Clive on Abarat: Absolute Midnight

...In the map-mosaicked room at the top of the Needle Tower, Mater Motley surveyed her creation, and was satisfied. The Midnight Empire she had planned for, laboured for, lived for, now owned the Abarat from horizon to horizon, with the exception of the Twenty-Fifth Hour; though it was only a matter of time, she was sure, until that most perverse of Hours fell to her. Everywhere Mater Motley sent her remote gaze, it was the same triumphantly desolate story. Where there had been calm there was now chaos and violence. Where there had been calm there was panic and terror...

"The third book is called Absolute Midnight - which suggests it won't be a happy book! But the idea is that we are aiming for something which is going to be apocalyptic, but it's going to be a private apocalypse - it's going to be played out on a grand scale but also played out on a very localised, very intimate scale..."

Barnes and Noble Stage Presentation

By Brein Lopez, LA Festival of Books, 25 April 2004

"I have plot outlines for part three and some notions for four, based on the 270 paintings that I haven't used so far, but I may develop some new paintings as well. Now that I'm into the third book and starting to think about the climax of this narrative, I have to take charge of it a little bit. It can't be the unruly stallion any longer. I've really got to break it, otherwise I'm not going to get the climax that my audience deserves.
"I want Book Three to build to something fairly dramatic, and Book Four to be on a whole new level of excitement, so I'm not quite as passive - in the sense that, with the first book I was letting the paintings tell me what was going on. The same was true to an extent with the second book, although I started to become more of a shaper of the world. The third one is very shaped, very predestined, because I pretty much know where this narrative is heading. At the end of four books there are going to be half-a-million words and 500 oil paintings, and I want that four-book world to read like one enormous, incredibly colourful, surrealistic journey."

Days Of Magic

By Joe Nazzaro, Fantasy Worlds, No 5, February 2005

"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 [Tortured Souls], 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... I would hope that they would then leave me clear to get on with doing Abarat 3."

The Hellbound Art : Memory, Fantasy And Filigree

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 10 February 2005 (note - full text here)

Clive Barker - Midnight

"Yes, it will be called Absolute Midnight. I don't have it written yet but I already have about three quarters of the paintings made for it. I just have to guess right now - but I would say something like that. So I'm not sure how quickly I will get to writing it - it depends on whether I go and shoot a movie first. If I go on to direct Tortured Souls, when I finished Scarlet Gospels - then obviously I won't write Abarat 3 immediately. If having turned in Scarlet Gospels and I feel kind of more excited about Abarat 3 I might just go up and start writing. I have the whole book in my head. But really as you know the paintings are the starting place to do. It's nice having so many of the paintings done - huge paintings some of them. And for the first time I've also done some round pictures. I've just finished one round painting which is about 6 feet across. And I have a second round painting which I'm continuing work on tonight. So, that's fun - I have never done round pictures."

Clive Barker On The Phone

By [Thomas Hemmerich], That's Clive!, 29 March 2005 (note - full text online at

"I am shaping up Abarat 3 and 4 while writing Scarlet Gospels during the day and polishing the script of The Midnight Meat Train which goes into production this year in New York along with a movie called The Plague... I'm actually putting words on a piece of paper and it's because I'm beginning to see, in a way that I didn't with Books 1 and 2 really, the shape, the feeling of what these books are going to be as they reach their apocalyptic and transformative end and you know the narrative is going to explode into a huge scale in the third book. I did a painting of the destruction of something well-known in the Abarat and David came in and was aghast, he said, 'You can't destroy that!' and I said 'I just did!' It will be destroyed in Book 3. Book 3, as the title Absolute Midnight suggests, is a pretty dark book but the darkest hours are not actually in Book 3, the darkest hours are in Book 4, so in a way that is new to me in this Abarat process I am feeling a sense of the shape of these things as I paint. And I'm making copious notes and writing paragraphs and literally have two files full of notes now. It will be interesting to see how much of it actually finds its way into the final books...
"I'm aware that I've begun a pretty huge narrative with a lot of characters already and even though there was a night of the long knives in the second book and a bunch of characters bit the dust, there's a bunch of new characters waiting in the third book. To give you an example, we have a glyph in Book 4 which is created by 7,000 people and the painting of the glyph is three canvasses long! It's in a style which I have never painted in before because I wanted this thing to look Clive Barker - Glyph utterly... I just didn't want it to look like a machine or even necessarily a vehicle of conveyance. In a curious way I wanted it to look like something that had been summoned by 7,000 people - actually 7,001 because Malingo leads this joint creation - summoned by 7,001 imaginations and so, yes, I'm pretty clearly sensing what the shape of Book 3 will be. I'm not quite so clear about what Book 4 will be yet because there are some things in play that I have to work through which are actually about the metaphysics of it all; actually they are about what happens when you get into the 25th hour and you know, given the fact that it is a time out of time, what revelations, what horrors, what wonders are you going to see when you meet yourself as a baby or as an old person or whatever, so there's a lot of interesting stuff happening there...
"What's touching Abarat are actually much more emotional pieces of metaphysics; I mean what happens when you find you are not the person you thought you were, but in fact two people in one, how you separate yourself off, is it possible to separate yourself off from someone that you have lived with for sixteen years, particularly if that person doesn't necessarily - and I'm giving a hint here - doesn't necessarily mean you good."

The Lazarus Muse: Nights Of Magic, Days Of Gore

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 2 June 2005 (note: full text here)

"[Absolute Midnight] 's certainly going to be the longest and darkest so far. Whether it will be longer or darker than the fourth, I cannot tell."

Visions In Paint And Celluloid

By Carnell, Fangoria, No.247, October 2005

"There is a backlog in my imagination of stuff which I now very much want to paint for the third book, because... when I turn in Scarlet Gospels... I'm going to be straight in to Book Three.
"I had not realised that until this moment, but yes, I am, in a way [mentally combining Books Three and Four] - all the notes, for instance, and there are files of notes that I've kept for story elements, have 'Abarat Three and Four' written on them, on the front of them and that's in part because I haven't yet figured out where I'm going to take the break in the story and it's partly because there is a shit-load goes on in these books - there're going to be big books - and I also have a couple of ideas which I haven't yet had a chance to talk over with Joanna [Cotler] about - some radical things that we might do, painting-wise, which might be kinda fun, so I've really got a lot to deal with - in a good way - when I've finished this last picture for the cover of Heaven and Hell, because I really think that people when they finish Three will be eager for Four and a conclusion. And Four will bring the whole thing to an end and it will raise the stakes and make for a big, epic ending. And I sort of am, in a way, thinking of those two books as one huge run-up to a massive climax.
"I'm [writing the two books back-to-back]. That's what I'm absolutely going to do - obviously it won't mean that they'll get printed any faster, because my belief is that Book Four is going to be very, very fat, but yes, I mean I have a lot to resolve and a lot of secrets to spring on people!"

Heaven, Hell And The Dreaming Space Between

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 5 December 2005 (note: full text here)

"Well, Abarat 3 is in front of me right now and I have plotted it in the time that I've been waiting for Scarlet Gospels to be fully spell-checked so that I don't have to deal with that minor stuff when I do the final pass. I have taken ten days to bring together, from those file boxes, where we'd arranged the contents into piles: one of those piles, about seven or eight inches tall, was all my notes on Abarat 3 and now I've gone through all that and thrown out the dumb ideas, taken out the songs and put them in a separate box - so I've now got a repository of Abaratian songs and poems, I'm talking about hundreds now, which I will either use or generate new versions or however it strikes me as I get closer to the material - but what is wonderful is that I've finished that whole process; I am looking right now at maybe a dozen sets of notes to still go through which I shall probably finish this afternoon and that will leave me with Abarat plotted and ready to rock and roll...
Clive Barker - Abarat 3, Absolute Midnight "I mean the first book was, you know what it was; I was starting off from zero and I think a lot of people had dodgy expectations of what it was going to be and I think a lot of those people have been converted and if they haven't, I think the third book will do a lot to lay to rest the anxiety that somehow or other I am softening in my middle age and that Abarat is somehow me revisiting Narnia or Wonderland or whatever - it isn't, and it is never more clear than in Book Three where the narrative turns to the monstrous and the very, very dark.
"You know, just a couple of teasers: Bill Quackenbush finding Wolfswinkel's hats... where the water recedes from Chickentown there's a shitload of stuff which has been washed into the town and when the waters recede, dumped there, left there like the stuff you would find at a high water mark and a lot of that stuff is related to [Abarat]. There are forces within the town which arise pretty much out of nowhere just to make sure this stuff is burned. Whereas Mister Quackenbush, Daddy Quackenbush, who you know has always been a little sad character sitting in a smoke-filled world drinking beer, finds Wolfswinkel's hats, finds them washed up and left as garbage and he puts them on and he feels this flow of power he has never felt before. So that's sort of fun. What does a man as unpleasant as Bill Quackenbush do with the power he now has, now taken from a dead wizard? - not that he knows it's a dead wizard's; he knows nothing about these hats, it's just that when he puts them on, man, he feels amazing and because they are old felt hats he has them made up into a check shirt - he doesn't wear hats, but can wear this patchwork shirt - and carrying the power around with him."

Sowing The Seeds Of The Story Tree

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 28 August and 4 September 2006 (note - full text here)

"All the paintings [for Abarat Three] are now done and so now it's really just a question of turning those paintings into a narrative reality which is coming together very nicely. I am painting like a fool here - I'm actually having a great time - I'm way ahead of the words, right now - you guys know more than anybody how much further I am, there are more paintings than I could possibly use in the two books that will be left after the third is taken care of - to which you may reply oh, why the fuck are you still painting? And the answer is two-fold, actually three-fold... The first one is just that I'm crazy, and I'm enjoying it, but the real reason is that as long as there are images of Abarat in my mind, I want to download them onto canvas, because I don't know exactly - I have a vague idea - but I don't have a clear idea of the processes of books four and five I think it's my duty to the narrative to keep providing visual options, to keep them coming. Nothing will be wasted!... I really am enjoying the darker aspects, having had the relatively light touches involved in the first two books."

A Spiritual Retreat

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 26 March 2007 (note - full text here)

"He is the embodiment of Midnight - I don't mean literally, I mean this will be the title page of the third book. I wanted something to announce: alright, we're going into another gear, we're going up a gear, you know? And he is somebody, almost like the guy at a circus, the ringmaster as it were, saying, 'OK, get ready, here it comes, now you're getting into the really dark stuff.' And at the same time I wanted him to have an Abaratian strangeness to him; in his tail, with the faces in the light coming up from the branch he's holding. So that's Midnight...
"I have what can only be called genocide in Abarat, because that's what it is, and the fact that it's led by the kind of people that persecute people who are blue or green, as opposed to black and yellow or that they go to a different church or they practice love in a different way, is by the by. It's the same old story throughout history of how differences in others have always been treated and I've always been - I won't say always but I've very often - been pro-'others', you know Nightbreed being an example, where people identify with the monsters...
"I'm glad to be actually writing Abarat Three, which is what I'm doing right now... Everything's been going beautifully, and you can let everyone know that I am halfway through the penultimate draft."

Working In The Midnight Hours...

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 17 December 2007 (note - full text here)

"I'm writing Abarat 3, with all the paintings painted now. In fact, some of the paintings that are on display and for sale at the [Packer Schopf] exhibition are Abarat pictures. I think what I write is pictorial, shall we say. A lot of my stuff begins with an image that - for some reason or another - I couldn't get out of my head. It's a bit like the piece of sand in the oyster, not to say all my work is pearls. But it serves the same function. It irritates in an interesting way."

Barker Talks About His Baby 'Hellraiser' On Its Birthday

By Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune, 11 January 2008 (note - full text available online at

"I'm on Chapter Twenty-Seven now, so that feels about right, I'm about 50,000 words through the final draft, which is a little under halfway. I think the other books are about 110,000 to 120,000 words. So it'll be of that length. I just had one of those emotions where you go 'Oh fuck, I should have done that..!' So I backed up two days ago to go and do that and I was so pleased. You know, Chris is typing it and every now and again I'll check in and see what he's feeling and what he's finding a little tiresome and I'll listen to him, of course, he's the first person reading it and he made a casual observation which got me thinking about something and I thought, my God, I could do this - it's actually to do with Bill Quackenbush and his possession of the hats which had belonged to Wolfswinkel...
"I have been using the patchwork coat [made from Wolfswinkel's hats] as something that happened more at a distance, it wasn't front and centre and I suddenly realised that there was a way I could make it front and centre that would be just tremendous. So I back-tracked a couple of chapters and wove this new element in and it just got me so damn excited I didn't want to go to sleep. You get to these places - it's always wonderful when you get to this place in a book where you just don't want to go to sleep and the last two or three nights have been like that because I am excited. There are basically five storylines in this book, five clusters of narrative elements: Candy obviously has one of those and she trails a series of other characters that you're obviously familiar with. So there are five of these and what I'm trying to do is make sure that the weaving in and out of those remains in balance - I feel a bit like one of those guys Clive Barker - Yobias Thim with plates spinning up on sticks, and who's racing back and forth to make sure they all stay up in the air, but actually that's part of the fun of it and it was inevitable that in this book I was going to have a lot of things in play and so there's a lot of stuff going on and a balancing act. I'm proceeding cautiously because I want to make sure we don't lose sight of any one character for more than three or four chapters and I'm actually having a blast and I'm painting at the same time, so it's all very good."

Pivotal Voices: Was, Is And Will Be

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 11 April 2008 (note - full text here)

"Right in front of me is the type-written text of Abarat Three which I am doing the final polish on and which will then go to Chris to insert the final polish into the draft, at which point it goes to HarperCollins... I do three drafts, then this, then you want the numbers for entertainment's sake, I've got the pile to hand - it's actually 2,195 hand-written pages - now you know the way I write those handwritten pages with the text way open, so there's not a lot of words on a page. I mean, because I always want to make my own notes on these things."

We Are All Imaginary Animals...

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 11 & 12 October 2008 (note - full text here)

"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...
"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... 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..."

The Bleed Between The Apprentice And The Master

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 28 February and 7 March 2009 (note - full text here)

"The first half of Abarat III has been delivered to my marvellous editor, Joanna Cotler. At the end of the week I will deliver the rest."

Twitter Post

By Clive Barker, 16 June 2009

"I've just delivered Abarat 3 to my publishers. I have about 100 of the oil paintings done of the 120 which will go into the book, so I owe them 20 pictures. The book is longer than the first two, it's about 120,000 words and it's called Abarat 3 Absolute Midnight and it is the darkest - I mean, it's for the same audience that obviously read the first two books, but my God it's dark. You know it's written for an audience that starts age ten; I'd like to think it will be a ten year old's first horror book. I would love it if kids across the world - these books are in 42, 43 languages - and I would love it if kids were introduced to horror through the Abarat books. You know, Books 1 and 2 were kind of cool, sauntering along and then along comes Absolute Midnight and, my God, does it get dark and I like it. There's some very dark stuff going down and I've enjoyed writing it - it's the middle book of the 5 and it gets as bad as it's going to get."

FEARnet Panel

An appearance at the FEARnet Panel at San Diego Comic Con, 24 July 2009 (note: full video online at

"Joanna had the manuscript in, what? August? I'm waiting for notes, which are very small, by the way.
"I think [the delay]'s a lot to do with the complexities of printing an illustrated book. I don't understand it entirely because you would have thought with computers it would be really easy... Joanna's no longer at HarperCollins so it's a whole different ball-game. All I can say is, you know, this is publishing...
"I don't think there's going to be a lot edited out [of Book 3], frankly, I don't know. All I know is the book is damn good!!"

Now And In Time To Be

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 1 and 4 January 2010 (note - full text here)

"Hi to all. A lot of people asked for the release date of Abarat III. Today I was told it will be September of 2011. There are plans to do signings but we won't have them locked down for a while. As soon I have news, Phil and Sarah will carry it."

Twitter Posts

By Clive Barker, 29 July 2010

"I was left in a sort of no-win situation... I do not know whether they knew consciously that they were painting me into a corner in terms of the timing - I've never really been able to work that out. I don't think they quite realised how badly it would affect a writer for them to be 'absent' for eight months...
"This was the perfect storm. This was publishers conspiring with the Fates to make Hell. I think the one thing, the lesson here is, I mustn't ever take it for granted that this can ever be done again; I think this is a once in a lifetime gift, from the Fates, or whatever... Almost everything in this Abarat text, I don't recognise, it's almost as though it's been channelled, it's very, very powerful..."

Prevailing Against The Perfect Storm

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 7 August 2010 (note - full text here)

"Tomorrow Christopher Carrion comes to life, in a filmed trailer for Abarat III. The director of the three minute taste of the Abarat is my great friend Mark Miller. Make up and effects by the talented Stephen Imhoff, and Chris Alex, who will be working on my next movie. Special effects by Brandon Mahlberg. This has been a long time in the making."

Twitter Posts

By Clive Barker, 1 February 2011

"One of my biggest ambitions for these books, guys, is that I would take the clichés, if you will, of fairytale and the clichés of heroic fiction, epic fiction and I would turn them upside-down. One of those clichés is that princesses are good, right? You know, Princess Leah in Star Wars, Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora, or whatever, all good. Princess Boa - nah! Not good, very bad lady! And I think up until now we've probably just thought she was a pretty good lady who was fooling around with the wrong person and that person obviously was Christopher Carrion. We are about to learn just how bad she is. Book Three will deal, to some extent, with the battle between Candy and Boa..."

Questioning Clive

By Peggy O'Leary and Kodiak Middle School, Beneath The Surface Of Clive Barker's Abarat, May 2011

"It's a long, painful life that [Zephario] lives - right? - and we can only imagine what that life must have been like. I actually wrote a lot, a lot of stuff about his life - I tried to evoke it, I wrote chapters, actually, of the stuff. I threw it all out because it was sort of a red herring in a way: he suffered. I have to assume that the kids would understand what that suffering was. I knew there was a big old chance that they would, though it's a big, hard thing to imagine, I think, a lifetime spent separated from everything you ever loved - believed destroyed and gone for ever, and then this terrible, awful revelation. I mean, in all my books there's very seldom, there's very little I despise a character for as much as I despise Mater Motley for what she does to the family and how she deals with the kids. That is just - it just - I don't know why it particularly gets to me but it just does. It's horrible."

More Candy: Sweetness And Night

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 24 and 27 August 2011 (note - full text here)

Abarat - shell Abarat - shell
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