The Bleed Between The Apprentice And The Master

The Twenty-Fourth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 28 February and 7 March 2009

Revelations : "It's been a little while since we chatted."

Clive : "Yeah, a long time and a lot of good things have happened - let's dive in."

Revelations : "Well, one thing we don't want to talk about much is the release of Midnight Meat Train on DVD because you've been interviewed everywhere about it in the last two weeks."

Clive : "And I say the same fucking thing every place too!"

Revelations : "Part of being everywhere on it, of course, is that there are multiple reports from the conference call you did this time to facilitate several interviews at once."

Clive : "Well, there were just so many people that you could just do one and Lakeshore were late about the whole thing, they literally called me up I think three days before the thing was supposed to be out wanting me to do ten interviews, actually it was more like twelve, with Kitamura - not realising Kitamura was in Tokyo!
"Anyway, the thing has come out. I haven't read any responses because I don't read those things but I hope people are liking it and I think it looks damn good, particularly the Blu-ray edition and I think the extra material really makes the rhythm of those very gory scenes feel better, feel untampered with. You know, the fact that both of Ted Raimi's eyes pop out now - it's those little details... I am very pleased with the movie, I have to tell you - and I am incredibly pleased with what Diblasi's done with Dread - oh my God!"

Anthony Diblasi on the set of Dread, November 2008

Revelations : "Great news. Principal photography's done, what's he doing on it now?"

Clive : "I think he has a day of some little insert things - hands touching switches, you know, little incidental punctuations, if you will. I've seen two cuts of it now and he's been laying music in - temporary music obviously - and what I see is a movie that has the documentary reality of Friedkin around the time of The French Connection when he was really in amidst of everything, when the camera was right there with Doyle and I suppose with The Exorcist around the same period."

Revelations : "What we hear though, for you, is that it's all about Abarat Three - are you done writing?"

Clive : "Very, very, very, very, close... "

Revelations : "How close?"

Clive : "God knows, God knows! I am at the very end of the final draft - this is my fifth draft - and I have a portion of that draft to complete: not a large portion, maybe a tenth, and then I have two or three chapters which... this has been an interesting book because this is a crossroads book and I've never had to do it quite like this before. It's a book where every character who is relevant to the end of the book has to some way or other appear, in some way or other have relevant conversations or encounters or battles or love-affairs with the characters that are going to be part of their arc."

Revelations : "Because you can't just have someone just popping up at the end and solving everything."

Clive : "That's right, and so it's three-dimensional chess and it's been very, very challenging but it's also been very exciting. I get to work at about 9.30, 10 and I work to 2.30 in the morning... "

Revelations : "And that's all writing at this stage? No painting, just sole concentration on the final draft?"

Clive : "Totally. It's a seven day a week - you do the calculations, I'm horrible at this - and a fourteen hours a day kind of thing... "

Revelations : "So you're working hard! At this stage is it still an enjoyable process or is it more functional at this stage?"

Clive : "Oh Christ, no, it isn't functional, no, no, no, no, no. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is in flux because, you know, I know who's dying and who's living and all that stuff, but there is so much going on, oh my God! When you read it... It's very hard in the abstract to describe what the challenge is but you will see immediately what I've been trying to tackle which is this elaborate dance of characters who are playing out some kind of middle-eight, like in a song, and it's got to be beautiful and it's got to be seductive and it's also got to be at times really, really scary because we are showing the first signs of where Mater Motley gets her magic from and we are seeing the book of the Abarataraba and the stakes suddenly become much, much higher."

Revelations : "So the book of the Abarataraba will be in Book Three will it? We've never been quite clear where you were placing it."

The Book of Hours, sketch by Clive

Clive : "Well, a portion of it will be in Book Three - and it is hugely powerful, it is mammothly powerful and so we get a sense of, 'well, fuck me!' I don't think I had known or understood how difficult this book was going to be."

Revelations : "Let's just reflect on that because we first started talking about what was then The Book of Hours back in 1996 or 1997 when you were first working out what Kaspar Wolfswinkel was saying to you off the canvas and at that stage it was a single volume, and then it became four and then it became five but you couldn't possibly have imagined back in 1996 or 1997 that you'd be on the middle book of a five book series or how many paintings you'd feel compelled to create for this world."

Clive : "No, no, you're absolutely right. Nor could I have imagined how this thing would find such favour, I mean I come back to this marvellous lady, Peggy, up in Kodiak. She is an extraordinary lady and she has been a marvellous conduit between myself and her classes and I've sort of been using her a little bit, asking what sort of questions do they want answered? It's a bloody revelation, it really is! It is wonderful, because the kids are so damn smart and they are so full of insight and so clear in their desire to confront the dark underbelly of the stories."

Revelations : "Because that's one of the things you might have been scared about - how to keep the balance but keep it interesting."

Clive : "Absolutely right, and particularly as this book, Absolute Midnight, is in a place where... You know, I've always liked the middle Star Wars movie best, the middle of the first three (I don't count the others). Even though we leave Han Solo in carbonite and yes, that's frustrating, there is a wonderful narrative energy to it. It doesn't have silly little teddy bears with zips up their backs but nor does it have the problem of establishing a world, right? That's always been the model in my head; and it's also a very dark movie, number two is a dark movie."

Revelations : "Again, it's the pivotal one with a lot of backstory but also a lot of teasers for what's to come."

Clive : "Yeah, yeah, lots of clues, right. That's where, if you look carefully, you can see that they are brother and sister. That's always been my model, so I'm trying very, very hard to learn the lessons of what Irving Kershner and Mr Lucas did there. And there are so many characters in play. Bill Quackenbush - let's just take one example and then we'll leave it alone - Bill Quackenbush at the end of Book Two is basically lost, there's a painting of him in that little rowing boat, looking forlorn."

Revelations : "He's literally washed-up and mentally washed-up and everything."

Clive : "There you go, exactly, his house has been surrounded by the ocean and so in Book Three of course he finds Wolfswinkel's hats and he forms a church and because the people of Chickentown have been horribly mind-fucked you know, I mean this wave has come out of nowhere and swept away a lot of its own people and deposited a lot of Abaratians on the streets - drowned people, living people - it's liberated all the chickens, it's spread magic among them, so it's a very different Chickentown. So when Bill says I'm opening a church and I will save you, everybody else, the Lutherans, the Baptists, they all give up because he can perform miracles, and he becomes a monster - I mean you thought he was a monster when he had a few beers in him, try him now. And so in the middle of the book...

Too many spoilers here... apologies!

"...and he is a minor character in this book but you can see I think from even that paragraph of description, there's a lot going on."

Revelations : "Does this mean it's also a longer book?"

Clive : "I've been very severe with myself about what I really need and what I don't. If it's half as long again as Book Two, that's fine, if it's a quarter as long again that's also fine, I do know it's longer, I don't know it's massively longer but it's longer - and the chapters are longer - you know there's just a lot more story to tell."

Revelations : "So you're generally asking more of your reader, in a lot of senses you're hoping that they've grown up as they move through the books."

Clive : "Yes, this is my argument with Narnia - it's my argument with a lot of books - is that it stays the same: basically there are seven books of Narnia and the books have sort of the same demands. I've always said this should operate as one huge story and we're getting to that place now where we're climbing a mountain, you know, we've been through the foothills and I've laid out the geography. So it's quite a journey. It is easily the most difficult book to write of my life - partly because my ambition for these books has grown: and it's amazing the mail that I get, the letters and how much investment this young audience has given."

Revelations : "You've always previously talked of Imajica being the biggest challenge - this is surpassing it in scale of imagination, is it?"

Clive : "Yes. Yes."

Revelations : "I think that's really interesting for people to hear because Imajica has that status of cult, whereas for some the first couple of books of Abarat were a little bit of frippery."

Clive : "Yes, it was very deliberately laid out that way, that when you lay something in that's a tease, it's a bit of a trap in a way. Part-way through Book Two it becomes very much more obvious that the stakes are much higher in terms of what my narrative intentions are than it would have been when the first book was started. Suddenly we're into talking about other worlds and pieces of my philosophy start to creep in and the poetry becomes darker and I think you'll be quite surprised by how much of what I've done flows out of what was there anyway but how much further too."

Revelations : "Joanna Cotler's left HarperCollins but is she still with you on Abarat?"

Clive : "She is with me all the way. She left but she's taken two authors with her - me and another one. I don't know who the other one is but I am still hers, which is wonderful. I would really miss Joanna, my God I would miss her, oh yeah."

Revelations : "So it will still be a HarperCollins imprint?"

Clive : "Yes, I'm assuming it will, you know I haven't really asked the question, I'm assuming the Joanna Cotler imprint will go on but whether it does or it doesn't, Abarat is a HarperCollins book and she is my editor."

Revelations : "Almost a redundant question, given how flat-out you're working on the final draft of Abarat, but have you any clue in your Journeyman - next to The Scarlet Gospels on Clive's shelf... head as to what's coming next?"

Clive : "Well, I've also been working on the collection: we decided we'd call it Journeyman - you know, one up from an apprentice but not quite a master! And Chiliad will be in there, for instance: there will be a lot of new stuff people haven't seen, there will be a large selection of poetry, there will be a big, fairly provocative piece called the Book of Golgotha which is about the crucifixion and so what I'm doing right now is organising the contents page. The only things which I have yet to do are either the afterword or the foreword, whichever way I decide to do it, and the final draft of The Book of Golgotha."

Revelations : "And is the 'new' stuff new 'new' stuff or does it include old 'new' stuff like Cain's Bone and Mercy and The Jackal?"

Clive : "All of that will be there, and On Amen's Shore, and things like that; there will be a lot of surprises and it is by no means - you know every now and again Steve [King] collects up his short fiction, it's not like that at all. This book has more of a Borgesian feeling about it, a library within a library, different books, you know, It will be a book about Christ, a book of poetry, most of which you will never have seen before. I think we're looking at something like a 120,000 word book, so it's not going to be a slim little volume. I'm thinking of putting in the little pen portraits of the Nightbreed Chronicles because I think those are lovely and they don't need the photographs and they are witty little narratives."

Revelations : "HarperCollins?"

Clive : "Yes, it will come through the regular HarperCollins. It is going to be a very diverse and rich book and it'll be nice to have in print something like On Amen's Shore. It will also be nice to have the recent more provocative pieces. There will be no non-fiction."

Revelations : "Which will be in The Painter... "

Clive : "Exactly."

Revelations : "Is 2009 the year when, after no books for a while, we suddenly get four or five out, like Clive Barker buses?"

Clive : "I'm delivering them, yes, whether they all come out is out of my hands."

Revelations : "Well, we're certainly going to see Bacchus."

Clive : "Right, and your books."

Revelations : "Yes, we'll see Liverpool Lives, the early archive, and we'll also see The Painter, the non-fiction collection."

Clive : "Which is as exciting as hell."

Revelations : "Right, so we'll certainly see those three."

Clive : "And next year we'll see the other two."

Revelations : "So are you thinking 2010 now for Abarat 3?"

Clive : "Well, I think it's up to them - they can fast-track this or not and it's all about what they already have and when they want to do it. There have been a lot of changes over there, many changes, even in the last two, three weeks, a huge number of redundancies. I'm just staying away from things a little bit till the dust settles and we'll see what we shall see."

Revelations : "You get letters, we get the e-mails, there's a lot of pent-up demand for these books... "

Clive : "Yes, I feel it too, in the sense that I want to have this work out there but I want to have this work out there right. There's always been pressure upon me but I'm very, very committed to excellence for this work"

Revelations : "We had a very nice note recently from someone who said, 'I'm desperate to read Scarlet Gospels but, when I read about the toll it was inflicting on Clive, that meant more to me and I thought, hey, there's a human being writing this and tell him he can take as long as he likes, it'll be great when it comes.'"

Clive : "That is lovely, whoever that one person was, will you please extend my thanks to them for that because it's nice to know that people realise there's someone working 365 days a year."

Revelations : "And I think what these conversations do is offer a sense that you're working very hard at it, not jetting around and occasionally returning to the desk to rattle something off and that's why it takes a long time."

Clive : "Yeah, I mean I've only left the house twice in the last month - once to Dark Delicacies to sign books and once to the dentist."

Richard Kirk for Mr Maximillian Bacchus, 2008

Revelations : "Two extremes for you - something you really enjoy and something you don't... "

Clive : "Exactly! And I'm cool with that; I'm so committed to this book and so in love with this book and I'm so in love with this world and I want to do my best by it. I mean, I'm not going to be... There's so much heartache and so much, you know, throwing away the second book - I'm not going to be hurried, not shoved or pushed, I'm going to do it until it's right. "As a sort of footnote to this, I have a marine haircut, you know when you get the 'number one'? It is a joy because I so fucking hate fiddling with my hair so to just be able to zoom this off and not have to fiddle with it again. I mean, I don't know whether it suits me or not but it feels right and I'm not sufficiently interested in my 'coiffe' - people are either appalled by it or very appalled by it!
"What else? The Bacchus book looks beautiful: I've seen what you've seen which is Richard Kirk's gorgeous, gorgeous, obsessive illustrations - and he is also going to design and do the illustrations for the Roy Robbins edition of The Candle in the Cloud. And you are responsible for that!"

Revelations : "I don't know about responsible!"

Clive : "Well, I would still be digging around in my boxes of old manuscripts for something that approached a decent copy were it not for you guys."

Revelations : "We found the manuscript during research for Liverpool Lives and typed the thing up."

Clive : "God bless you and the horse you rode in on!"

Revelations : "Well you can see it fading before your very eyes - so someone's got to rescue it..."

Clive : "Are you familiar with Fellini's Roma? You remember the scene where they go down into the catacombs and they find all the paintings on the walls and the wind comes in and the air and the images dissolve? That's what instantly came into my mind when you said that - the manuscript fading - that is one of the most poignant scenes, it's so beautifully, beautifully done; the touch of contemporary air peeling the magic of the past. What is nice about Bacchus and what will be nice about Candle in the Cloud is I have done nothing, I mean I have been very truthful to the impulses that first made me create these - yes, of course I've corrected grammatical errors and spellings and whatever but I have done nothing at all to the text itself."

Revelations : "If you started you'd probably never finish."

Clive : "Well that's right, and it would be a different thing and it isn't the book you started at seventeen or finished when you were twenty seven or whatever, it would be a different object and the whole point of it was to say, well, this is what I did, this is where my head was at the period between when I started it, I toyed with it, I went back and toyed with it and put it back... and the only thing I regret is I was hoping that maybe the picture I did of Jozabiah Bentham and his Circus would be flushed out by the publicity - I hoped someone had it... You don't happen to have a reproduction of that up on your site? I did a very detailed ink with a Rötring pen. I think it would be nice to have it on the site - it might be that someone is looking at it on their wall or something and there will be lots of people who visit the site who won't buy the book and it wouldn't hurt because even if we could just get a very high resolution scan of it, because I've got a piss-poor 35mil photograph of it, it would be really, really nice to have that - so there's maybe someone looking at it, or maybe somebody's just trashed it... "

Clive Barker - Doctor Jozabiah Bentham and his Theatre of Tears, 1974

Revelations : "Because you did several and you gave many of those pictures away as gifts, didn't you?"

Clive : "Yes, all but one I think, but that very finished one I gave to Patrick Tuck as you record in your book and it was the piece I spent most time on. I spent, and this is no exaggeration, months back and forth and back and forth and I don't know whether it's that good but it certainly is worth finding if we can, just to have a nice good peer at it. There were lots of little - the clown, for example, he's one of those silver clowns with trumpets who always scared me and he has that Escher-type arrangement of inverted crosses on his silver outfit which I don't think necessarily becomes apparent in those reproductions. So we'll see...
"I know I've written to you about this but I don't think we've spoken about it, but the cover to your other book is gorgeous! The Painter... I mean, I like the painting but the way it functions as a cover..!"

Revelations : "Let's talk about the selection process for a second because you were planning to offer a selection for us to choose from but were so taken with that one that the choice was made for us - what was it about that one that spoke to you for the non-fiction collection?"

Clive : "Well, because it is so much a painting about the imagination - it is a black and white painting, essentially, with an eruption of colour where the mind is. All those primary colours, blazing. And also it addresses The Painter and The Creature, I don't know about the Father of Lies part but two out of three is impressive. The other thing is... You've seen the painting in the flesh haven't you?"

Revelations : "No, it was new to us when you sent the image through."

Clive : "When I saw it, it was like God, Jeez, that's it. The interesting thing about it is that you'll see there are a lot of half-finished grey or black lines all over it. That is because there is a large amount of impasto underneath; it is a canvas that is incredibly heavy because it covers, I want to say there are perhaps two, maybe even three abandoned paintings underneath it."

Revelations : "Maybe it is the Father of Lies then... "

Clive : "Yes - you've finished it for me... the lie is that this surface is fake. If you look at the reproduction you'll see that what I did was I painted the whole canvas white, I then - once it was dry - I took a blue/black brush and I drew it over the canvas, just picking up the ridges of the impasto.
"I don't know how easy it is to do this, but I do know the technology is becoming easier, this would be one where an X-ray would be interesting. I know that they are looking to try and make X-ray photography as easy as any other camera photography. I don't know whether that's a long way off or not but it would be interesting if only to see what ghosts of previous failures haunt the canvas."

Revelations : "We picked up a book where they've done some X-ray analysis on William Blake's paintings, although it's primarily a book about his painting technique."

William Blake - Jacob's Ladder, 1799 - 1806

Clive : "Is it solely about Blake? What's it called?"

Revelations : "William Blake, the Painter at Work, published by the Tate, edited by Joyce H. Townsend."

Clive : "I will get onto Amazon here and get that."

Revelations : "We're looking forward to a Blake exhibition here later in the Spring where they're re-creating the only exhibition he held in his lifetime. They're setting up a space which is an identical space to the one above his brother's apartment and they are hanging the paintings in exactly the same way they were first exhibited and, because a couple are 'lost', they're leaving an empty space for those so you'll get a sense of the scale. And the original exhibition did not go well."

Clive : "This is the one in Soho Square, the one where Dyson or one of them funded it? Wow that's going to be very interesting. You've heard of the controversy that The Tate wouldn't accept a gift of Francis Bacon's workroom? Bacon worked throughout his life, for the last forty years of his life, he worked in a single room ten feet by eight feet I guess. Have you Love is the Devil seen Love is the Devil? No? It's a brilliant film. The Bacon estate wouldn't allow them to use any Bacon reproductions but Derek Jacobi plays Francis Bacon so accurately it's uncanny and Daniel Craig plays the lover and it's an awesome, awesome movie - oh and Tilda Swinton plays the woman who always used to give him champagne at that Soho club where he drank, you know, from noon onwards. This was made for a very tiny amount of money but the performances are awesome and the research of the intimacies of life between these two guys - Bacon used to use shoe polish, black shoe polish that he used to warm up and he'd take a shoe brush and put it in his hair - you won't believe some of the stuff in this movie but it's completely true. I can't recommend the movie to you highly enough. Also, just for Sarah's point of view, there is a decent amount of full-frontal nudity of Mister Craig... I just mention that... he's gorgeous, gorgeous... "

Revelations : "When, out of interest, does a decent amount of full-frontal nudity become an indecent amount?"

Clive : "It's more about quality than quantity, let's put it that way! Oh God, now I've opened a can of worms!"

Revelations : "Why do all our conversations end up this way..?"

Clive : "I'll tell you why. I've always thought him an incredibly sexy man. I couldn't be happier that he is now Bond but it was a joy to find this rarely-seen movie and you guys are very smart and you didn't even know it existed. I can say with true confidence that it is a true representation of how Bacon lived his life and just from that point of view it's interesting."

Revelations : "I do recall reading a very early interview with you where someone asked you what it was like knowing Francis Bacon so well, and you said, 'I'm sorry?' because of course it was one of the two 'other' Clive Barkers - the pop-artist - who knew him well: something that has caused a measure of confusion over the years."

Clive : "And actually real anger from the other Clive Barker! I had only two letters but two furious letters from him, one quite early one, one forwarded from Wimpole Street from when I moved here, saying 'please desist'. Quite what I was to desist doing is not recorded, but apparently I should just desist being me... He was well pissed off with that."

Revelations : "We still occasionally get questions - where can I find Clive's books on theatre?, which is the third Clive Barker, or where's the picture of Clive's cover for Face Dances by The Who on the site?"

Clive : "Right! I think the Birmingham-based Theatre Games guy died maybe two years ago but as far as I know the other guy's alive."

Revelations : "Prompted by the Midnight Meat Train special features, have you watched the tour you gave around the gallery house and studio that was shot back in 2007?"

Clive : "No - I can't bear to watch me - is it interesting?"

Revelations : "Of course! And we've already had people commenting on the portion where you took the cameras outside to the tent where you keep the half-formed or rejected canvases. Can you talk a little bit about how you decide what to rescue from that area?"

Clive : "Everything in the tent will be rescued, the question is how it will be rescued, whether it be rescued in a way that, for instance the cover of The Painter - which has now become one of my favourite paintings - was rescued, which is to say that the painting underneath was obliterated! Except that it wasn't, because as you know all these patterns on the white are ghosts of impasto past - you know, the raised twists and turns and coils of paint that I have pulled the white loaded brush over give me that sort of completely unplanned patterning of grooves, it's a little like etching, to the extent that etching is inking in the groove and therefore when you put the paper onto the metal what you're getting is what was not wiped away and that's the same thing that's going on in a very crude sense on the background of The Painter. Close-up of the painting for The Painter, The Creature and The Father of Lies I think it is provocative because there are images in it and I'm not saying I'm going to be able to tell you what those images are but I do know that somewhere in the texture of the paint is maybe a landscape, or a face, I have no clue."

Revelations : "So that begs the question as to what made you pull that particular old canvas out to use for this new painting."

Clive : "The level of impasto, the sheer intensity of the impasto, you know what I liked about that canvas was that the paint was pretty solidly rendered all over the canvas and this meant a pretty even level of scarring; the paint had been grooved and then scratched and then had dried completely."

Revelations : "You were looking at it as a physical entity rather than looking at it for colour?"

Clive : "Absolutely correct, looking at it for its sculptural value and so just to go back to your original question, the pictures fall into two categories: the things that will become other things the way that did or things that - and there are a lot of pictures in this second category - things that will be developed as the pictures they are."

The Painter, The Creature and The Father of Lies

Revelations : "We noticed one in the footage which we know you've worked on subsequently because we saw it in the studio maybe a year later."

Clive : "Yeah and it's extraordinary looking at the way Picasso worked: if you look at the dates on paintings, they literally span 20 years because he'd start it at one point, he'd give up, he'd go back to it and eventually - very often these are breakthrough paintings as I believe the cover of your book is for me personally, it's a painting that sets a tone, an emotional tone, a stillness, a simplicity, a lack of busy-ness, if you will, that I like."

Revelations : "You often paint faces that are looking at you. This one is looking away, almost disinterested, passing by."

Clive : "Well he's internalised. I would say he's less passive than meditative."

Revelations : "Spiritual rather than physical."

Clive : "Yeah, he's got his eyes, at least in my reading, almost closed and he's not really looking at the world, he's in a trance-state which allows for this X-ray of his brain, to see the colours dancing in his mind, it's almost as though the painter has been given access to that vision by his passive state. I think the book looks amazing, it's my favourite cover of any book: I mean, it works as a painting, but as a cover I just think it's gorgeous.

Revelations : "You know, the contents aren't bad either!"

Clive : "Fuck you, Phil, they are amazing! They are amazing!"

Revelations : "Ah yes, I'm forgetting, you wrote them, they are amazing!"

Clive : "They are! When somebody goes and looks at that book who is somewhat involved in that book like myself, and finds themselves astonished, and humbled by the breadth of the knowledge and the depth of the knowledge, the love that is in the book, it's wonderful. I have, all joking aside, nothing but thanks and love returned that you should do this."

Revelations : "It may be humbling from your perspective to go through it, but it was fascinating for us, not only in discovering some new pieces for it but in deciding what order to place things in."

Clive : "Yes, because it's all of a piece, isn't it?"

Revelations : "Well, if you laid them chronologically, it would be a very different book to the way we've organised it, not only on the themes but also on the first half of the book which is you writing about you and the second half of you writing about other people and the bleed between the two is really quite interesting."

The Authority - Apollo and Midnighter

Clive : "Absolutely. It's interesting that you should use the word 'bleed.' There is a series of comic books which use the word bleed as a space, the Bleed is a space between places which is used perhaps in the way hyperspace is used to jump between locations and in The Authority and The Planetary which are both comics written by an Englishman and a Scot - brilliant. The Authority is the one which really uses this concept of the Bleed and it has this vehicle which I think is five miles long which is just, I think, called The Ship but it sails the Bleed which is the space between places in which they can jump - they say the word 'door' and literally a door appears in Marrakech or on the moon and the concept of the Bleed, there is something about the word bleed which has become powerful to me because I love this comic, I really love this comic. No small part of that love being based on how two men were married - Apollo and Midnighter - who actually had a marriage ceremony and that's pretty darn cool for a mainstream comic, but the concept of the Bleed is in my head so strongly now that as soon as you used that word it functions on a number of levels - instantly it was the Authority's Bleed but it also makes a whole bunch of sense: it's universally applicable because the way you were using it, in one sense, is exactly how they're using it, that we are actually bleeding into different worlds."

Revelations : "I think that's right and in the non-fiction collection you draw on whatever influences come to mind whether you're writing about yourself or others, so you go to the painting which is the one mass of fiery imagination going on and putting it into whatever subject is on at the time, that's why you could organise the book in an entirely different way and it would be interesting to skip between pages in a different version.
"And we're almost there - finally! - on Liverpool Lives, the first volume of the Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy series... something we started ten years ago when wanting to know much, much more about the pre-Books of Blood period and that we've been writing almost as a gift to you and the others who were involved in the plays..."

Liverpool Lives by Phil and Sarah Stokes

Clive : "I think it's a very smart thing, I think the whole idea of the book, I just think it's a smart idea. This is astonishing what you've done."

Revelations : "We really hope so. We've been doing it for so long, we've shared it with a few people but not widely as yet...."

Clive : "And also you're very close to it. I think it's the detail that stunned me, that there's so much in it. It really is a box of madelines, pre-dipped in tea..."

Revelations : "If only we'd had that for the cover!"

Clive : "And three readers would have got it!"

Revelations : "Three quality readers! It's similar to your comments on Abarat: it's nearly out, we've taken so long getting it right and what we'll do when it's out is move on to volumes two and three and beyond..."

Clive : "And my sense is you've found a form, a way to do this which should make two and three easier, because aren't you going to want these volumes to finally be one single narrative?"

Revelations : "Absolutely right, I do like the spines on my shelf to match up..."

Clive : "You too? I have all my magazines and my Narnias with the same spines in the right order, I get so pissed off if somebody puts them back in the wrong order, I get so miffed. I'm trying to wean myself off that..."

Revelations : "No, don't, because if you do I might have to too! But you're absolutely right, now having worked out the style for the first volume, which is 350 pages, we've already done 100 pages of the second one now, covering The Forbidden and also The Basilisk - which we must come back and ask you some questions about..."

Clive : "God, that will be a deep, dry well!"

Revelations : "You've done numerous storyboards!"

Clive : "What? Where were they?"

Revelations : "Where were they? They were in your papers."

Clive : "You see, that's why you've got my papers! If you didn't tell me I would never have known that."

Revelations : "You'd be surprised what's lurking in there."

Clive : "I'm already astonished at what you've found and I think I said this when I handed them over to you, that there's probably no greater act of faith in my life than handing that stuff to you because these are my uncharted realms. I never had a map of these places that I toured briefly and left behind. In some ways, what you've got are sketches of places that I never really fully inhabited or visited and what you've been able to do is to discover that something I did in certain years has changed into something that I did years later - sometimes that's very obvious like nails in a board but sometimes, as I've discovered reading your insights, it's not obvious at all."

Revelations : "And some are places you didn't visit. It seems to me sometimes that it's like you were travelling on a train, looking out of the windows and seeing some places going past that you'd like to visit at some stage."

Clive : "That's right."

Revelations : "And you remembered them when you needed to visit that sort of inspiration again."

Clive : "I think that's very insightful. I think this still happens now: I've pulled together all the material for Abarat Three, you know we have those big file boxes, five inches deep, I have four of those bursting with papers. I haven't even read those notes for Abarat Three, in other words it's material that never got into the book and I haven't looked at."

Revelations : "But I wonder if a substantial amount of what's in those boxes hasn't in fact got into the book but you didn't need to go back to the notes."

Clive : "Maybe. Really the only way to do this - and let's do this - is let me give you the boxes. It'll probably have to wait until I've done all five books because there may turn out to be something in one of those boxes I'll need in Four or Five, but at some point there will be these boxes and I think you're probably right, Phil, but I think there's also things - I keep discovering poems, complete and unto themselves, that I am astonished by. I think, when did I write this? Sometimes I can tell from my handwriting or the kind of pen, sometimes from the paper because the paper as I'm sure you're both observing too, deteriorates, the quality of the paper in notebooks is terrible."

Revelations : "One of our favourites among the poems that we've found is coming up in Volume Two of Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy. It's written on the back of a copy of the script for The Sack and expresses your frustration with actors and their ownership of your words as they take them in a different direction."

Clive : "Written, do you think, with any intention to publish or just to vent?"

Revelations : "I'm not convinced you were writing anything for publication at that stage. I think it was a moment of introspection."

Clive : "And maybe poetry, by and large, has been until Abarat, when I had a venue, a forum, a tree under which to sit and tell my words and obviously there are all kinds of subjects that are not relevant to Abarat but I'm amazed to find there's a lot of good poems that have been written and actually finished, or nearly finished. Am I right in thinking Emily Dickinson never published any poetry in her lifetime? I imagine if Abarat hadn't come along, that very well could have happened just for the lack of a place to put them, but now I've found one, all is good..."

Abarat Book Three
Abarat Books Four and Five
Journeyman - The Collected Short Stories
Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy: Liverpool Lives
The Adventures Of Mr Maximillian Bacchus And His Travelling Circus
Midnight Meat Train
Individual poems
Art index

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