I know it’s been a long time since a new novel appeared. The truth is that finishing my horror novel SAVANNAH GREY has been a tricky old business, but finally I have a date of publication – not April 2010, as I previoulsy thought, but actually FEBRUARY 2010.
So get your orders in. Sorry for the delay, but hopefully you’ll feel it’s worth it. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before, a true horror story, with three genuine monsters in it. For anyone who wants a taster of what it’s like, here’s the PROLOGUE …actually there are slight changes to this in the final draft, but I bet no one notices ...
It was long past midnight when the Horror appeared at the end of Westmoreland Road. No one in the run-down housing estate saw it. No one heard it as it burst through the washing lines of the poky little gardens.
Reaching number thirty-three, Savannah Grey’s house, the Horror dropped its star-shaped head on one side, knotted its murderous claws behind its back and tried to work out the most entertaining way to reach her bedroom. There were many ways available, but the Horror was young and like all young things it liked to use its teeth.
Biting a path up the brickwork, it anchored its incisors into Savannah’s window ledge. Then, thrilled with excitement, it raised its single cobalt-blue eye to the night winds and howled.
The Horror wasn’t meant to do that. It wasn’t supposed to draw attention to itself. But it had been let loose for the first time in its life, and was dying to do everything at once.
A city! Such glorious lights! Never having been unchained for this long before, the Horror’s restless claws had been on the move all evening, playing freely and greedily with everything it touched. And on the way to Savannah’s, it had chanced upon something that truly made it squeal with delight.
An adolescent girl, dancing in her living room.
Blonde-haired, and dressed in a stretched yellow tutu, she was strenuously performing ballet exercises. Seeing the way she whisperingly plotted a path across her carpet –‘pas, pas’, formal steps punctuated by sudden acrobatic leaps – the Horror had stopped to watch, mesmerized. So this was what humans did in private. They danced! How wondrous! And all the way to Savannah’s the Horror copied what it had seen, shooting over lampposts and rooftops in a series of risky pirouettes and sweeping vaults.
Reaching number thirty-three, the Horror used its subtle tongue to pick the front door lock.
It wasn’t afraid of being caught. If anyone did so it would simply kill them. Killing was a game, a lovely distraction, to this creature.
Padding merrily on its dog-like body, it eased into the hallway, humming softly to itself. Up the staircase. Onto the landing.
Pitter-patter past the toilet.
Toward the bedrooms.
The Horror stayed silent as it approached Savannah, containing its eagerness. A gland in its throat constantly spouted a yellowish liquid, but it was used to that and made sure none dripped onto the hallway carpet.
One more staircase to go.
Remembering the ballet girl, the Horror smiled. Then, raising its body shakily up on two legs, it crooked its front limbs just so – and waltzed like a dancer with an invisible partner up the last flight of stairs.
Savannah’s door was open. A breeze from the landing stirred the wavy ends of her hair. Glissade, the Horror thought. Thanks to the ballet girl, it knew several human words now. Without understanding what they meant, it had practised them on the way here, loving the sounds. Arrieré. Echappé. En dehors. Foutté. Port de bras. Battement!
Whispering the last of them, the Horror thrust like a fencer into Savannah’s bedroom. For a moment it stood there, its translucent, backward-swept teeth glistening. Then it sprang – an agile, dramatic fling of its hind legs that took it all the way over her duvet. If Savannah had woken she’d have seen the sharp points of the Horror’s head jabbing towards her neck. But Savannah did not wake. She slept on. Her lips were open, the bottom one pouting a little in the relaxed way it always did when she was asleep.
Seeing her eye lids dream-fluttering, the Horror cocked its head on one side. So it was true: humans dreamed as well. Did they dream of monsters the way it dreamed of humans?
Gripping the carpet, it vaulted to the ceiling. There it hung, suspended on suckered pads, its yellow mouth gaping. Savannah exhaled, and the Horror caught a waft of spearmint toothpaste. So excited was it by the smell that it forgot to stay quiet – and noisily sniffed her face.
Fifteen-year-old Savannah woke immediately. Blinking in the darkness, she propped herself up on one arm. What had she heard? A snort, followed by two or three quick scurries.
She stared at the door. Either she’d dreamt the noises, or an animal was in the house. Squirrels? A rat? The possibility that it was something as big as a rat kept her awake for a long time, listening. Eventually, hearing only silence, she dismissed the noises as nothing, and turned her head back into the pillow.
Once it was certain she was asleep again, the Horror slipped out from under Savannah’s bed. Thrusting its liquid mouth over her face, its lone eye peered down at her. Up close, Savannah didn’t look as dangerous as it had been led to believe. Physically she appeared the same as other teenage girls it had been shown pictures of. Or was she?
Disobeying its orders, the Horror teased the fabric of the sheet away from Savannah’s shoulders to reveal her neck. It discovered nothing unusual. Smooth skin. Soft flesh. The hollow of the throat rising gently up to the vocal cords. It was hard for the Horror to accept that inside that throat of hers was a weapon so uniquely powerful that if Savannah ever learned to control it there was virtually nothing which could stand against her.
But the Horror could hear the beginnings of that weapon. Distant noises. Faint rustlings. Distinctive click-click-clicks. They drifted in intervals from her lips. And occasionally even more ominous sounds emerged. Heavy booms. Muffled explosions – as if velveted bombs were igniting in the depths of her throat.
The Horror leaned avidly forward. It had an almost irresistible impulse to wake Savannah by biting that throat of hers, but no, it couldn’t do that, it wasn’t allowed. Its task was merely to listen to the sounds and report the findings to its master, the Ocrassa.
Frustrated – wanting to kill her now, cold and quick, while she slept – the Horror listened for another hour. Then, mewling in silent frustration into its claws, it sped moodily from the house and off into the leaf-blown night.
I’m not planning on doing any public events at the moment, though I am doing some schools, and there is still room in my 2009 school calendar for a few more later in the year if any librarians or English teachers are interested. Just send me an email via the CONTACT page.
I did have the good fortune to be involved in a ghost writing seminar recently, organized by Nikki Gamble as part of her excellent annual WRITE AWAY conferences. Weirdly, I’ve never been asked to do a workshop on ghost story writing before.
Luckily, any lack of preparation on my part was more than made up for by the teacher supporting me, Mat Tobin, who provided not just great enthusiasm but a wonderful practical exercise to draw everyone in. It was great fun, and made me realize I should offer workshops on ghost story writing as part of my school offerings. So thanks Mat and Nikki for kindling that idea.
FILM SCRIPT OF BREATHE
I’ve been working for a while with a Beverley Hills-based (yes, Hollywood) company on an adaptation of my ghost story BREATHE for an adult film audience.
It’s been a fascinating experience turning a dark children’s novel into an (even darker) adult supernatural chiller. At the moment negotiations for options on it are still very tentative, and perhaps nothing will happen with the script at all, but I’ve enjoyed writing it and it has given me a taste for more of the same.
I’ve long wanted to adapt THE DOOMSPELL to the screen (I’ve lost count of how many of you out there have asked me when a film of it will come out), but the truth is that a novel has to sell spectacularly well (usually) for it to be screen-adapted and made, and the Doomspell series, while it sold very well, wasn’t a blockbuster success in the same way as, say, Stormbreaker.
Anyhow, I may do some more screen-type work, either adapting my own books or maybe creating original screen stories. It’s an interesting area, and gives me a greater license to really explore my DARK SIDE.
It’s weird how a writing career pans out, actually. I started off just telling my daughter funny stories. Not sure how I ended up conjuring adult horror scenes. But for those who like my YA fare, don’t worry – I’ll continue to write that as well…
MEETING CHINA MIEVILLE AND MELVIN BURGESS
Finally, you think you get all hot under the collar at the prospect of meeting your favourite authors? Ditto.
My favourite living author is a brilliant sf/fantasy/horror adult writer called China Mieville.
Try out his PERDIDO STREET STATION for an entry point into his unbelievable writing, or younger readers might want to go straight for his UNLUNDON.
Anyway, I recently had the pleasure of attending an event where he was launching his new (crime) novel, The City and the City. Afterwards, star-struck, I gingerly introduced myself and found to my amazement that he’d read and enjoyed THE SILVER CHILD.
I was grinning all over my starry-eyed face, but more was to come. Along with China, my other favourite living author is the superb YA novelist, Melvin Burgess.
He’s just the best of the best in our field, simple as that. I’d been lucky enough to meet Melvin before, but I had no idea that he’d glanced at any of my books. Imagine how I felt, then, when I discovered he’d read THE SILVER SEQUENCE as well and also enjoyed it immensely.
The silver books are almost out of print right now in the U.K. (Actually, The Silver Child is still hanging on… just). They never did well commercially, but I spent three years writing them so you can imagine I’m fairly attached to their welfare.
So what could have been better, more truly wonderful, more delightful, than for me to find that my two most beloved authors both found pleasure in its pages. Vindication by the two people whose writerly judgement I respect more than anyone in the world. It meant a great deal to me.
That is all for now. I’m going walking in the Pennine’s for a while. After that, I’ll agree my next book with my publisher, and hopefully get it finished … sooner than the last... Be good to each other.