For a long time now I have been quietly working on a comic-Gothic novella for A&C Black (part of the Bloomsbury Group) and as the contract has recently been signed, I can finally announce the good news on my blog. This is a big deal for me, not only because it means I have a second fiction title coming out in 2012 (hurray!), but also because it will be lightly illustrated, and therefore the first time I have been able to combine my own illustrations with my writing for older readers. Double hurray! (The picture above is just a sample, but click for a closer look anyway.)
This project began life as a proposed contribution to a new series of very slim chapter books aimed at reluctant teen readers, but A&C Black felt the idea could be taken further than that, launching me on a very protracted (but ultimately very fruitful) journey. And there was even a brief of sorts: imagine a boy of between 10 and 14 years who has almost given up on reading, but who might yet be tempted to open a book if it looked exciting enough. You have this one chance to get him hooked. Now write!
It turns out that was precisely the challenge I needed, and the stripped down, revved-up 22,000 word text that resulted was a sheer delight to write. I'm not saying it was easy – it certainly wasn't – but I learnt so much that I was able to go back to my novel afterwards and rip many thousands of pointless words right out of it.
So what's it about? Well, it's about a boy called Dan who can see dead people. Yup, like in the film, only I've added a twist that should hopefully freshen things up a bit. The basic set-up owes something to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and sees Dan team up with the ghost of an Eighteenth Century gentleman called Simon, and go into business solving the troubles of the 'Desperate Dead'. For a rather extraordinary fee. Dan's the talent, Si thinks he's the brains of the outfit, and between them they're pretty damn awesome. In a skin-of-Dan's-teeth kind of way. There are dead Victorian magicians to contend with, the feisty ghost of murdered teen Emmeline, sleazy nightclub owners, gold polyester fluffy dice, scary lady vicars and more North Sea than is good for a boy whose hands are tied behind his back. Oh, and there are guns and car chases. And a severed finger. And something very, very grisly that Dan has to carry around all the time. There was even a Quiet Moment for a while, but I decided to delete it.
Anyway, it's something to put in the diary for next Spring:)