Revelations : "We were reflecting as we were dialling in that it's been a while since we did a lengthy conversation like this one together. You're being rightly careful of your energies as the recovery from toxic shock takes its natural path..."
Clive : "To be honest, it's a long, slow trek - they said it would take two to three years when I came out of hospital - I've only left the house five times since I left the hospital. Some days I'm fine and other days I'm not. I am getting better - it's hard to judge, I haven't been sick a lot in my life, I've not been sick and unable to get out of bed. There are days when this conversation just wouldn't have happened; I just wouldn't have the wherewithal to do it. I keep coming back to all seven doctors saying when I awoke, 'You should not be alive...' It's a wake-up call that makes me realise that (a) I'm very lucky to be alive and (b) I need to take that gift and not betray it by pretending that I'm all tough and ready to get back into work again like nothing ever happened. God gave me a gift and I will pay homage to that, resting and sleeping and conserving my energies and getting well."
Revelations : "You've been less visible, but we know you've been hard at work, haven't you?"
Clive : "Very hard and there's two things we can talk about and one thing we can't talk about for public dissemination right now but will soon be able to, which is Scarlet Gospels - which is now finished and delivered. I should have news about where we're going to place Scarlet Gospels very soon, but obviously that's where that is and we're waiting on guidance there and then I'll need to sit with the editor, whoever that will be. Mark [Miller] has been a wonderful editor on it. I asked him to take the pieces while I was working on Abarat, and he did wonderfully - and then some - and if the publishers say they don't want to put an editor on it, then I will very happily go back to him and say let's do a final pass together, you know?
"The first thing we can talk about, obviously, is Abarat IV - which has a change of title: Kry Rising.
"Kry is the collective noun for magic in the Abarat, so Kry Rising is the finishing title for Abarat IV. I'm just doing final chapter polishes right now. We've got another seven or eight months before I deliver it and then we're just looking at what painting I really have to do, because, obviously, in my somewhat reclusive state the scale of paintings that I was doing previously - the very large paintings - are unthinkable at the moment. Now that isn't to say I won't get back into being able to do those eventually, I certainly hope I'll get back to doing those, but right now I'm not steady enough on my legs to get up on anything - you know, stepping on a piece of paper, that's as high as I'm going to get! I certainly wouldn't risk myself on the boxes that career around in order to be able to paint large pictures. I couldn't do that right now so I'm going to have to work on a smaller scale, but I think that we've experimented somewhat obviously with some smaller pictures that I added to Abarat III - I don't think people noticed. "
Revelations : "That's right, there were certainly the three that you added in right at the last stage pre-publication."
Clive : "Yeah, I don't think - I hope - there was no degradation in quality, you know, even though I'm doing smaller pictures and it's just, I can't do four' by five' pictures right now.
"The other big new fact is that we have a new gallery! It's in Culver City and is very, I think it's fair to say, prestigious... It's also very well set up down there. They're going to do an exhibition of Grand Guignol material - some original Grand Guignol material, posters and so forth, which will be supplemented with some paintings of my own - in October."
Revelations : "Excellent! And there are other artists too - Dave McKean for one?"
Clive : "No, that's the second one - that's the next one - there are actually three exhibitions! The Grand Guignol is October, for a short period and my guess is - though I haven't had a conversation with Thomas about this - it's targeted towards Halloween, and then in November there is a three person exhibition of Dave McKean,
David Mack and myself, and then in January there's a one-man show with myself.
"Tom's made some very interesting choices - ten or twelve, just a first batch - all large pictures. I was quite surprised at how eclectic his choices were... there's some pretty dark stuff there, but there's also some very - I don't want to say 'literary' paintings, but very story-driven paintings, like Modern Man, for instance, which I think is a story-driven painting - it seems to be implying there's a story being told even if you don't know what it is. I like that.
"Just as a complete aside, I've had times when I haven't been able to get up and write and one of the things I did was sit down and read from page one through both of the books you did about my life and putting all those pieces in order with all those wonderful illustrations and, I have to tell you, the critical analysis that you guys did of all the material is second to none, it's absolutely breath-taking."
Revelations : "Thank you, kind sir."
Clive : "I hadn't entirely read them all through, you know. Now I have, and watching you summarise the plays and the stories and then draw it out in a very straightforward, clear fashion what the salient points are: breath-taking. I just wanted you to know that."
Revelations : "With luck you'll enjoying volume 3 very soon now."
Clive : "Oh, OK! What's it called?"
Revelations : "No title yet: but it's close now and the book will be over to you in page proofs form in the next few weeks - we'll have a title by then!"
[Note: we've since chosen 'Masquerades'...]
Clive : "What's the area it covers?"
Revelations : "This one's on your work in 1981 and 1982, so Paradise Street, Frankenstein in Love and The Secret Life of Cartoons as well as unpublished work and the earliest drafts of the Books of Blood, which date from that period."
Clive : "Yes, I was passing them around, not to everybody by any means but maybe to Doug [Bradley] and certainly to Pete [Atkins] whose was the viewpoint I sought out most actively: we had so many things in common, as you point out in the books, in one of the volumes, we had comics, we had our intellectual concerns in common, so many things. I said, 'You will understand this stuff, as a populist juggling in some senses metaphysical or philosophical ponderings..'"
Revelations : "There's a line you used in Liverpool Lives that described him as 'effortlessly smart.'"
Clive : "I think we even get that now, don't we? He tosses off phrases that I would take half a week to think of!"
Revelations : "And just smiles as he does it - we'll see him at World Fantasy in October and will look forward to more from him!
While we're on the Memory, Prophecy and Fantasy books, this may be a good time to let everyone know that we'll be publishing the full texts of each of the plays, individually and with additional comments and visual material, to create the definitive library of all of them, starting in early 2014..."
Clive : "And the Abarat Art Book?"
Revelations : "We've addressed your notes and that will be back with you in the next week or so you for a final pass."
Clive : "Excellent! What's your thought, do people in general, for example the people at World Fantasy, do people understand that the paintings exist?"
Revelations : "Oh, I think you're widely recognised as an artist, but perhaps not the breadth of the body of work? And the oils in particular, which came after the two published Illustrator volumes... The Abarat book - and the exhibitions at Century Guild - will move that on again, we think."
Clive : "Well, yes, absolutely - Tom is a very, very nice, patient, very organised man. He's doing Grand Guignol art and he doesn't make any distinction at all - I'm sure we all feel the same way - high art, low art, it's all art. The first exhibition is really presenting the sort of Halloweeny kind of exhibition. Then there's the three-person exhibition and that will be interesting to me too - I have no idea how that's going to play out, the only person who has it in his head is Tom but he has faith and I'm really happy to have a mixed exhibition, no question. I'm a huge admirer of what he's done. And then there'll be the one-man show in the early part of the year, so there's a lot to be excited about."
Revelations : "What sort of pieces would you like people to see that they're not already seeing elsewhere?"
Clive : "Well, I think what they're going to do this time is a lot more comprehensively organised - they'll see colour and black and white stuff in the first exhibition, they'll see black and white stuff in the second exhibition, then the big oil work will be the January exhibition, so really a bit of everything.
"At the same time, West Hollywood has invited me to exhibit for several months around West Hollywood, including the library - they just had their Jean Cocteau exhibition. So, on the heels of Jean, Alex is curating an exhibition of my writing laid beside the final text so that people can see what my thought process is, and then also paintings and some illustrations. So it'll be very fun to have that and I'm delighted."
Revelations : "It's a great opportunity - we're getting a slice of the 'celebration' that we were talking about doing a couple of years ago for your 60th birthday, before you were taken ill."
Clive : "Absolutely - and I think there is always going to be room for that. I think the only problem that we face here is the safety of the items. It's a public thoroughfare; a library is a public thoroughfare with lots of people there and, you know, it's not as safe as a gallery."
Revelations : "But the Jean Cocteau pieces were safe in that environment presumably?"
Clive : "I don't think he's 'known' in the same way. I mean, that's the problem: the good news and the bad news on me is I'm (and I hate the word) a 'celebrity.' I therefore attract a small number of people whose first interest isn't art, their first interest is, you know, getting people into trouble on Facebook and so on: a gallery has problems with that kind of person and that has made us very cautious of hanging large oils."
Revelations : "We'll have the pieces online for those who can't get to see them in person, of course, but for many people, this past year has allowed an insight into another really important 'slice' in seeing your vision of Nightbreed and how that whole restored vision movement has come to life."
Clive : "It's awesome. And it's wonderful. By the time we've [timed] it and got it into digital, you know, we've run it through the digital machine and tidied it up, I think we're going to have a gorgeous picture. And this is not about me - this is about Mark, it's about Russell [Cherrington], and you two, it's about the people who created, you know, the Midian site and are hugely loyal at a level I've never understood."
Revelations : "In that initial campaign, 3,000 people put their names down on Revelations and Morgan Creek saw the interest, but that tripled and quadrupled when the Occupy Midian community was established and grew."
Clive : "And I was startled by that - were you?"
Revelations : "Yes, startled that it had such a successful second impetus so quickly, but it's the beauty of social media to be easily engaging - for some people it just takes a click and for others who want to share material it's open access, so it just took a life of its own which was excellent."
Clive : "Completely, and with three quarters of an hour of material in the picture that wasn't in it, with hopefully new music cues, or certainly re-worked music cues, and new foley and so on and obviously the whole hi-def, we will have a very different movie. We'll have a movie which firstly will represent the movie I wanted to shoot in the first place, which is awesome, but also be the movie people have deserved because they really bought into the picture as a notion, an idea, you know?
"The thing that interests me as a storyteller, very much interests me as a storyteller, is that this is a story that has found its home. And I suppose all three of us might reasonably say we knew stories were like this, we knew stories that worked in one time, not another. Well, yes of course I knew it, but I don't think I knew to the extent that's now being proved. This is proof right in front of me that a certain kind of story needs a certain moment - a certain zeitgeist has to be in place before a certain kind of story can find its audience."
Revelations : "What's rare is that a filmed story gets a second chance after failing in some way the first time around."
Clive : "Yes, when it's a novel you expect to get a second chance - Moby Dick only sold 5,000 copies in Melville's lifetime, it was later on it was revisited, but movies tend not to get that, do they? Movies tend to be things which are very throwaway and it's very, very lovely, it's very validating. It was a portion of my life which was incredibly painful and which I thought was basically a disaster and I felt was basically a great loss. I felt as though that period of my life, that two years of my life when I made that movie and fought for it and so on, was all very brackish water under the bridge and there was nothing to be gained from it of value. And I was wrong. And it's wonderful."