Friday, April 23, 2010

Upcoming events!

Monday April 26, 1pm:  Waterstones, Cork
Monday April 26, 5pm:  O'Mahony Bookshop, Limerick
Tuesday April 27, 1pm:  The Ennis Bookshop, Ennis, Co Clare

See you there!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


John Connolly and Declan Hughes will be reading and speaking at the CĂșirt Festival in Galway on Thursday April 22nd, 2010 at 8.30pm at the Town Hall Theatre in place of fellow crime novelist Ian Rankin, who remains stranded in Scotland.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Other Stuff II

As I was writing the first part of this post, I was struggling a bit to remember what it was that I'd done last week, hence the urge to write it all down in an effort to understand where the time went. There was probably an element of compulsion about writing it too: it's funny, but there will sometimes come a point in the writing of a book where you've disciplined yourself so much to keep writing, and to produce a certain amount every day, that you want to keep on writing. Eventually, you simply can't do any more work on the book in hand, if only because you have to give that particular reservoir time to fill up again, but that doesn't mean you can't draw water from someplace else. So you write a column, or you fiddle with press notes for the new book, or you answer emails at greater length than usual.
But as I tried to remember what it was that most impacted upon writing time last week, I realized that I'd forgotten about doing the US page proofs. Perhaps I'd driven it from my mind as I want all work on The Whisperers to be done and dusted by this point. The whole process of publication was extraordinarily compressed for this book: I delivered it just before Christmas, but due to courier problems my editors didn't get to read it until after Christmas, and now Hodder will publish the British edition next week. In the world of publishing, that's a very fast turnaround: from first read to finished copies in less than four months, and that included a bit of back-and-forth about the nature of the book, and the scrapping of the original cover design in favor of the moon emblem that now adorns the cover.
The difficulty for me, as the writer, was that the process of examining the copy edits, and the proofs, was similarly compressed, and that's not ideal. Those stages permit the author to look at the book in a new way: once (or, in my case, twice, as the British and Americans each create their own versions of the book) when the copy edits arrive, with various queries and markings from the copy editor, and again when the proofs arrive. Despite the copy editors efforts, it's actually easier to spot errors in the proofs than in the copy edit, if only because the manuscript has been typeset, and thus looks like a book, which in turn forces the writer to adjust his perceptions of the work. Unfortunately, when, as in this case, the British copy edit follows closely on the author's own final revisions, and that British copy edit is then followed, seemingly within a week or so, by the British proofs, which are finished on the same day that the American copy edit arrives, then it becomes harder and harder to step back from the work and give it the time and concentration that is required to spot word repetitions, and inconsistencies, and the various manifestations of imperfection that will, inevitably, find their way into the finished book. The writer's best hope is that he can catch most of them before the book finally goes to print, and then correct the rest for the paperback.
To be fair, most readers will never even spot them, and those that do, mindful of their own flawed nature as human beings, will probably let them slide. Still, it's irritating for the reader, and the writer, and the editors, who really do make an effort to catch all of these things. The writer in particular will be hit by a sense of powerlessness, as so often the error is only revealed when the finished book is rolling off the presses, or in his hands. It's dispiriting, because when that inevitable error is revealed it makes it harder to look upon the book with pride. Instead, it becomes a physical manifestation of your flaws.
I read a review of a book written by a friend of mine this week, in which the reviewer was generous in his praise of the book (and rightly so) but then pointed out two small errors that had crept into the final book. And while I could understand why the reviewer might have found them distracting, even though they were very minor indeed, I couldn't help but feel that raising the issue in the course of the review as part of a larger point about lax editing standards was a little unfair on the book in hand. Then again, it may simply have been my own sense of "There but by the grace of God go I", or, more correctly, "There, despite the grace of God, go I."
Anyway, four days this week were spent dealing with the US proofs. I would write in the morning and early afternoon, reach my quota for the day, and then turn to the proofs. And because a little time had gone by since I'd finished with the British proofs, I was able to go through the US version with a fresh eye. I wasn't as tired of reading the same lines over and over, and I'd had a little time to forget what I had written. As a result, the book seemed better to me, but I also managed to pin down a few more little niggles, and pass the corrections on to the UK. They may not make the first printing, but they'll be there for reprints, which is something.
But the US proofs also threw up one of those typesetting difficulties that occasionally beset writers. A long section had accidentally been split into two parts, giving the impression that they were separate chapters. But just running the second part back into the first wouldn't work, as it would either a) leave a blank page; or b) require that the subsequent 80 pages all be reset. According to my publishers (and they may just be trying to frighten me in order to prevent me from making too many changes) it costs about a dollar a line to alter a manuscript once the pages have been typeset, so let's say $300 a page, give or take. To reset 80 pages, therefore, would cost in the region of $24,000. Even if my publishers are trying to frighten me, and the actual cost is only a quarter of that, it's still $6000 to correct a single error.
I couldn't figure out what to do, and I sent off the proofs with a note pointing out the error, and suggesting that we might have to live with a blank page. Then it struck me last night that I could simply write some extra paragraphs for that section, which would beef it up sufficiently to extend the section into what would otherwise have been a blank page, and all would be well. So that's what I did, and it turned out that the extra paragraphs actually made the section work better.
I wonder now if I was alert to that possibility because of the way that I've been writing this week: I've been regimented about it, but also enthusiastic. I'm enjoying what I'm writing, but that's a product of forcing myself to sit at my desk over the last three weeks and produce a consistent, and large, body of writing. On those occasions when I talk about writing to those who want to write, or are trying to write, it's something that I emphasize over and over: you have to write consistently, and preferably at the same time every day, or nearly every day. You have to set targets, and deadlines, and you have to stick to them. If you do, then writing becomes easier. It's in the nature of the beast, and it's the craft aspect of the work. So beware of authors who create a hierarchy of art over craft: the former comes out of the latter. The two, in the end, are inseparable.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Other Stuff

 This week was an attempt to focus on writing the sequel to The Gates, given that The Whisperers is released in Ireland at the end of next week, and with that will come publicity, and signing, and all of the duties that are connected to the writing of a book that has been finished, and thus get in the way of the writing of the book that has yet to be completed.  After that will come the UK tour and publicity, and then Australia and New Zealand, and then South Africa (which is, admittedly, timed to catch some matches in the World Cup, and therefore does not qualify me for any sympathy).  
Mind you, I can understand the impulse to cut myself off entirely for a time before all of this stuff begins, but it just isn't possible given that there are always other demands to be met.  I suspect much of this is due to the fact that I'm a control freak, and unwilling to let others do stuff unless I can stick my fingers in the pie as well.  I'd like to think that it's because I know what's best, but it isn't.  I just like sticking my fingers in pies.  
   So, this week, the following matters arose:

1) There are two quotations from modern works used in The Whisperers that have to be cleared.  Kate, the lovely and very efficient person who helps me with clearances, makes contact with Richard Currey, the author of the first quotation, who turns out to be a lovely man, and generously grants permission for me to use his words.  (And if you haven't read Currey's work, then I urge you to read Crossing Over and Fatal Light, and to visit his website at  The second quotation is proving more difficult, even though the book in question is published by a major publishing house.  The page reference is required, and then a photocopy of the page in question.  Meanwhile, the deadline approaches for putting the US edition to bed.  I could just excise the quotation, but it's important to the book.  I can't find my own copy of the original work because I've let someone else borrow it, but you'd kind of think that the publisher might have one to hand.  Instead, we order another copy online to send to the publisher, the same publisher that publishes the book we've just ordered.  I just want them to clear it, so by this point I'd happily have delivered it by hand.  Now there's nothing else to do but wait.  

2) My British publishers are launching an online campaign, involving a large game element, to coincide with publication.  I've written some extra material for it, and have to sign off on some other elements.  I feel I should be doing more, but I'm not entirely sure what, exactly.  I suspect that everyone else involved understands the online stuff better than I do, so in this case I may be better off relinquishing some of that fabled control.  

3) The granting of the license for the final production of the CDs goes right to the wire, but it's finally confirmed that everything has been cleared.  Kate has worked heroically to get it completed in time, assisted by the kindness of MCPS in Ireland, the willingness of the record labels to move quickly on granting permission, and the nice people at Trend who will manufacture the final product, but it's been a hideously stressful experience, and is likely to be a very expensive one.  I won't do it again.  I think I said that the last time, but this time it's done me in.  Much as I love compiling the CDs, and giving people the opportunity to hear music that I think complements the books, the process involves a great deal of negotiation, and legalities, and it opens a hole in my bank account through which money pours like water down a plug hole.  I also end up losing sleep over the possibility that I might have done something wrong, that I failed to dot a particular contractual 'i' or cross a legal 't'.  All of that worrying takes a bit of the fun out of it.    Still, it's finished, and people will get a chance to listen to it when we start giving out copies with the book next week.  It's an eclectic mix, but I think it works.  

4) There's a launch for the '50 Irish Books of the Decade' (   I like Bert Wright, who is one of the guiding hands behind the idea, and generally a decent human being, so I trot along.  The Lovers has been chosen as one of the books, even if I'm not entirely sure why that title should be the one, but then I'm a poor judge of my own work.  It's lovely to be included, whatever the book, although the fact that there's a vote to pick one book makes me uncomfortable.  The books in question are all so different that it seems a little unfair to ask people to judge them against one another, but competitions get publicity, I suppose.  I grab a cup of coffee, listen to the voiceover say nice things about me, and chat with a couple of the other authors a bit self-consciously, mainly because the wire on my brace has come loose and is doing a good job of impaling my gum.  My picture turns up in the paper the next day, and because of my position I appear to be smaller than Cecilia Ahern, who is very sweet, and very petite.  I look like her hired gnome.

5) There are email interviews to do.  I hate email interviews.  They're great for the journalists involved, in one way, because there's no transcription.  The downside for the journalist is that the element of human interaction that makes an interview interesting is sacrificed as a result.  The downside for the author is that you end up typing up the interview yourself, which is really time-consuming.  It's one thing to answer the same questions over and over in a series of interviews, which I don't actually mind doing too much because I try to vary the answers as much as possible, and hence each interview ends up following a slightly different track, but it's hard to remain enthusiastic when you have to write the answers down.  It's like doing an exam on your own work.  There are also various requests for interviews, library visits, prison visits, workshops and talks.  I can't fit them all in, and I hate saying 'no'.  There's no easy solution to that problem.

6) I've fallen behind on Facebook again.  I like the element of interaction that it offers, both between author and reader and between the readers themselves.  I think I get intimidated by it, because I don't log on to it every day.  The mail builds up, and I get more intimidated by the volume, and I let it build up some more, and I get even more intimidated, and so on in a vicious circle until I eventually log on and find that I have 70 emails to answer.  Still, once I get into them I enjoy answering them, because, by and large, they're kind and flattering, and it's not hard to answer a question from someone who is interested in your work and has taken the trouble to drop a line.  The problem is that it's time spent at the computer that doesn't involve working on the book, and it's hard to go from answering emails in detail to working on a chapter.  You have to step away from the computer for a while afterwards, and then it can be hard to return to it.  As for MySpace, I think I may just have to accept that I can do Facebook or MySpace, but not both.  

7) I have a pile of books building up beside my desk, all of them seeking supportive quotes.  The last time I looked, it was into double figures.  Two of the books need to have quotes by the end of next week if they're to be of any use to the authors.  I decide to read those two, then give myself a break for a while and read some of the books that I've chosen myself, and for which I've paid good money.  It's nice to have the opportunity to read books that have not yet been published, but the sheer volume of them means that you could just read those and never read anything else.  After a while, I get the urge to read books that were published a long time ago, and whose authors are dead and therefore have no interest in whether I liked the book or not.  After all, it's not like Charles Dickens's editor is going to drop me a line and say, "You just have to read Bleak House because it's great, and I know Charles and I would appreciate any support that you can offer."  Anyway, for what it's worth, Bleak House is great.  They can put that on the cover.  "Great - John Connolly."  In the end, the first of the books, Blood Men by Paul Cleave is very good, and I get through it in a couple of days.  I've only just started the second, but I know the author, and I think it will be fine.  After all, he's a Liverpool fan, so how bad can he be?

Now, back to the writing . . .

This week John read

Blood Men by Paul Cleave

and listened to

Come Ride With Me . . . Wide Open Road (box set) by The Triffids

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Viewing the New Daughter


So, after much pleading with the film company to sneak a DVD copy to me, I at last sat down recently to watch the film of THE NEW DAUGHTER.   As it's the first film that's ever been made of any of my work, and I'm a bit wary of the whole process anyway, for reasons that are dealt with on the new FILM & MEDIA section of the website, I suppose I felt a certain sense of trepidation.  In addition, the film had been a little unlucky since its original distributors had run into trouble, and then it was eventually released in a limited run on the same weekend as AVATAR, of which some of you may have heard.  (Blue chaps.  Spaceships.  You know the form.)  Now it's due out in the US on DVD next month, and I don't know when, or if, it will have a cinema run on this side of the pond.   
All of which is, in a way, beside the point.  Problems with distribution companies and 3D behemoths have nothing to do with the film itself.  In the end, I enjoyed it.  I'd read the script while visiting the set, so I knew what to expect, to a degree, although the final cut differed from the script that I'd read in a couple of significant ways.  But the acting is top-rate, particularly from Kevin Costner.  He's been a star for so long that it's easy to take what he does for granted, but again and again in THE NEW DAUGHTER he made a small gesture, or changed his expression slightly, and the subtlety of it, and the effect he achieved with it, brought a smile to my face.  Ivana Baquero, too, as the titular daughter, is eerily good, and young Gattlin Griffith as her brother is very affecting.  I recall how good Costner was on the set with both of the younger actors, and the director, Luis Berdejo, tossing a baseball with Gattlin during a break in filming.   Something of that ease is reflected in the performances of the principals, or it may just be the memory of my own experiences that are affecting my view, but I don't think so.  The film also has an interesting look and feel to it.  Although an American production,  Berdejo is Spanish, as is the composer of its score, Javier Navarette, while its cinematographer, Checco Varese, is Peruvian.  As a result, the movie at times resembles a kind of arthouse European ghost story, tending to shy away from rapid editing until close to the end. 
All told then, in a world in which Gerard Butler movies get wide releases (I mean, P.S. I LOVE YOU  and  THE UGLY TRUTH, not to mention THE BOUNTY HUNTER and LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN?  Come on.  Butler can act, but his choice of movies seems to have been made by sticking a pin in a pile of the smelliest scripts available, and then keeping one eye firmly fixed on the cheque while trying not to inhale too deeply . . .)  THE NEW DAUGHTER probably deserved a little better than to come and go with barely a glance.  It's not even as if I have a hugely vested interest: I've been paid, and I don't know how many extra copies I'm likely to sell of the short story collection from which its source material came as a consequence of the movie's release.  If the movie was terrible, I'd probably keep quiet about it, and hope for better luck next time, but it isn't terrible.  It's a nicely-made little chiller, and the screenwriter, John Travis, did a good job of taking a very short story and expanding it into a film, even sneaking little bits in from some of my other books.  (Hey, did he pay for those?  Dammit, my Hollywood cocaine habit won't support itself . . .)
And it's not my story.  It couldn't be.  My story was about 14 pages long, and set in England.  It involved fairies, and the myth of the changeling.  But once the location became an American one, that really didn't work, so the creatures became something different.  Inevitably, since I wrote the story one way, and the film chooses to tell it in another way, there are moments when I might have done something different with the plot, but that's the difference between my mind and the minds of John Travis, and Luis Berdejo, and all of those who had input into the way in which the film was made.  It's a collaborative process, and I'm not a collaborative guy.  But when the film ended, I was happy with what they'd done with my little story, and grateful to them all for doing it.  
Because that's the other thing that I'll take away from the whole experience: the memory of how enjoyable it was, for me at least, and the kindness of everyone on that South Carolina set; and watching Costner and Baquero work; and having Luis show John Travis and I around the set, even though he must have had a hundred other more important things to do; and meeting crew members who had worked on CHINATOWN and RED DRAGON; and the grips sending me a t-shirt because they liked my books; and the fact that John is now a friend; and the good-humoured seriousness with which all involved approached what they were doing.  They all set out to make the best film possible, just as, each time I sit down to write, I try to write the best book possible.  Sometimes it doesn't come off, and sometimes my best at the time won't be good enough, but the intention is there, and that's all that anyone can ask, in the end.

THIS WEEK JOHN READ (very slowly)

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson 

and listened to

LOVE & WHISPERS endlessly in an effort to get the track listing right

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