Clive on Abarat

Everywhere around them, the wounded plant life was begining to grow again. Roots, many of which had been exposed by the force of the water, stretched down like gnarled fingers into the muddied ground. From broken twigs and cracked boughs new growth sprang up, healthy and green, buds fattening and bursting in front of their astonished eyes. Vines curled and climbed from the remains of their rain-beaten elders like eager green children, while ferns sprang up, uncoiling their tender shoots at such speed they were grazing the lower boughs of the trees in seconds...
The monsoon had awoken dormant elements in the greenery, parts of its blossoming anatomy that did not entirely resemble plants. Wasn't that an eye surreptiously opening in the head of a flower? And something uncannily like a mouth, gaping in the moisture-fattened bulbs of a plant that sat half in the earth and half out, like a bright green onion?
On all sides there were signs of this uncanny life: cracklings and mutterings and stretching and yes, even something like laughter, as though the plants were hugely amused by the sight of their own protean lives.

"It is a Book of Hours, the feelings of the hours of the day."

A Demon For Work

By Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 February 1999 - reporting the 'Tapping Your Creative Energy and Imagination' Learing Annex seminar in San Francisco, 20 February 1999

"I think the idea of the illuminated picture, the illuminated story, is one that's very appealing, and I've been talking to a couple of people about that possibility. My problem is that, essentially, I'm a democrat, and I like the democracy of art. I like the paperback. I like the idea of getting these personal visions into the largest number of heads possible. I don't like, therefore, the notion of the rather rarefied, expensive edition. So what I've tried to balance off, constantly, is - how can I make a beautiful book which will be very decorated and very dense but would not be something which would seem like a piece of elitest art?"

Beyond Good And Evil

By Mordecai Watts, Axcess, Vol 3 No 5, 1995

"There's a huge new illustrated book for children with 200 oil paintings and 25 stories, which I am in the midst of creating.
"I love writing for children. There's this huge project I was talking of a little earlier, with many short stories and illustrations, which will be called Clive Barker's Book of Hours. There's also another book similar to Thief noodling around at the back of my head."

People Online

By Laura Kay Smith, [27/30] July 1998

"I'm sort of engaged in two [projects] right now which fall into ultimate project categories. One is a huge book for Harper Collins Children's publishers, a book of 25 stories for children of all ages, plus 200 oil paintings that I've done to illustrate .... actually, the illustrations have preceeded the stories. Almost like the stories are explanations of the paintings or weavings out of. It's taken me 2 years til now and another year and a half before it's finished. That's the first time I've really married up painting and writing that closely to make it a book that will be the literary equivalent of Fantasia, one of my favorite movies. The children's book is called "The Book Of Hours", each hour of the day plus one. It's 1,000 miles from horror or anything like horror."

Chats From The Past

Transcript of on-line Hollywood Spotlight appearance, 23 June 1998

The Parisian, 1998 Abarat - woman with fishbowl hat

"These [paintings] are five foot by four foot, so they're big. They're for a book called The Book of Hours which I'm working on right now, which is a book of 24 stories, each at a different hour of the day... There will be 400 paintings in the book eventually and I've been working on it, I guess, two years. I've got another year and a half to go."

Handle With Scare

By Phill Jupitus, Channel 4 Big Breakfast, 6 November 1998

"'The Book of Hours', [is] the large book I am doing at Harper-Collins for children. I have already started to deliver short stories to them for that book. They have a lot of the images already. We are looking at about a year of the design stage ahead of us, it's going to be an extraordinary event. It's a very complicated book, in terms of the way it looks. It will have 100's of images, 25 short stories. It's an incredibly elaborate thing to create. I don't think anyone will have ever done anything quite like this before. My editor in the children's department, Joanna Cotler, is splendid. She's incredibly supportive to this project. She invited me about a month ago to come and visit her staff. I took them about 110 images. I sat down the ten ladies and a couple of guys and told them the complete story with the images. It was very fun to do!"


By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen], Lost Souls, Issue 10, June 1998

"It's for Harper Collins children. I hope it will reach the adult audience. It has that [Thief of Always] feel to it with a lot more pictures. And the pictures are huge oil paintings. They're five feet by four feet. And there's 29 of them, plus 100 smaller paintings. It's a big visual project, a big narrative project. And what I tried to do and I've never done this before is start with a painting and see what stories they are telling me. Once I know what story they are telling me then I write it. And actually in the last week, I'm writing the first of the stories with these paintings in front of me and it's very entertaining because you sort of get the painting is telling a story and did I subconsciously know what the painting was telling me while I was painting it? Perhaps, I don't know. It's a mystery to me."

Explorer From The Far Reaches Of Experience

By Kim August, Pharr Out! 1998

Last Of The Mohicans, 1985 Abarat - title page image

"I have four books for kids on the blocks right now. I have a movie which I will direct, probably next year, but the big project is the kids books. It's a quartet of tales and they are illustrated with oil paintings. I have made about 240 paintings so far, so there are a lot of paintings to do..."


By [ ], BBC Radio 5 Live, 17 September 1999

"This project is closer to my heart than anything I've done before. In 15 years of publishing and movie making, nothing has excited me more."

Disney To Pay $8 Million For Fantasy Series

By Claudia Eller, Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2000

"The Disney project Abarat, the HarperCollins Disney project. We are at the very beginning of a journey here. It will be 5 years before the theme park is up and running, for instance, at least. I have 250 paintings done. And we will start to move on that slowly as the months go by. I will start to write the first of the four Abarat books as soon as I have delivered Coldheart Canyon. And they will put that out at the end of next year. So I'm doing a lot of painting for that."


By [Craig Fohr], Lost Souls Newsletter, September / December 2000 (note - interview took place 25 August 2000)

"Here is the best way, I suppose, of my telling it to you, what my models are. The three models are: the Chronicles of C.S.Lewis' great work of Christian apology in the form of a fantastic fiction; Cirque du Soleil, which I adore; and Fantasia. And those are the three things that started me off."

LA Times Festival Of Books

Q & A Session With Pete Atkins, 29 April 2000 (Note - full text in Lost Souls Newsletter, July / August 2000)

"I'm writing four novels and we don't yet know what kind of movies we're making... My job is to write the novel and paint the pictures.
"[Candy Quackenbush] begins as a 16 year-old. She ends as an 18-and-a-half year-old. And she discovers her sexuality. That's very much a piece of it...
"It wouldn't be my preference [to interchange the games, movies and novels out of order]. My preference is that you would read all four books in order. Are you familiar with C.S.Lewis and his book 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'? The thing about those seven books is that you can read them in any order you like, but it helps to read them in the order that he intended. It will be the same with Abarat."

Barker Worse Than His Bite?

By [ ], PC, 19-23 February 2001

"I was supposed to be doing a series of erotic paintings for an exhibition in LA which I had done every year for the three/four years previous to that time. And Kaspar just appeared on the canvas in place of anything faintly erotic, and I didn't have any idea what my head was cooking up...
"I'd been trying to get HarperCollins to allow me to write and publish something along the lines of Narnia - in the sense of it being a collection of books about the same world. I think the publishers had said 'No' about four years before I eventually did the Wolfswinkel painting. My mind had actually been cooking things up for a while, and it just had a passion to make this work somehow. As I had been stymied on the writing part of it, I think the painting side had decided to erupt in its place.
"A long, long time before all this, I had conceived of doing something like a book of hours. It's a medieval idea where a painter and a monk get together and make a one-off copy of a book which could be consulted for prayers and meditations at any hour of the day. So if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can go to your book of hours and look up some useful things. I've always loved that idea, it always seemed really cool to have a book divided up into hours. And that's when the whole notion of turning it into a topography came, let's have an archipelago of hours."

Definitely Chickentown

By Sandy Auden, The Third Alternative, Issue 40, Winter 2004/2005

Abarat - Christopher Carrion The Weird And The Wicked - The Collar

"Out of the back of his [Christopher Carrion's] head and feeding into this fluid are two pipes which drain the nightmares out of his cranium and into the fluid. He's living constantly in a soup of his own nightmares.
"Why are all these adults reading Harry Potter? We lack magic in our lives. We turn on the television and it fails to enchant us. We are a culture steeped in its own irony and cynicism. I think one of the things we've seen in the Harry Potter phenomenon it that adults, teenagers and children can all enjoy the same thing - if it's the right same thing.
"I think my best job is to be the imaginer here and to simply continue to enrich this world. It took C. S. Lewis about 10 years to get through the seven books of the Narnia series. And of course, Baum was writing the Oz books almost until he died. I pretty much think I'm going to be in Abarat, in some form or another, for a very long time - and that's where I want to be."

Clive Barker Gives Disney A Nightmarishly Edgy Kid Flick Rep

By Kathleen Tracy, KidScreen Magazine, May 2001

"There are now 290 paintings. From that, I am writing the first of the four texts, which is sitting in front of me right now on my desk. Many of the paintings which I am using as starting off places for the story, which I'm writing are now three or four years old, but they've been a part of my psyche and it's a very interesting way to go about it for me. Will I ever do it again? Probably not, because 290 oil paintings is a lot of painting! By the time I finish, there'll be 400-ish, something like that. Frankly, I just don't think I have it in me to ever do something on this scale again."

Clive's Busy, Busy, Busy, Busy Year

By Smilin' Jack Ruby, 13th Street, 12 July 2001

"[Abarat] I'm incredibly excited about. I am coming within 2 weeks of finishing the book and in a way, the thing it will remind you most of will be Weaveworld, because it has a wild imagination and it has great villains and it has some big ideas floating around in it, you know?"

Nips And Tucks, Tits And Fucks

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 10 July 2001 (note - full text here)

"I wanted to create a place where I could play almost endlessly and never run out of room. In this world I can go anywhere. I can talk about family relations, I can talk about the place of the imagination in the human heart. I can talk about the nature of evil - and that is a central issue in these books, particularly how the knowledge of evil gets passed down from one generation to another...
"Christopher Carrion wasn't always a villain. Christopher Carrion is a villain because he has been horribly dealt with by his family. I try and trace the villainy in order to say to the reader, 'Look in your own lives to see if there aren't hurtful things that make you behave hurtfully'...
"I am being a little coy, because I am leaving the real villain of the book out of this discussion. There is a villain who stands behind these villains, whose nature I don't even want to talk about. He won't appear in the first book, he isn't painted on these walls, but of course there is a devil here in the islands. And there's an awful lot of good in this book, too. Just as night and day are in balance, and light and dark are in balance in the healthy human psyche, so evil and good will be pretty much balanced in the narrative."

The Relaunch Of Clive Barker

By Jeff Zaleski, Publishers Weekly, 1 October 2001

"Christopher's grandmother sewed up his lips because he uttered bad words when he was a young man, and she didn't approve. He recycles his own nightmares into this soup, which he sort of marinates and inhales. If you stand back from this picture, you'll see the nightmares in its textures - there's one, there's one and there's another - and it's really, really hard to do that with words.
"This is the villain; this is the bad guy; and this picture pours ambiguity. There are all kinds of things this picture says to you besides straight villainy. Or, to take a more naked example, here is a strange mixture of paganism and the skull of a dragon turned into a church. This place exists for a period of a sentence in the book, but I liked the idea so much, I thought, what a great fucking thing this will be to see. This dragon was killed by Finnegan; its body lies where it fell and rotted, the bones forming a road up to the church where Finnegan was about to be married when the dragon appeared and killed his bride-to-be. Finnegan dispatched the dragon, and its body and the church fell into decay.
"Candy Quackenbush comes to this church, and even though she thinks she's never been in this world before, says: I've been here. I was almost married here. So the book is very unlike Oz, which is about a stranger in a strange land. This is about somebody who we slowly realize is not a stranger here, but actually belongs here; and that's a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and knowing exactly where she is. It's the inversion of what, classically, these stories are about. And the romantic arc of the book is the most important arc I can think of, which is how lovers who were separated can be reunited."

Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic

By Douglas E. Winter, 2001

"It's going to be a book like no book you've ever seen before. I made a list of things at the very beginning of this process, not at the beginning of painting, but at the beginning of the book, or books, a list of the things that were really important influences: Terry Gilliam books, you know, Time Bandits; Fantasia; the Cirque du Soleil; Ray Harryhausen movies; A Midsummer Night's Dream. Things which I felt would in some way, sometimes obliquely, sometimes not so obliquely, play into what I was creating. And I think the joy for me, when I got the book, was I could see where all those were - I could see, I could smell Wizard of Oz around the book and Cirque Du Soleil and Fantasia. The book has this kind of over-brimming thing going on in it like Fantasia has. Fantasia is like watching a bunch of imagination catch fire and because I've been working for such a long time on Abarat some of the paintings are now five years old, I've been creating this slowly and been putting a certain kind of off-beat side of my nature into these pictures."

Open Roads... What Price Wonderland?

By Phil and Sarah Stokes, 3 April 2002 (note - full text here)

"Odom's Spire, which is the 25th hour, the time out of time, is the first [of my favourites]. It is the hub of the wheel, the island that lies in the very center of all this. What's great about the 25th island is that you could meet yourself as a baby, or as an old man or an old woman. It's a place of magic and transformation.
"The other is Midnight, or Gorgossium, which is the home of Christopher Carrion who is one of the villains of the book. Carrion's world is a world of midnights. It is a world where all the Halloweeny things that you expect to come around do exist. It's a world that pays homage to some of my favorite painters - Hieronymous Bosch would be a good example - medieval painters who created extraordinary paintings of worlds."

Barker Finds Wizard's Hat A Fantastic Fit

By Nancy Pate, Orlando Sentinel, 9 November 2003

"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...
"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."

The Hellbound Art : Memory, Fantasy And Filigree

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

"I actually did a lot of research to figure out where I wanted to put Chickentown. There are some chickens in that state. It has a lot of water but was nowhere near the ocean, which was necessary in order for people to be surprised when there's a big wave coming in. It's a state that has always welcomed me and where I've always found people absolutely charming and fun and so again, I felt comfortable there - it seemed like a good place."

Sowing The Seeds Of The Story Tree

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

...other comments

Carrion was a law unto himself. Who could judge the depths of his thoughts, or of his pain?
He kept no councils; partook of nobody's advice. If he was planning a war, then it was not with the assistance of his generals. If he was planning murder, then he did not look to the advice of assassins.
The only clue to the subject of his present meditations was a name that did not yet mean anything much to those who heard it, but very soon would.
The name he spoke was Candy. He said it to himself not once but many times, as though repetition would somehow summon up the owner and bring her near to him.
But she did not come. For all his power, Christopher Carrion was alone at Midnight, having nothing for company but the vultures at his heels, and the nightmares at his lips, and the echoes of that name he spoke, over and over again.

Jane Johnson (HarperCollins): "Clive and I have discussed for the last six or seven years now how he might create a new world, a world in which he could set a fantastic epic to rival the worlds of Narnia, Middle-earth or Oz, an adventure that would speak to the heart of modern readers, readers of all ages. Arenas such as these offer writers and readers alike a unique opportunity to exercise their imaginations, to explore the magical, Abarat - Yebba Dim Day The People Of The Id Go Walking On The Day the Fishes Flew (detail) Minds At War the heroic, the lost parts of our consciousness, rooted as they are in the bones of human literature, in myth and legend, in the stories humankind has told itself from the beginning of speech. That's why Tolkien's Lord of the Rings was voted in many polls as the public's favourite book of the 20th century. And it's why the Harry Potter books have been so universally popular.
"I've been watching the paintings for Abarat evolve over the last four years, and they are just amazing: vivid, kaleidoscopic, breath-taking, funny, bizarre, inspiring. 'Abarat' - in all its various forms - as book, movie, interactive experience - will be both magical and visually stunning. We all need some magic in our lives; and the combination of Barker and HarperCollins and Disney is going to be just perfect for delivering that magic."

First Major Hollywood Deal Inspired By Oil Paintings

HarperCollins press release, April 2000

Joanna Cotler (HarperCollins): "Abarat began based on the idea of a traditional medieval Book of Hours. It was a single volume. Each island in the archipelago of Abarat was a single hour. As the story grew, we realized that we couldn't possibly make this one book. Clive has more ability, creativity, imagination, guts, and intelligence in his pinkie than most of us have in a lifetime, and then he does something with it. I don't know when he sleeps.
"It's going to look a little different than a normal illustrated book... Because it's got full-color art throughout, I have to use a different kind of paper. He's very invested in the physical look of this book. I had this [dummy book] made for him. I want him to feel this and say, 'Well, that's a heavy book.' I want him to feel the paper and see how interesting it is, to have a book with paper like that. This is going to be a really big fat thing."

The Relaunch of Clive Barker

By Jeff Zaleski, Publishers Weekly, 1 October 2001

Jane Friedman (CEO HarperCollins): "I met him two and a half years ago. He came into my office to show me some of the drawings that were going to become Abarat. I was completely blown away by him. This is a man whose world is like a Russian doll. You open it and open it and open it and open it and you don't know what's going to come out, but you know it's going to be special."

The Relaunch of Clive Barker

By Jeff Zaleski, Publishers Weekly, 1 October 2001

Douglas Winter : "Really only through a sense of introversion and personal strife did he retreat for a time into artwork, painting some very moving canvases that were done simply for his own therapeutic benefit. They were a way of pouring a lot of emotions, some of them negative, into a kind of work that could exorcise some of those feelings or otherwise take some of the things in his imagination and give them a life of their own. In doing those canvases he began to see connections, and create the notion of a book which was then called The Book of Hours. What at the time he described to me as 25 oil canvases and a number of smaller illustrations that would go into one children's book, called The Book of Hours, then expanded exponentially to 250 and now I think we're in the range of 400 oil canvases and any number of other drawings all related to the grand Abarat Quartet, which of course HarperCollins will be publishing but which has also been acquired for the cinema."

Clive Barker: Mythmaker and Nightmare-Shaper

By [ ], an interview with Douglas Winter at HarperCollins, December 2001

'Wolf' : "This book is full. Though it is not a large book, it is as if Barker has taken a world and stuffed it into the Pandora's Box of Abarat. This book is so sprawling, so full of life. The words seem to lift off the page as you read them, creating the images of monsters and magic in front of you. It is an epic tale, a sprawling tale, a dark tale, a moral tale; all this rolled into one novel. It must have been quite an undertaking.
"There are new images presented on each line, on each page. Every word is a contribution to the Abaratian Gods, a homage to what Abarat was, is and will be. But never fear! Because this is his world, Barker thought we might need a little help imagining things as they should be. Riddled throughout the book are over a hundred of Barker's own oil paintings, all in full colour. Abarat is a treat for the eyes as well as the mind. It mesmerizes your sight as you flip the pages along, white knuckled with anticipation to know what will happen to Candy next. The pictures add that dark artistic touch that Barker is famous for; they also let the reader see into Abarat, to feel it more closely than words alone would allow."


By Wolf, Green Man Review, online at, October 2002

Sarah Rachel Egelman : "Barker has succeeded in bringing a unique vision to his readers. Perhaps the pace of Abarat is so frantic because it is so clear in Barkers mind: it is obvious he has a whole new mythology he would like to share and he can't get it onto the page fast enough. As a novel, Abarat is dense, detailed and sometimes confusing. As a landscape and fairy tale it is enticing, dark and beautiful. Most likely the young readers this book is intended for will not be critical of the occasional sloppiness in the text and most likely their attention will not be lost through the mental and physical obstacle course Candy finds herself in when she journeys to Abarat."


By Sarah Rachel Egelman,, online at, 4 October 2002

Dwight Garner : "Abarat has its problems - it's not going to make anyone forget Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. Candy's adventures can seem more like a wacky fun-house ride than a subtle, well-planned journey. And some of his wordplay may make even 12-year-olds groan. (One fishlike character has a 'piscatorial pout.') But Barker's book keeps you effortlessly turning the pages, and the metaphor that underpins Abarat is always pushed front and center: childhood can be a stew of nightmares, and the only way to get out of it intact is by marshaling all the pluck, curiosity and good company you can."

Where The Really Wild Things Are

By Dwight Garner, The New York Times Magazine, 13 October 2002

China Miéville : "Unlike most classics of this kind, Abarat starts with a prologue in the fantasyland itself, tracking an incomprehensible conversation between three of its inhabitants, before we meet Candy. In other words, we do not fall down a rabbit hole into the magic kingdom with our protagonist: we know about the magic already, and have to wait for her to catch up. This is a double-edged sword. What is inevitably lost is the first astonishment - the sense of awe as we step out of the Kansas house with our child-avatar into a Technicolor Oz.
"But something is also gained. By introducing Candy to what we have already seen, the solipsism of childhood is undercut: there is no room for this to be only a dream. The moral and philosophical stakes are raised: actions have consequences in what must be a real, though alternate, world. A foundation of ethical seriousness is established, which is not too badly undermined by intimations of Candy's 'destiny' - an annoying trope impossible to pull off except at the cost of the characters' agency...
"But though the intricacies of the political machinations are well done, and there is plenty of foreshadowing to keep us coming back, Abarat is not a book in which plot is paramount. Above all, this is a deeply lovely catalogue of the strange. Islands carved into colossal heads, giant moths made of coloured ether, words that turn into aeroplanes, tentacled maggot-monsters: they dance past like a carnival, a true surrender to the weird, vastly more inventive than the tired figures that visit some bespectacled boy-wizards."

Candy And Carrion

By China Miéville, The Guardian, 19 October 2002

Abarat - shell Abarat - shell

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