1. No, but seriously, enough mucking about – will there be any more Matthew Swift/Magicals Anonymous books?
Short answer: I don’t know.
Long answer: There are no plans at this present time to write more. This is not because I have any less love for the series – it is incredibly fun to write and I’d go back to it like a shot. Rather I’ve also got 5000 other projects on the go, and fitting in Matthew Swift while keeping all the other stuff running is currently beyond my power. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon though, in the form of a TV series currently in development. Whether it ever leaves development, I can’t say, because after all, this is TV where things can stay trapped in development for 20 years and then vanish without a trace. However the producer is an amazing woman who could probably have stopped the Golden Hoard with a single, ferocious raised eyebrow, so if anyone can do it, she can. Watch this space.
2. What’s the best way to actually get a direct answer to a direct question from you, Kate/Claire/Cat/whoever you are?
As some may have noticed, I don’t often reply to comments on this blog. I read all of them, and am very grateful for all the kind words and interesting questions that you guys have contributed, and even appreciative for stuff that flatly disagrees with me since I figure, what is a blog if not a forum for conversation? Some regular questions I am attempting to answer here. However I tend not to reply directly to blog comments as it could become a slippery slope that ends up consuming huge amounts of time. Writers are being told consistently to ‘do social media’ but it seems suspiciously like social media often ends up sucking scribblers into its own vortex, and to avoid that, I deliberately ration my use of it. However! I am more likely (though not guaranteed) to reply to stuff on twitter on the basis that 150 characters can only eat so much time, and I will always endeavour to reply to email even though there is usually a bit of a satellite delay between it and me.
3. What’s with the pseudonyms?
Ah, right, yes…
So I started writing quite young, and did so under my own name, Catherine Webb. In those days I wrote Young Adult books, because I was, basically, a young adult. It was joyful fun, but by the time I was about 20 I was starting to write more ‘grown-up’ books, whatever that means, and my publisher decided the time had come for a pseudonym. Thus, Kate Griffin came into existence, in order to make it clear to readers of the Catherine Webb books that while, yes, I was still me, still writing stuff I loved, the style and content of the books would be very different from my YA stuff. It was a quick and easy way of marking out new territory, essentially. Then when I was 25, I wrote Harry August, and again, the style of writing and content was so different that my publisher felt it would be best for me to have another pseudonym, for exactly the same purpose.
Now, there’s a lot to be said about the pros/cons of such a thing. My interests in whether it’s a good or bad idea is purely commercial – I’m perfectly happy to be called anything, really, so long as I get to spend my days being able to a) eat and b) write books. However as the debate for me here is almost entirely commercial, with a tiny dose of genre/literary battles and maybe a splash of feminist stuff on the side, I’ll leave it here for another time…
4. What’s with the lighting design?
I’m a theatre lighting designer. It’s what I do to get out of the house, meet people, go places, and not just sit at home all day writing books. I love theatre. At its best, watching brilliant plays, I forget to breathe. At its worst, it’s a stressful nightmare that reminds me, when it’s done, just how relative the important things in life might actually be. I am not likely to stop being an LD any time soon – I’m a deadly combination of pretty ambitious (the more successful you are, the less likely you have to lift really heavy things a lot) and firmly aware that doing this, probably keeps me sane. Bizarrely.
5. Favourite writers/have you read….?
Roger Zelazny!! Come on people, Roger Zelazny is the best…
While here, a little list: Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Ursula le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Ruth Ozeki, Raymond Chandler, Iain M. Banks, George Orwell.
Also a shout out to the works of Nick Harkaway, Viper Wine by Hermoine Eyre, Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman, all the fun steampunk-in-zeppelin books by Chris Wooding, everything to do with the Lies of Locke Lamora, the inexpressibly grim-yet-excellent works of James Smythe, and the joyfully geeky Resistance is Futile by Jenny Colgan.
Catch22 remains a work of brilliance, but if you wanna go down the factual route, and if you’re looking for a starting place for some history books, then Colin Imber’s Ottoman Empire is a good place to start on that theme, and Orlando Figes does write well about the Russian Revolution assuming you don’t mind a book that weighs more than Moscow. John Stoye’s Siege of Vienna is basically a rip-off of Barker’s Double Eagle and Crescent, but they’re both excellent introductions to an awesome nibble of history. Browning’s Ordinary Men is an utterly horrifying book, telling of how ordinary people became mass murderers in WW2, but remains kinda pretty important for that reason. Mayhew’s Survey of London is a brilliant bit of primary source writing, full of fantastic images and stories, from Victorian London. If pretty pictures that say stuff are your thing, Information is Beautiful does everything it says on the cover, and if you’re fond of maps/London I recommend London Information Capital.
I would not have got through university exams without the complete works of Garfield, Calvin and Hobbs or Asterix the Gaul. I would not have got through technical theatre training without Sandman and Mike Carey’s Lucifer comics.
6. Any advice for aspiring writers?
a) Write what you love. It’ll come easier, read better.
b) Get an agent. Whole manuscript submissions are, for my money, better than partial ones.
c) Find a copy of the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. It’ll tell you way more than I can.
d) Don’t spend huge quantities of your own money on trying to get a publishing deal! (i.e. freelance editors, readers, PR etc..) It’s a hugely unwise investment…
e) Know that the publishing business is ridiculous, and being paid to write books for cash is a wonderful, brilliant, absurd career choice. In short: get ready to laugh at it, you and the world. It’s a much healthier response than the alternative.
f) If you get published… don’t read your own reviews. If you are writing for the praise of others, you’re writing for the wrong reason. If you’re writing in order to sell huge numbers of copies, you’re writing for the wrong reason. Ask yourself why you’re writing, and invest your emotional energy in that. It’s the words you make and the way you live that matters, not whether you got a 3* review that you thought should have been 4*.
7. Will the Gameshouse Novellas ever be in paper form?
Ah paper, yummy yummy paper… I would love for these to be published in paperback as well as ebook and audio, but at the moment am not aware of any plans for this to happen. But never say never!
I’ll add more FAQs to this blog when more crop up! Meanwhile, hope some of this is a tad more helpful than my usual waffle, and thanks for reading the books and following the blog!