The Hellbound Art : Memory, Fantasy And Filigree

The Eighth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 10th February 2005

With thanks to Clodagh Nugent. Your help is warmly appreciated.

Revelations : "What's new for you at the moment?"

Clive : "This is the day we went back onto the bestseller lists with Abarat, the first one, which is really great. It's the third time we've gone back on, which puts us up at nine weeks... Everything is going very well over here - the Hellraiser novel, which was of course a short story and then became a novella and is now a 120,000 word novel is... I am halfway through the final draft and it is very fun to write, I must say. It's very fun to write but it's now reasonably big; I guess it'll be 400 pages."

Our pal with the pins Scott Bakula as Harry D'Amour

Revelations : "So what does that do to its publication? Is it still within a collection of short stories?."

Clive : "I would like it to be and I don't believe we will know, honestly, what Harper's marketing people will decide until they see the text. There are two opinions here. One is that you take the novel and you separate it off and you make it a thing unto itself which would be perfectly fine, I don't think people would be bothered by a novel that was that length on its own and there's an argument that says it slightly gets lost among a collection of other things which include reprints. But on the other hand part of me, the completist part of me, wants to fling everything into this, probably 700 page book, which would contain as its main entrée, if you will, this novel."

Revelations : "Do you think HarperCollins would be disinclined to do both a short stories collection and a standalone novel?"

Clive : "No, no, not at all. There is a huge enthusiasm to do the short stories and to print everything that's missing that isn't in print, plus of course a lot of the short stories that I've created that I haven't even published - and really I hate to say this, but it sort of is a marketing question. I'm concentrating on the bit that I can have control over, which is writing the book and we'll see what happens. I guess there is a part of me that thinks it would be nice for it to stand alone, more than I thought, because it's quite the big story. You know, we have two of my major characters clashing and I was thinking that if all stories are part of one vast collective unconscious story, then probably the Ur story is the descent into the Underworld; it's certainly the Shaman story, and Harry does that in this book, you know, he descends in pursuit of another soul, a soul whose name he doesn't even know and there's something quite potent about that idea and I wouldn't want it to sort of get lost in a collection of short fiction. But maybe it wouldn't. In other words, I'm a Libran and I can't make up my fucking mind!"

Revelations : "There's the argument that you're more likely to pull in more Hellraiser film fans to buy just the novel."

Clive : "Absolutely, that's absolutely right, although I think you can pull them in both ways. I think the argument for pulling the Hellraiser fans is if you put that on the cover then maybe you also tempt them in to reading some kind of fiction that they wouldn't otherwise have read because the collection is pretty disparate, including obviously the two stories that bookended Millenium/Revelations which is one of my favourite pieces of my own fiction and is much under-read, much under-found, much under-published...
"We are now in 31 languages with Abarat. I'm getting a lot more mail in different languages! I'm also getting a lot of mail from soldiers in Iraq which is nice - almost solely about Abarat, which I think is interesting.
"We have two 'go' films right now: Midnight Meat Train and Plague - which is the picture we are producing with Seraphim - Plague is already in pre-production, and if things stay on schedule, Midnight Meat Train will go into pre-production next month. Abarat, the script (what hopefully is the final script) will be turned in to Disney, though not to us, in a week's time."

Revelations : "You've not seen any of that, have you?"

Clive : "I have not seen a single word."

Revelations : "I know they were keeping it from you for a while, but are you now deliberately avoiding it?"

Clive : "I sort of am, actually. I feel as though, 'Let Disney do what they need to do with it and then show it to me,' I think it's hard for people like John Harrison, who is a very, very smart and very respectful man, respectful of the books and of me and I am equally respectful of him. I don't want to be another voice wittering in his ear. I am perfectly sure that there are a dozen script advisers and note-takers and note-takers to the note-takers at Disney who are already doing that. I prefer to wait until the script has found some kind of equilibrium and hopefully John is at a place where he wants to show it to me and when he wants to show it to me, I will happily read it and we'll see, we'll see. Meanwhile, the town is fantasy crazy, everything is going forward and Kelly Asbury will turn in what I hope will be the shooting script of Thief of Always in about a month's time. The work he's done is unbelievable, so that's very exciting and there's great enthusiasm over at Fox about that, so the only thing that stands out at the moment as a bit forlorn is Tortured Souls."

West Hollywood Book Fair painting - 'Profile'

Revelations : "I saw Todd McFarlane saying somewhere that Universal had led it lapse but that they had then picked it up again?"

Clive : "Well, what happened was they let it lapse and then a sub-company of theirs called Rogue, which released over here Shaun of The Dead and a bunch of other pictures, is looking at it. With my nose being so much to the grindstone, I'm writing the Hellraiser stuff during the day and at night I am painting Abarats 3 and 4, there isn't another minute during the day to think about anything else at all. My feeling is that if fate wants me to direct a movie it will pick up the phone to me at some point, but am I happy right now doing what I am doing? Blissfully! So you know, let it be what it will be.
"One consequence of this is that, if we don't do the picture, Abarat 3 will be pulled up, because that picture would have been eighteen months before I got to Abarat 3... If I didn't do Tortured Souls and, given the scale of the adult novel which I am about to give HarperCollins - that will be about sometime in about June or July, they'll get this 120,000 word Hellraiser book with the possibility of making it a compilation which will add another 300 pages to it, that's a big book, that's a 700 page book which will be full of very adult material - I would hope that they would then leave me clear to get on with doing Abarat 3."

Revelations : "How did Storyopolis go?"

Storyopolis tryptich - detail

Clive : "It was fantastic. I did two public paintings - I did the LA Book Fair which was in October/November last year, and then I decided to paint a tryptich, so that is a painting that is twelve feet long, five feet tall and, 'Am I going to be able to do this?' Well, I took one piss-break and after three hours it was finished. It was immense fun, it was immense fun - I felt like a cross between Rolf Harris and, I don't know, Maurice Sendak - but it was very fun and I like the painting that came out of it which was nice. And all those paintings are being given to children's charities, the Starlight Starbright charity, so that's good, that's nice."

Revelations : "The tryptich is very bright - maybe a reaction to painting in so much black for Abarat 3! There's a sense of sweep from Autumn to Spring, almost like the Thief of Always cover..."

Clive : "Yes, I kind of did that. I wanted to make something that went along with the feeling in the room - it was a kind of party; people were drinking champagne and buying books and I wanted to make a celebratory painting and it was, I suppose, partly my mood and partly the mood of the room which dictated how it was going to work. It was a very interesting experience, I had great fun. It started a whole plan to do this with a bunch of different artists; we were going to try and do it at Comic Con, but I guess we're too late this year to get the really nice spots to do it. So we'll do it at Comic Con next year, we'll get a whole bunch of artists, Storyopolis artists, painting. [They] look after some of the dead greats, but some of the living greats too and the idea of having a dozen artists painting for a day would be so much damn fun!"

Clive with Stan Lee at Storyopolis

Revelations : "Did people back off from you or were they peering over your shoulder, making suggestions?"

Clive : "Because the paintings were so big, I had to have a rough kind of scaffolding thing to get up to the painting, so we used the quarter boxes used in filming and so we had this little arrangement and then it was roped off, in part to preserve people from flying paint, and it was a blast. The only really wonderful alteration that was made to the painting - there was a signing afterwards and I was signing some books and this young lady came along and she said, 'My son has an apology to make to you,' and her son was hiding behind her and he was, I don't know, four or five and he came out and she said, 'Go on, tell him,' and the son raised his index finger which had a big swodge of Prussion Blue oil paint on it. Apparently he had climbed up the stairs and decided to add his own little filigree! So I said, 'Well, good for you! We should sign it together then, shouldn't we?'
"The following day, Stan Lee was signing with me, which was great. We had Cornelia [Funke], Stan and myself and it was a blast. I've known Stan a long time now and I adore him, he's a really cool, fun guy, with a lot of passion still. "The other big news is that I am going to do a big exhibition of new erotic painting in October or November here in L.A. at a gallery downtown."

Revelations : "New paintings as in yet to be created?"

Clive : "Yes."

Revelations : "You haven't got time for that! You bring it on yourself!"

The Arsonist

Clive : "You know I do, but a 52 year-old has to - it's a race for the finish line! I feel as though I've been painting, if you will, PG paintings for a long time and it's time to paint some R-rated paintings. The Rizzoli book, Visions of Heaven and Hell, will come out in October and that has a lot of the erotic art in as well as a lot of Abarat art - and a lot of fold-outs, a lot of gatefolds; there are twelve gatefolds in the book, so it will have a lot of really big illustrations in it which is great, very exciting. So that will really start to get people to be able to see paintings that they were only able to see small - like the island painting, so small in the book, is now going to be a foot and a half long and so it's fun... Just about the only frustration on 'Visions' is that I have not been able to track down the owner of The Arsonist, so we're having to reproduce it from a smaller transparancy and you don't get the same veracity. I think the painting will survive it, but it's just a frustration because I like the painting and I would like to know that it was well and was being looked after. It's strange that whoever has it hasn't heard that I am looking... The book is going to be gorgeous - it's not going to be cheap - it's going to be $50."

Revelations : "Amazon has it listed at $75?"

Clive : "I've just talked them down, they wanted to do the $75 edition with slipcase and I said let the limited edition be that one and just do the edition that people can reasonably afford. So we are going to go down to fifty bucks. It doesn't change the quality of the book at all - the seventy-five buck book was simply the fifty buck book packaged differently, so it's still the same length, it's still the same quality of printing and binding, and the whole point is to get these pictures out to the largest number of people I possibly can."

Revelations : "The Luna7 Abarat reproductions certainly seem to be getting the Abarat art out to people successfully."

Clive : "They are beautiful, and as they are on canvas they are as close as you are going to get to a painting. It's uncanny."

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