Tuesday, 30 August 2011


I saw Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart briefly while I was up in Edinburgh. I was in the author's yurt (that never sounds sensible) just about to leave and catch a cab to the airport when I noticed Will Hutton, one-time editor of The Observer when I still working there as an illustrator. His main contribution to my career was axing my strip, Babel.  I pointed him out to my publicist Ian Lamb and Ian said, 'Isn't that Chris Riddell talking to him.'  I hadn't recognised Chris at all, seeing him out of context.  I was also quite sure he was not arriving until after I'd gone.

Sure enough, the redoubtable Paul Stewart stepped forward, telling me that they had just had a hellishly bumpy flight into Edinburgh, flying through the thunderstorm that erupted just as my event stopped. Chris came over once he had finished talking to Will Hutton and I had the briefest of chats before I had to head off.  It was nice to see them.  We always talk about synchronising our events but it never seems to work out.

When I first arrived in Edinburgh I met up with Andrew Jamieson of the Edinburgh Geekzine.  Andrew has been a great supporter of my recent books so it was great to meet up in the real world and hear his plans for taking Geekzine to a new level.  You can see what he's up to by following the link.

I met up with Debi Gliori too.  Debi is also with Bloomsbury and our publicists, Ian Lamb and Emma Bradshaw took us out for a very nice meal.  Gillian Philip - another of Bloomsbury's authors - managed to drop in for a while.  I've met Debi and Gillian before, but it was lovely to see them again.  It was a really pleasant evening, even though I was exhausted after my early flight up to Edinburgh. 

Writing is a fairly solitary profession and so festivals and events do provide a means of meeting up with other writers.  I was very disappointed to have just missed Neil Gaiman as he is someone I have wanted to meet for a long time, but I was lucky enough to bump into the wonderful Shaun Tan.

I have been a big admirer of Shaun's for a long time and it is was great to meet him and discover him to be the quiet, thoughtful person that I would have expected from his work.

I also got to meet Nikki Gamble of who introduced my first session.  I am looking forward to attending Nikki's Just Imagine children's book centre in the near future.  More about that later. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

American creecher

I had a bag of advance copies of the US edition of Mister Creecher today. The cover is pretty much the same as the UK edition, with subtle changes to the mist swirling around Monsieur Creecher himself and the change to a san serif font for the title.

The book is out in September, published by Bloomsbury US.

Friday, 26 August 2011


I have just returned from my event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Edinburgh is such a great city.  I stupidly forgot to bring my camera with me so I can't show what a grand city it is to anyone who hasn't been.  But that's all the more reason for you to go and have a look for yourselves.

I did a public event yesterday and a schools event today. Both went very well.  I stayed in a very comfortable and surprisingly quiet hotel a stones throw from the festival site and the weather was mostly kind to me.  The whole experience was very, very pleasant.  Thanks to everyone at the festival for running such a smooth operation. 

I was taken aback a little by the size of the schools event crowd. I'm not sure how many I was expecting to be talking to, but I could not have had a nicer audience.  They were attentive and responsive and asked lots of good questions.  A big thank you to all the staff and students who came along and making the event such a success. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

What next?

So - I've delivered my latest book. What now?

Well there will be editing to do on The Mask of course. I had to send it without my wife looking at it first and so I suspect there will be lots of sequential things that I did not pick up as I did my final read through. I hate finding stupid mistakes in my manuscript after I've sent it, but that doesn't stop it happening. I always intend to send as clean a copy through as I can, but there are always things left behind from previous edits. It is a particular curse of writing things on a computer, I find: it is so easy to chop and change, that you can lose track of basic things like the timeline of events.

Anyway, there will be a few weeks in which the book will get passed on to editors to read before I hear what they have to say. The first response is usually a broad brush one dealing with the plot. When I have addressed those concerns, then we get on to the nitty-gritty.

While The Mask is being digested, I will be getting together my proposals for what comes after.  One of the things I hate about publishing is the fact that time seems to be eaten up by books.  The future is constantly being pulled towards the present at an unseemly rate.  The new proposals will not see the (published) light of day until autumn 2013 and 2014.  I already feel two years older, just typing that.

But as well as working on my new books, I have to look after my other ones. I have Mister Creecher coming out in October (September in the States) and I have the paperback of The Dead of Winter coming out alongside it (the hardback of The Dead of Winter comes out in the spring in the US). I'm looking forward to doing events for Mister Creecher.

In October I am in Frankfurt for the Book Fair, where the German translation of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror - Onkel Montagues Schaurgeschichten - is up for an award. I have been invited, along with David Roberts, to attend the ceremony.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Maybe we'll even win!

Monday, 8 August 2011

No more rat poison

I had been signed off by my consultant at Addenbrookes Hospital here in Cambridge. I no longer have to take warfarin, which means I also no longer have to have my fortnightly blood tests. I won't miss those.  No more needles, no more rat poison.

I will also no longer be taking statins every night. I have not escaped entirely though. I have been put on a regime of a single dose of aspirin every day, for life.  But considering everything, I got off lightly.

Again, thank you to the wonderful National Health Service. We don't have much to boast about in the UK, but a health service that treats everyone based on their need rather than their bank balance is still something to be very proud of and something that needs to be cherished and protected.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

More uncorrected proofs

I got some uncorrected proofs in the post today.  They are the American edition of The Dead of Winter, which will be published early next year.  I haven't actually read these particular copies but I am guessing that they are identical to the UK editions and the 'uncorrected' aspect simply refers to the fact that changes have not yet been made to spelling of the colour/color, grey/gray variety.

My feedback from the States has always been that they have found it difficult to sell the idea of my books of short stories, so I will be intrigued to see what Americans make of The Dead of Winter and Mister Creecher.

Although I have always been a bit mystified and disheartened by the supposed reluctance of Americans to respond to a book of short stories.  America is such a champion of the short story!  The Tales of Terror books are in part a homage to Edgar Allan Poe, after all.  It is a source of constant frustration to me that Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror in particular, was not more successful in the States.  I hope it may yet have its day.

Monday, 1 August 2011


I often talk about fears and phobias at events and school visits as a way of getting in to the business of writing creepy stories. I ask my listeners what their phobias are and I tell them mine: one of which is a fear of heights.

But actually I do not really have a fear of heights. Or it's not quite as simple as that.

A fear of heights - an irrational fear of heights - is called acrophobia. People often use the word vertigo to describe a fear of heights, but vertigo is a sensation of spinning when standing still and can be caused by all kinds of things - including heights of course.

I actually love to be high. If I visit a new city I always want to climb to a high viewpoint and look down on the place like a map. But that's where the trouble starts. . .

I have a problem if the staircase up is spiral and I find it impossible if the steps are pierced so that you can see through them. I find looking down the slope of a roof disturbing. I remember finding the view from the top of the Duomo in Florence especially alarming as it involved looking over the tiled curved dome. In Siena nothing could have made me climb the last, open section of the bell tower. Always there is a tension between my desire for the view and the awful dread that sometimes comes over me when I look down.

It has caused me a few problems at work. I remember the first time I went to The Economist to deliver a cover and stood next to a large window trying to show my work. It was only the 11th floor, but I had a terrible sensation of falling backwards into space. Initially, my days at The Independent were even worse as they were much higher up in Canary Wharf. The windows were floor to ceiling and I found them very distracting at first. Luckily I was too busy most of the time to notice! Looking down from building seems to almost always cause me problems.

Maybe this is no coincidence. Maybe my fear of falling is tied up with a fear of failing. Although that doesn't quite explain why I also get a bit dizzy up a set of step ladders (though that may be a fear of decorating).

I love to be high in the Lake district and yet the route to that summit can be a problem. It is not as simple as the route being close to an edge or even that it is especially difficult as a climb. It seems more to do with the land around me as I walk.

Walking along a path where the path slopes away steeply seems to be the worst thing. This is irrational of course - even if I stumbled I would simply be falling onto a slope of scree or grass - but it does not really help to know that. I am filled with a sense of foreboding and have to use all my powers of concentration to walk past the problem. It is as though something is going to leap at at me. The slightest breeze makes the sensation even worse.

This does obviously mean that sections of a walk are not always enjoyable for me, but I am determined not to be beaten by it. That said, I have been beaten - and more than once. I have had to turn back or change my route when walking on my own. I know that there are paths I could not possibly take and it is often possible to tell just by looking at the map. But once up on the top of a fell I'm usually fine. I love that feeling of being high. I like to see from horizon to horizon.

There are many incidents of falling or near falling in my books. Mohawks are supposed to have no fear of heights and were employed building the skyscrapers of New York (though I have never been clear whether they have no fear or show no fear). I have a Mohawk visit London in the early part of the 18th Century in Death and the Arrow and I have the hero Tom chased to the top of St Paul's cathedral during an eclipse (though it is not he who falls).

The story called The Path in Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror is one of many attempts I have made to try and put my own particular fear into words. The Path is directly inspired by the dread I have sometimes felt on the fells. I re-trod the same path that inspired it with my family and I had forgotten that there was a section that I found almost impossible to walk. It was that feeling of being pursued by something - my own fear I suppose - that made me think of the story in the first place. I was visiting the Lakes on my own and saw a narrow path leading up from Grizedale Tarn and decided to follow it. After I managed to push myself through the difficult stretch I rested and looked back down the slope. Far below was a figure just starting out on the same path. The idea popped into my head there and then.

I did use to wonder if this dread was a kind of wraith - that somehow I was catching a whiff of my own future death by falling. Was I feeling uneasy because on some level I did not trust myself up there. Certainly I was walking alone at a very low point in my life when that story occurred to me. I don't know. It has never dimmed my enthusiasm for the place. If anything I think I just accept it - embrace it even - as a taste of the awe that early tourists experienced when they visited these places. Perhaps they should never feel completely safe or tamed.

But anyway - now I am older I am more minded to believe my problem is simply some kind of crisis caused by an inability to be sure of my horizontals and verticals. In other words, in my case, my fear of falling actually is a kind of vertigo.