As usual, it’s been far too long since I last posted but I’ve had a weird summer, even by my standards. I started writing this in a hotel in Los Angeles – the third time I’d been here in as many months. I’m finishing it a week later in Wiltshire (about to leave to talk at the Bath festival…is there any town in England now that doesn’t have a literary festival? Still, it should be fun).
First things first. SNAKEHEAD. Just after I got back to England, there was a familiar thump at the front door as a large, heavy package arrived from Walker Books. It was the finished book! I know I’ve been writing for years and years but the excitement is still the same when the actual book arrives and this one looks amazing. 399 pages in total, making it the longest yet. SNAKEHEAD has got a fantastic cover – silver snake skin with a green snake’s head. It’s also the first Alex book to arrive in hard cover.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure about it and had lengthy discussions with Walker but they insisted. JK, Darren Shan and all the other authors come out in hardback first and they want to go down the same route. The downside is that the book is a bit more expensive. The upside is that it makes a better Xmas gift (hint hint) and lasts longer in libraries. I don’t know. The paperback comes out in April if you want to wait…and it’s got an even slinkier cover: pitch black.
Right now I’m in that queasy situation when I’m worried that the book is no good at all, that I’ve made a terrible mistake, that everyone will hate it. I think all writers feel the same way in the weeks before publication. I have to remind myself that I loved it when I finished it four months ago – and Walker thought it was the best one yet. But even so…
At the end of the day, you’re the ones who’ll decide. I just can’t wait until the book is finally in the shops!
This summer we finally started living in our new place which is slap bang in the middle of London in an area called Clerkenwell. Charles Dickens (my favourite author) used to live round the corner so that’s not bad but otherwise I’m not at all sure about city life. My new office is on the sixth floor and although I can see St Paul’s and the Old Bailey there are no trees and the only birds are pigeons. I hate pigeons! I never knew they made so much noise. They’re ugly. And they poo everywhere- all over the astro turf which is now my back garden. I may have to bring out my air rifle. The only danger is that I’ll miss and hit workers in the office opposite.
Which brings me to America.
Last year I wrote the last episode of my long-running series, Foyle’s War. I’ve got a couple of things I’m writing for ITV and the BBC but the truth is that there’s not a lot happening in the UK. Then I met an American agent. He took me out for lunch and spent the next three months hounding me with emails and phone calls, trying to persuade me to work in America.
So – I travelled out there and promptly got offered a lot of jobs and ended up working with someone called Darren Star (he wrote a huge show called Sex in the City). Anyway, after watching about 1,000 hours of American TV, I came up with an idea for a police series about an Albanian detective working in Los Angeles. The title is “Raffik”. And the reason I was in LA this summer was that I was “pitching” it to the main American TV networks.
Pitches are very strange. Basically, it’s an exercise where you sell your idea to the network. The networks have the power and the money to make the series happen.
Pitches all happen around the same time so you get dozens of teams wandering around LA, going from office to office, trying to get their shows made. You see them in the street, in the lifts (sorry…elevators), walking down the corridors. When you go to a pitch, you go with about half a dozen people so you look a bit like an upmarket criminal gang. The pitch lasts thirty minutes. You explain the idea, describe the characters, tell the story and then the executives (suits) ask a few questions before they throw you out and invite the next lot in. I’m told you’ve got less than a one in fifty chance of selling your idea.
Which makes it all the more strange that my idea has been “picked up”. The Fox network want me to go ahead and write the screenplay and if that goes well I’ll be back in Los Angeles next year, shooting it.
My only worry is – when am I going to find time to write my next book? It’s the fourth volume in THE POWER OF FIVE series. It’s called NECROPOLIS: CITY OF THE DEAD and it’s set in Hong Kong. Yes, it’s the one with a girl (Scar) as the main character. I also have to go out there to do the research. Right now I barely have time to get down to the local newsagent. I don’t know. I keep hoping things will get a little quieter. But they never do.
And it doesn’t help that I’m also working on a secret book. My publishers know nothing about it and ask me tearfully what it is. I think publishers need to suffer a little bit. I’ll reveal all next year. It should be finished by Christmas.
November is going to be quite a month. I’m already flying to Dublin to launch SNAKEHEAD in Ireland and to Antwerp for a book fair. I’m also at bookfairs in Denmark and Sweden. I’ve got a couple of school visits, a signing in Waterstones, Piccadilly (PLEASE come…I’d hate to sit there all on my own), plus a couple of TV appearances, including one with Richard & Judy which should be fun. Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson are also going to be there – and you’d be surprised how well we all get on.
So there it is. The September blog. I’m always amazed how many people read these things and I suppose I should be careful what I say. Except I’m not. Anyway, if there’s anything too rude, my assistant – HHQ – will strike it out even if I don’t want her to. I have to say that she really is a complete
All the best,
Los Angeles – 15th September