEE!]

St Paul’s Under Attack! Again!

…And here’s the scene of the climax of the book, namely the world-famous St Pauls Cathedral. As you can see, it was already under attack by another monster when I took this pic. What can I tell you? London’s a busy place.

…Not really ;)

….Oh, all right. ;) This gorgeous giant spider is actually Maman, a stunning 30-foot-tall sculpture by the aforementioned Louise Bourgeois. But it made a good pic, you’ve got to admit.

We bimbled about around town some more, catching my first glimpses of copies of Tim on sale in shops(!!!) before finally ending our wonderings at St Pancras station. As it happens, I haven’t destroyed St Pancras in any of my stories yet. That’s partly because it only recently reopened(!) and partly because it currently contains what is apparently Europe’s longest champagne bar. And after gleefully toasting Tim with some celebratory giggle-juice there, it seems a shame to trash the place, even fictionally.

That, my friends, was how to do a launch day. ;)

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Comments? Suggestions? Questions? Me and THE WEBSPHINX would love to hear from you! Drop us a line at the Tim, Defender of the Earth Guestbook for current or Tim stuff, or The Black Tattoo Guestbook for Black Tat stuff. First (or demon-!) names only, please. ;)