You Called, He Came...

The Thirteenth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 2nd and 3rd June 2006

Clive : "Now we've got a whole bunch of things to get through, haven't we?"

Revelations : "A whole bunch, yeah! People have been really enthused by the opportunity to come and have a chat with you, albeit through an intermediary, and lots of them are people who've never contacted us before."

Clive : "Marvellous! All the more reason then that we make sure that we're really giving people value for the trouble of asking the questions.
"I just wanted to say in summary here at the beginning, to thank people because the questions they've asked are so smart and I really think this is a methodology that I would really like us to see if we can't put into the structure of our year, whether we do it every four months or once every six months. I think it's a great way to have, you know, something which has been troubling them asked."

Revelations : "There's been a sizeable period without a forum like this, so there's this pent up demand for asking questions."

Clive : "Of course. So maybe we'll do three times a year for at least the next couple of years. So let's jump into the questions."

Revelations : "First up, some scene-setters around the status of Scarlet Gospels and the progress of the paintings for the next three Abarat books... "

Clive : "I am on the final draft of The Scarlet Gospels, with a huge final polish to do, simply because it's a huge book. If you want to know, I'm on page 2,298 of my handwritten draft and I'm averaging between twelve and fifteen pages a day - which is not quite where I would like to be but it's very dense writing. I mean, I'm in Hell, but this is not a Hell you've ever seen before and these are not places you'd expect to find in Hell; in other words, what I'm trying to do is deliver a Hell that is fresh and new in large measure. Obviously it's going to have demons and it's going to have pain and suffering, but I'm talking about topography and architecture and wildlife - all the other things that give texture to my other invented worlds, if you like, to Imajica, for instance. I'm trying to give some of that feeling to Hell so that it'll be Clive Barker's Hell. It's like writing a very, very, very dark fantasy book right now."

Revelations : "OK, so it's not like writing a roller-coaster; slash 'em and spread the blood around."

Clive : "No, no, and though I think it'll be pretty scary; I think it goes in some very dark places, but it also... I'm not going to say anymore!! I'm excited and anxious at the same time. I live and breathe it, you know? I live and breathe it until 6 o'clock (moving swiftly on to question two!) - "

Abarat - currently untitled

Revelations : "Well, just before you do - "

Clive : "Oh darn you..!"

Revelations : " - there's a whole heap of people who are thinking, well you're having great fun writing this but when are we going to get to see it?"

Clive : "Well, I have promised that I will deliver this at the turn of the year, so, HarperCollins are looking for an autumn of next year publication. And it'll be a big bugger, you know? It'll be a Great And Secret Show-sized book, so I think it'll be well worth the wait."

Revelations : "You can move swiftly on now - you can go to 6 o'clock!"

Clive : "...and then at 6 o'clock I take a deep breath and I change my trousers from my regular writing jeans to my painting jeans and I go next-door and I paint. And because the writing is at present very demanding, it is not light writing and - just backing up to Scarlet Gospels but not to the general issue of writing the fantastic, I think when you're writing fantastic fiction you're really imagining from the ground up, you know? And it requires an immense sort of concentration - there's no free lunch there, there's no moment when you can say, 'Ah yes, I can do this scene in the deli I remember in New York,' you see what I mean?"

Revelations : "Nor can you expect the reader to say, 'OK, I know where you are, I know what you're doing here.' "

Clive : "In fact, I think you go to a more important point, Sarah, which is exactly that, that my responsibility is to evoke, but without a great reliance upon adjectival weight, à la Lovecraft, to evoke a world. And I've always said I want my readers to be co-creators - I believe they are - this Hell will also require of them as much imagination as Weaveworld or Imajica does and yes, there are some ghastly and horrible things in it but that is not the overall tone of the book - the overall tone of the book is an apocalyptic facing-off of good and evil... or not..!
"So I'm painting - less into the night than I used to, which is why I just went back to explain that. In the old days I would paint from 6 to 9:30, 10 o'clock at night and sometimes I would delay getting to my desk so as to get a good night's sleep 'til about 10 or 10:30 the following day. Now, this morning I was at my desk at 8:45 and that's pretty much the rhythm of it and that's because of the demands of the book. It's partly the fact that I'm coming towards the end of a third draft; coming up to 9,000 hand-written pages and it has its own momentum, its demands and the painting must, necessarily, take a backseat to that. And so I do perhaps two hours of painting, whereas before I would do four hours. Still, am I painting? Sure, absolutely! And I've finished a round canvas, a six-foot round canvas for Abarat which I think people are going to like a lot - it's like a rose window; my inspiration is my favourite rose window, which of course is Chartres. And the painting of the Tarot cards is going very well - I've decided (this is going to strike you as masochism!) to put a poem on the back of each one! So, there'll be another eighty poems there or whatever."

Chartres - The North Rose Window

Revelations : "Questions from a number of people, including Jimmie Vigil, Zachi Panigel and Mike Fudakowski around likely timings on movies such as Plague, Midnight Train, Thief of Always, Weaveworld and Tortured Souls."

Clive : "I've stepped a little back from the flow of the films, just because I'm so deeply engrossed in the novel right now. But, I do know that Midnight Meat Train and Pig Blood Blues are scheduled to go in the next few months. We have a lead actor for Midnight Meat Train on board so we are waiting til next week when the guys get back from Cannes, having made the foreign sales, to see just how much money we're going to actually have to play with.
"Plague - to be perfectly honest, I'm not exactly sure where that is. "Thief of Always - I know Kelly is working on what we hope is the final draft. Huge enthusiasm still over at Fox to make this movie. It's just taking its time and that's where it is."

Revelations : "We've just seen - we love IMDb because you never know what to trust and what not to trust - but someone pointed out to us that a cast list has just gone up for Thief, with Melanie Griffith, Dennis Quaid, Ving Rhaimes and others..."

Clive : "Oh my God - I don't know, I have no idea where that comes from... I've never heard such a list, I've never seen such a list... It's possible...They are keeping me out of things deliberately so that I can get on and it's possible they've created a list, as a wish list - "

Revelations : "Just to get some reaction."

Demons of Night and Day

Clive : "Yeah, exactly right - I think that's plausible... "Tortured Souls is on hold right now because there is just too much going on and I know we have another - Universal has [just granted] us another six months to play with it and hopefully somewhere in that time we will get it out into the world. But you're talking to a man who is so focussed on his novel and very much upon the paintings as well, but the movie stuff is sort of happening to left and right of me right now - I'm a blinkered horse, a wilfully blinkered horse and one of the reasons why I love Joe and Anthony is - I came up with an idea for a movie this week and I called Anthony and pitched it to him, and we're developing it. So, these things have a way of getting out, but once I've let an idea flow from me to the next piece of the jigsaw, as it were, I then step back to where I need to be right now. And I think - you know me well enough, I'm certain you know the crazy process enough, to know that when you're eight and a half thousand handwritten pages into a book, over obviously several drafts, putting aside all the reading and the research and all the note-taking and stuff, that the emotional investment in the material at this point is huge. And I learnt a bitter lesson with my fucked-up first version of Abarat II and I told myself I would never, ever do that again - never not have my eye on the ball, or be too smug or whatever it was - probably a combination of things frankly - other calls on my attention. And it's one of the reasons why I'm not incredibly illuminating about the movies right now, to be perfectly honest, because I've said to the guys, 'I love this book,' (talking about The Scarlet Gospels, now) 'and I need to give it everything - so unless you need me, just get on with things.' "

Revelations : "We also get a sense from listening through the audio commentary that you did for the Saint Sinner DVD that you seem to be taking an enormous amount of pride and pleasure in seeing what someone else does with your treatments."

Clive : "Always, always - that's always been the case, Phil. I never understand people getting snotty about that. If another creator comes in and takes something which you've crafted and then takes it in some direction, to me you have the joy of, it's a sort of lovemaking through an idea. It's joyful! I mean, God, there's nothing more lovely than creativity and to be able to share creativity with somebody is wonderful."

Revelations : "And movies lend themselves much more to that collaborative spirit than anything else."

Clive : "Well, absolutely, more than anything. My golden boys, as I call then - Joe and Anthony - are... I love them and I trust them and with people you love and trust you're able to say, 'Go to it! I have something I need to do now, go to it,' and that's what I've done."

Revelations : "Next, comic book projects - particularly whether further adaptations from IDW are currently planned?"

Clive : "Nothing more for IDW right now, and that's not for want of trying but we're trying to figure out what it's going to be. I'm loving what they've achieved so far, what Chris and his artist have achieved so far on The Great and Secret Show. And I think it's going to be a beautiful collection when it's finished and obviously I'd love us to do Everville - we talked about that - and eventually, somewhere down the line, finish the trilogy when I finish the trilogy!"

IDW's Great and Secret Show - issue 3, incentive cover

Revelations : "Has it been interesting to see your old sketches from the limited edition Great and Secret Show come out as well?"

Clive : "Well, that was sort of fun, and I think more of that down the line too. Chris is an absolutely first-rate guy - not only is he a fine creator he's also just very straightforward and when we feared that we were going to have to go from twelve issues to six issues on Great and Secret Show because IDW had some financial concerns, I said, 'I'll throw my money into the pot and we'll just do it anyway... God... if that doesn't convince them (because that would take a lot of the sting out of the stuff)' and it did and we got the twelve issues, which was great. And we've become fast friends because now we know both of our hearts are in the same place, which is getting the work out there in the best possible form."

Revelations : "We've got a few questions about things that need quick confirmation answers, we think, followed by some longer questions... Where are the next Jump Tribe plushies, what are the chances of art exhibitions outside of Los Angeles, will Demonik still become a movie now the video game has been cancelled, just where is that missing footage for a director's' cut of Nightbreed and will we still get an edition of your uncollected short fiction? (variously from Camden Natysin, Ryan Danhauser, Michael Parks, Paul Burton, John "Jmc", Lisa Flippin and Steven Cook."

Clive : "I can't tell you about the Jump Tribe stuff right now because something is happening and I can't talk about it, but something exciting is happening. "There will be art exhibitions outside Los Angeles and we're very strongly looking at a London exhibition right now - it'll probably be three years down the line - it just takes a long time to set up. But Bert Green has been fantastic in his support of this so, yes, the answer is yes, we are actively looking to make that happen.
"There will one day be a director's cut of Nightbreed, but I'll probably have to storm the fort of Fox to actually... the best possible chance of it happening is this: (I don't know whether I should be saying this.... Yes, I should!) If and when they make Thief of Always, I'm sure I will build a relationship with somebody there who says, 'Is there anything I can do for you while we're making this big movie?' and I'll say, 'Yes! Take me and help me find this stuff." I think that's the honest answer.
"I think Demonik is dead in the water - movies, everything else; I think it's over."

Revelations : "That's a shame."

Clive : "Yes, the uncollected short stories will be put together into a single volume. I think it's most important right now, however, that I unleash this big thing and then Jane Johnson and I will talk about how we collect the short stories."

Revelations : "So they're not something that someone like Jane could take off and do on their own to give people something in the meantime, before Scarlet Gospels comes out, given the advanced state of the stories?"

The Manners Of A Crow, 1990, brush and ink

Clive : "Well, no, I think it's more about this: it's more about needing to say to my adult audience, 'I'm still in the big novel business,' which I am, very much. Just last night, the title for what will be my second Imajica-sized fantasy came to me and I wrote it down on the pad beside my bed so, even though I won't get to that for another seven, eight years probably, this is my favourite form of all. I mean, if I had two favourite forms, Sarah, it would be a sumi-e brush, loaded with black sumi-e ink and a big old white piece of paper and a few marks made that describe a face or an animal or a something - in other words almost the shortest possible form; the visual equivalent of a Haiku. And, at the other end, the monstrously large novel - always a man of extremes! "Now, let me just read through this..."

Christopher Monfette : "As a lifelong fan of your work - for all its imagery, its poetry, its narrative musicality - I'm often left looking ahead toward future chapters of stories in progress, namely The Art, The Abarat, Galilee, etc. While I certainly won't ask when to expect those works, I am often curious about how you choose to balance the nascent creative impulse against the responsibility to your readers (if, indeed, there is such a thing) to continue their favourite stories in a timely manner? I often love that you involve yourself in so many mediums and projects, but equally often wonder if those involvements aren't delaying your inevitable future masterpieces and, selfishly, my enjoyment of them!"

Clive : "Christopher, this is the big problem! I am but myself! If God had been smarter, He'd have given me clones!
"I was talking to somebody (actually Robert, who's joined us in place of Kurt) who's a man who does a lot with matters of the spirit, which is very nice and I was talking to him about how frustrating it sometimes is to feel as though the jug, the vessel that I am is constantly being filled to brimming, and that it doesn't matter how hard I work to pour it out, it's up there again. Now there's a part of me that - don't get me wrong - is fucking grateful for that, but Christopher's question is completely valid and the truth is how do I make the choice? I make the choice by instinct only. I cannot intellectualise it; it would have been incredibly convenient if The Scarlet Gospels had indeed been 30,000 words Abarat - just one of many files of notes... long, the way it had planned to be. Truth is, it's going to be 230,000 words long and that's what it needs to be. I have been, from the beginning of my career, somebody who just follows his nose without any, without trying to outhink myself. I try and get out of my own way, I guess would be part of my answer to Christopher. I don't want to overthink things, I don't want to overanalyse things, I certainly don't want to say, 'Well, I've got to do this now because the contract says so...' What I'm trying to do, constantly, is accommodate people's needs to have a story completed, you know, a trilogy. I mean the obvious thing which is outstanding... - the thing which frustrates me, frankly, is the Third Book of The Art because it's huge and it's in my head! But then, so are Book Three and Four, and now, developing at an unearthly rate, Book Five of Abarat. "I had a fellow, a guy called John, start to order the notes that I've made for Abarat 3, 4 and now 5 and I made a pile that was a little over two feet tall! And those are the notes I've made - God, I've been painting, you know, and I've stopped because the painting's suggested an idea and, 'Oh, OK, that's where that goes...', another pice of the jigsaw. Or sometimes - often, actually - it'll be something that comes when you're quiet, in a moment of]meditation. And I acutely feel the responsibility to complete everything that I've begun, but it has to be done right and, to me, that means I have to follow my instincts; I have to follow my gut because that's the only true compass I have. I've never listened to anyone from an outside system. And God bless Jane Johnson and Joanna Cotler, who are amazing because they have never, at any point, ever said, 'Please do this now,' and I think part of it is that I love both those ladies very much, and I don't use the word 'love' lightly. And I think that's reciprocated and I think they know that nothing is more important to me in my life than making work which will be of value and use and entertainment and delight to my readers and my viewers, and the only way to do that usefully, as they say, is to simply trust my inner feeling."

Revelations : "And that instinctual way of dealing with priorities goes back all the way through your creative career, doesn't it? Through the early years of the plays that we've been researching with you and into the choices you've made in your publishing career..."

Clive : "Yes, and the other piece of it, that is my reluctance to obey instruction, goes back to, 'You can't publish In The Hills, The Cities...'"

We broke the interview there, coming back the following day and starting with some time on the Scarlet Gospels plot that we unfortunately can't yet share but we'll add back into this interview when Scarlet Gospels is published. We then covered questions concerning upcoming signing tours from people, including Veronica in Sweden, Scott Rodgie in Scotland and David Lynton in Australia, as well as tackling the final longer written questions we'd left with Clive...

3rd June 2006

Revelations : "We've interrupted you writing this morning, haven't we?"

Clive : "Page 2,307... [Regarding Pinhead], here's been this essentially two-dimensional being... taking this character that has been denuded of any elegance that he may have once had and coarsened over a period of movies and putting him into a book in which Christ appears and Lucifer appears has been quite a challenge... My hope is that a little way into this book people will almost entirely forget the cinematic incarnation of this fellow and start to think of him as a literary character again.
"I'm beginning to be smarter about seeing the patterns in my life and because I'm very close to my work, because my nose is practically upon the page I'm writing on - I was thinking about that today; I write with my nose about four inches from the paper which is strange, when you think about it, almost like I'm cutting out everything laterally, yes?"

Revelations : "You were talking about blacking out the painting studio as well, weren't you?"

Clive : "Which is done - it's now absolutely black. It's a black box and it's marvellous. The curtains are 30-foot Abarat - currently untitled curtains surrounding three walls and the Mexican tiles have been completely cleaned and... sorry to sound Californian for a moment, it has a completely different energy to it now: it's an eerie, dark, beautiful box. I have five or six canvases up now and much, much prefer painting in the darker space. What it does is it totally eradicates lateral information. When the room was full of light, you could see the trees outside, the light changed of course, which now it doesn't. It's a sealed unit and the images hang in darkness, so it's much more like being in a dark room looking through a window, do you see what I'm saying? And so there's about six easels up now, including a couple of Abaratian tarot cards and some stuff for Abarat 4 and a couple of things for Abarat 5 and an erotic piece. It's a very different feeling and when you come over next hopefully you'll have some time to sit with me while I paint and you'll see how different the experience is; it seems to give each brushstroke a new intensity, each colour you use a new intensity. There's no colour around you except the painting to complete."

Revelations : "It sounds very different to before."

Clive : "Completely - and that was exactly my point: I wanted to go from yin to yang, yeah? "I think we got through Christopher's question yesterday? So to Mark, let me just read this again..."

Mark Tallen : "Clive, would you consider the possibility of writing/painting the 4th and 5th volumes of Abarat (after writing/painting volume 3, which I assume follows The Scarlet Gospels), rather than writing the 3rd (and final?) book of The Art? I know the 3rd book of The Art has been a long time coming but surely with the Abarat being a priority then it would be better for both projects to wrap up the Abarat? Thus allowing you to concentrate fully on the huge book of The Art 3. On a selfish note, even though I'm a huge fan of both your mythologies I'm addicted to Abarat (my 9 year old son is also!!) and would love to see completion to it in a bittersweet way."

Clive : "Nothing is certain, Mark, I think that's the first part of it, you know referencing my answer to Christopher's question, I just follow my gut and my gut sometimes comes up with surprising answers! But certainly one of the things that is waiting for me at the end of this very dark descent, not just into Hell but into the history of Lucifer's fall and why he fell and its consequences, one of the reason I'm taking this journey and allowing it to be the scale that it will be is because I really want to be able to then free myself to take a really big bite of the three Abarat books that remain to be written. Now, whether that means that I write 3 and 4 and then break off to write a short piece just as a palate cleanser before I really dig into the last big, big, big book, or whether I just go helter-skelter through all three, I don't have an answer for Mark; it would be unfair for me to pop out some answer which may or may not be true. All I know for certain is that I have the material and it continues to gather and, while it continues to gather - I'm particularly thinking of material for Abarat 5 now - I'm sort of loathe to be too smart about this. Part of the point of this is to let my imagination percolate on this material and resolve the narrative in all its complexities - there's a lot of stories that need to be resolved at the end of these five books. I want to do that properly. I will never write about Abarat again after these five books, I think I can very certainly say that will be the case, so I really want to make sure that these five books really do the job. That may mean it's best for me to take a little break between 4 and 5."

Revelations : "But in either route that you're talking about, the 'little break' does not involve the third book of The Art..."

Clive : "No. It can't. It's just a little break and I think that would be unfair both to myself and to the Abarat readers."

Revelations : "We fielded one more observation on this topic."

Theo : "Clive, when will you finally finish or at least begin trying to finish The Book of the Art 3? Please don't lose sleep over what I'm about to say, but I was very perturbed when this Abarat project popped up out of nowhere and suddenly took precedence over The Art. Some of us don't enjoy the child-like atmosphere of Abarat and would prefer you write for adults again."

Revelations : "What's your response to that adult section of your reading audience when they hear that it's likely to be Abarats 3, 4 and 5 next?"

Clive : "Well, I don't think that it is just writing for children; I think it's writing. At signings now, the most vociferous fans of Abarat are adult! Just to add a little rider to that, a sort of P.S., there's a certain kind of reader who's taken great pleasure in the fantastic elements of my fiction but has never liked, or never been comfortable with the sexuality of the characters or the freedom with which their sexuality is stated or explored, nor have been pleasured by the intense violence. Abarat, of course, gives them the best of both worlds. They get the fantasy and I think adults are enjoying the paintings as much as the kids are, that's the sense I'm getting anyway. So I'm not really thinking... Thief of Always - yes, Thief of Always is a book for children. As you will see as Abarat goes on - one of the reasons why I need that fifth book is because I realised how much deeper I was going to need to dig into my feelings about the need for the fantastic in our lives, and I needed that space of the fifth book to be able to do that. "Onwards. When will I be coming to various places? You know, it's hard to say. I come at people's invitation is the first thing to say, I mean the reason I'm coming to England in September [for FantasyCon] is that Paul Kane was kind enough to invite me. It's harder for me to make the long journeys to Australia and Japan and so on. My greatest hope is, honestly, that when the five Abarat books are done, we will organise something that will be the Abarat World Tour, that's my hope. I would take a couple of months, maybe even three, four months, probably broken up by returns here but certainly that would be something I would like to do.
"But I really feel the work I have to do is here right now. And though it would be lovely seeing people and signing and drawing in books - I never get tired of that, I really enjoy that, I really get a buzz out of that - I think that if I take that time out, if I were to to do that this year for example, it's basically a month out of your life by the time you've prepped for a week and then you're a couple of weeks out and then a week to get your shit together when you get back. I think, I'm assuming people would prefer that I have my nose to the grindstone, writing words and painting pictures... yeah?"

Revelations : "I think people would greedily like both..."

Clive : "Well, I'm sort of greedy too, I'd like both. It just ain't possible. I think the next big development that I think we - Sarah, Phil and Clive - should look at is finding some sort of live video link-up so that we can look at everybody. That's never going to be quite the same as being in the same room as everyone but it's getting more sophisticated by the day so I think we should look very closely at how we can make the global village a reality..."

Demon in The Blue Grass

Revelations : "You are doing a signing for Demonic Sex this week though?"

Clive : "I am, it's for Demonic Sex 2 which I'm doing at Meltdown. There's a magazine called Instigator which is a very 'out-there' gay magazine about what they call 'edge-play', people who play at the very edge of danger, and there's where the first Demonic Sex comics appeared and then they were collected. Sean Platter who drew the comic is a very dear friend of mine and they reproduced an image of mine - Demon in the Blue Grass - in the magazine. The painting is a new one, it's what, seven weeks old... And this news can go, this is hot news, I'm going to write something for a future issue.
"We are doing the signing with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence - Sister Erotica, Eddie, is one of the guys I painted at the Bert Green exhibition, so he and his fellow Sisters will be with us and they essentially do good works, they're marvellous, it's all good camp fun but under the camp fun is actually a lot of very important fundraising for AIDS issues and the important stuff which is not being funded by the government here. And so when Sister Erotica said would I do the signing, how could I refuse? I haven't met Sister Erotica, I've only met Eddie; I'm told Sister Erotica is quite a handful... "Onward. I will not direct any of the stories for TV in the foreseeable future simply because 'see above'... That is to say, I haven't thought about it, there just isn't time. There's barely time to do the things I've said yes to, you know? "David Anderson asks about Valerie on the Stairs..."

David Anderson : "I was just wondering what the process is when someone is writing a script based on one of your treatments. Were you in contact with Mick Garris while he was writing the script or did Mick just have at it after he got the treatment? Also, is there any chance that Mick could talk you into setting aside some time to direct an episode for season 3?"

Clive : "This is a joke - Mick finds this incredibly funny - I wrote a 45-page closely-typed treatment for a 60-page script, so Mick said it was the easiest job he ever had in his life! It's a story I've wanted to write for a very long time and suddenly I realised, 'Ah, this is the place to put it.' It's a very, very heterosexual story, centred around an obscure object's desire for this exquisite woman, Valerie. And then David says, was I in contact with Mick Garris... Well, Mick is still writing so we talk to and fro once in a while but I trust Mick, I've known Mick many, many years and, when you give Mick a treatment that's 45 pages long - "

Masters of Horror - Season Two

Revelations : " - he doesn't have a lot of room for manoeuvre, does he?"

Clive : "Exactly. And also, if Mick wants to manoeuvre, going back to our conversations of yesterday, then it's always a pleasure. On a Season 3, I think it would be a bad use of time to step away from the desk and the studio.
"I just want to pick up on something you've said before, you said something very interesting, Phil, which haunted me after we spoke yesterday about the thought that the paintings were consuming me and very much making demands on me. I've thought a lot about what you said, or what I construed from what you said and I sort of wanted to agree with you. It's interesting, you put the writing down, you do your pages and you pretty much know where the demands have been. I've been working for three hours today - I started early, knowing we were going to have a conversation which would shorten the morning - and I am surrounded by trashed pieces of paper, just because it's a very difficult passage. But I can sort of compute that and it's fine, I can sort of live with the fact that the passage is difficult. The thing which is more problematic is the demands the paintings make are more surreptitious, much more insidious. I don't realise firstly that they're difficult; I mean I contrived to paint through a flu attack earlier in the month and I lost eleven pounds. The painting is a physical business."

Revelations : "And does it come partly from the fact that you don't have any idea how much is going to come through you and onto the canvas; it's an unknown quantity?"

Clive : "It has everything to do with that, Sarah, sometimes you're just going in there and you don't know what's going to meet you. Here I am on 2,307 and I know what's going to be on 2,308 and actually I know pretty much what's going to be in this novel pretty much to the end - it may probably be another 900 pages but at least I know what those 900 pages are - I mean, obviously not word-for-word but I have the broad stroke. I go into my studio and, I don't know how to describe it really, it's both very exciting and very intimidating."

Revelations : "Do you think there's any benefit to be had by changing your media to something less demanding than huge oil on canvas pieces? You said yesterday how much you loved going back to basics with just brush and ink."

Clive : "Well, yes, I've actually started to work - you know there's a number of illustrations in Book 2 which are actually on paper - I say a number, not a lot, but a few like for instance the triptych of the Twilight Forest and the waves going into Chickentown; those are all acrylic and oil pastel on paper and I started working with oil paint on sheets of canvas, literally, that you can get like a sketchbook and I got a couple of nice things out of that too. But the truth is for the large things, the events of these books are going to escalate...."

Abarat - The Twilight Forest

Revelations : "So are the canvases going to get even bigger?"

Clive : "No... I had a long conversation with myself yesterday to make sure that is not going to happen, it can't, it simply can't. Because firstly I'm just simply going to be out of room, I am perilously close to being out of room, and so no, but I think what I think it will be about is me making informed judgements about, well, which pictures need to be... Do I really need to do this on a huge piece of canvas, can I do this on a piece of paper, can I do this on a canvas from the sketchbook?"

Revelations : "Especially with individual character portraits where you don't often have a lot of detailed background but they still take a long time to paint."

Clive : "Right. You know it's weird, Sarah, sometimes a vignette like, if I paint a vignette like that on a 48 x 60 canvas, with an inch-sized brush, which is my preferred size of brush, I can often do that faster than if I work on a much, much smaller scale because there's a looseness, the scale gives you energy. We need to resist this, it's a huge subject and in a way we almost need to re-visit it in front of the pictures; it will become a lot clearer..."

Revelations : "And you know from previous discussions, a lot of people are fascinated by this side of your process."

Clive : "I think, invite people to ask more specific questions and I'll see if I can give them more specific answers, yes? I'm very happy as part of my mentoring function, to share my own methodologies and I extend that, I can usefully extend that to people who come to Revelations; I'm very happy to do that and as I say, the more specific the questions - by specificity I mean if someone can reference a particular painting in Visions or a particular painting in Abarat, I could be a lot more useful in my response than speaking in generalities."

Revelations : "Next up is Don, with an art question, and maybe speaking from personal experience of his own gallery exhibitions...!"

Don Bertram : "How does Clive feel when at his art show someone says something like 'I would buy that piece but it really doesn't match the couch?' "

Revelations : "This goes to the kind of conversations we've been having about why we bought The Man in the Trees rather than The Earth Martyr and why the latter painting might not have found its buyer yet."

Clive : "Ah, poor Don, yes, I absolutely have this damn feeling about people - I always remember Barbra Streisand's person going into a friend's second-hand bookstore and saying, 'Barbra wants 5,000 books,' 'About what?' 'Doesn't matter, they just need to be brown.' The Earth Martyr "You know, and this again is another huge question - you know Earth Martyr has not sold although we've had a lot of people close to it. It's a very interesting question we have here - part of it's about the scale of the image - as we've said before, people don't have massive walls and it tends to be the pieces that have very graphic erotic material that will tend to go in very private spaces and private spaces, by their very nature, tend to be small. I would love, again, to get more into that so, again, if people have views on that - I mean the dialogue that we were having about the paintings, I'd love to extend that to everybody because I think I can learn."

Revelations : "But there's only so far you can go because the paintings come from within - you're not going to sit down and start painting apples because someone's ordered them."

Clive : "Right, and Earth Martyr is unthinkable as a smaller picture, I couldn't make it as a smaller picture; my temperament doesn't allow me to paint in the fastidious way I would be required to paint if it was a quarter that size."

Revelations : "And no-one should suggest that you shouldn't be painting Earth Martyr - I think it will find its place. I think it's a very important piece from your imagination and, as we've said, we love the painting - the image and it's texture up-close - and for it not to exist because somebody had said, 'Oh we don't think that's the stuff you should be spending your time painting,' I just couldn't contemplate that."

Clive : "And God bless Bert Green who has been supportive as a man can be, you know, 'Paint what you wanna paint'. There are no easy answers to any of this. The only thing I can do is get up in the morning, do my writing with a relatively clear sense of where the journey is going to take me and then, once I get up from the desk, sort of head into terra incognita! "One more question: José..."

José Leitão : "To me, Abarat is very Blake-like, as the writing and paintings create a total vision. I can see something of you in the character of Imajica, Gentle, who finds a way to recover from his amnesia by taking up some chalks and start drawing the people and landscapes that he's seen in the Dominions, letting the images and stories pour out of his head, and teach him how to connect it all together again. Drawing parallels with the Abarat project, was this the way you let Abarat bloom out of your brain? The paintings taking you by the hand to travel in a bestiary of the subconscious? And did the paintings surprise you, influencing the story into certain directions visually?

Clive : "I love this question, I really, really love this question. 'Abarat is very Blake-like, creating a total vision,' he's so right, it's so much of what I wanted these books to be and, as I move through 3, 4, 5, he will see and everybody will see me pushing hard to make those connections between the visual and the literary tighter and stronger and more significant. And he makes this gorgeous analogy with Gentle which is a beautiful point, it's just a beautiful question; I almost feel every part of the question is rhetorical, he's answered himself really - correctly. The only real question is do the paintings surprise me and the answer is damn right they do. I'm producing pictures at quite a rate now and I have the experience of of going through paintings as they are taken away, I say 'Take this away before I fuck with it, just take it away,' and I will not go to the gallery house for maybe a week or ten days and I will say, 'What is that?' Obviously I know it's my handiwork, I have a vague sense of where I was when I was making it, but when a gentleman was here recently talking to me about Prometheus not only stealing fire of course for humanity, but also his blood producing flowers from the earth which was something I didn't know, it turned out both images were included in this painting that I had finished two weeks before I met him..."

Revelations : "We're well over our time yet again, Clive - many thanks."

Clive : "This process has been very rewarding for me because I feel not only are we talking to each other, which is always a pleasure, but we are talking to another audience as well which needs answers and hopefully we are satisfying them."

Revelations : "We'll we see what sort of comments we get when this interview goes up and in the questions for next time."

Clive : "Exactly, give me a sense of this and please invite people to dig deep. These were great questions, these were all great questions and I am very ready to talk about spirituality and metaphysics and symbology and whatever else, I mean we don't always have to be talking about when's the next book out, so this to me is really great!"

Scarlet Gospels
Abarat (Book One)
Abarat (Book Two)
Abarat (Book Three)
Abarat (Books Four and Five)
Valerie on the Stairs
Jump Tribe
Photographs of Clive in his studio

next home search contact Interviews next