Friday, 6 August 2010


As I mentioned in the previous post, I had tried to incorporate a month at the end of my writing time to finely tune Mister Creecher, my latest book. I am not the most organised of writers. I have a definite sense that over-planning is not a good thing. I think meticulous planning is OK for non-fiction, but not for fiction. A book needs to be a bit wild. Or the books I want to write (or read) need to be anyway.

But in any case, my dreams of finally producing a book at a calm and measured pace were scuppered by completely unforeseen distractions. . .

The first of these distractions were the additional stories to the reissues of the Tales of Terror books. They are being published in March with new jackets and I agreed to write an additional story for each. Each story needed its own little scene-setter and before I knew where I was I was writing another 13,000 words or so. The cover for the new Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is at the top of the post with the inside cover showing the other two beneath.

And no - it wasn't a Guardian Top 100 Book (I don't even think such a list exists - though there is one for authors) - it is a mistake I hope will be rectified by the time the book actually goes to print.

As if that was not enough, I then discovered - at a rather late date, for reasons I shall not go into - that I was to do a World Book Day flipbook with Philip Reeve. I have sung the praises of Philip Reeve many times in this blog, and so it will come as no surprise to hear that I was delighted, not only by the honour of being asked to provide a book for World Book Day, but also to be sharing that book with an author I admire.

But, delighted though I was, that book still had to be written and written at great speed. It made sense to do another Tales of Terror compilation and so I wrote three more stories with a linking thread. The conceit is that the stories are being told to a group of school children on a Victorian dressing up event for World Book Day - hence, The Teacher's Tales of Terror. A strange supply/substitute teacher arrives and tells them three creepy stories. But the creepiness doesn't end there of course. . .

I was very pleased with all these stories and it was especially nice to return to the original Tales of Terror and to those characters. But I realised when I totted it all up that after writing those additional tales and the World Book Day stories (again about 13000 words), I had effectively written another book - an unplanned 53,000 word book - completely additional to my schedule. So instead of writing one book between April and July, I actually wrote two. The additional stories alone add up to the wordage of any one of the Tales of Terror books.

I do thrive on pressure, though I never used to. At school I hated exams - or even being asked to read. I hated being put on the spot. But after years of working as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist, I do get a perverse - and it is perverse - pleasure at showing that I can take whatever is thrown at me.

But this was all probably too much. There is an episode of the wonderful Police Squad featuring a boxer who gets pummeled. The ref holds his hand in front of his face and says, 'How many fingers do you see?'. 'Thursday,' says the boxer. That was me I think, by the end of July.

But that wasn't the end of the distractions of course. As I have already mentioned I also had the cover for Mister Creecher to resolve. But I think that needs a post of its own.

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