Starting From Scratch

Reading & Writing

Not content with having four new books out in September (‘Bryant & May: The Memory Of Blood’, ‘Red Gloves’ Vols 1 & 2 and ‘Hell Train’), I now find myself working on three more.

The only downside is that each has to be sold, virtually from scratch – but perhaps that’s the way it should be with the arts. Why should we automatically get approval just because we had success before? Well, experience should count for something rather than the simple thrill of the new, but I’m happy with that. But as I get more experienced, I get more selective about what I absorb. Recently I wrote this opening paragraph in my column for ‘Black Static’ magazine.

‘Everything that other people find enjoyable, I seem to find awful. No, beyond awful. Unwatchable, unreadable, uninvolving, stupid beyond belief. I’m talking largely about the mainstream – popular TV, films and books. Talking animal movies, Will Ferrell, Michael McIntyre, Chris Moyles, Jeremy Clarkson, Cheryl and Martina Cole, Dan Brown, the sheer abundance of mediocrity is staggering.
And of course I realise how pompous this makes me sound just writing it. But I’ve always been more interested in the edges than the whole, and I realize that the taste of the majority is not my own.’

Without wishing to bite the hand that feeds me (not much, admittedly) I could point the finger of blame at commissioners who follow the narrow line of their personal taste and are really more interested about getting an office with a window than they are about good art or writing, or anything original and innovative. I wanted to quote John Cleese in his Monty Python architect sketch, when he delivers an abattoir instead of a block of flats and his clients complain. ‘Well’ he says, ‘that’s the kind of blinkered philistine pig-ignorance I expect from you non-creative garbage.’

But of course the commissioners are often struggling to do (and keep) their jobs too. The difference for most writers is that we complete our projects alone and unaided without a commission or a client, in the hope that we’ve made something we can find a way to sell.

So, for me, a new season begins with a blank screen and a head full of ideas I’m sure no-one will be interested in. Stepping out onto this particular diving board when you can’t see the pool is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.

12 comments on “Starting From Scratch”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    It wouldn’t be any comfort to hear from my children’s lit prof who said that 75% of all books published are a waste of trees, would it? Unless your work, as we all know, fell within the valuable 25%.

  2. Alan says:

    Great. Four new Chris Fowler – and a new Kim Newman coming out.

    I DO want to eat next month…

  3. Rick says:

    Nothing is more terrifying than an original idea — it means commissioners (producer, editors, studios, what have you) must rely on instinct and taste rather than the baseline of what came before. Their number one job will always be to protect themselves, and “no” is always the safest answer. Yet, somehow good work like yours finds its way through the cracks and holes in the system. Press on!

  4. Alan Morgan says:

    Excellent stuff, my birthday is in September and I’m always required to leave a few notes lying around the place in consequence. A new B&M is always good news and right now I’m scouring the library for good short story collections again (of which they have few) and the local bookshops (even less). It’s the better weather, I always seem to want short stories about now – so roll on the Red Gloves (and keep up the weather).

  5. Wayne says:

    Can you confirm, Four books all available in UK? I hope so and i have already started to read possible book shelf space makers. To make room for four new books i will have to pass on some of my beloved collection of tree pulp… i suppose the biggest waste of space is the Steven king section of my book cases, Ah they have been good enough companions but they are easy to find and easy to replace, not like some on my shelves.

    Hope all the new ideas come to print and that your work continues to be as exiting as always.

  6. admin says:

    Yes Wayne, four books, all available in the UK. You could hide them under a bed or line the dog basket with them to save taking up shelf space. I’m not proud where I go.

  7. Now to swing a trip to the UK in September and see if you’re doing any book signings….

    My birthday is then though, so I will absolutely have an excuse. :D

  8. BangBang!! says:

    Oh, brill news! My birthday is in October so I can drop hints. My wife “tidied” the bookshelves recently and seemed to be dropping hints that we are running out of space. I’m sure she lined up my “20th Century Boys” to make it look worse!

  9. Joyce says:

    Warning – sycophantic message alert –
    But Chris, Mr Fowler I mean, that’s why we love your work. It is not mediocre. When I ‘found’ you I was in seventh heaven because here was a man who could really write. From a purely selfish point of view I wish you a long and productive life so there will be more and more books! It’s so annoying/sad/ frustrating when you realise that you have come to the end of a beloved author’s catalogue because they died in 1903 or whenever! You aren’t pompous, you are brilliant.

  10. Mike Cane says:

    Chin up, dammit. I’ve been reading you since I encountered Roofworld in the 1980s. Stop making me feel old. And I want that back in print — without any revisions, dammit. Leave the record as it was.

  11. JoeMarius says:

    I want to know what happens to Colin and Meera. That “situation” seems to have been on the back burner for the past couple of books. It is eerily reminiscent of a relationship I was once part of.

  12. admin says:

    Oh Colin and Meera get their moment in the next couple of books, don’t worry!

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