Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Crimblings Of '08: NOSTALGIARAPE

Alllllllll rightythen.

The slipshod arsetangle that has been my working life of late has finally, oh-so-gorgeously, stalled in its tracks for the holiday season. Ahead lies too much booze, a Viking-worthy feast of dead things and interesting sauces, and ten days of Not Thinking About Work if I can help it. Which I probably will.

At any rate, all this winding-down malarky gets me all good and nostalgic, so I figured this was probably the perfect moment to explain precisely what's been going on over the last few hectic, cryptic months.

So: as frequent readers will know, I've been commissioned by my publishers - the highly excellent Hodder Headline - to produce a second novel to follow Contract. Not a sequel, per se, but something crime-y and Spurrier-y.

Thanks to a miscommunication between myself and my (former) editor, the syntax and style of this proposed novel made me come a-cropper somewhat, early in the year. The short version of the story is that I spent 6 months writing a complete novel in a similarly stylised/snappy/innovative/annoying-as-fuck voice as Contract, on the grounds that that's what drew my publishers to it in the first place. Having thus devoted a large amount of time to the project, I was... disappointed, shall we say... to learn that - in fact - what was really wanted was a crime novel with more "universal appeal". I should note that I have no problem with that - in fact I'm really excited about it - but I was (justifiably, I think) a bit peeved to've wasted so much time over something that really should've been communicated somewhat earlier.

So that was a bit of a shitty way to start the year.

Since then I've inherited an editor who's been understanding and sympathetic and frankly rather lovely about the whole thing, and who understood the grim reality of Having To Earn Some Cash In The Short Term, and Letting The Deadline Slide. Without any novel-income on the immediate horizon, I began 2008 with the dire need to Find Some Moolah Quick.

Thank goodness, then, for Marvel comics, which have given me a series of amazing opportunities which have - I think - paid off really well. Everything I've done for them so far seems to've gone down pretty well with the fans, and it's been an absolute joy to collaborate with so many talented artists and editors. Long may it last.

More recently, though, my real saviour - monetarily and creatively - has been the "MFS Writers' Training Scheme".

It started in June: a six month course intended for "Emerging Talent" to learn, hone and perfect Screenwriting Skills. I was selected as one of ten "students" from an applicant-list of about 200. I've never really done screenwriting before, but it's a world I've been flirting with since Contract was optioned and my awesome screen agent Matthew Bates started getting me meetings. This MFS thing came like a bolt out of the blue, but it was oh-so-very-very welcome. The idea was that we would spend 6 months learning the craft, writing a screenplay along the way (for which we would retain rights), and we'd be paid for the pleasure.

Like I said, it was enormously lucky that my novel editor is so great, because I really couldn't turn down an opportunity like that.

So that's pretty much it. Since June I've been working intensively - and I mean intensively - on a batshit insane screenplay titled Joie De Vivre. It's set in 1893 Paris, it's awash with zombies, absinthe and dynamite, and it is - quite simply - my favourite thing ever. I've been working very closely along the way with justifiably celebrated script editor Kate Leys, under whose influence I've gained more grey hairs and endured more sleepless nights than seems entirely healthy, but thanks to whose brilliance I've learned more about story, structure, theme and... well: everything that a good writer should know... than I ever though possible.

As part of a final pitching-drive just before Christmas - to round-off the course - I got my good pal Frazer Irving to mock-up a poster for me, so here's a little taster of the weird shit that's been keeping me busy for so long:

2009 is going to be a whole different kettle of arse-eels. Joie De Vivre will keep rumbling along in the background, no doubt -- and I'll keep you informed -- but the Priorityometer is swinging back towards comics and, most especially, novels. The new crime book is provisionally titled "A Serpent Uncoiled", and I think it's going to be a really dark, creepy affair. I can't wait to get properly stuck into it.

There should be some big lifestyle-altering news coming soon, and - hopefully - plenty more work with my spandex-loving droogs over at Marvel too. More Gutsville joining us soon as well, if Frazer can actually manage to work for more than an hour on the trot. There's also a super-secret project I'm cooking-up with Superstar In Waiting Declan Shalvey. As ever: I'll keep you informed.

So that's me, I guess.

Folks: have an awesome, awesome holiday wherever and whoever you are. Love the living shit out of each other, because We're All We've Got, and be... y'know... Merry.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Of Things Past...

The insane 2008 crazy busyness is finally teetering on the brink of slowing down. I have one big interview/meeting today - to put a cap on the 6 months' screenwriting course - then a final pre-christmas meeting on Tuesday...

...and then I'm in the booze-quaffing, turkey-guzzling clear until January. Cannot WAIT. Have never been so stressed in my life.

I still don't have much time to resume proper blogservice in order to explain exactly what's been going on over this past 1/2 year. Soon, I promise. But something rather amazing just dropped into my inbox and I couldn't resist sharing it.

My (maternal) grandfather, John Elvy, died long ago. I never met the guy, but I'm told that the photo we have of him - a profile image with him looking terribly grand on a horse in Rhodesia - apparently looks a lot like me. Not having often seen my often profile, I wouldn't know. Somehow I doubt the likeness goes very deep, because by all accounts he was an impressive man. He commanded a troop of the SA armoured division during the Italian campaigns of WW2; loved his wife and kids with all the raw energy of a person destined to die young; and was such an inspiration to his friends and comrades that one wrote a book centred on his life. He died of a wretched lung condition - not helped by all those dusty years at Monte Cassino and beyond, hunched inside the sooty innards of a tank - while my mother was only a baby, so she has no memory of him either.

We've known for a long time he was awarded the Military Cross - twice - for exceptional bravery and leadership during the war. Just recently I've received the two citations which describe how he came to be awarded the first medal and the second bar. I've attached the first one below as a taster. On the one hand it's just an amazing little artefact from the past: the language used, the events described; it's all so astonishingly evocative. To me it seems, frankly, a little surreal, like it's been cut from some larger-than-life hollywood flick or a historical novel. Which is why, on the second hand, it fills me with so much pride I want to pop, because this stuff WAS real, and it WAS awful and terrifying and astonishing, and it was MY grandad out there, doing all that batshit crazy courageous stuff.

So next time someone comments that the old photo of him looks like me, I intend to set them straight: I'm nowhere near being worthy of the comparison.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

In Die

Folks: I keep promising to update more often, and I keep spaffing my sizzling gobbets of FAIL straight down your throats. All I can say is that this has been the busiest, stressiest, weirdiest 6 months of my life, and as soon as we're in the calmer waters of 2009 I intend to get that snowball rolling again.

Until then, I want to point you in the direction of:

Click to visit Indy Comic News

That's "Indy Comic News", to you and me.

...these guys have been lovely enough to include me in their directory of Indie creators, as seen HERE. ...Which is a bit of a cheat, given the whole Marvel connection, but I fluttered my eyelashes and shouted about Gutsville a lot.

Indie comics need your attention. So maybe you aren't a big fan of superheroes hitting each other. Nothing wrong with that... Just don't make the mistake of assuming that all comics are therefore beneath you. Check out some of those links, and Be Happy.