Before I get down to it, take a look at THIS:

dinnertimeinhell

This is Dinner Time in Hell, another stunning piece of Black Tat-inspired art by Monique Van Dongen, the genius behind The New Emperor, the winning entry of the previous round of the No Monsters Were Harmed In The Making Of This Website Competition. Apparently the image was originally dried rose petals. Isn’t it incredible? So sinister! :D

There’s been a flurry of activity on the Black Tat Guestbook lately. Everything written there goes straight to me: I’ve been replying to the posts directly on the page, but I figured I’d share a few highlights with you over here.

First up, just in today(!) from Lily, 14, from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, is this question:

What inspired your view of Hell? It’s so vivid and crazy, I love it!

Thanks, Lily! :D

Once I’d decided that so much of Black Tat was going to be set in Hell, I set about gathering together all the source materials I possibly could. I started with the classic stuff like Dante’s Inferno and the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, as well as all sorts of different views on the subject from all over the world (see below-!). Then – like everything else in my stories – I basically mixed it up with whatever I thought would be fun. I knew there were going to be lots of fights: that suggested a gladiatorial element, which naturally led me to thinking about Ancient Rome. I knew there were going to be monsters: I had a lot of fun with the demons, as you probably noticed! By the end of the story I was chucking in everything I could think of: in fact I ended up with more material than I knew what to do with! If you’ve found the password in the back of the book, you can unlock some deleted extra scenes, here.

Next up, Kit, 15, who asked:

Hi! I’ve always wanted to be an Egyptologist and I swear somewhere along the lines I’ve come across the name Khentimentu somewhere! Does the Scourge have roots in Egyptian Pharonic mythology?? Please reply! It’s KILLING me! :S

Hi, Kit! Put your mind at ease: you’re absolutely spot on. The Scourge’s name is indeed (almost) the same as that of KHENTIMENTIU, “the Egyptian god who rules the destiny of the dead” [source: 'A Comprehensive Dictionary of Gods, by Anne S. Baumgartner, University Books, 1984]. Respect to your Egyptology skills! :D

Here’s Tony, 13, from Elsa, Texas, who asked:

I WAS WONDERIN IF YOU COULD VISIT OUR SCHOOL AT CARLOS F. TRUAN JR. HIGH

Tony, one day I would LOVE to visit schools in the US. But I live in the UK, so until a publisher or school is up for flying me over there, that particular dream is going to have to wait. Tentacles crossed! ;)

Stepping up next: Derrick, 16, also from the USA, who wondered…

If it is O.K. with you, I was thinking about designing my first video game based on the book ‘The Black Tattoo’. Also, with the video clips, I am still looking for the right characters to play the part as Charlie. Who knows, I might even get to be the Scourge! Heh. Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to. Thanks. Derrick.

Hi, Derrick! These plans sound amazing, best of luck with ‘em! The way it works with my permission for you using things from Black Tat is very straightforward: if you want to make money out of them, then we have to do this on a business footing. But if you want to make clips or design a game as a showcase for your skills, so people can see (for free) what you can do, then go for your life. Drop me a line at the address on the Reader Art page whenever you like. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Finally, from Arra, 13, in Fauldhouse, Scotland, here’s one of the most touching messages I’ve yet received about my work. My answer appears below.

i was really bored in hospital. i was in for a brain scan when a quad hit my head and it was apparently really bad then my friend brought me this book and i couldnt put it down it saved me. the nurses even said i was a different kid with the book. i adored it so cool i mean really. totally you need to write more books like this! i tried reading the other books but couldnt get into them the same so i think you should write another like the black tattoo it was so awesome. have to go see ya

Arra, this is one of the most wonderful things that anyone has said to me about my stories so far. I am touched and honoured that Black Tat has affected you this strongly.

I aim to put my whole heart into all my books. I think that’s the only way to write something truly exciting. But that means (and I’m sorry of this is disappointing to you) that I won’t repeat myself by writing something too like what’s gone before – whether for money, or even because people ask me to. Each book I write is its own beast: each one will affect each reader differently. That’s my plan; that’s the only way I want to do this. And I hope you’ll understand why.

Say I wrote a sequel to Black Tat: it wouldn’t have my heart in it, so the chances are it wouldn’t be as good. You would be disappointed. You might even start to doubt whether the original was really as good as you thought it was (crummy sequels can do that). And then your feelings towards the book, the ones you’ve got right now, would be ruined.

I think that would be a shame. The power that a particular book at a particular time can have over a person is one of the most amazing and brilliant things that books can do. I’m thrilled and delighted that Black Tat has touched you that way. But I know from my own reading experience that those kinds of feelings are too important to trifle with – particularly by trying to recreate them artificially.

I hope you’ll keep an eye on what I write in the future – even if it’s not exactly like Black Tat! But in the mean time, if you’d like some suggestions for other books I think are awesome, check my LibraryThing profile.

Thank you again for your wonderful message. Very best wishes to you,

Sam

BREAKING NEWS: This Saturday, to my great glee and delight, I’m going to be taking part in The Crystal Palace Children’s Book Festival. I’ll be in The Bookseller Crow bookshop from around 2pm. Hope to see you there!

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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. ;)