Here I pour bilious hate unto the unfortunate figure of the Strong Female Character as she appears in popular fiction. From the piece
I remember watching Shrek with my mother.
“The Princess knew kung-fu! That was nice,” I said. And yet I had a vague sense of unease, a sense that I was saying it because it was what I was supposed to say.
She rolled her eyes. “All the princesses know kung-fu now.”
No one ever asks if a Male Character is Strong. Nor if he’s “feisty,” or “kick-ass” come to that.
The obvious thing to say here is that this is because he’s assumed to be “Strong” by default. Part of the patronising promise of the Strong Female Character is that she’s anomalous. “Don’t worry!” that puff piece or interview is saying when it boasts the hero’s love interest is an SFC. “Of course, normal women are weak and boring and can’t do anything worthwhile. But this one is different. She is strong! See, she roundhouses people in the face.”
You can comment here if you like. Please bear in mind the comment policy.
But you should also read my teenage poetry, or I may weep bitter, poetic, teeny tears.
If you come with me now, I will show you
Where the monsters are.
They sleep deep in the woods
And their breath,
Smooth in sleep, stirs the treetops.
Stay close to me. In fact,
Lets hold hands. You are younger than I am
And I do not wish you to be frightened.
If you must laugh, do it softly. Press
Your hand over your mouth like this.
We do not want to wake them.
They sleep with their eyes open
Their eyes are huge and round and golden,
Slashed with black. They are as big
As tennis balls.
It is quite safe when the sun shines.
Do not pause here. The bindweed
Is beautiful but deadly. When the monsters pass
Poison drips from their scales into the white mouths.
That makes them evil. If you stand here too long,
Two lithe, long tendrils will shoot out like green snakes
And wrap themselves around your ankes
So that when you try to run you trip and
Sprawl and then it has you. It will heave like
Porridge heating in a pan and heap itself over you.
It presses its leaves into your nose and mouth
So that you cannot scream or breathe. The white flowers
Knot themselves into your hair and soon
No one could tell you ever had been there.
Quick. Our feet are still free to run.
We must not go near the dappled stream
It may seem sunny and shallow, but two years ago
A boy drowned there. Yes, further out
There are deep dark pools that seize you
In their iciness. They found him floating, white and bloated.
Let us each remove a shoe and place just one foot
In the warm buzzing shallows…
Quick! Jump back! That’s enough! But do not
Shriek like that. We must be quiet. Shove
Your shoe onto your wet foot and lets go on.
Quiet. Do not scream. The sun has gone
Behind a cloud. They wake.
We must not panic. I know a place to hide.
Keep your head below the leaves.
Don’t be afraid. I will not leave you.
The heat from their bodies
Withers the leaves.
And the breeze of their passing
Hisses in the trees.
I wrote this when I was seventeen. It was about the first thing I wrote that I thought counted as “grown up” and I still like it. I’ve never been very sure what to do with my poems – I haven’t really written many since starting to write novels, and the “send to magazines” method feels alien to me now. So I thought I’d take a leaf out of Roz Kaveney’s book and start publishing them here, and maybe eventually jump-start myself into writing poetry again.
I think it’s funny that, even way back when I thought I was going to be a writer rather like A.S Byatt, I still just wrote about monsters.
More free work here! By the way, Not a Sparrow is based on a Greek myth. Can anyone tell which?
Books 1 and 2: Rituals and Reflections
What can you say about these books?
Firstly – there’s no other way to put this – they are barmy.
Kaveney lays out her stall quite plainly in the pair of epigraphs that opens Rituals. From Nietzsche: “If there were gods, how could I bear not to be a god? Therefore there are no gods.” And from Cyndi Lauper: “Girls just wanna have fun.”
You can’t say fairer, or barmier, than that.
Secondly – they are incredibly ambitious.
Tolkien set out to create a substitute Anglo-Saxon mythic history to replace what was erased by the Norman Conquest, in which he could indulge a lot of his personal hobby-horses. That, when you think about it, or when you come at Tolkien cold without the insulating effect of long cultural familiarity, is batshit bonkers enough. Kaveney sets out to create a mythical, queer, feminist, secret history of all history. ALL of it. From the Bronze Age to the French Revolution to the fall of the Aztecs to the War on Terror, (BUT NOT NECESSARILY IN THAT ORDER) via prehistoric cosmic prophecies, dark lords, elves, vampires, ogres, manticores, cannibalistic extra dimensions of spacetime, and deadly rituals, all in full technicolour, and 3D, with a cast of thousands, featuring special guest appearances from: Montezuma, Hecate/Morgan-le-Fay, Torquemada, Isaac Newton, Voltaire, Robespierre, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jehovah, Lucifer and a full symphony orchestra.
(And yet they’re surprisingly slim books).
Think of … Michael Bay. No, too stupid – think of James Cameron. Some maker of big Hollywood blockbusters, anyway, known for his love of explosions and CGI monsters. Only instead of explosions, he has feats of female and LGBT derring-do, and he is throwing them at you with the wild and splashy abandon he would usually treat explosions, shouting things like “WELL WHY NOT?” and “WHEEE!”
(Also, you know, he’s a woman.)
That’s these books.
Think of your favourite superhero comic. It’s kind of all middle, though there are huge, dramatic moments when everything changes and everyone talks about THAT ONE ISSUE where OMG the love interest gets powers or the protégé becomes a nemesis… Some issues are stronger than others, but when you open one you know when you are going to see someone really cool doing something really spectacular. (In this case, that someone will almost always be female).
That’s these books.
Seven thousand years ago – but wait, this is all told in chaotically non-linear fashion – about ninety years ago, then, a seemingly-young woman is stalking one Aleister Crowley through a Greek village with a pointy lance, in order to make certain points to him about the ancient and terrible Rituals of Blood and what she does to people who try them out. Being well versed in the occult, Crowley recognises the Huntress of legend, and not being a stupid man, he takes her seriously, buys her a drink, and elicits the story of her life.
Seven thousand years ago, possibly somewhere in what would become Turkey, a young woman called Mara was living in idyllic prehistoric bliss with her chosen family, Sof and Lillit (“yes, more than sisters too, but sisters first”). Then a young god came by; they offered him hospitality, and he offered each of them her heart’s desire.
Their hearts’ desire was to remain as they were. But that was impossible.
Sof wanted to learn. Lillit wanted to play. Mara wanted to protect the weak against the strong.
She hasn’t had a day off since.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!
I wrote this OTHER story about 10 years ago for reasons I can’t fully remember (my agent asked me to? But…why?). Whatever the reason was, it didn’t come off, and I promptly … did nothing with it. And ten years on, it doesn’t really go with anything else I’ve written — it’s your actual non-magic LITERARY FICTION, OMG. So it might as well be here as vegetating on my hard drive. It’s interesting if only for the fact that, once upon a time, I could actually tell a story in under 5000 words, a knack I have since DECIDEDLY LOST.
In other news I have written another “short” for Solaris’s anthology The End of the Road (haha, it’s 10,500 words). It stands alone, but it’s a prequel to MailerDaemon in Magic — i.e, it’s another Mr Levanter-Sleet story. Mr Levanter-Sleet is now a mythos.
The End of the Road is out in December. But here’s Not a Sparrow Falls right now!
Not a Sparrow Falls
“Look,” Philippa said.
Polly shuddered, because the bird was missing its head, and said, “Why did you make me look at that?”
Philippa would have thought it odd not to have pointed out the bird, so she could not answer her sister. Polly was still wincing, so Philippa went and crouched near the bird and said patiently, “Come on Polly, look, there’s no blood or anything.”
Polly came a little closer, because she tended to do as Philippa told her. But when Philippa stroked the pale, loosened feathers of the stiff wing, she drew back and said, “Oh for God’s sake Phil,” and added mechanically, “you don’t know where it’s been.”
Philippa tried not to look contemptuous. She stood up reluctantly and saw that Dan, who was Polly’s husband, looked almost as squeamish as Polly. Philippa thought, again, that they were too young to be married.
This article originally appeared inVector , the journal of the BFSA. I’ll be discussing imaginary cities with Kit Caless on Resonance FM at 3 today, so I thought I’d post it here.
London is fractal.
It’s dark and I’m walking a route north from Deptford that I’m sure I’ve taken before, but this time it doesn’t seem to be the same.I feel I’m getting further inward rather than further along, deeper into one of the city’s spirals, rather than closer to the Thames. Between here and the river, there shouldn’t be enough room for this many convolutions, this much detail. I recognise that old scrapyard – nothing but trees within the walls— but where did this little garden with its frozen pond come from? Why does the Gerkhin, occasionally looming on the horizon, above the lower, closer heights of Rotherhithe, always seem to be apparently in the same place, the same distance away?
London is full of alternate realities: you can’t travel through it without brushing against them. In the once-Blitzed streets where 17th century livery halls abruptly give way to brutalist concrete , you can see a confluence of Londons conquered, complicit or blissfully untouched by the third Reich. London has time travel: the resurrected Globe; the temple of Mithras dragged up from under Walbrook Street to Temple Court; the anonymous remains of Tudors, Romans, and ancient Britons that the Thames sometimes recedes to show preserved in the mud. From the Thames Path, you can peer through a rank of blackened Victorian arches sprouting buddleias, at the bright, sterile palace of Canary Wharf. A green laser divides the night sky above Christopher Wren’s domes, marking the Greenwich Meridian. There’s nothing to unite these fragments except the modern heir to the Victorian smog, the ubiquitous fine black dust that coats nostrils, nail-beds, and penetrates even closed and untrodden rooms.
The skyline only began to climb only in the sixties, but now it’s hard to imagine it static, London is always climbing itself up the ladders of swivelling cranes, always tinkering with itself. Very tall buildings are, apparently, a reliable indicator of an economy approaching crash. Just completed, the Shard shimmers above the recession it predicted. Below, the beggars that faded from the bridges and underpasses for a decade or so are back in force.
London is a godawful mess. It offers beauty only in patches and shifts of light, rarely in steady, reliable expanses. It’s no surprise that its masters have never been quite satisfied with it. The city owes itself now not only to disasters overcome but to endless attempts to make it more like somewhere else. More like an ancient Greek agora, more like a continental cafe culture, more like a monolithic fortress on a distant planet… architects have shuttled it back to a romantic past or hurried it into an imaginary future.
The Olympics, the chunks of Soho have been carved away for Crossrail, have been only the latest attempt to shift the place’s identity, to tidy it up a bit; now. In the long term, London can probably stand the loss and the waste: it has absorbed far worse, and you can’t ruin a city this jumbled. For now, though, there’s only the spectacle of a government amusing itself by writing dystopian sci-fi it into the actual city: a missile-bearing warship to be moored in the Thames and criminal sanctions for using the words “Twenty Twelve” the wrong way on pub signs or on the internet.
London has something dreamlike encoded into it. It will readily lend itself to visions of Hell, and it will never credibly give you Utopia, but it has infinite room for the weird. Shelley and Eliot saw the abyss in its massive, relentless busyness, Dickens imagined dinosaurs roaming up the Strand. Virginia Woolf gave Clarissa Dalloway a perfect summers’ day in a London at its freshest and most glittering, but always on the point of hallucinatory metamorphosis: a London populated, in the visions of a shell-shocked war-veteran, by dogs about to turn into men, birds singing in Greek, while even the ostensibly sane wonder if perhaps at midnight the city reverts to the ancient landscape the Romans saw. Arthur Conan Doyle subtly inserted imaginary squares and stretched Baker Street more than double its length to accommodate Sherlock Holmes (The street numbers only went as high as 85 in the 1890s, it was only extended up into the 200s later.)
London imitates fiction imitates London. The city lives and breathes – sometimes literally – its own mythology. Once a huge slab of fog settled on the Thames as I was crossing Tower Bridge. Suddenly this truly was Unreal City — landmarks were reduced to transparent outlines, people to spectres – and they loved it: every cluster of people I passed was happily chattering of London’s legends and how this was just like them; they were delighted by the heightened sensation of walking from a workaday pavement straight into story. Does anywhere else open so many portals back, forwards and sideways across time and into? Other cities are grander, many are a fusion of ancient and modern, but are any so varied as to allow for the underworlds of Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch, and Philip Reeve’s ambulatory predator-city, and Mary Gentle’s magical Tudor capital, and Susanna Clarke’s Regency scientist-magicians, and Anthony Burgess’s ultraviolent wilderness, and J.G Ballard’s submerged ruins?
But are we getting to know the multiple Londons too well? It’s been joked that adding “in London” to the blurb of a book has become the genre equivalent of adding “in bed” to the prediction of a fortune cookie. For instant awesome, shake freeze-dried werewolves and vampires, and just add London! Are London’s dark places – abandoned tube stations, ancient catacombs, labyrinthine sewers –becoming too frequented? Need we fear that the shadows and ghouls that live down there are growing exhausted by the number of visitors?
It’s true that there’s more to the world of the strange than London. Lauren Beukes gave us a brilliant, grimy, complex Johannesburg whose traumas haunt its residents as a fantastic menagerie of animal familiars. Anil Menon’s Beast With Nine Billion Feet is set in a 2040 Pune whose citizens exploit advanced genetic engineering and escape their dissatisfactions into “Illusion” pods. Ekaterina’s The Secret History of Moscow explores a world of folklore beneath the gloomy post-Soviet streets. And the Anglophone writers have also explored the fantastic side of Venice, Paris, Istanbul … but with so little of the world’s modern literature is translated into English that it’s hard to know, from here, what else might be out there.
But while I hope more of the outer world flows at last into this country and this city, I don’t think writers need to worry about digging too deep, or loading too much into London.
London can take it. London always has more.
For the last year, I’ve been working for a literary consultancy. I read unpublished novels and try to help their writers make them better. In the course of doing this I have observed certain things, and also, in my time on earth I have read and watched many things that did get published or aired, but were unnecessarily annoying in certain respects. Here, therefore, I offer you a small bouquet of wisdom collected from this experience.
(All points are mandatory and legally binding for everyone reasonably defined as ‘a new writer’ with immediate effect).
1) Cut the elves.
2) (Elves called the Bla’fla-tra-la-la, which, in their ancient language, means the Shiny Superior Magical Pretty People Who Are Better Than You are still Elves. THEY SHALL DIMINISH AND GO INTO THE WEST AND GET OUT OF YOUR BOOK FOREVER THE END.)
3) Your book shall contain the minimum level of magic possible to maintain its existence.
4) Your book shall likewise contain the minimum possible level of rape to maintain its existence. (Yes, that certain novels treat “magic” and “rape” as likewise irresistible bothers us too).
5) A novel is not the means by which you get revenge on all the hot people who cruelly failed to find you attractive.
6) No, not all novels need likeable protagonists. Yes, your novel needs a likeable protagonist. You want to write an unlikeable protagonist? Wonderful. First write a likeable protagonist. And another one. And another one. And maybe one more after that. And then, when you know you can keep a reader interested in what happens to a character, (which is difficult even when that character is not a tremendous sack of shit) you can think about trying to convince the reader that time with a mopey, genocidal bastard is time well-spent.
7) Do not assume that your character is coming across as likeable just because you based him on yourself.
8) Or on Batman.
9) When your character cooks something it is not required that you take us right through the recipe, including cooking times and gas marks.
10) Your erotic imagination is not wholly separate from the rest of your imagination and that is fine. But bear in mind: readers can tell when the author has one hand in their pants.
11) Your heroine may have violet eyes, or she may be called Persephone, but not both.
12)‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ is the only work to which retroactive permission is granted to end in the following manner: with the hero or heroes on a stage, receiving a medal, being applauded by a whooping crowd of friends and erstwhile enemies, basking in the glow of how fully their awesomeness is finally acknowledged. This shall not happen to your heroes. It makes me hate them.
13) Likewise your favourite celebrities shall not enter the work to tell the protagonist how great they are. It makes me hate them.
14) Your villain is there to make things difficult for the protagonist, not to be your punching bag. Your villain shall not have every trait you despise, nor shall every character in the novel be talking about how awful they are, nor shall they fail at everything. Your story will be boring because the villain will clearly not be a threat and your protagonist will coast to easy victory. But also I will be sorry for your villain, and I will want to take them out for cocktails.
15) Likewise you shall not write random annoying people into your novel just so your protagonist can complain about how awful their tastes and manners are: it will makes me perversely fond of the supposedly annoying people and hate your protagonist more.
16) Your protagonist shall go to places and do things without always needing to be told by someone else where to go and what to do.
17) Things shall be difficult for your protagonist and they shall suffer, however…
18) Your initially interesting protagonist may not become the most tortured person in their world. COUGH DEAN WINCHESTER JACK HARKNESS GREGORY HOUSE.
19) All your secondary characters shall have interests other than your protagonist, your protagonist’s destiny, and your protagonist’s smouldering good looks. They shall not apparently have spent their entire lives before the story started sitting around waiting for the protagonist to turn up. They shall have goals and intentions that are not about the protagonist. This shall be especially true of the male protagonist’s female love interests. PLEASE.
20) You shall ask yourself, is it possible I am writing terribly racist things and have never noticed it? BECAUSE YES. IT IS POSSIBLE.
21) (I still see elves there).
My last post has 97 comments at the time of writing. While I did think a post with the words “rape” and “James Bond” in the title might get more attention than I’m used to, this was unprecedented. And, as I do not write and put things on the internet with the intent that nobody shall see them, I’m very pleased about this! Thank you, to everyone who linked it around and almost everyone who commented. However, it does raise some issues that I haven’t had to think about much before. As far as is possible, I want this not to be a “don’t read the comments” kind of place, and I am distressed that to some extent, last week, that was the kind of place it became, with people who would like to discuss sexism without being subjected to sexism reporting feeling tense, saddened and excluded from what was in many ways a great discussion, and a minority of obnoxious and denialist comments getting more attention than the thoughtful, knowledgeable ones.
So, although I am a sporadic blogger and thus unlikely to be able to host a regular commentariat here, and it may well be that nothing I write explodes like that again, I think I need a comment policy. So here is one.
All comments will continue to go to moderation by default. Nothing gets though unless I approve it. This way, people can comment and discuss (albeit not at high speed) and if anyone does anything particularly ghastly, it’ll quietly gather dust in my inbox, unseen by anyone else, rather than sitting there on the page upsetting people until I can nuke it.
For the most part the rules here are pretty standard. You can’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, biphobic, transphobic, generally a bigoted bastard here. You can’t be abusive. Very egregious examples may get kittenhammered because kittenhammering looks like fun and I would like to try it. On this occasion I let every comment through, (until one gentleman decided that being asked to modify his behaviour in my space was an outrageous imposition on his liberty and therefore chose PRINCIPLED DEFIANCE, it was a little like the last hours of Joan of Arc) because I didn’t think anyone had overtly broken the letter of those as-yet-unspelled-out rules, even if some strained the spirit. No one actually lapsed into hate speech. But going forward there’s going to be an additional rule, and commenters will have to pass a slightly higher bar than “not actually and obviously abusive”:
Here it is: You cannot attempt to substitute condescension for an argument. There are areas of my life where I can’t stop people patronising the fuck out of me, or out of others, at least not without having a lengthy, energy-consuming argument. But here I have this beautiful “trash” button, and I am going to use it, and I am not going to waste time justifying it. You can go to your own blog or anywhere else that will have you, and sigh and tut and fume. But you can’t do it here.
I’m talking about things like this:
“Secondly I think that you don’t understand the concept of ‘realistic fantasy’” (I have published three books that could quite reasonably be described as realistic fantasy).
“Maybe you want to re-write this piece now after doing a bit of actual research.” (I did plenty of research, and you don’t set me homework, thanks.)
“Its the “Nights Watch” in ASOIAF not the “Black Watch”. If you can’t get a very simple fact about a book series then how can you expect people to take you seriously?”
(All right, this one was sort of adorable, and I would let it through again, but it’s probably not a kind of adorable we aspire to be, is it?)
In summary, if you find yourself tempted to address me as if I’m a disappointing student and you’re a professor I’m anxious to please, unless you are in fact Dr Sally Mapstone (who can talk to me however she wants) spare us both the time. If your absurdly condescending comment is unintentionally hilarious it is possible I will let it through to hold up to public mockery, but you can’t count on it. And if you have got through, but I warn you to stop doing something, take it seriously if you want to go on posting here.
The same principles apply to other users, and other forms of “’splaining” — If you want to explain something to another commenter that you don’t think they understand, be very sure you’re neither lecturing them on their lived experience nor assuming you have greater expertise when what you actually have is more maleness, whiteness, straightness, cisness or other form of privilege.
If you don’t think you broke any of these rules and can’t see your comment it’s probably just that I haven’t got to it yet, or conceivably that it got mislabelled as spam. If it’s been a while, you can try reposting or ask me to look for it.
With all that understood, welcome, please have at it.
On Sexual Assault, and “Realism” in Popular Culture..
This essay discusses rape of both women and men throughout. No specific real-world cases are mentioned nor are any scenes described graphically, however as it’s about realism, it does necessarily shuttle rapidly between incidents in fairly silly texts and grim facts about the real world.
Spoilers for Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and minor spoilers for various older texts.
Last year, halfway through the second book of the series, I gave up reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I had enjoyed the first novel very much – I liked the sense that the fantastic elements were providing a different lens on the Middle Ages, removing the sense that there was something default or inevitable about mediaeval European culture, and re-revealing the fundamental strangeness of a world of knights and kings. I enjoyed the resonances with specific episodes in real history – the War of the Roses, the Jacobite rebellions. It reminded me of the songs by the Corries that I, a fake Scot, grew up on. I even enjoyed all the freaking heraldry and food.
That sense of history seemed to be dwindling away a bit in the second book, but in the end, that wasn’t what drove me away.
Instead, it was all the rape.
This surprised me. After all, I’d known going in that there was quite a lot of it, and though I was prepared to find its treatment at least somewhat problematic, I’d also expected to be able to handle it. I’m usually able to read fairly graphic scenes without getting more distressed than the story called for, and friends of mine who I thought were more readily upset by that sort of thing had read the books just fine. And, as it turns out, a lot of the rapes in A Song of Ice and Fire aren’t graphic at all.
And occasionally they are really graphic. But that they’re mostly not almost made it worse for me. That made it possible for the narrative to load that many more of them by the casual handful into chapter after chapter. Rape as backstory, as plot point, as motivation – however badly handled, I can usually cope with it.
I found I couldn’t cope with rape as wallpaper.
Look at this.
Just look at it:
[View the story "\"You are an Agent of SHIELD.\"" on Storify]
How cool is Paul Cornell? So cool. SO COOL.
Rationally, of course, I am aware this means no more than the fact that I named one character in my short story, MailerDaemon after a little girl I heard chatting to her friend on the tube (Grace) and another after a handsome fellow I’d noticed working in my local Morrison’s (Jawad). The characters have nothing to do with the real people; I just needed names.
But, that out of the way, I do not really care about being rational here: I AM AN AGENT OF SHIELD. HE SAID SO. I KNOW WOLVERINE. I AM PROBABLY BEST FRIENDS WITH ALL THE SUPERHEROES.
I MAY BE TOO COOL TO TALK TO YOU NOW.
If it turns out Sophia the SHIELD agent is in fact, evil and smelly and nobody likes her – well, of course, evil, smelly, unpopular characters need to get names from somewhere too, and I shall not take it personally. Naturally I kind of hope she is MEGA AMAZING. But whatever she’s like, and even if she only exists for a couple of panels, it’s such a nice little bit of writerly trivia to be part of. I only started reading comics back in the summer, which now seems like ages ago, and have been mainlining Marvel in unhealthy quantities ever since. Paul’s been amazingly enabling nice about this, pushing me gleefully into penury this wonderful, mythic soap opera full of LOFTY HEROISM and sarcasm and angst and ridiculous outfits. Getting to say “that SHIELD agent is named after me” — ever, let alone when I’m a fairly new addict cult-member fan truly feels like living the geek dream and I am full of grateful glee.
Last year was, honestly, pretty dreadful. Now I have a new book deal and I am an Agent of SHIELD. And it’s only February. These feel like good signs!
(SOPHIA THE SHIELD AGENT PRONOUNCES HER NAME PROPERLY THE WAY I DO, I.E LIKE THIS. At least in my head.)
It’s been a long time! I’ve been very busy on this book here (this one. The one I’m trying to tell you about. Wait a minute, and it will become clear) And though I have some 2/3 finished blogs on my computer called cheerful things like “On Suffering” and “Rape in Genre Fiction”, I really wanted my next post to be this one.
The “Next Big Thing” meme was doing the rounds among writers MONTHS ago; I got tagged (very kindly!) by practically EVERYONE, but I couldn’t bring myself to take part until I knew if this little book I’ve been struggling with was ever going to find a home.
Well, at last it has. I’m very happy to say I’ve agreed a deal with Egmont for my fourth novel, and the one after that.
Thanks so much to my new editor, Sarah Hughes at Egmont, and my wonderful and formidable agent, Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Mars Evacuees. It’s about evacuees, to Mars!
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Well, it’s hard to remember exactly, because I was nine. I was fascinated by Michelle Magorian’s novels of children evacuated to the English countryside or to America in WWII, and I wondered, in a future war, where else could you send people? Obviously Mars. And what would happen to them next …? Well, that was the difficult part, of course. I began composing an audio-book, which seemed to me to be an exciting technological medium for a story about the future, but as I was nine and had no idea what was going to happen, I soon gave up. I had another go at the idea when I was fourteen, envisioning a massively depressing Young Adult story in which not only most of the main characters but most of humanity died, (SPOILER: Mars Evacuees is not actually like this). Defeated by this in turn, I then shelved the idea until such time as I should get round to it, which turned out to be about seventeen years later.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Children’s sci-fi. Of which there’s oddly little in prose fiction, isn’t there? Plenty of films, computer games, TV. But not many books.
4) What actors would you choose to play the parts of your characters in a movie adaptation?
I’m going to take this as an excuse to introduce the characters to you.