I was talking to someone this morning about my latest novel. She said some very kind things, but the first point she made was how dark the book was. We both felt this was the most important aspect of the story.
It occurs to me now, as I daydream over a cup of black coffee, that in genre fiction it’s crucial, at every juncture, that an author can claim their work is ‘darker’ in tone than any previous fiction based on the subject matter – or at least darker than their own previous work. Obviously we’re not talking about dingy lighting in the prologue or how much of the story is set in a broom cupboard. No, in this context, ‘dark’ just means ‘better’ and it’s become a cardinal rule.
If you want to reinvent a superhero, don’t announce that you’ve produced a much lighter tale than any previous films. And it really wouldn’t go down well if you said you’d focused on the more positive aspects of the character. Even the Harry Potter franchise garnered a little critical acclaim when the tale took a ‘darker’ turn. I wonder if this has always been the way. Were adventure stories always judged on their bleakness? Is there a critically acclaimed Biggles adventure that gives an insight into his tortured soul? Or is there some great significance to the fact that we will no longer accept stories unless they reinforce our worst fears about human nature? I think I’ll just put some milk in my coffee and lighten up.
In an attempt to get my writing back on track, I’ve bought a posh new shed (see artist’s impression, above). As well as being the last bastion of Krypton’s legacy in Nottinghamshire, it will hopefully enable me to complete the second part of the Orion trilogy (my study was recently invaded by teddy bears, children’s books and several miniature pirate outfits). Crucially, I’ve also managed to get hold of an old print, showing a strange man with an impressive moustache. He’ll look great in the writing shed and I’m thinking that his benign, thoughtful gaze will spur me on to greater efforts. Mind you, someone pointed out that he looks a bit like a friendly Dr Crippen, so I suppose it’s possible I’ll end up in some kind of acid bath. Either way, whether writing or melting, I’ll be doing it in the comfort of my own weatherproof literary haven.
If the shed can’t save me, then perhaps nice reviews will. The folks at The Founding Fields have already read their advance copy of The Vaults of Winter, and they’ve said some very kind things. You can read the review here:
We haven’t played together since around the time of the Boer War, but I’m sure it will all come flooding back. I just need to drag myself away from Antiques Roadshow for long enough to find my guitar. We even have a comprehensive, fully interactive website (this baby cost thousands, I can tell you).
For those of you too young to remember us, this is how we looked in our heyday (I’m the chubby faced child reading the Beano.) As you can imagine, with clothes like that we came very close to being the next Wham. Who knows, if this comeback goes well, it could still happen. Or maybe we’ll get to hang out with Tom Jones and those other people on the telly. I’d really like one of those big chairs.
Blimey. A miniature Hinks has arrived. My world suddenly revolves around a tiny, fractious, humanoid shrimp. Any thoughts of writing have gone out of the window as I spend my (completely nocturnal) existence fawning over his pouting little face and dodging his bodily fluids. We’ve named him Arthur and he’s taken on the mantle of kingship quite happily – issuing royal decrees with a haughty expression and a tiny clenched fist. A friend of mine said parenthood felt like being taken apart, atom by atom, then reassembled as something completely new. I’m only a week in, but I can already see what he means. I feel a bit like Darius v.2.
I’ve haggled with my editor, the infamous Nick Kyme, for a writing break while I focus on cooing, but in a few weeks, Arthur-willing, I’ll crack on with the second Orion novel, The Tears of Isha. The first part of the trilogy is only just going to print and won’t hit the shops for a few months yet, so I’m starting book two without any idea what people thought of the first one. That feels a bit odd but it’s probably for the best as reviews – good or bad – tend to throw me right off track. I’ve dedicated The Vaults of Winter to the boy Hinks, so it should be guaranteed at least one good review – even if it is in 15 years’ time.
My shortest (and most disgusting) story, Cankerworm, has just gone on sale as part of Black Library’s 15th birthday celebrations. Meanwhile, over on the Founding Fields site, Sanctus is getting a bit of love in their Architect of Fate review. Orion is stuck in an anxious, leafy limbo, as I wait for my editor to read the first draft. I’ve leant him my antlers to help him get the right vibe, but he seemed reluctant to wear the green tights. Not sure why. The really big news, though, is that the new Lower Dens album will soon be out. I’ve watched this video for Brains so many times I can still hear it ticking when I try and sleep. This has to be the grumpiest singer in pop, but what a beautiful sound.