9th December 2010
Glove Puppet Interview now online!
During my tour in the USA I did a coruscating, in-depth interview with Earl, the Salt Lake City Library spokespuppet. This no-holds-barred gladiatorial inquisition is now available to watch online! You can check it out at www.youtube.com/user/TheCityLibrary
8th December 2010
AWARD NOMINATION in Germany!
I’ve just heard that The Ring of Solomon has been nominated in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of Der Leserpreis – die besten buecher 2010. Die Leserpreis is one of the biggest audience-nominated book awards in German-speaking countries. Ring of Solomon is one of 35 titles on the fantasy shortlist. All the books can be viewed – and voted for – at http://www.lovelybooks.de/leserpreis/2010/Fantasie-Science-Fiction/.
The winning book will be the one receiving the most votes by 10th December, so why not visit the site now and cast one for The Ring of Solomon! The results (Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards) will be announced on Monday 13th December.
17th November 2010
Just had some fantastic news: The Ring of Solomon is one of four books shortlisted for the 2010 Costa Children’s Book Award! The Costa Awards is one of the most prestigious UK literary prizes, with five categories each year: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. The other three books in the Children’s category are: Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace, Annexed by Sharon Dogar and Flyaway by Lucy Christopher. The winner will be announced in January 2011. For more info, check out www.costabookawards.com
14th November Update!
Update from San Francisco airport. Just had a wonderful event at the library in Belmont, south of San Francisco. It was organised by the store M is for Mystery, and was one of the loveliest of the tour, with lots of home-made cakes on offer, and an enthusiastic packed house. I chatted and signed until 4.00 - then, snatching up a few cakes, zoomed off, and was checking in half an hour later. Outside, night has fallen; at home it's already 2 a.m. A long flight beckons, and hopefully a bit of sleep. It's been a great tour.
14th November 2010
I'm writing this in my hotel room in San Franciso, surrounded by a sea of clothes and books and open cases. I'm off in a little while to my last event, and then off to the airport for the long flight home. Outside the California sun is shining; at home (I expect) the winter rains beat down. But, still, I'm looking forward to getting back after all my adventures: it's been a thrilling two weeks, and an honour to meet so many great people. More soon: in the meantime, I'd better go and pack my bags...
13th November 2010 San Francisco / Sacramento
A good day, but a long one: I left the hotel at 6.00 am and caught a flight from Denver out to California and San Francisco, one of the most beguiling cities anywhere. I always wish I could hang out here and ride the tramcars, or visit Alcatraz or something, but there's never any time, and I have to absorb the atmosphere as I zoom through. Today I had two events - first a lunchtime one at the Book Passage store down at the Ferry Building. Outside, vast crowds wandered through the food markets, buying root vegetables under the bright noon sun; inside, I chatted with a small but friendly group of old friends (one guy had been to my first Amulet talk way back in 2003) and new. Then I drove with David, my escort, out to Sacramento, California's state capital, stopping for excellent fish and chips on the way. My evening show was in the Borders in Sacramento, and this was a really nice one: a friendly and conversational audience of all ages. At last David and I took the freeway back to San Francisco, driving through the night to the soundtrack of Led Zeppelin and The Who.
12th November 2010 Denver
With the end of the tour in sight, things began to pick up pace again. An early morning flight exchanged the dry heat of Phoenix for the cooler air of Denver, the mile-high city, wedged between the Rockies and the Great Plains. I didn't get much of a chance to explore the place, as I was whisked off soon enough to the elegant Tattered Cover bookstore in the suburb of Highlands Ranch. Here I did a good early evening event with an audience of fans and newcomers, reading from both Amulet and Ring of Solomon. It's been a wonderful experience going round the country, spreading the Bart word, and meeting with people who've enjoyed the series for many years. It's great to feel there's such a wide-spread Bart community who're pleased to see the djinni back again.
11th November 2010 Phoenix
It was Veteran's Day in the USA, which meant that schools had the day off, and this gave me a free morning. I was keen on seeing a bit more of the desert scene, so I went off to the Desert Botanic Gardens on the edge of Phoenix, a twisting labyrinth of dusty paths amid an unbelievable variety of cactus: towering seguaro, short stumpy ones, weird long coiling ones, ones you could eat, others that looked as if they'd impale you alive, and many resplendent with beautiful desert flowers. The Sonoran Desert is (as deserts go) fairly verdant, and it was evident that you could live quite well out there if you knew your plants: they'd supply you with food, water, medicine, rope, and building materials for house and fence. In the afternoon it was off to the imposing bookstore Changing Hands, for a good public event with a varied audience of fans young and old. Afterwards I went for a stroll around the art shops and cowboy boutiques of Scottsdale ('the West's most Western town', apparently), and then watched another poor movie: The American, a dour Euro-thriller, in which George Clooney played a hitman mooching about feeling sorry for himself after shooting his girlfriend in the head.
10th November 2010 Phoenix
A morning flight from Salt Lake City down to Phoenix, Arizona, and my window seat rewarded me with views down on the desert badlands: endless tracts of reddish stone and sand, through which dry river beds wiggled and coiled like veins in lumps of meat. Phoenix itself, America's fifth biggest city, spreads for miles across a flat valley, surrounded by bare mountains. It's arranged in a rigid grid formation and from above looks like nothing so much as a vast silicon chip, pulsing with activity. My escort, Evelyn, took me straight to Kyrene Akimel A-Al Middle School, for a great event: many of the audience had already bought copies of the Bart books, and some were enthusiastic writers themselves. Then off for a bit of exploring - down to a Native American reservation on the city edge to look at a cotton field, and to Camelback Mountain, to hike a little way up the bare red stone and look out across Phoenix, enjoying the clear, dry air. Also had my first close encounter with a majestic seguaro cactus, three times my height and more. That evening I went along to the mystery and detective store Poisoned Pen, and had a fun panel event with Barbara, the store owner, and Priscilla Royal, the writer of historical who-dunnits. It's always interesting to compare notes with another author, and we had a good chat with the audience, discussing hero myths, and methods of creation. Spoke afterwards with a couple of families who had travelled from Flagstaff to be there; then off for a pizza, sitting outdoors in the warmth of the desert night.
9th November 2010
This was a big one, possibly the busiest day of the tour, featuring as it did a long plane journey, three events and an interview with an orange-haired glove puppet. My alarm went off at 4.50 a.m. in Austin, and I caught an early morning flight to Salt Lake City. We came down through heavy cloud, to find the mountains flecked with white, and a light snowfall in the valley. The trees lining the roads were like something from a fantasy - yellow-orange leaves still thick and luxurious, and yet also covered with snow. My morning events were at two schools: the McGillis School, and Cosgriff Memorial School, and both were great - a tremendous amount of enthusiasm shown by the audience in each. Several of the kids came along to my evening event too, at the King's English store, a wonderful labyrinth of connecting book-lined rooms, each at slightly different levels. When I arrived some of the audience were already there - including one mother-and-daughter team who had driven an incredible 12 hrs from Washington State to be there. Also present was Earl, short for Earl E Reading, the spokespuppet for Salt Lake City Library, who conducted a fine interview with me for the cameras, during which we discussed many things including the exact materials required for djinni summonings. I shall make a link to this notable piece as soon as it's been edited. The talk and signing itself was lovely - it was a great thing to be surrounded by so much energy and goodwill. Then next door for a curry - a well-earned end to an excellent day.
8th November 2010 Austin
I drove out with my Austin escort, Kristin, through some beautiful hilly dark-wooded suburbs, to West Ridge Middle School, where I did a very enjoyable talk to a couple of
hundred kids, with at least half an hour of great questions and answers. Then, in traditional author fashion, I roamed the city like a wolf, stealing into stores and leaping out on unsuspecting booksellers, pen in hand, and offering to sign their Bartimaeus books. For lunch Kristin took me to a place called the Ironworks, which offered Texan BBQ cuisine. It was inside a low, dark, wooden building: inside, behind a hatch, a group of surly, sweaty blokes toiled beside the biggest roasting ovens I've ever seen, occasionally bringing out vast stacks of ribs and dismembering them with a machete that Faquarl himself would have been proud of. My plate-load was so large I could scarcely carry it to a table; tasted good though, and I had pecan pie for pud. That evening I did a nice event at Book People in downtown Austin, with an audience that included one of my friends from the Bartiforums community - check out their great website at www.bartiforums.com.
7th November 2010 Houston
A quiet morning in the hotel, looking out at the blue skies and glittering freeways of Houston. Then off to one of my favourite bookstores, Murder By The Book, a wonderful place filled with mystery and detective fiction. This was where my good friend David Thompson, who died a couple of months ago, worked, and his absence was keenly felt - it was strange to stand and do my presentation, like I have so often, without him watching from the side. But it was a lovely event, even so, with a full house, including a family who had travelled all the way from Louisiana to be there - which made me feel very honoured. Afterwards I hopped in a car and made the three-hour drive to Austin. My driver had a great life story - he'd been an orphan in Calcutta, but as a boy had worked his passage across to the States on an American ship, had been adopted by the captain, and had ended up a US citizen in Oklahoma City. A classic American dream scenario. Checked in to my hotel and went for a swim, in a vain effort to shake off all the dubious fast foods I've been consuming on the author trail.
6th November 2010 Chicago
After the previous day's excitements, I was a bit slow and steady this morning, so it was good that I had nothing on until 2.00pm. This was an talk out in LaGrange, at a Borders where I'd done a Heroes event back in 2009. It was a small scale event, but a really nice one, with several firm fans showing up - we were able to do a good show-and-tell, reading and chat about all-things Bart. There were also some tasty home-cooked chocolate brownies from one of the Borders staff, and it was a happy and slightly sticky author who departed to the airport afterwards. I took the evening flight down to Houston, riding with the dusk, moving with the sun. Down below us the plains disintegrated slowly into apricot haze, and then to darkness, flecked occasionally with spatterings of lights from settlements below. At the Houston hotel I watched the disappointing Iron Man 2, in which several fine actors strugggled vainly with a pointless plot. Still, it was good relaxing downtime.
5th November 2010 Chicago/Naperville
A busy day in the Chicago suburbs. I didn't get to the downtown area this time - though from my window I could see its towers rising through the morning haze, impossibly tall and far away. Instead we drove to the Oak Park District, and Central Middle School, where I did a talk to almost 300 7th-graders (12-13 years old) in a large hall. It was the kind of place where a powerpoint presentation might have made more sense, but I tend to prefer to be lo-fi with my talks. Powerpoints are often a bit cold and clinical, I find. After lunch, off to Pleasantdale Middle School, and a jolly event in a smaller hall, to an enthusiastic and energetic audience, who asked lots of great questions about the mechanics of summoning djinn, and all the dos and donts of constructing pentacles. That evening we drove out to the town of Naperville, and Anderson's Bookstore, where I did some great events during the trilogy tours some years ago. This was another fine evening, with Bart fans coming from far and wide. Many had driven for hours to be there, but the all-comers record was claimed by two people who had come from Minneapolis, which is 8 hours away by road. There were also two children who had memorised The Amulet of Samarkand, and who recited the opening lines brilliantly for me at the end. A lovely occasion.
4th November 2010 Philadelphia
Two fine events today, at schools in the suburbs of Philadelphia: Sacred Heart School in Havertown, and Radnor Middle School in Wayne, both organised through the bookstore Children's Book World. You never know before you arrive at a school (or any event) what the set-up's going to be like. Sometimes you're down close with the audience, so you can look them in the eye and even walk among them. Sometimes you're up on a high stage, with spotlights on you, and the audience is a shadowy mass watching below. Sometimes the crowd is small and intimate, and you can get questions from almost everyone. Sometimes they're several hundred strong, and you can scarcely hear their voices from the back of the hall. But all events develop their own rhythm, and almost always a good rapport between you and your listeners. The best events end up almost like a conversation. Both these today (one in an intimate hall, one in a vast auditorium) were great fun, and I was sorry when they came to an end: after the second, we drove through rain-lashed Philadelphia to the airport, and caught a flight to Chicago. It wasn't a pleasant experience: plenty of turbulence. The plane bucked and veered in the night sky as everyone* sat, pinch-faced, thinking grimly of their own mortality. But it was fine, and in due course we landed safely, with the softest of feather-light touches.
[* Well... all right: me.]
3rd November 2010 Washington and Philadelphia
The TV channels this morning were abuzz with the results of the previous day's Senate and Congressional elections, but Washington itself was serene and beautiful under a clear blue sky. My morning's event was held at Politics and Prose, a long-established independent store with a fine children's section in the basement. I spoke to 250 children from two schools, who were a great audience, full of zestful questions. As many of them didn't know the earlier Bart books, I did a reading from Amulet as well as from Ring of Solomon, and it seemed to go well. No sooner had the last kid departed than we were off again, back to the stupendously glamorous Washington rail terminal, and on the Amtrak train heading north, through industrial belts and endless brown woods, crossing great silent inlets of water and teeming suburbs, until we got to Philadelphia. A brief crash at the hotel, and then out to a Barnes and Noble store at Fairless Hills, where I talked before a small but delightful audience, including some die-hard Bart fans, while the rest of the store hummed and whirled about us. After that, a late evening pasta, and a swift descent to sleep.
2nd November 2010 New York/New Jersey
My first full day began early with breakfast with my publishers, followed by a ride out of New York City to the beautiful woods and rolling hills of New Jersey, with elegant wooden houses set back among the trees. We drove to Califon, and Woodglen Elementary School, where I got a lovely welcome from more than 300 5th-7th graders, crowded into the sports hall to hear my talk. Lots of questions followed, and plenty of signed copies - it was a perfect beginning to the tour. Then back to New York, and the marvellous Books of Wonder, a children's bookstore of 30 years' standing, where I had a delightful early evening chat with a representative audience of Bart's spectrum of fans - children, teens, adults young and old. The ink was barely dry on the signed copies when Hallie, my publicist, and I had to zoom away to Penn Station and the 3-hour train ride to Washington. Arrived at 11.30, somewhat comatose, and tottered up to the hotel at last for a well-earned kip.
1st November 2010
Off to the USA today! Spent the flight across reading a fine fantasy by the American writer Nnedi Okorafor and watching, with some scepticism, the vast, sprawling, hollow movie Inception. Arrived late in New York City at my hotel beside the Lincoln Center, and went for a reviving burger and beer. The Ring of Solomon is published tomorrow, and my tour begins... Exciting times!
29th October 2010
The Ring of Solomon is a German Bestseller!
Just got the news a couple of days ago that The Ring of Solomon is at Number 6 in the the German book charts! Tremendously exciting!
Scottish Book Tour: a great success!
Just back from three great days north of the border, visiting schools and stores in Southern Scotland. On Monday I went to East Wood High School in Glasgow, and Calderglen High School in East Kilbride. On Tuesday I visited George Watson’s Senior College in Edinburgh, followed by the Dollar Academy. On Wednesday I travelled down to St Boswells and spoke to pupils from four schools in the lovely converted barn of The Main Street Trading Company bookstore. The new book went down well, as did the original three, now all in their dashing new covers. I also went stock-signing in Edinburgh and Stirling, and met some old fans, including one unexpected one from Bulgaria. Everywhere I went the reception was great, the hospitality warm, and the trees of the rolling border hills burnished with copper and gold: what more could anyone want?
24th October 2010
Stop Press! – Extra Scottish Event!
In addition to the two public signings already listed, I’m now doing a full talk on Wednesday 27th October. Here are the details…
Wednesday 27th October
1.30 pm The Mainstreet Trading Company, Main Street, St Boswells, Scottish Borders, TD6 0AT. Tickets: £2 per child (accompanying adults are FREE), To Book: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the shop on 01835 824087
US Tour Update!
Here’s a revised itinerary for the public events of my US Tour, 2nd-14th November 2010. All are at the bookstores concerned, unless otherwise stated.
Tuesday 2nd November
5.00 pm: New York. Books of Wonder
18 W 18th Street, New York City, NY
Wednesday 3rd November
7.00 pm: Philadelphia. Barnes and Noble
210 Commerce Blvd, Fairless Hills, 19030
Friday 5th November
7.00 pm: Naperville, IL. Anderson’s Bookshop
123 West Jefferson, Naperville, IL 60540
Saturday, 6th November
2.00 pm: Chicago, IL. Borders,
1 North La Grange Road, LaGrange, IL
Sunday 7th November
2:00 pm: Houston, Tx. Murder by the Book,
2342 Bissonnet Street, Houston, Texas
Monday 8th November
7:00 pm: Austin, Tx. Book People,
603 N Lamar, Austin, TX 78703
Tuesday 9th November
Evening: Salt Lake City. The Kings English
1511 S 1500 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Wednesday, 10th November
7:00 pm: Phoenix, AZ. Poisoned Pen
4014 N Goldwater Blvd, Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ
Thursday, 11th November
4.00 pm: Tempe, AZ. Changing Hands,
6428 S McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85283
Friday 12th November
4:30 pm: Denver, CO. Tattered Cover
*NOTE CHANGE OF LOCATION*
Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch
9315 Dorchester Street
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
store phone 303-470-7050
Saturday 13th November
1.00 pm: San Francisco. Book Passage,
1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111
Saturday 13th November
7.00 pm: Sacramento. Borders.
2339 Fair Oaks Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95825
Sunday, 14th November
2:00 pm: Belmont, CA. Belmont Library (organized by M is for Mystery, 86 East Third Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401)
21st October 2010
I’ve been out and about this week, visiting schools and bookstores in Cambridge and Oxford, and yesterday visiting book suppliers along the South Coast of England. Meanwhile The Ring of Solomon is doing well in Germany, and is in its third printing.
UK Tour Update
Next week I’ll be in Scotland between Monday and Wednesday, mainly visiting schools, but also doing the following in-store signings:
Tuesday 26th October: 4.00 -5.15 pm: Waterstone’s Stirling
Unit 1, Thistle Marches, Stirling FK8 2EA. Refreshments will be provided at this one!
Click here for full details
Wednesday 27th October: 9.30 am: Waterstone’s West End, Edinburgh
128 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AD
US Tour Update – coming soon!
There have been some additions to the events I previously listed for the US tour, including a new visit to Salt Lake City. I’ll list a revised schedule in the next couple of days.
Meanwhile… My UK publishers have made a short Ring of Solomon trailer… Check it out at The Ring of Solomon website.
Also, the Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel recently made an appearance at the New York Comic Con… As shown here!
15th October 2010
The Ring of Solomon is out in the UK! Cue sound of trumpets blown by vast companies of blue-bottomed imps circling in the clouds above. To mark the occasion I did my first British event at Ilford County High Grammar School yesterday and had a fine time. The audience was fantastic, and had lots of great questions; it felt really good to introduce new readers to the world of Bartimaeus…
UK Tour Update: Bookstore stock-signing visits
Over the next two weeks I’m visiting lots of schools in England and Scotland to promote the new book. I’m not doing any public events at this stage, though I’ll be arranging some to follow later. But I will be popping in to the following bookstores to sign stock during week 1. Please note that the times quoted here can only be approximate!
Monday 18th October: Cambridge
12.00 noon: Waterstones, 22 Sydney Street, Cambridge, CB2 3HG
12.30 pm: Heffers, 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TY
Tuesday 19th October, Oxford
2.30 pm: Blackwells, 48-51 Broad Street
3.00 pm: Waterstones, William Baker House, Broad Street
Friday 22nd October, London
10.00 am: Foyles, Charing Cross Road
10.30 am: Blackwells, Charing Cross Road
11.45 am: Waterstones, Piccadilly
12.00 noon: Hatchards, Piccadilly
1.30 pm: Waterstones, High Street Kensington
2.15 pm: Harrods
I’ll also be visiting some stores in Scotland in Week 2, and will flag these up nearer the time….
Meanwhile, if you want to see me being interviewed by Bartimaeus himself look no further than the fantastic German Bart site: http://www.bartimaeus.de/.
12th October 2010
Frankfurt was an unforgettable experience – a wonderful international launch for The Ring of Solomon. I got up at 5 a.m. on Saturday and zoomed to Heathrow; a few hours later I was at the Book Fair, and (as always) was almost overwhelmed by the scale of it all – it’s like a city within a city, a vast complex of interlinked halls, each crammed to the gunnels with publishers, agents and book-lovers from across the world. There were also a surprising number of people wandering around dressed as elves, wizards and pink-haired warrior-damsels… I discovered later you got in free if you came as a Manga character. I’ll bear it in mind, next time.
At the Random House stand in Halle 3 I did a few interviews and had some photos taken, but the main event was the official launch of Der Ring des Salomo in the afternoon. A crowd of several hundred had squeezed into the stand to see me take the stage with Gerd Köster, gravel-toned voice of Bartimaeus for the German audios, and Marc Langebeck, the master-of-ceremonies. Marc and I talked about Bartimaeus and the new book, and Gerd read out a couple of sequences, which went down very well. I then sat signing copies for a couple of hours, and it was fantastic to see how much excitement there was over Bart and his return. Click here to see some more photos from the day.
On Sunday I did another, shorter, signing at the Lesezelt tent and met many more happy Bart enthusiasts. For me, it was the perfect start to several weeks of promoting Solomon.
8th October 2010
Went for a walk today around the village of Ayot St Lawrence, where George Bernard Shaw used to live. It’s tiny, but has two churches – one ruined medieval one and a slightly dilapidated 18th-century Palladian job, off-set amongst the fields. It was a foggy, moisty morning; ancient oaks and beech trees loomed amid the mists; sheep grazed silently beyond the gravestones. Fitted in quite well with my current bedtime reading: the Oxford Book of Ghost Stories…
Two lovely parcels today: the US and German editions of The Ring of Solomon. Both are handsome volumes indeed!
Off to Frankfurt tomorrow, to launch Solomon at the Book Fair. Will report next week.
7th October 2010
A new Bartimaeus site has been launched by Hyperion, my US publishers! It’s got a sneak preview of the first chapter of The Ring of Solomon (minus a couple of footnotes), the first chapter of The Amulet of Samarkand Graphic Novel to download, a trailer for Solomon and lots of other goodies. Visit it at here.
The Solomon trailer is also available on You Tube. Click here to view it.
4th October 2010
Grim weather round my way: streams running along the middle of the road, grey clouds brushing the tops of the pines. But lots of good Bartimaeus news:
- I’ve seen a copy of the Amulet graphic novel, and it looks beautiful! Lee Sullivan and Nic Chapuis’s artwork is breathtaking. Oddly, this is the UK version, which isn’t out until Feb (but earlier in Australia, hence this advance printing). The US original should hopefully arrive imminently.
- Spain (Montena) has put an offer in for The Ring of Solomon. This brings the total number of editions to 10 so far (UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Hungary, Denmark and Spain).
- I’ve had the first info about my US Solomon tour. It’s taking place from 1st-15th November. I’ll put more details up soon, but here’s the way it’s looking so far, with the bookstores, where known.
2nd Nov: New Jersey/New York City (Books of Wonder).
3rd Nov: Connecticut
4th Nov: Philadelphia
5th Nov: Chicago/Naperville (Anderson’s Bookstore)
6th Nov: Chicago
7th Nov: Houston (Murder by the Book)
8th Nov: Austin (Book People)
9th Nov: Austin (Barnes and Noble)
10th Nov: Phoenix
11th Nov: Phoenix
12th Nov: Denver (Tattered Cover)
13th Nov: San Francisco
14th Nov: San Francisco (M is for Mystery, San Mateo Library)
30th September 2010
A quiet week, spent mainly in the office, replying to readers’ letters. These have built up badly while I was writing Ring of Solomon, but I’m back in action now, and am working steadily through them with the zeal and energy of an afrit. Unlike an afrit, however, I’ve sadly got no whirling dust clouds or flying carpets at my beck and call. Am cycling off to the post office shortly, with a rucksackful of post upon my back…
Some details of my visit to the FrankfurtBookfair next weekend:
On Saturday 9th October I’ll be officially launching The Ring of Solomon at the cbj stand at 14.00, with a book-signing there afterwards, scheduled for 15.00-16.00.
On Sunday 10th October I’ll be doing a public book-signing at the Lesezelt at 10.30-11.00. The Lesezelt is a marquee in one of the forecourts at the bookfair. I did a talk and some signings alongside Christopher Paolini there a few years ago.
The Ring of Solomon website is up now – www.theringofsolomon.com. There’s not much on it yet, but I’ll add more stuff in the next couple of weeks.
22nd September 2010
Off to Random House in Ealing on Monday for a happy day celebrating the new Bart book. There was a Ring of Solomon cake to be cut, and a glass of champagne to be drunk, as well as 500 copies to be signed. Excitingly, there were also copies of both the new UK Amulet and Golem’s Eye paperbacks, with their great new covers. The series looks REALLY good now. Amulet is already in stores, and Golem will follow soon. The new-style Ptolemy is almost ready too, but I guess won’t be available until Novemberish.
While I was in Ealing, I also recorded a few video greetings to go online, including answering some reader questions for the Bartimaeus Books Facebook page. This will be posted up soon! You can visit the site here.
News from Japan: the Ring of Solomon will be published there in March 2011, with an Amulet paperback coming out shortly before.
17th September 2010
Dreadful news from the States, where David Thompson, a good friend, and one of the finest booksellers in the country, has died suddenly. He was 38 years old. With his wife, McKenna, David was the heart and soul of Houston’s Murder By the Book, a superb crime and mystery store, which I’d visited on several of my tours. Each visit, the pattern was the same: a talk to a packed house, which David and McKenna had drummed up from miles around, and then, when the dust had settled and all books were signed, a leisurely meal at a local restaurant where we’d talk about literature, cinema, publishing and pretty much everything under the sun. David was the independent bookseller par excellence, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his field, boundless humour and enthusiasm, and the admirable ability to share these qualities generously with a vast circle of adoring customers. He was a gentle, delightful man, and his cruel loss will be felt across the book-world in America and far beyond.
13th September 2010
Off to Italy last week, to the Festivaletteratura in the city of Mantua. This is a lovely town, one of the old medieval city states, which rises like an enchanted castle from beyond three (almost) encircling lakes. The tents and marquees where the five-day literary festival takes place are dotted around the piazzas and parks, below the towers and battlements of the old dukes’ palaces. Here assorted writerly types wander and mingle with journalists, TV crews, and the people of the town; children play on the steps of ancient churches; shops sell ice-cream and crumbly cakes in the shadow of ironwork cages where criminals of long ago were suspended above the town.
I spent a busy time here, doing one author event about my books, and another, late-night, talk extolling the virtues of Treasure Island, along with lots of interviews with newspapers and radio. One evening, while I sat with my publishers at dinner, I got chatting to the person sitting next to me, a small, neat, grey-haired man, bright-eyed as a bird. He turned out to be Philippe Petit, who in 1974 walked on a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, and whose story is told in the movie ‘Man on Wire’. I asked him if it was getting harder to perform his feats as he got older, but he said no: it was principally an act of mind, not body, and his mind was getting better at it all the time.
News about The Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel… The US pub date (Nov 2nd) has been cast in stone for some time, but the UK date has remained uncertain. It now seems as if the UK edition will be out in Jan or Feb next year, around the same time as the German edition, though oddly an export edition (for Australia and New Zealand and other territories), may be available in the autumn…
7th September 2010
Went to Berlin last week to do some advance publicity for the Ring of Solomon. The first day featured me recording an interview with Bartimaeus. Or at least, me answering questions into a camera – later on, an animated Bart is going to be added, so that we have a conversation! This’ll be put on the German Bart website; I’ll make a link to this when it’s ready.
After that I went for a wander round the centre of Berlin: here I am by the Brandenburg Gate.
On the second day I did lots of interviews, and also my first ever Ring of Solomon event, to a class from a local school. I was on stage with Marc Langebeck, who presents the German book show quergelesen; he translated for me as I demonstrated the art of summoning djinn. All went well, though no imps or afrits turned up (which was a good job, as my defensive pentacle was drawn in felt-tip, and was actually pretty wonky).
6th September 2010
The Ring of Solomon has arrived! The hardback UK version arrived on my doorstep this morning, prompting me to dance a hornpipe of joy in my pyjamas. The postman will probably never be quite the same again.
27th August 2010
Many eons have gone by since my last entry – sorry about that! My excuse is mainly that I’ve been on holiday. To Switzerland, in fact, where I spent a very happy time (a) hiking, (b) taking photos of mountains, as per example here*, (c) eating, (d) sleeping, and not thinking much about books or Bartimaeus. Have come back leaner, darker, brighter-eyed and in short altogether less like a troglodyte who has stumbled out of his hole.
[* It’s the Jungfrau, a favourite of mine.]
Now I’m thinking about the autumn, and the publication of the new Bart books. All of a sudden, it’s not far off!
Here’s an assortment of news. The UK cover for Ring of Solomon is finished, and looks really excellent. Here it is. The art’s by Jeff Nentrup. You can visit his site at www.jeffnentrup.com. He’s also doing new covers for the other three Bart titles, which will be reissued over the next few months. Amulet and Golem are done already; he’s working on Ptolemy now. I’ll post them up here in due course.
I’m starting work on a Ring of Solomon website – should be up and running in a couple of weeks.
Denmark and Hungary have bought the new book too, taking the total of editions to 8.
Publication dates known so far are:
Germany: October 9th
UK: October 14th
USA: November 2nd
The Amulet graphic novel will be published in the USA on November 2nd. It’ll come out in Germany in January 2011. The date for the UK isn’t yet clear.
I’ll be visiting Berlin next week, September 1st-2nd, to do a press conference ahead of the Solomon launch. I’ll visit the Frankfurt Bookfair on October 9-10th for the official launch. More details when I get them.
I’ll be at the Festivaletteratura at Mantova, Italy, on 9th September, doing talks at 16.15 and 20.30. For details, visit www.festivaletteratura.it
During October, I’ll be doing a UK tour, and will flag up public dates soon. In November, I’ll visit the USA. More news soon!
8th July 2010
The Ring of Solomon is officially done! Well, apart from the Map, which we’re still waiting for. And some cover copy for the UK. But all the proof-reading and checking is finished for both US and UK editions, and the German translation isn’t far off either.
Offers for the book have come in from Japan and France. Together with the UK, US, Germany and Norway, that puts the number of prospective editions to 6 so far.
The Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel is being published at the same time as the new book in the USA. It’s possible it may come out in the UK and Germany this autumn too, but that’s not been decided yet.
Here at home the ground is parched. Dust rises up when you mow the lawn. Out in the fields the paths are strewn with bone-dry straw, slippery as glass.
But… as I type, it’s just begun to rain.
30th June 2010
Proofs everywhere… UK ones, US ones, and a rather neat UK bound proof, with natty black cover, that turned up yesterday. Have spent the last few days reading and re-reading, and making endless tiny changes. Today I’m marking up the last few corrections and that will be it for the text.
A few tentative plans are beginning to form for the autumn. I’m going to Modena, Italy, mid-Sept, for a literary festival there. On October 9th, I’ll be at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and during the rest of October will be doing some kind of UK tour, though the details aren’t yet known. I’ll be in the US in November. More info as it comes in!
A very beautiful US paperback Heroes of the Valley has appeared, using the German cover. The original hardback US version was classy, but a little staid, and this is much more vibrant – one of the very nicest editions of one of my books, I think.
Am reading Journey into Fear, by Eric Ambler, a thriller-writer I’d not read before. Murky 1940s international intrigue and assassins pursuing a helpless bloke. Top stuff.
24th June 2010
Beautiful weather here for the last few days. Cue time for a bit of cycling, walking, table tennis in the garden…
… and reading The Ring of Solomon proofs! All of a sudden things are very imminent. The UK proof came through last week, and I’ve just finished going through. It looks great, though the MAP hasn’t been finished yet. I’ve seen an excellent cover sketch too, so that’s finally moving. The page extent for the UK edition looks to be 405 pp (not including maps, Notes on Magic etc), so it’s just a little shorter than The Amulet of Samarkand, but still a pretty hefty tome.
The US proof will arrive on the back of a groaning postman tomorrow, and by mid next week, both sets will be gone.
Meanwhile, met up with Andrew Donkin in London last week – we’ve proof-read the first half of the graphic novel, and that’s looking beautiful too. The hard-cover edition’s going to have a handsome case under the jacket which shows lots of Lee Sullivan’s original sketches for Bart, Nat, Kitty and the other characters. Lee’s just sent the inks over for the Ramuthra finale today…
Am in the middle of sorting through boxes of my foreign editions of Bart. The whole dining room is a sea of teetering columns, rather like the house of Mr Button in Ptolemy’s Gate. I’m going to have to sort them quickly, before they inadvertently topple and squash a visitor.
10th June 2010
The proofs for the first half of the Amulet graphic novel have arrived, and they look stunning – Lee Sullivan and Nic Chapuis have done a fantastic job with the art. They’re frantically finishing the big Ramuthra sequence now. I’m going through Lee’s roughs for this today.
Made a few last tweaks to the front matter of Solomon. An extra paragraph here, a line or two in a footnote there. Just waiting for the US copyedit to be finished, so I can check through that.
Work is still progressing on the UK cover. It’s been taking a while to get right.
Just seen on the internet that there’s a Russian edition of Buried Fire… Looks like a great cover, with a winged dragon soaring about, but I haven’t seen a copy yet. I’ll have to chase the publishers...
8th June 2010
Just heard that Heroes of the Valley has been awarded a place on VOYA magazine’s Perfect Tens 2009 list. It was one of 18 books published that year which got the highest possible ratings for literary quality and teen appeal. For more info, check out www.voya.com.
Took a day off last Friday, and went for a trip to London, where I sat happily on buses with my small son, meandering at random around the centre. Passed lots of places associated in my mind with the Trilogy: British Museum, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park… Some day I’ll have to visit some of the sites that feature in the Ring of Solomon. This will involve more than a quick bus ride, however…
7th June 2010
Got back 10 days ago from a hot and humid New York, where I spread the word about Bart’s forthcoming adventures. I did some signing of Amulet (there aren’t any proofs of Ring of Solomon yet), and also some whirlwind ‘speed-dating’, where I sat at a table and chatted for 3 minutes-a-turn to lots of booksellers and librarians, who were rotating between tables. Also attended the Hyperion/Disney dinner, and had a chance to get to know some of their charming authors and illustrators, such as Charlie Higson and Jon J Muth.
In my spare time I did a bit of wandering about Manhattan, joining the crowds at Times Square and the joggers along the Hudson River shore. Also visited the Frick Museum and Museum of Modern Art, where I gawped at old and new(ish) masters respectively.
Since getting back, I’ve completed the UK copyediting for Solomon, which, rather excitingly, has now gone off to be proofed. US copyedit will be done this week. This morning I’ve drawn a rough map, which will hopefully be turned into something beautiful by an artist in the next couple of weeks. I’m also working on a couple of extra bits and pieces – the Cast of Characters list for the front, and a Note on Magic, which’ll also go at the beginning. In short… nearly there now!
25th May 2010
In New York this morning, looking out over sunny brown roofscapes towards Central Park. I'm here for the Book Expo tomorrow, where I'll do some signing and advance promoting of The Ring of Solomon. Which makes it rather a good job that I finished the book - or at least the second draft - three days ago! With great excitement and relief (because I was beginning to think I'd have to cancel coming to NY in order to get the draft done) I sent it off on Saturday. It's been a very intense few weeks of work, going through each of the 37 chapters (and adding a new one), revising what's gone before. Some bits didn't change much at all, but others were completely reworked. I do this with all my books, but I always forget just how tricky it is. But I think I'm just about there now.
The next couple of weeks will see the last bit of editing and copyediting, and I'm hoping there'll be time to do a map as well. I'll also be able to get on to all my months of letters that I've had to postpone while wrestling with Bart. Apologies again to everyone who's waiting!
The graphic novel is looking great too: the art will be finished in July, hopefully, and it'll be out (in the US) around the same time as the novel.
22nd April 2010
More silence in the journal! As you might guess, this is because I’m now working through the revisions for The Ring of Solomon. I got lots of good feedback from my editors just before Easter, and since then I’ve been doing the necessary tinkering. The book’s pretty close, but there are a couple of things I need to iron out, which are taking a while. I reckon I’ll still be working on it for another 2-3 weeks, before it’ll go off for a (fairly rapid) copyedit.
In the meantime, my traditional apologies to everyone who’s waiting to a reply to their letters. I’ll be in touch before too long!
Back last summer I recorded an interview with BBC’s Blue Peter online – and I’ve now been sent the link. Check it out here.
Regarding Ring of Solomon’s publication, a few things are falling into place. It looks like the first edition to appear will be the German one. I’ll be launching this at the Frankfurt bookfair on October 9th. The UK edition will follow almost immediately: publication is intended for October 14th. The US edition will, I think, follow at the beginning of November. All this relies on me actually FINISHING the thing, though!
Speaking of which… I’ve got to get back to the Desert of Zin.
29th March 2010
Off to London tomorrow to meet my editors and hear the verdict on The Ring of Solomon. This is always a slightly nerve-wracking moment, but also essential and quite liberating. For months on end you work alone on the manuscript, making decisions and hoping they’ll turn out right. By the end, you’re hardly sure which way up to hold your pencil, let alone whether (say) the interaction between the characters is still working effectively. It’s essential, once you’ve finished a draft, to (a) have a break, and (b) see what other people think. After that comes (c) reading it again yourself, which is when you spot lots of mistakes and weak points you’d missed before.
I’ve successfully completed (a), having done almost nothing in the last couple of weeks except wander about blinking at the sun. A few days ago I helped plant lots of oak saplings in a new forest that’s being created near us – the perfect antidote to tapping at a computer indoors. The curious thing is that having not thought about the book at all for a fortnight, I now find that certain problems with it are already a lot clearer, and I’m fairly sure how I’ll tackle them (depending on what the editors say, of course…). After Easter, I’ll get stuck in to the revisions, which will hopefully be done by the end of April.
14th March 2010
Happy (belated) New Year! Sorry for not recording anything here for more than 3 months. Over the winter I went into seclusion, with just an irascible djinni for company, and the upshot of all this silence is that at the end of last week I finally finished the first complete draft of The Ring of Solomon, the new Bartimaeus novel.
It’s a good feeling.
Getting to this stage has been pretty intense, and I’ve neglected lots of things while I’ve been focused on Bart, so APOLOGIES to everyone who’s been waiting for a journal entry, and in particular to everyone who’s sent me letters recently – I’ll start writing back now.
My study looks like a Detonation has gone off in it. There are big piles of discarded manuscript sheets under my desk, other piles of unopened letters and bills, scattered artworks for the Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel and goodness knows what else. My next job (while I’m waiting for my editors to get back to me) has to be to do some spring-cleaning. But all this is outweighed by the big crisp manuscript sitting on the desk, glinting proudly in the afternoon sun.
I’m very excited by the way the novel’s turning out. There’s still work to be done, but I’ve really enjoyed the writing of it, and the finishing line is not far off.
Speaking of which, here’s the way the rest of the year is looking at the moment:
March-June: get editorial feedback on Bart, do second draft, complete copyediting etc.
October: The Ring of Solomon UK edition publishes
November: The Ring of Solomon US edition publishes
November: The Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel publishes
The Amulet graphic novel is looking fantastic. Lee Sullivan (the artist) is up to the big Westminster Hall sequence in the middle of the book, and Nic Chapuis (the colourist) isn’t far behind. The art is superb. Meanwhile Andrew Donkin (the adaptor) and I have got the script up to the end of part II. There are a few more frenzied months working on this, but the end result is going to be well worth it.
More soon (honest)!
30th November 2009
Not much to report, except for the essentials, which are that the new Bart book continues apace and I’m pleased with the way it’s looking so far. Haven’t done much of any significance at all in the last few weeks, apart from write. Of course, that’s the way it’s got to be, but it makes for a fairly tedious journal… Oh well. Mind you, this week will be different: I’m off to New York tomorrow for some meetings with my US publishers; and after that back to London to see my UK ones, to talk through the schedule for next year and the whole Bartimaeus campaign. It looks like publication will be relatively early next autumn, though the exact dates aren’t yet fixed. I shall report more soon.
With luck a German edition will be out around the same time as the UK/US, providing there’s time to get the translation completed. The long and short of it all is I mustn’t play fast and loose with my deadlines… And that in turn means I’d better get back to work!
9th November 2009
Seems like a million years since I last wrote a journal entry, and the main culprit is a certain djinni. Even though I’ve been working on the Bartimaeus project for over a year, it’s suddenly shifted into high gear, and I’m finding it hard to concentrate on other things. Journals have been ignored, letters likewise, and all sorts of changes have taken place outside my window and I haven’t paid attention. The balmy Indian summer of September and October has vanished, and the cold of autumn suddenly set in. Mists hang on the roads, the last of the leaves have fallen from the wild cherry and spread like spilt wine across the garden. John Keats would be dancing with delight. Do I notice any of this? Nope. I flip between page and computer screen, trying to do the four pages a day that will enable me to roughly meet my first draft deadline (Feb, since you’re asking). There’s still lots to do, and new ideas keep altering old ones, so I have to subtly rejig how the book is going to work – but that’s all part of the fun.
Meanwhile my short story Bob Choi’s Last Job has just been published (US/UK), as part of The Dragon Book. I haven’t actually seen a copy yet, but am very excited: going by the impressive array of other writers involved, it should be a mighty volume! I’ll add a page to the website soon with a bit of extra material about my piece. As long as I can briefly prise myself away from Bart, that is . . .
19th October 2009
The Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel is proceeding well, though there’s plenty left to do. It’s put together in a kind of ‘stepped’ procedure, with several different people working on separate stages at the same time. Currently, for example, Andrew Donkin, who’s adapting it, has got the script up to the point where Bart goes to Pinn’s of Piccadilly. Meanwhile, Lee Sullivan, who’s the artist, is busily using the existing script to draw the inks for the early Nat chapters (when we see the years of his apprenticeship). Meanwhile the colourist, Nic Chapuis, is applying colour to the inks that Lee’s already completed showing Bart stealing the Amulet from Lovelace’s in chapter 4. Meanwhile the very first chapter, which has been adapted, inked and coloured, has gone to the letterer to start fixing the text boxes and balloons in position. It’s a pretty complicated procedure, but everything is working really well: chapter one, even without the text added, looks stunning, and I can’t wait to watch the rest of the adaptation take shape.
A lovely Japanese edition of Heroes of the Valley turned up last week. To take a look at the cover, click here.
9th October 2009
Bart update: For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a revised chapter plan, drawing together all the things I’ve been writing, switching them about, seeing how I need to join them up. I’ve ended up with a 12-page synopsis, allegedly showing me exactly where I now need to go. Of course, it’ll be hopelessly wrong in places, but I won’t find out how until I’ve spent the next few weeks writing my response to it. For me, constructing a book is a see-saw process, oscillating between feverish scribbling (which is when all the really creative stuff happens) and system-building (when I try to make it into a coherent whole). All a bit messy, but it gets me there in the end.
Went to Dublin last weekend, to host a Writers’ Workshop. It was run by Inkwell (visit their site at www.inkwellwriters.ie/), and was a tremendous experience. I did a chat, then asked the 18 assembled writers to do several exercises, each revolving around fantasy. So, for instance, they were given a random picture of a kid, plus one of a generic fantasy character (a wizard or a warrior, say), and asked to write rapid character descriptions of each. In just five minutes. I wasn’t sure this would be anything like enough time, but was bowled over by the amazing variety of work produced – beautiful descriptions, lots of humour… It reminded me that often the best results happen when you don’t think or plan too much, but just jump straight in, and see where your imagination takes you.
22nd September 2009
A busy weekend: to the University of Warwick on Saturday to do a quick talk to the Youth Libraries Group annual conference, then to Bath the following day for an event at the Youth Literature Festival there. Both went well; but now (apart from a quick trip to Dublin at the beginning of October) I’m going to shut my doors and hunker down a bit. I need to concentrate on Bart for the next few months.
Meanwhile the project proceeds apace. One of the things I’ve been working from is a Bart story I wrote three years ago, while I was creating this website. I was originally going to put it online, but I soon realised that it had too much potential to be made public so quickly. So it sat around quietly while I was writing Heroes and I’ve been expanding and adapting it ever since.
Just received my first copies of The Ghost of Shadow Vale, which looks fantastic! Great illustrations. I’ll add some more info about this title shortly in the Books section of this site.
Not long either before The Dragon Book is published. Anderson Press are developing a website for it, and you can already download an excerpt from my story (‘Bob Choi’s Last Job’) online. Check it out now at www.thedragonbook.co.uk.
4th September 2009
Here’s some news. I’m working on a new Bartimaeus project. Actually, I’ve been working on it, off and on, for about a year now, with a big break in the middle to do the Heroes tours. I’ve kept pretty quiet about it up until now for a variety of reasons, partly because I wanted to be sure it was going to work, and partly because I wanted to get the contractual side of things sorted. But (at long last) I think the time’s right to go on the record about it here. The current plan is to aim for an autumn 2010 publication, both in the US and UK, which would be fantastic, and also match up nicely with the proposed publication of the Amulet graphic novel, about the same time. If this is going to work out, though, I’m going to have to write my socks off for the next six months or so, because there’s still a LOT of work to do. Currently Bart resides in two slightly garish pink ring- binders, one comprising text and the other notes. The aim is to turn all this into a nice, neatly stacked pile of manuscript by the spring.
As for the details of the book… small things like plot and structure are still proving slightly fluid, so I won’t make any public predictions just yet. But I’ll let you know more right here, just as soon as I can. In the meantime, I suppose I’d better get back to work. I’ve got a djinni waiting.
1st September 2009
Had a great visit to Edinburgh for the Literature Festival last week. On the Sunday Adele Geras and I did a joint talk, comparing our approaches to myth and legend in Heroes of the Valley and Adele’s Dido. It’s the first time I’ve done a double-header chat like this, and we had a lot of fun interrogating each other about our books. Adele asked me about violence, the role of women and the portrayal of teenagers in Heroes, while I wondered about her depiction of love, free will and heroism in general.
It’s fascinating to hear other authors talk about their work. Usually I zoom in to festivals, do my thing, then disappear into the night, and never get the chance to listen to anyone else. Edinburgh this year was different, though, as I stayed over and went to dinner with Adele, Anne Fine (of Mrs Doubtfire fame), Bali Rai (pictured) – in town to promote his new novel City of Ghosts, about the Amritsar Massacre – and Lucy Hawking, whose dad, the legendary Stephen, oddly enough went to the same school as me. It was nice to intersect with other writers for a bit, before we all stomped off to resume our solitary ways.
The following morning I had another good event, followed by a few sunny hours lounging around the festival compound in the company of Bali and the Australian writer Lili Wilkinson, whom I last met in Melbourne on the other side of the world. All very pleasant: the kind of day an author should have once in a while!
19th August 2009
Had some good news recently from the USA: Heroes of the Valley was one of six books chosen to be distributed to the children of American servicemen and women in special backpacks, along with snacks, Frisbees and other nice things. A few weeks ago, President Obama and his family joined hundreds of Congressional family members to help prepare 15,000 of the backpacks. The book donations were co-ordinated by First Book, which supplies books to children in need (see www.firstbook.org); the packs were part of the United We Serve initiative (click here for more details), which President Obama has set up to encourage Americans to take part in local community service projects during the summer. It’s an honour to have been part of these initiatives, in a small way.
To London yesterday to do a video interview for BBC’s Blue Peter – it’ll appear on their website in a few weeks. This was great, partly because it gave me the chance to wear a Blue Peter badge – something I coveted as a kid! After that I visited Anderson Press and recorded a quick interview for their Dragon Book website, which is coming soon. I’ll post links to both these interviews when the clips are up and running.
13th August 2009
Some good publication news: The Dragon Book, to which I contributed the short story ‘Bob Choi’s Last Job’, is being published in the UK on the same day (November 3rd) as the US edition. The US publisher is Penguin Putnam, and it’s now been bought by Anderson Press in the UK. I’ve just been through the proof of my bit, and it looks like a really great anthology. Can’t wait to see the real thing.
I’ve made a zealous mid-year resolution to try to read a new book each week – for years I’ve never given myself enough reading time, and since it’s one sure-fire way of learning new techniques for my own writing, there’s no excuse not to remedy the situation! First on my list was Adèle Geras’ Dido, a fascinating take on the classical myth of Dido and Aeneas. Adèle and I are doing a talk together at the Edinburgh Festival on 23rd August (at 5.00 pm – see www.edbookfest.co.uk for details) about how myths have influenced our books. It should be an interesting contrast since Heroes of the Valley stems from the Norse tradition, while Dido is Classical; Dido has a mazy structure, full of flashbacks, while Heroes, essentially, is linear; Dido is (primarily) about female responses to love and passion, while Heroes is about a short, stumpy bloke attempting traditionally male heroic deeds. In some ways complete opposites, the books actually complement each other rather nicely. Anyhow, if you’re up in Edinburgh next weekend, come and hear us chat about it… In the meantime check out Adèle’s books at www.adelegeras.com.
31st July 2009
It’s been ages since my last journal entry – partly explained by an excellent holiday in Cornwall. The weather, as is traditional with all British summer holidays, was ‘mixed’, which meant we had to seize the occasional blasts of sunshine and zoom down to the beach for body-boarding and swimming, before retreating in haste to ancient pubs or tea-rooms while the rain hammered down. All good fun, though: north Cornwall is a very beautiful area, where the rugged Atlantic coastline gives onto gently pitching hills separated by hidden forested valleys. Lots of medieval manor houses tucked away amid the lanes, as well as more famous sites such as Tintagel (not really King Arthur’s birthplace, but pretty spectacular nonetheless). To get into the spirit of the area I read Jamaica Inn by local writer Daphne du Maurier (of Rebecca fame), but after a good juicy start it all went badly wrong. The heroine was, I suppose, fairly brave and spirited by the standards of the 1930s, (when it was written), but she still tended to faint at key moments, and spend all her time being helped out (or threatened) by strappingly glowering men. All a bit hysterical and over-wrought for my liking.
Anyway: home again, and back to work on the NEW BOOK. It’s already been contracted by my American publishers, and an excerpt is being looked at now by my British ones. Once, hopefully, all the contractual stuff is out of the way I hope to be able to write something about it here. Watch this space . . .
18th June 2009
Lee Sullivan, the artist working on the Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel, has drawn all the Trilogy’s major characters in a series of ‘police line-ups’, with them standing against height charts in the manner of The Usual Suspects. It’s a great way to check that all the proposed heights and shapes work properly, before the real drawing begins. He also shows how the characters alter over the three books. So not only can we compare, for example, Sholto Pinn (6’ tall, but very broad and bulky) with Arthur Underwood (a somewhat scrawny 5’6’’) or Jessica Whitwell (5’9’’), but we can see how Nat and Kitty grow and change during the 5 years and more of the story. Kitty is particularly complex, as we’ll ultimately have to see her at four different ages – as she is in the ‘present day’ of each of the three books, and also in the flashbacks in The Golem’s Eye, back to when she was younger even than in Amulet. It’s all a bit complex, and makes my head spin, but Lee’s got it well in hand. The tallest characters, incidentally, not including Jabor (7’6’’ if you include his jackal ears) and certain sinister members of the Night Police, will be Lovelace (a little over 6’) and Verroq, the Mercenary (the same sort of height, and muscular with it). Bart as Ptolemy remains the same height throughout: in Amulet he’s on a level with Nat, but by book III, is almost a foot shorter than his ‘master’. Lots of subtle implications; it’s the sort of thing you don’t think about clearly until you see it laid out in front of you…
4th June 2009
Working hard on the new project, which I’ll hopefully be able to talk more about sometime over the summer. Ideal writing conditions: outside we’ve got blue skies, the heavy greenness of the trees, bright sun and silence; inside it’s cool and dark and orderly, with creative chaos confined to the books and papers on my desk.
Went to the Hay on Wye Literary Festival last week and did a talk on Heroes. Showed the Heroes trailer on a big screen behind me, as well as various covers etc. Hay is a very exciting festival to be part of: zillions of people, hundreds of writers of every conceivable shape, size and degree of fame, piles of strawberries, mountains of ice cream, tv crews, side-stalls, tents and tea, with lovely green hills peeping over it all. One day I’ll come as a punter and enjoy watching the shows myself, but this was a flying visit – a quick trip into the town for a rum-and-raisin ice cream below the castle, and then the long drive home.
The Heroes site has now been nicely updated: it’s got examples of my notes and sketches, as well as a couple of unseen bits of writing – the very first thing I wrote for the book, and a late, discarded, chapter.
The first bit of text for the Amulet graphic novel has come in. Looks superb, even though all the pictures are currently conjured by words only. Next thing is for some thumbnail sketches of the first meeting between Nat and Bart to be drawn up… Can’t wait to see them.
19th May 2009
Last Wednesday I flew to Luxembourg, and from there took an hour’s taxi ride to Saarbrücken, where the 9th European Children and Young Person’s Book Fair was taking place. The road led through endless darkly wooded hills of the Saarland, the valleys between studded with towns in which vast black furnaces and factories sat hunched like colossal alien dragons over the surrounding homes. In Saarbrücken itself the main building is less brooding – a pleasant 18th-century schloss, perched on a small hill beyond the autobahn. Here the Book Fair took place, a delightful and relaxing five-day event, with artists and writers from many countries talking to bus-loads of children from Germany and France.
On the first evening I met Sally Nicholls, whose debut novel Ways to Live Forever has had enormous success: we did an interview with a local paper, and found we had a lot in common, despite the very different books we write. All authors, in some way, are seeking to fashion their own created worlds which reflect, like imperfect mirrors, aspects of the human experience, who and what we are. The problems and strategies we use to tackle this are more often than not pretty similar, regardless of whether the result is a book about a boy with Leukaemia, or a short, stumpy would-be hero.
I was also delighted to meet the artist and author Julian Press, whose father Hans-Jürgen Press wrote The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang, one of the earliest and best interactive gamebooks for children, which I loved as a kid. Julian is continuing his father’s stories now, and if they’re anything like as good, I’d highly recommend them.
On Thursday and Friday I did a couple of talks about Heroes of the Valley up in the schloss, and had excellent question and answers sessions with the audience, as well as taking part in the ‘Summerlist’, a selection of books chosen by a children’s jury, and introduced by them on stage. It was all a great experience, imbued with the love of books: I drove back to Luxembourg through rain-lashed hills eager to get on with the next one…
Friday 8th May 2009
Just realised a whole month and more has gone by without a journal entry! It’s been a quiet period – a lot of writing, a lot of outdoor work: trees felled, ground cover cleared away. The weather’s been good, mainly – the first flourish of the sun after the long drab days of winter. I throw my office window open and let the fresh air in to galvanise my mind.
Have been reconstructing the Heroes site, adding material about the writing process. This revamp should be ready soon. Also had a very exciting meeting about the Bartimaeus graphic novel, looking through early character sketches with the illustrator Lee Sullivan and the adaptor Andrew Donkin. Some brilliant things already: it’ll take shape over the rest of the year.
Otherwise I’m working on a new project, which I hope will gel over the summer months. Since it’s too early to talk much about it, here instead are a few of the books on the shelf above my desk:
Is there a pattern visible here? Maybe.
The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Civilisations
The Arabian Nights
Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore
Dictionary of the Bible
Procopius’ The Secret History
A History of the Arab Peoples
Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy
Herodotus: The Histories
Dictionary of the Ancient Near East
Wednesday 25th March
A busy final day of touring for Heroes (these events had been postponed from last month). I met my publicist Georgia at Euston station and took the train up to Coventry, where I did a talk and signing at Westwood School. I tried a different structure to my earlier events, inspired by the readings Florian and I did in Germany. I focused a bit more on the character Aud, as well as Halli – and read out the bit when they get into a spot of trouble on the moors. It seemed to work well. Then a car journey across to Stourport, and Stourport High School, where we had a fantastic reception and a really great event; one of the nicest I’ve done. Then up to Halesowen, just outside Birmingham, to the Earls High School for an evening show. I’ve been here several times before and the events are always great: 18 months ago at a talk here I read out a fragment of Heroes in public for the first time. Now it was nice to come back and wrap up this whole period of touring at the same venue. A perfect symmetry!
Wednesday 18th March
This evening I went to the Charlotte Street Hotel in London for the Book Video Awards ceremony. It was held in a fantastic mini-cinema in the hotel basement – all comfy red seats and snug, sumptuous feel. The kind of place that movie moguls have in their houses. At the drinks before hand I met Leevi Lemmetty, the director of the Heroes of the Valley trailer. He was a great guy; he’s from Finland and, while waiting for the funding to do a planned, full-length movie, is working on many short projects. You can see some of his films at his website (www.leevilemmetty.com). He did all the animation for the Heroes trailer himself, and this took him 4 months. I can’t believe the amount of effort that goes into making animations – or indeed any movie. You need to get money, locations, actors, props… It’s so much more complicated than writing, where all you really need is paper and pen (or computer) and a bit of peace and quiet. Everyone trooped into the auditorium and watched the three award-winning trailers on the big screen. As well as Leevi’s, we saw trailers for Malorie Blackman’s Double Cross and Jacqueline Wilson’s My Sister Jodie. All were good, but (biased as I am) I think Leevi’s was the best!
Saturday 14th March 2009 Munich
My last full day in Germany began with a quick hike to Cologne airport and an hour’s flight to Munich. I got to my hotel, had lunch, considered collapsing on my bed, but levered myself back to the vertical and headed out for the last talk, at yet another elegant Literature House, this one a fascinating mix of modern architecture and original old-style shell. The event was held up on the top floor: a wonderful space with glass walls looking out over the ancient roof-tops of the city. We had a big audience, and a great mix of young and old; for the last time, Florian and I did out double act, and then I plunged into my last hour of signing. A couple more interviews afterwards and the tour was officially over... It just remained to stroll through the Munich dusk to the centre of town and a traditional Bavarian restaurant, where with vast platters of roast pork and long glasses of local beer, my publishers and I toasted what had been (for me) a hugely enjoyable week. We’d been north, south, east and west, seen cathedrals and devils, talked to hundreds of people in theatres, loft-spaces, cinemas and festival halls, drunk beer in big glasses and small ones, travelled by train, plane and taxi, and crammed it all into 6 excellent days.
The next day I flew home to recover.
Friday 13th March 2009 Cologne
Walking around inside a converted water-tower is an unnerving experience: for some reason the round exterior makes the interior layout very confusing (all the rooms radiate out from the middle in the same way; all the levels are the same; there are not any windows visible in the interior). But I just about managed to find my way out to do several interviews before the afternoon’s event at the Arcadas Theatre across the centre of Cologne. Our show was part of the Cologne Literary Festival, a major event with hundreds of performances going on. We had a good sized audience – the biggest of the tour; nearly 200 people crammed into the steep seating. I couldn’t really see any of them – the lights were bright, and the auditorium very dark. But it was one of our best performances: Florian and I are a well-oiled unit by now.
Two more interviews afterwards, and then back to the Hotel Wasserturm for dinner and rejuvenation, before going out to the Cologne Philharmonic Hall for a big literary show. For once I was in the audience, and was able to relax and enjoy 2 hours of literary readings and light jazz. It was all about food in one way or another, and because it was in German I didn’t understand too much, apart from a bit at the end when someone dressed as a spaceman read a Douglas Adams excerpt about an animal who wants to be eaten and comes out to tell the diners which bits of him they ought to try. After this entertainment we went to a big Literary Festival party, and sat about feeling civilised and trying crisp Cologne beer in small glasses. I also had a nice conversation with the American author Adam Davies, who is a big Bartimaeus fan. Then out into the early hours of the morning, past the gothic immensity of Cologne Cathederal, and back to the water tower.
Friday, March 13th 2009 Frankfurt
A morning drive through Leipzig saw us pass through various stages in German history. From the beautiful historic centre, we drove past glum buildings from the Communist era, fading factories and weary apartment blocks, out to the countryside and the glittering, modern airport. A doze on the short plane ride to Frankfurt, and then a train ride into the centre, where my German editor Martina was waiting. After lunch we wandered on foot round the city, which is much more approachable than my memories of the super-giant Book Fair (located in a vast series of halls on the edge of town) would have suggested. Roman ruins, elegant Romanesque churches, lovely half-timbered merchant houses, charming squares and the vigorous river Main: I’d have liked more time to explore, but we had to head for the Literatur Haus – a fantastic classical building close beside the river.
This was one of the best readings we did: a great audience, mainly children, some German, others from International schools. Lots of interaction, lots of enthusiasm. It’s great listening to Florian reading in German – though I don’t understand it, I can hear the rhythms of the language, and see how he uses them to draw his audience in. Interestingly, when it came to the covers of Heroes, all the German kids preferred the German cover, while the International school pupils preferred the British one. Shows how important it is to get the look right for each country’s culture.
Another trademark scamper to the train station, and a trip across to Cologne, where we all staggered in, somewhat weary after our efforts in Leipzig the day before. I had barely time to explore my hotel – built inside what had been Europe’s largest water-tower – before I dragged my leaden limbs to bed.
Thursday 12th March 2009 Leipzig
A really busy day. First, a taxi out of town to a big, modern, business centre complex where the Leipzig Book Fair was taking place under a number of great glass domes. The place was thronging with a bustling, pleasant mix of publishers, booksellers and ordinary readers young and old. In the main halls were hundreds of booths, where publishers sold stock, authors did readings, and fans queued to get things signed.
Our first appointment was at a public booth, where Florian and I hopped on stage and did a short talk with sketches and readings, to a mainly young audience. Then I had to zoom off to the central forum of the fair, where, on a high pedestal, a big blue sofa was perched, surrounded by milling crowds. On ‘das blaue sofa’ I was interviewed for half an hour about Heroes, discussing issues such as the role of women in my books, and the issue of violence. Then some photographs were taken, and a couple of interviews, before another reading and signing in a different booth. It was all very hectic and exciting, and I felt filled with the buzz of the fair.
Late afternoon: a taxi ride in heavy rain to the medieval heart of Leipzig, and the not-so medieval Cinestar cinema, where we did a third show in one of the main auditoria. It was a fantastic location: all plush red chairs and carpet, and we got a good sized audience, containing many fans. Then to a much-needed meal at the Weinsock restaurant, and a late night trip to the Auerbach beer cellars where Goethe set a famous scene from his great work Faust. It was here that the devil Mephisto performed marvels for the magician Faust: statues commemorating the event stand above the steps to the vaults, and in the Mephisto bar above, where we had a final glass of wine, the devil occasionally appears in a two-way mirror, while demonic laughter rings from above. I feel sure that Bartimaeus must have been here at some time; it was an appropriate place to end an excellent day.
Wednesday 11th March 2009
Our hotel was in Potsdamer Strasse, a region of vast modern buildings, cinemas and leisure facilities, constructed (I guess) since the reunification. From the roof we could see the brown expanse of the Tiergarten stretching out into the old West Berlin; our road this morning took us in the opposite direction, to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the grand thoroughfare of the main street, Unter den Linden.
A block from the Reichstag, we found a TV studio, filled first with seating, and then with two classes of kids who had come to take part in ‘quergelesen’, a Children’s Book show. The first half was easy; we sat at the back while Marc, the presenter, and the audience, discussed their favourite books for the camera. A quick break, and now it was our turn. We hopped up on stage and did our readings, drawings and chat, before lots of great questions from the children. Our bit took well over an hour, but it’ll be whittled down to a four or five minute segment for the TV show. I guess it’s a bit like boiling something down to a nice, nutritious stock or soup. It was a fun morning, chaotic but full of happy energy.
I did an interview over lunch, and then headed down beyond Unter den Linden to the Babylon Cinema, a rather fine building, possibly Art Deco (I can never remember exactly what this style is), decorated on the walls with black and white photos of film stars from the 1970s, for our late afternoon event. It was quite a small turn-out, but but that made it nice and intimate. The audience was varied too; it included Jasmin, who was 8 and attending her first ever author talk; Ina, who wrote short stories, and with whom I discussed methods of figuring out structure, and Katharina Orgath, who with Gerald Jung translated both Heroes and Bartimaeus into German. It was such a nice discussion that Florian, Malte and I ended up late for our train: we took a frantic taxi ride back to the station and ran pell-mell down a series of escalators to leap into the Leipzig train just as the doors were closing.
Late evening: dinner at the hotel. Remarkable for the most almighty cheese trolley, a vast box which looked like the kind of thing in which a magician might saw someone in half; also rather like a coffin on wheels. When opened, it contained more than 50 varieties; the eruption of their odours was like being struck about the face (in a good way). We sampled about 12, including one which tasted rather like pepper and soap. Then, much needed: bed.
Tuesday 10th March
Greetings from Germany, where I’m in the middle of the latest part of my Heroes tour! I set off early on Tuesday, flying from Heathrow to Hamburg, where I held my first event in the Literaturhaus. One really civilised thing in the big German cities are the Literature Houses, often very beautiful buildings where authors and readers can come together. They have rooms for events and talks, but also cafes, restaurants, reading rooms, newspaper collections, bookshops... Small children and elderly gentlemen, mothers and students: everyone is welcome – there’s nothing quite like them in the UK, which is a shame.
First off, I met with Malte, my publicist from cbj, my publisher, and Florian Fischer (pictured with our suitcases), a well-known actor and my ‘voice’ in Germany. The way my events work here is for me to talk a little about the book, with Florian translating, do some little sketches here and there, and intersperse that with Florian reading passages in German. It seems to work pretty well, and it’s great to hear scenes brought to life in a different language. I follow the text in German, and each time decipher a little more.
Lunch: an interview with Lars Schiele of NAUTILUS sci-fi and fantasy magazine, and then a taxi tour of Hamburg on a grey, rain-lashed afternoon. A city of contrasts, it seemed, extensive sections of large villas and elegant lakes and rivers sitting close by the grimier, but more interesting, harbour regions. Great expanses of cranes, docks, ferries and container ships; magnificent and in some cases very old warehouse buildings on the quay fronts, steep roofed and seven stories high; cantilever winches projected from topmost apertures, with Persian carpets swinging down to waiting vans.
At the Literaturhaus I had some photos taken, then we did our event, up on a little stage, with about 70 people sitting around us at tables. Florian and I did our performance, then answered a few questions: it was a very convivial atmosphere: golden light from the lamps, high ceilings with elegant plasterwork, mirrors, the night pressing in against the windows. A signing afterwards, then we had to hop in a cab and race to the station for the train out East. We spent the two-hour journey hunkered down in the restaurant car, sampling good food and Hamburg beer, and alighted in the great city of Berlin.
9th March 2009
Not long before the final German leg of the tour kicks off! In the meantime I’ve been replying to letters (some appallingly late), working with a language consultant on the adaptation of the story of the hero Grettir (The Ghost of Shadow Vale – due out later this year), and enjoying a mock-up of the cover for The Dragon Book (out November in USA), for which I’ve contributed a story. All this has whetted my appetite for scribbling. When I get back from Germany, it’ll be time to stop travelling and get writing again…
6th March 2009
The last few weeks have seen a slight lull in the Heroes schedule, although I’ve done a number of one-off events, including a great visit to Hereford Cathedral School in the historic heart of the old town, to Kingshott School in Herts, and a World Book Day trip to South Hampstead High School, where I was treated to a fine lunch of healthy fruit and not-so-healthy doughnuts while chatting with some of the girls. After this last talk I ambled into central London, to the Royal Academy, to see the exhibition on Byzantium, a civilisation I’ve been interested in ever since reading John Julius Norwich’s excellent history. (My favourite Byzantine Emperor = Heraclius, who Bartimaeus served at one time…). Despite my enthusiasm, I found Byzantine art a bit of a tough sell: hugely religious and devotional, incredibly skilful, but (in these more agnostic times) hard to empathise with. My favourite things in the exhibition were a child’s hooded tunic, in perfect condition despite being more than a 1000 years old, and some ordinary household pots, decorated with zany, almost cartoony, birds and fish.
Then to the British Museum with my agent, Laura, to see a performance of the Mesopotamian Creation myth zestfully told by a storyteller, with beautiful accompanying music on harp, oud (a kind of lute, I think) and tambourines. The myth was beautiful and vivid – a 4000-year old tale still alive and kicking.
26th February 2009
The final leg of the UK tour was completed earlier this month, with some great events.
On Tuesday 10th Feb I took the train out west to Bristol, past flooded fields and landscapes still striated with snow, in time for a morning talk at Redland Green School, an amazing new school constructed like a kind of massive wedge jutting from a hillside above the city. A single curving avenue descended through the heart of the building, with several storeys of classrooms, halls and gyms rising like canyon walls on either side. We did a fun event here, then drove at speed to the elegant Georgian city of Bath, to Kingswood School, as gothic and (somewhat) Hogwartsian as Redland Green was futuristic. My event here took place in a beautiful chapel set on another hillside: it was a day of fine architecture and lovely views.
Wednesday 11th Feb: I drowsed on an early morning taxi ride through thick fog and sea mists, out of Bristol and over the magnificent Severn Bridge to Wales. The mists held close around the car until we climbed to the apex of the bridge’s curve – then we suddenly burst out under blue sky, above a world of boiling white vapours, with trees, promontories and headlands swimming in the depths below. A few days ago the blizzards had left the bridge dangerously overhung with ice: the army had been drafted in to drive tanks back and forth across it so that the ice came loose and shattered.
In Chepstow I visited the pleasant school of St John’s on the Hill, where I spoke to a hundred or more pupils, another very enjoyable talk. Then back to England, and an increasingly frantic drive to Devizes School in Wiltshire, as it became evident we were going to be late: in the end I arrived about 20 minutes after I should have been speaking, bursting at last into a hall where 200 patient souls had been listening to excerpts from Heroes in my absence. I rattled through a truncated version of the talk in double-quick time: it was a great shame I was late for this, because it was a great and lively audience, but I enjoyed a leisurely interview for the school magazine afterwards.
After that: tea with my friend Karen of the lovely Wellwisher Children’s Bookshop, and then another great event in a chapel, this time belonging to St Mary’s School, Carne. As always it was a pleasure to chat with newcomers to my books, as well as some old fans.
Thursday 12th Feb: A single event to finish the tour with, but a fine one it was, at John Hampden Grammar School in High Wycombe. The talk went well and we had a fantastic signing afterwards, giving me a spring in my step as I tottered homewards. It’s been a really wonderful few weeks, both here in the UK and in the States: I’ve spoken to several thousand people, travelled zillions of miles and enjoyed every minute of it.
16th February 2009
The first thing I saw when I got back from the States was a fantastic animated Heroes trailer, which you MUST check out! It’s by Leevi Lemmetty, and is one of three videos entered for the 2009 Book Video Awards. See it at here and cast your vote! I think it’s a brilliant visualisation of the book’s prologue – both Trows and heroes are beautifully realised.
Tuesday 3rd February: Chicago, Illinois
A travel glitch for the first time on the tour: my flight to Chicago was cancelled, so I hung about at St Louis airport for an extra hour or two this morning. Spent the time writing, and also reading an excellent book: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, about a father and son travelling through a post-apocalyptic world that can no longer support life. Gruelling, horrifying, remorseless, and a beautiful portrayal of our capacity for love - and all written in
sinewy, poetic language as vivid as a flashlight in the dark.
Arrived in Illinois around lunchtime to find grey skies, a few snowflakes and a strong wind whipping in from Lake Michigan. Drove to a warehouse the size of two city blocks and signed 560 copies of Heroes of the Valley; they'll be distributed to stores around the States. Then into Chicago itself, grand and soaring, where I had a couple of hours to wander up and down Michigan Avenue, gawping at all the swanky stores. In the evening I drove out to an outlying suburb, La Grange, and did my final US event at a Borders there. As with every stop on my 10 day odyssey, I met only kindness, hospitality and enthusiasm from everyone. It's been a wonderful trip, and a privilege to talk with so many readers, fans and friends.
Monday 2nd February: St Louis, Missouri
Watched Prince Caspian last night at my hotel. Not actually too bad - they'd filled out the CS Lewis original cunningly, adding some good scraps. But some of the lead acting was dreadful, and they never stopped the action long enough to fill out the characterisation or atmosphere. Off to St Louis, Missouri this morning - the gateway to the West. From the aeroplane we could clearly see the city's symbol - the Gate, a giant arch the height of a skyscraper - gleaming in the winter sun. On ground level I visited a couple of stores for stock signing, then in the evening went to the St Louis County Library for an excellent event, with a really nice and varied audience. I didn't just sign books afterwards - two sisters each brought their jeans for me to scribble on: they'd already got several notable author signatures on them, including Eoin Colfer, Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson... One man, a reservist in the US army, told me how the Bartimaeus Trilogy had given him great pleasure and a means of imaginative escape during his year serving in Afghanistan - this meant a great deal to me.
Sunday 1st February: Dallas, Texas
Drove out through endless low-lying suburbs, shrubby forests and vacant real estate to Houston’s Bush Airport, and caught a flight for the short hop to Dallas. Back home in the UK, reports emerge of unprecedented snowstorms, the worst for 18 years; here in Texas, the weather is benign. I discard my coat, and even my sweater, and enjoy the warmth of the summer sun. My Dallas escort, Janet, took me to a restaurant for a cheery lunch with Carolyn, Leigh-Ann and Katie, who work at the Dallas Museum of Art, and for the local Library authority. They’ve organised today’s event, at a school in a suburb of North Dallas. It was a fantastic auditorium, and I felt a bit nervous as I loitered in the wings as the crowd arrived. But I needn’t have worried; everyone was very enthusiastic, and most were Bartimaeus fans. I enjoyed the talk very much, going into Heroes with a bit more depth than usual, and doing an extra reading. Everyone hung around afterwards for the signing, which was great as today was Superbowl day, and most people were already at home with beer or popcorn. The streets were almost deserted as we drove downtown to take a look at the infamous place where Kennedy was assassinated. It was a strange, fleeting glimpse in the evening twilight: the Book Repository (from which, on the 6th floor, Oswald pulled the trigger) a deep blood-red colour; the road below banal and unremarkable, twisting down a gentle incline, with two white crosses painted on the tarmac, marking the points where the bullets struck. Despite that curiously exact reminder, the place seemed completely separate from the epochal events that happened there – events that live on in our collective consciousness, leaving this ordinary strip of road behind.
Saturday, January 31st: Houston, Texas
While the assembled booksellers of America were snoring in their beds, I went back to the airport and caught a flight to Houston. Again, the changing face of America below the window – the arid hills giving over to a sprawling agricultural landscape and, around Houston itself, vast olive-dark forests. Again, it would have been good to spend more time exploring, but after a quick stop off at the hotel I went straight to my event, one of my favourites of the tour, at Murder by the Book, a fantastic mystery store run by my friends McKenna and David. When I pitched up, a good crowd had already gathered, together with some ladies from Radio Disney, who’d been entertaining the troops through the afternoon. I did a chat, and talked and signed, and after doing stock signing ended up leaving the store when all was dark outside. David and Ann from the store took me to a Mexican restaurant and we ended up chatting about old movies for the rest of the evening. (My recommendations: The Innocents, a fantastic ghost story, and Night of the Hunter, a creepy but brilliant gothic fairy tale). Then bed. I’d been asleep for about 5 minutes when a massive mirror crashed off my wall, smashing into a zillion pieces. I checked the room for ghosts or revenants, found nothing, and went to sleep
Friday 30th January: Salt Lake City, Utah
At some frighteningly early hour I got a cab to the airport and caught a plane to Salt Lake City. Out of the window stretched mountains and wastes, snow fields glittering in the sun, twisting rivers surrounded by vast brown alluvial flatlands shining like spilled petrol, broken snags of rock, occasional straight dirt roads running with single-minded purpose through the twisted chaos of nature. At last to the left we saw a shimmering blueness: the Great Salt Lake, and the grid system of Salt Lake City hunkered below a range of beautiful white hills. It was my first visit here, and I was interested to see something of the city in between my commitments. I had lunch with Deborah from Disney and a new friend, Ben Esch, who’s just publishing his first novel with Hyperion, then Ben and I decided to go for an explore of the Temple precinct, the heart of the Mormon religion. We ambled over, and before we knew it were being conducted on a tour of the tabernacle and other key buildings (not the Temple itself, though – that’s out of bounds to non-Mormons), and hearing a little of the history of the settlement here by Bringham Young and his followers back in the 19th Century. Then back to the hotel, for a rest, and, in the evening, a visit to the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute, where many of the country’s independent booksellers were gathered for a conference. I signed copies of Heroes for a couple of hours, and met many old friends, and made some new ones: it all ended, late evening, with a jolly dinner. It would have been nice to stay at Salt Lake a while and explore it further, but I had to pack my bags, ready for another early start on the morrow.
Thursday 29th January: San Francisco
A fairly restful day, to begin with. No events until the evening. I pottered about the area local to my hotel, visiting Union Square, brousing in book and toy stores and eating healthy (well, big) breakfasts and lunches. In the afternoon I managed to get a bit of sleep, which was good because my body clock is still pretty skewed. At 4.30 Frank pulled up outside the hotel and we drove out of the city over the Bay Bridge to the bedroom community (or dormitory town, as we Brits would say) of Walnut Creek, sitting amid pretty hills below Mt Diablo. Here I did an evening event at a fine Barnes and Noble store, with some avid Bartimaeus fans who threw a few fairly tough questions at me about the relative powers of some of the djinn. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is that I meet fairly young readers (14, say) who talk about having read Bartimaeus ‘when I was young’ – I guess that it IS 3 years since Ptolemy’s Gate, which is a long old time for them. In an ideal world you’d produce a new book every year, to keep your readers continually at your side. But it takes longer, sometimes. After the event Frank and I drove back to SF, to the Mission district, where zillions of great restaurants run side by side with seamy dime stores, old used book stores, and the night-time streets thronged with young Bohemians, mad guys with cardboard guitars, down-and-outs and smart young couples. Went to an excellent Indian, ate chicken and eggplant curry and tottered off to bed.
Wednesday 28th January: Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA
The weather in San Francisco is beautifully balmy: cool sea winds in the morning replaced by gentle, warming golden sunlight. Frank and I drove north in early morning, out of the city: as always I’m agog at the seductive scenery all around. The bay was blue, the mountains clear and soft, the Bay Bridge gleamed a ruby red at the entrance to the Pacific. Even Alcatraz seemed somehow friendly and welcoming, which is saying something. We headed north along the highway, past eucalyptus woods and cow pastures, to the town of Petaluma, which is apparently (according to Frank) the duck, egg and wrist-wrestling capital of the world. Certainly there was a statue of some guys arm-wrestling in the centre of town. I didn’t see any eggs, though, and no ducks came to my event. This took place at McNear Elementary School; we were late arriving, and I had to bound forth upon the stage and get myself set up in double-quick time in front of several hundred kids. But all went well, and there were some fantastic questions from the audience. I signed a bit afterwards, then drove to the local bookstore, Copperfields, to sign stock, chat with old friends and eat a mysterious pistachio honey cake thing that dissolved deliciously in the mouth. Then further north along the freeway to Santa Rosa and the Maria Carrillo High School, for another fun talk, this one in a great big auditorium, with people from several schools shoehorned in. It went well, as did the signing afterwards; late afternoon, Frank and I made the long trip back to San Francisco, and finished with a slap-up seafood meal at an Italian restaurant in North Beach. A good, long day.
Tuesday 27th January: San Francisco
Another early start, another trip to the airport, and this time a long haul across the continent to San Francisco. Sitting alongside me was an aged gentleman whose pleasure it was, during the six hour flight, to chat: he didn’t read, or watch TV, or even doze much. But he did like to chat. To me. Responding warily I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that he wasn’t stopping at SF, but going on to Seattle. Gruelling enough, you may think, for an eighty-year old. But this wasn’t the half of it. What would he do in Seattle? ‘Oh, I probably won’t leave the airport.’ After three hours he would board a plane back to SF and then catch another back to Boston. His round trip would take him about 24 hours, 20 or so of them on planes. He did this all the time: he freely admitted to being addicted to flying. ‘I probably do 300,000 miles a year. If I didn’t travel, all I’d do would be to sit about the house.’ I think he liked the (captive) company that the planes afforded him; he was intelligent, beady-eyed and very, very talkative. It was a long six hours.
Authors arriving in new cities in America are given a local escort to show them round. Mine in San Francisco was an old friend, Frank Lauria, who I knew from one of the Bart tours. Frank is himself a writer, who was a bestseller years ago with books about a psychic hero, Doctor Orient. He dropped me off at my hotel, where I rested as best I could (keeping a wary eye out in case the old guy from the plane had somehow followed me), before travelling off to Books Inc at Laurel Village, for a really friendly evening event. Books Inc is a great local independent chain of booksellers, which I’ve visited before, though this was my first event at Laurel Village. Among the audience was David Thorn, who’s done the readings for the US audio editions of The Last Siege and Heroes of the Valley; it was the first time we’d met, which was a delightful bonus at the end of a long day.
Monday 26th January: Boston
A frighteningly early start and a car to La Guardia airport, where I took a plane to Boston. Blizzards were threatened in New England for later in the week, but today it was clear and crisp, and the approach to the airport across the sea was spectacularly beautiful. Everywhere in Boston old snow is piled high: crisp and white in the squares and parks, black and soiled beside the freeways. It was a mite parky. My publicist Jen Levine and I took a car out to the pleasant town of Wellesley, where a great bookstore, Wellesley Booksmith, had a couple of events arranged. The first was at the elegant, snow-bound Dana Hall, a girls’ school, where I sat in the lobby signing books for unwary passers-by, before doing a nice talk after lunch. [To see photos of the whole day, check out the online journal of Alison Morris of Wellesley Booksmith here. I then went back to my hotel in central Boston, had a coffee with an old friend from my York University days, and then returned to Wellesley for a fantastic evening event. Among the crowd was a boy and his dad who had come all the way from Cape Cod (I think) – it was a 2 hour journey, each way, which made me feel very humbled. It’s a lucky author who is blessed with such amazing readers!
Sunday 25th January: New York
A beautiful blue sky above New York, with Central Park’s snow gleaming bright across the street. Late morning, I took a car across to Broadway at 95th Street, and the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at Symphony Space. There was a neon strip sign above the lobby spelling out my event, among other forthcoming attractions, which I enjoyed greatly as I guess it technically means I’ve had my name in lights on Broadway... Inside I met the charming Katherine Minton, who runs the Kids’ Book Club here, and the equally urbane writer Matthew Cody (visit his site at www.matthewcody.com), who was going to lead the discussion with me and the audience. At 1.00 we went out on stage to meet our enthusiastic audience, and spent a very happy hour chatting about Heroes, Bartimaeus and writing in general. One great feature of the event was that the audience took part in a writing exercise inspired by our talk – they each did short pieces imagining members of their family as a hero. Several stories were read out, and all were much appreciated. Afterwards I did some signing and talking with everyone, and was really pleased to meet a pen-friend of mine called Maya, who’d come up from Pennsylvania. I spent the afternoon having an extended lunch with my lovely editor Jennifer, and then staggered back to my hotel, jet lag finally catching up with me. A great start to the tour!
24th January 2009 (continued)
Today was the start of the US tour, which'll see me visit eight cities over the next ten days. I got an early flight from Heathrow, and spent the seven hours eating, dozing, watching Indiana Jones 4 (much better than the dodgy reviews would have it, though a few hours later I'd forgotten pretty much everything in it), and staring out of the window at the broken pack ice of the North Atlantic - flat fields of fractured whiteness stretching to the horizon under thin twists of cloud. Soon Canada and Maine passed underneath - landscapes of snow, huddled houses and frozen lakes - and then we began the descent across Long Island towards JFK.
The immigration halls, where often I've been held up in hour-long queues, were practically deserted, and in record time I was ushered through and taken by car to my hotel by Central Park. The rest of the day was downtime; I took a frozen stroll through the park, skirting round piled ice, shivering inside my coat, marvelling at the joggers still skipping along the twisting paths. The trees were tangles of grey branches, their tops lit red and orange by the descending sun. Stayed up as late as I could (10 o'clock - 3 am UK time) then bed: tomorrow is the first event of the tour.
I’m writing this from my hotel in New York, having just arrived this afternoon. Earlier this week I completed the first part of my Heroes tour, doing three packed and hugely enjoyable days in the North of England. The tour went like this:
19th Jan: Nina, my publicist, and I started out in Doncaster, where I had my lovely first event at The Armthorpe School. Outside the weather was decidedly unpleasant, with rain gusting against the windows, but the audience, taken from several local schools, were great. I’m still working out what to say in my talks, and I’m improvising a bit each time, but it seemed to go ok. After signing some copies we took the train to Wakefield, where the weather worsened to a minor blizzard. I spoke that afternoon in the hall at Wakefield Grammar School, with a giant projection of my Heroes website on a screen behind me. This went well too; afterwards, in arctic conditions, we took the train north to York, where the great Minster was illuminated against the wintry night sky.
20th Jan: After a hearty breakfast we toddled over to St Olave’s School, not far from the medieval Bootham Bar, a great stone gate in the old walls. I’d been at St Olave’s during the Bart tours, and it was nice to be back. I spoke to a large audience from several schools, including one from the countryside north of York, which had sent its entire Year 6 to listen (this amounted to 2 pupils!). Then we zoomed across to Leeds and the Grammar School there, an ancient school recently rebuilt in the countryside outside the city and resembling a small town itself – a shimmering, shining labyrinth of corridors and chambers. Spoke to Year 8 in a sunlit hall, signed stock, then set off by car West over the Penines. The road lifted suddenly out of the heavily populated landscape into smooth, undulating humps of snow and nothingness. The lanes of the motorway passed on either side of an old farm house – the farmer having refused to sell up when the road was built. Now heavy traffic passes within a few feet of the walls on either side.
We came down out of the hills and into the city of Bolton, where vast neo-Victorian civic buildings housed a beautiful library where I did an evening event. It was fairly small, but great because of some Bart fans there, some of whom had also read Heroes (and seemed to approve). After this event, the third of the day, we drove down to Liverpool, and conked swiftly out.
21st Jan: This morning we drove past the great modern cathederals of Liverpool (the Anglican one of which is one of my favourite buildings – the gothic interior is breathtaking), to the town of Crosby and a wonderful theatre attached to the library there. We did a fantastic event with an audience of over 400, brought in from numerous schools. My only regret was that time was so pressing that I wasn’t able to chat properly with everyone as I signed books.
Then north to Kirkham for another great school event, this one at Carr Hill High School. Then off to Borders in Preston where, fortified with coffee and a giant slab of chocolate cake, I did my final talk of the three days, the eighth. By now I feel fairly well practised, and have been really chuffed by how good the book looks and how receptive the crowds have been. Then: train back to London, and home. Two days recuperation, ready for the US Tour....
Of which, more soon!
13th January 2009
Heroes was launched last week with a flurry of activity: on Thursday I zoomed in to Random House’s building in Ealing, where 500 copies were piled on a table like a diminutive Great Wall of China – I had to sign my way through them (took about 70 minutes): they’ll be sent off to booksellers round the country.
Then we had a small champagne toast to celebrate the book in the publisher’s offices, after which I was whisked off to the delightful Heywood Hill bookshop in Curzon St, Mayfair (www.heywoodhill.com )– a fantastically historic store with antiquarian books nestling alongside new ones, and stacks of books in brown paper parcels ready to be shipped off to readers far and wide. Here I did a bit more signing and an interview, then on to Pimlico for more interviews throughout the afternoon. One of them was with Sci-Fi-London, and was filmed: you can check out the interview along with a review at www.sci-fi-london.com.
The following day I did my first two official Heroes talks – the first at Francis Combe school, where I’ve been author in residence for a year, and the second at Loreto College, St Albans. Both events went well, and it was good fun to chat about the new book with the audiences.
On Saturday there was a great review of Heroes in The Guardian. You can take a look at this here.
6th January 2009
So, Heroes of the Valley is out at last, though I’ve not been to any shops to see it yet. It’s a great – and odd – feeling to know that something that’s been so private for so long is suddenly public. And I’m about to go out into the wider world too – starting on Thursday, when I’ll do some signings and interviews in London. In preparation I’ve been dusting off my smarter clothes, discovering moth holes and other horrors, and hurrying off to buy new garments so I don’t look too much like a blinking-eyed hermit when I venture out into the light.
A couple of days ago I got my first copies of the US edition, which looks fantastic – beautifully produced and handsome – in a completely different way to the UK version. I’m very proud of both, and eagerly anticipating the (different again) German edition, which should appear soon too.
My plan is to do regular TOUR updates here as I travel: we shall see if I can summon the technological gumption to carry out this plan!
TO READ JONATHAN'S JOURNAL ENTRIES PRE-2009, CLICK HERE