More Candy: Sweetness And Night

The Twenty-Eighth Revelatory Interview
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 24 and 27 August 2011

This interview took place in Clive's writing room in August 2011 ahead of the publication the following month of the Third Book of Abarat, Absolute Midnight.
Before we start this time though, a few words of context, just reflecting on the two commonest questions we get here at Revelations which are, "Why has it taken Clive seven years between writing Books Two and Three?" and "Is Clive OK? I saw him (in an interview or at a signing) and he looks and sounds unwell..."
From our own viewpoint, we've seen Clive dealing with some very painful personal problems and business difficulties over the last seven years. Some of this has been widely visible, most of it hasn't. He's struggled with illness through no less than five operations to remove constantly recurring throat polyps (thankfully benign, but hugely debilitating). He's also suffered for the past several years with leg pain that, in its worst moments, has restricted his large-scale oil painting. At one point in early 2007, he suffered a period of complete exhaustion that disrupted his schedule for several weeks. In a frustrating more recent episode, his writing hand is causing him great pain and, for the time being, he's given up his long-held working style of writing longhand and is instead working to improve his keyboard skills...
Away from purely physical pain, those of you who have watched his session at the Sitges Festival from late 2009 will have a sense of the desolate loss that the death of his friend and mentee, Justin Brown, caused Clive. Justin's death came hard on the heels of the painful breakdown of Clive's relationship with his husband, David Armstrong, while the loss of Joan, Clive's mother and a powerful daily influence on him, to cancer earlier this year has been extremely tough to bear.
The impact of these physical and mental stresses have infused Absolute Midnight which, as Clive freely admits, is a far, far darker book than it would have been if written without the experiences of the last three years in particular...
We're delighted to see Abarat Four: The Dynasty of Dreamers well in progress on his writing desk, meaning the gap between Books Three and Four will be nothing like as long as the gap between Books Two and Three...

Revelations : "It's been a full year since we sat here in this very room with the Absolute Midnight manuscript out in front of us and it's now just a few weeks until the book will be in people's hands. You're now moved to writing in this room, across from the room on the other side of the house that you've written in for years."

Clive Barker : "It's a whole different world, a much happier one, you know?"

Revelations : "To understate it in our typically English fashion, this book's had a complicated journey but you're looking more energised than we've seen you for a while..."

Clive Barker : "I'm more excited, guys, about these next two books and about Book Three than I can say. It's been a long journey; it's been a long and very painful journey as you both so well know and that's there in many places in the text. I want somehow or other to be able to say, firstly, thank you to those people who've lived and died through that period, but I also want to be able to make it clear why they are a part of the text, although it won't become apparent until all five books are over, as to why some of them are. You're going to have to swallow spoilers again today, I'm afraid - this is where your life as people who know my inside secrets are going to have to separate from your life as readers because I think it's going to be hard to get through a conversation - you two and me - which doesn't touch upon things we cannot tell other people because you're going to need to know what the bones of the narrative are - "

Revelations : "As always, while we'll hold back spoilers for now, we know they'll allow a much richer conversation when we get to the end because what we'll then do is go back to those old interviews and re-insert all the stuff. To start with the marketing campaign then, the Carrion resurrection book trailer made a great impression, although not everyone had anticipated that he was coming back, so you've got some people going 'yippee, Christopher's back,' and others saying 'crikey, I thought he was dead, I'd better go back and re-read the end of the book...'"

Clive Barker : "Oh, if he was dead you'd know... and let me just break in - how was the response to the companion book? I know the response this end is fantastic but how is it your end?"

Revelations : "At this stage all people have had is the e-book - the physical books will be going out next week - but the reaction to date to the e-book and from those who've seen the proof of the hard copy has been absolutely fantastic - for the sheer variety of sketches in there, the explosion of colour from the canvases and especially for the piece which we think is the jewel, which is the interview with Peggy's students - we're so grateful to her and to the school for letting us use it."

Clive Barker : "I have to say, it makes me cry to read that section, it literally makes me cry. To read anything which comes from them. I cry a lot, so much has happened in the last two or three years, but as Beneath the Surface of Clive Barker's Abarat the fog recedes - and I hope it's apparent that the fog is receding, because it is receding. My heart is definitely a brighter heart: I'm making bad jokes again and singing in the shower! There are things that will never leave me though, through what has been a testing time, almost Dante-esque... You know that in the middle of my life I found myself at a crossroads in a dark wood. The Inferno. It's not only in Chiliad, the opening portion of Revelations; it's the opening state in which I found myself writing Men and Sin, you know. If you actually look there are semi-explicit references to Dante in the sense of my finding myself in this no-man's-land... I know this is all chatty stuff but in a way it's contextualising what's happened with this book too."

Revelations : "Understanding a little of that state makes Abarat 3 a richer reading experience -"

Clive Barker : "Oh, just somewhat! - "

Revelations : "- it's infused, just the sense of impending doom..."

Clive Barker : "- well, not 'impending...' Actually, did you read the twitterings last night at all?"

Revelations : "The responses to your comment about the length of time it's taken you to finalise Absolute Midnight?"

"I realize,my friends, that the long delay in my delivery of Abarat: Absolute Midnight was frustrating. I hope the book bears the marks, the stains of a story I was not going give less than my best to. If the book had come out earlier, but been less than my dreams for it, I would never have forgiven myself, and nor would the readers to whose love and loyalty I owe the appetite to always make it better."

Twitter posts, 23 August 2011

Clive Barker : "Yeah. What did you think?"

Revelations : "Positive, we thought. We see different responses from the different components of your followers there. It seems to us that 95% - actually it's probably the same in the proportions of those who write to us there - 95% are totally in tune with your rhythms. It was the same for us when we had a delay on the companion book, we wrote and said this is why and everyone said, we want it right; we want it to be as good as it can be and we'll wait. I think they take their cue from having seen the way that you articulate it. And then you'll have the 5% who - whatever you post about Abarat or other topics - say, that's really nice, but when is Scarlet Gospels coming out or how Hellraiser's going?"

Clive Barker : "I think the 5% have a button: they just hit and it spits the question out again!"

Revelations : "I do think though there's an additional Twitter crowd who have only picked you up more recently - "

Clive Barker : "From Abarat?"

Revelations : "No - from Twitter itself, as a 'celebrity.' People who like the salacious things you occasionally write, who love what Twitter does so well: the 'in the moment' reactions. For example, your sudden and explosive vent about the new Hellraiser movie a couple of weeks ago..."

Clive Barker : "Well, I said that I'd seen so much complaint. I was not responding to the trailer itself. I have not seen the trailer that's caused all this hoo-hah - and obviously I've not seen the movie, or the script - but deliberately not, because I felt like I was responding to people's responses. I thought that was the right way to go about it. You see what I mean?"

"Hello,my friends. I want to put on record that the flic out there using the word Hellraiser IS NO FUCKIN' CHILD OF MINE! I have NOTHING to do with the fuckin' thing. If they claim it's from the mind of Clive Barker,it's a lie. It's not even from my butt-hole."

Twitter posts, 21 August 2011

Revelations : "You added 2,000 followers overnight when you made those comments, like when people gather when they can see there's a fight brewing. You don't back off airing your views there..."

Clive Barker : "No - and I don't because, firstly, I'm not going to throw anybody into the fire, I'm quite happy to throw myself in to the fire, those are my feet that are burning so I can do that! But I do resent people assuming on my behalf that I fucked up because I was lazy, I was doing the wrong things - "

Revelations : "As in, 'How could you authorise these people...'? "

Clive Barker : "I'm actually talking about being late with Abarat, and having them saying why can't you just concentrate on one thing at a time... It hurts. I don't give chapter and verse of my life or share some great litany of very painful events but if they were to actually... well... if they understood that an author is somebody who is somewhat callously digging deep through the veins of their own pain to access it..."

Revelations : "Twitter encourages an immediacy that makes the conversation not necessarily unthinking but certainly a more instant one. We find the the conversations there different to the ones we have with people who spend a lot of time on the Revelations site, some of whom we're in regular contact with because they want to dig deeper and reflect and understand. They're the people who've sat and watched the Sitges video, they've analysed the conversation we had in this room together this time last year. You reach those people in a different way - but even there we've fielded quite a lot after the Collectormania event in London where you were clearly unwell and where a lot of people saw you probably for the first time in several years. In fact, you've been a lot more distant to everyone for probably the last three years, all told, and I think if there's a bit more interaction, a bit more levity in your heart I think that's going to be very powerful."

Clive Barker : "One of first the stories about any philosopher that ever grabbed me, that made me want to study philosophy, was the story of Socrates crossing the barracks at noon and, coming upon a problem, he stopped in his tracks and stayed there for 24 hours, not moving until he'd solved this problem, the coming of night, the passing of night, and the reason it obsessed me so much was because that's what happens to me.
"We've talked around my writing methods a lot, and I've always said there isn't much to say about it and I think that's probably true, but I do also think that if we find, as I hope we will, find a few days to investigate the methodologies, just by watching, I think that would be quite interesting... I've been writing these massive, massive books by hand for rather a long time and, all the things that people ask me, and I'm sure ask you, about my health are sort of coming home to roost. For example, it seems that, when I write, my blink rate slows and slows and slows and slows, so by the time that I wake from the fugue state my eyes are blindingly burning with not having blinked - dried out completely and stinging, they sting, you know? And the same happens to the rest of my body, total stasis. I'm an obsessive fellow, I suppose, though I'm not as obsessive as I thought I was; it's quite nice to meet other obsessives and find out how healthy my obsession's been in comparison!"

Revelations : "It depends on your circle of friends, I suppose..."

Clive Barker : "Well, that is so true! But that said, Sarah, there's actually a lot of people who are sick, literally sick with their obsessions and I'm not! I mean, my obsession's my writing, my obsession's my art and if that's my sickness well, so be it. But I'd like to think, really would Stephen Sondheim - Finishing The Hat like to think, that well, it's a price paid, I guess, it's a price paid. And I'm typing now - I've had to type because my hand went when I was in London - and I had to do something while it recovers, so 'hunt and bang' it is! And, you know, it's working - "

Revelations : "Ha! 'Hunt and bang' typing on a keyboard - I've never heard it called that before! That could be a euphemism, of course..."

Clive Barker : "There you go, there you go! Hunt... and Bang!! You know that Sondheim song, Phil, Bang!?"

Revelations : "Ah, no, we've had this conversation - I'm not a Sondheim man - and I know that makes me inadequate..."

Clive Barker : "I would not say you were inadequate just because you don't like the greatest American songwriter that ever lived! It's a wonderful song about seduction and war; women, men and war in which a soldier home from the wars - a libertine, if you will - and a woman sing of their seduction in terms of warfare as they slowly close on each other - bang! The whole thing is punctuated with these cannon fire. 'He lays the woman down, bang!' - that's simplistic, he'd never play on something so simplistic, but I'll show you a book about him: Sondheim and his lyrics. Now when you see them written down I understand why people don't like him, actively don't like him, because he's dense, he's very often dense at his own expense, and too dense - "

Revelations : "Clever, you mean?"

Clive Barker : "Yes - he has the largest collection of puzzles in America, in private hands. You knew that? I think you would find him, the man, fascinating. I think given that you know me and your life has in some senses been connected to mine in ways that I could never have hoped would happen, but has happened, to know who this man is, who has set fire to me, you know. We've talked about metaphor before and unless you understand metaphor you're never going to get why people love Imajica at the level that they do, because they decode and they decode and they decode - and they keep decoding! And I am astonished at the levels of complexity they find - I think you're thinking I'm going to say, 'the things that they found which aren't there': they've found a level of richness which is absolutely there and I never thought that they would find it. It isn't a trick question, it isn't me laying things in which would be hard to understand, so much as you pull away that veil and what does it do to the veil behind, you know? And it's just mind-blowing how eloquent these people are - at one level, yes, you have Peggy's kids, you know? Who are miraculous, but on a different level you have the priest in Russia who wrote to me over The Hellbound Heart. The dying are always the ones who get me, you know? The dying will always go to either Weaveworld or Imajica, and more often than not, I'll get a note that says the man who wrote this letter is dead - that's happened maybe thirty times - at the height of the AIDS epidemic I was getting a lot more of them, you know? All of which is to say, you fold all of that stuff, all of those feelings, all of that complexity into what will perhaps be a third of my creative career and then say, why are you slow with Abarat Three...?"

Revelations : "What might be fun at this stage is if we talk a little bit about the characters in Abarat Three and what's happening in this book, because we talked for a long time about this being the middle book, meaning setting up Four and Five, but it's also pretty pivotal - to say goodbye to some characters, say hello to some new characters and also the moment where Candy and Boa begin to have separate destinies through the rest of the story."

Clive Barker : "Right - or it will look like they are..."

Revelations : "Go on..!"

Clive Barker : "Well, no of course I'm not going to tell you!"

Revelations : "OK, let's talk about Candy's character then so far - she's arrived in the Abarat, clearly we've had pointers that although she didn't recognise the place she clearly - "

Clive Barker : "Knew something about it - "

Revelations : "Had words of power, that she didn't know where they came from but used instinctively, until we finally get to a point where she realises Boa is inside her. That could have gone two ways: that could have gone to benign Princess Boa, helping her with her destiny - "

Clive Barker : "Yeah. And I think a lot of people would have been expecting that - "

Revelations : "So can we talk a little bit about the Candy / Boa piece at the beginning of the book?"

Clive Barker : "Sure, well, it would always be a cornerstone - wouldn't it be neat to have a book where firstly we had someone who knew what they were doing when they came to a world, as opposed to wandering around not knowing, because that kind of gets old after a while, and it's actually something that plays out lots of times in those kinds of stories. And secondly, to actually give that person, whoever it's going to be - and I didn't know whether it would be a boy or a girl at that point - give that person a method and a purpose that was vast, potentially huge, potentially epic. Potentially. This is a sort of nature / nurture thing and it's going to remain a nature / nurture thing - does Candy find her way to a destiny which was pre-destined for her, or pre-asserted for her - right? - or does she invent that by the very nature of her being? Which is the point at which, I would argue, the book becomes a universal book. Because then it's about all of us, right? And I want it to be a book about all of us, I didn't want it to be Harry Potter - Harry Potter is about a very special boy, I didn't want this to be about a very special girl, I wanted it to be about a girl who could be anyone and even though, yeah, she seems to have some elements of uncertainty in her Clive Barker - Laguna Munn nature, we're going to discover that we all have those uncertainties in our nature, at least to some extent, and then the question is how do we deal with them?"

Revelations : "She was the most random of picks - "

Clive Barker : "Totally. She was a totally random pick. It's raining, the car stops - end of story. I mean it really is that simply - exactly right. There's elements that will make it even more random, we will find out. There are elements of this that make it even more not what was planned, so it's even more so than it apparently seems to be. The women in this book are very complicated women - what am I saying, understatement of the year?! They are very complicated women, aren't they?"

Revelations : "As are many of the women in your books"

Clive Barker : "Well, yes, but I would actually argue that these are - specially for a younger audience - orders of magnitude more complex - if you look right down the list at them, including some which have not yet shown their complexity - that is they've appeared, but haven't yet - you know - even a woman like Mrs Munn, you think she's going to be what? a good witch? She's not; she's a very much more complicated creature than she appears to be - a very sad creature in lots of ways, you know? In her tone. Very much a consequence of Justin's death, I think I've let those things in a lot more than I usually do and I think it's better that I do, it informs the books more.
"That's meant, I think, that the men have to fight a lot more for the attention of the audience, which by and large now they're failing to do, I think! I think that the guys, by and large, are underachieving - deliberately so, right? - and it's very funny when a reviewer gets something so fabulously, totally wrong - that you want to just say I love you, I love you, I love you - like somebody was talking about Gaz and the love between Gaz and Candy: 'How stupidly convenient it was that with one glance they just look at one another and there's no justification whatsoever for any of this,' or whatever, and I thought you didn't take in either of the two previous books at all, did you? He may have read them but he didn't take in what these books are about. They're about having lived life before and what the consequences are of that. We've already talked off the record about one of the islands in particular..."

Revelations : "That had us perturbed as to the narrative possibilities, as you know. "

Clive Barker : "It should - it was meant to! Not in a negative way at all, what it throws us into is the largest possible landscape that we can offer. Death is the obvious one and the overcoming of death. You know, Rowling references this, she has said that her books are about death - I always said I don't want my books to be about death. I want my books to be about life and death, maybe, but if preferenced then certainly life. I don't believe death is the end. Nature is very careful, it wastes nothing. Tulips continue to variegate without any reason, that is no evolutionary reason, except beautification - I find that glorious. The questions you raised before are the same I'm raising and the same Rowling's raising, except Rowling's answer is there is no question. I think she did a fucking brilliant job, I have to tell you, a superb job in resisting the temptation to sentimentalise, in resisting the temptation to say, 'oh, you know what? The dead do live after all.'"

Revelations : "It would have been so easy - "

Clive Barker : "It would have been so easy and she wouldn't give it to us, she wouldn't give it to us, she teased us with it a couple of times and she wouldn't give it and she never did and I support that and I think it makes her an artist as opposed to simply a craftsperson. Because I think she reached into a great truth which is you have to tell people the worst thing you know."

Revelations : "It's easy to see the influence of where that came from - "

Clive Barker : "Well, it's her own life - "

Revelations : "Right, and her mother's death before her success with the books. We've actually just watched the episode of Who Do You Think You Are where, to her surprise, she traced her grandfather's story and found that he didn't receive, as she believed he had, France's Légion d'honneur, but that it had gone to another person with the same name. Instead, though, she found her grandfather was indeed a war hero and received a different honour."

Clive Barker : "At least he got something!"

Revelations : "But the story didn't go where she expected."

Clive Barker : "And it was it your sense that she didn't know that before the programme started?"

Revelations : "Yes, absolutely."

Clive Barker : "And was she appalled?"

Revelations : "Distressed, certainly. Yes. But she was then delighted to find that he was awarded a commoner's honour rather than the Légion d'honneur which was reserved for officers."

Clive Barker : "Wow, full-circle... This speaks to where I'm coming from; this book becomes more and more about the working-class and the non-working class. This is such an obvious thing to say, it's such a bland thing to say, I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but the more I write the book, the more I realise the book is, firstly a lot about me - a lot more about me than I thought - the working-class against the, you know - remember, as I was growing through my late teens, early twenties in Liverpool, Liverpool was in very fast decay. So I was watching the docks stopping, the ships stopping completely. I used to go down to the Mersey with my godfather and he'd show me - of course, we talked about this - it amazes me, of all the people to tell this stuff after all you've written in your books! But that stopping of the docks is the equivalent of the absent chickens. This is a place called Chickentown - and it had a name change (or did it..? Interesting. A question will be asked about that... there will be tests!) "

We diverted into a conversation about the prologue to Book Four, which Clive has already written and which, for reasons that we'll add back in here at a later stage, finished with a link into the River Song storyline in the latest episodes of Doctor Who...

Clive Barker : "River Song has haunted this household - she's a brilliant actress, I think, and I don't know how well she's been received in England but what she's done with the part is, I think magnificent - do you agree?"

Revelations : "I think she's very good - I did find though that the revelation took too long for me, it was episode after episode, too many teasers..."

Clive Barker : "But you'd already got it, haven't you? Well, come on, almost, there were only three possible variations! It wasn't the most romantic of revelations, that's what really upset me. It was slightly pedestrian, actually, I thought, but - that's me. I didn't think she was though and one of the things that Moffatt did brilliantly, and mechanically, very mechanically, was to repeat material over and over and over again and give you material where you went, 'why am I watching her get out of the fucking prison again - what?' you know? I think Moffat's a far more interesting writer than Russell T Davies, much more complex - "

Revelations : "Hmm - I think they're different..."

Clive Barker : "Alright, I'll give you that, I'm not going to bitch about that, all I'm saying is I just think there's something about the way Moffatt plays these things. There's something sentimental in it: Moffatt is not sentimental, he will pull from sentiment all the time if he possibly can and I like that. I like that because when sentiment does pull through, if something does come through - and it almost always does - I am floored. I never watch them with anybody else, there's nobody else to watch them with me, but I'm sort of grateful for that because if it is a show that either of those folks have written there's a very good chance I'm going to cry. And it's not because it was Doctor Who - I'm not crying for sentiment's sake, you know? It's not the young Clive Barker in the old Clive Barker, sighing and - you know?"

Revelations : "Can we pick up sentiment in Abarat then?"

Clive Barker : "Yeah, of course - "

Revelations : "Because one of the things that struck me, reading the third book was the backstory of Boa and Carrion and the love-letters that had gone backwards and forwards up to a certain point. At which point Boa decided that was not the way she was going and focussed instead on Finnegan. So - love, unrequited love, there's a degree of sentimentality which has been shown to produce bad things - in rejection - "

Clive Barker : "Well I think - are you talking about my work generally or - "

Revelations : "I think particularly in this book."

Clive Barker : "OK - in this book, you're thinking particularly about the relationship between Boa and Carrion?"

Revelations : "Particularly how that predisposed him to follow his grandmother's ways, her worst instructions."

Clive Barker : "I think we could go a lot further though, if we wanted to, we could for instance, by de-romanticising the definition of love, we could then go on to his love for his father and then we could then say the denial of that love, or the twisting of that love is actually another example of how he doesn't get given what he quite reasonably deserves, and look where that ends up going!
"It destroys his father's life, essentially, it's a long, painful life that man 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 Clive Barker - Mater Motley adorning Abarat: Absolute Midnight 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."

Revelations : "For me, it was the sense of glee with which lives had been wasted, and with no finality."

Clive Barker : "No."

Revelations : "There was no purpose. So you can sympathise with all sorts of characters for all sorts of wrongdoings if you can see there's a purpose, however misguided - "

Clive Barker : "Yeah, yeah - "

Revelations : "Although, to purpose, I suppose she's actually empowered by what's she's done -"

Clive Barker : "Well she is empowered, but to the extent of how that power is used... or whether it was ever used... (as we will discover...)"

Revelations : "And she clearly needs to display what she's done - "

Clive Barker : "Yes, she's all about herself isn't she? We've got a lot of things in this book - backtrack, I just want to make one quick statement - just so we understand where I am willing to go with this: we're nowhere near beginning where the changes and the knock-on effects of all of this are going to be, are going to take us, but I do think I wanted, I wanted to... There was a real danger that the capacity for pain in the book would somehow or other never be achieved, that I was not going to rise - out of cowardice because there'd been a lot of pain in my own life of late - that I was not going to rise to the occasion, to the challenge of speaking of all these various characters' pain. You know, Zephario. And obviously Mater Motley has her own burden of pain somewhere in there, there's something motivates you to do what she did."

Revelations : "That doesn't come from nowhere -"

Clive Barker : "No, no, exactly right - my point simply was that everybody is in pain here and I don't think I've ever written a book - the closest I think would be Sacrament, actually, in which so many of the characters, good and bad, were in states of almost unhealable pain. And Mark and Robbie have been unbelievable because they're very pragmatic men which is nice, it's good to have pragmatism around once in a while, and this book, as we were putting this third book together, sticking the pieces together, I became aware of how the flow-diagram was playing out and how complex the flow-diagram actually was and I was going to them to say, 'does it feel reasonable that A would feel this about B having felt C,' and they were very cool, they were very straightforward with me - if the answer was No, it didn't feel right, they would tell me so. And almost always I would wake the following morning and find they were right, and I almost want to say universally that was the case.
"I wasn't actually seeking an opinion about the characters themselves - let me be very clear about this - it was almost like a mathematical equation, maths not being my brightest point! I needed to - I'm one of those people who gets lost in logical equations, I get like a little way through it and then think, 'how many p's were there?' you know? I forget - and I lost in total my grasp of the emotional filigree that we'd drawn out in this thing - I needed two more rational, rather more pragmatic men, so it wasn't that I was saying, 'do you feel that I should feel...' I was saying, 'I feel this; does this compute?' Does that distinction make sense?
"This is as complex as Imajica - I didn't think that I would ever say that but by the time we get to the end of it we will see that it really has been as complex a journey of revenges and secret reasons... I've always wanted to write, and never had been able to, though I think Imajica came closest to it, something that had those sorts of layers. The reason I think others failed was because the sexual was always missing from Tolkien - he would never confront the idea that sexuality in all its complexities, in all its nuances, would affect his characters, so therefore I think you're always caught short and given a less than perfect vision of what human beings can and will do under certain, in the grip of passion. There were far too many noble intentions. When people throw up noble positions and - "

Revelations : "It's the quest!"

Clive Barker : "Yes - exactly! I always feel a little eergh, just because that seems more like posture than anything I really understand. In terms of war stories, I'm much more like the opening shots in Saving Clive Barker - from Abarat: Absolute Midnight Private Ryan, in the boat that's coming into battle - where you're face to face and they're puking and - that's what I now have to write - that's why you'll see war research everywhere around this room now, because that's what's going to have to happen in Book Four.
"I have to, just as I wanted to warm over the idea of how scary it would be for the darkness to come down and you not to be able to see anything in the world: and I really played that kind of light, I think (sorry, I didn't mean that joke!) what do I mean - I really played that without great weight in Book Three - I mean it was there but..."

Revelations : "It was there, but Absolute Midnight wasn't the horror - "

Clive Barker : "No, it could have been a nightmare, and the reason Sarah was this, if I had given them that, there would have been nowhere to go for Book Four. And I was very aware of that - I was saying, fuck! If I let go of all of this, what have got left to do..?!"

Revelations : "Oops - back to a quartet!"

Clive Barker : "Exactly! I also knew that the heart of this had been Night versus Day, it had always been the heart, always, so what I felt Absolute Midnight was, was a sort of a preparing of the ground, the turning everything to mud in preparation for, just chaos. Because in Absolute Midnight you're talking about supernatural powers visiting supernatural horrors upon innocent people essentially. In the next one, the final battle, we're looking at them doing stupid things to each other - right? There are two tribes about to kick fucking ass - you're Night, I'm Day, fuck you!"

Revelations : "In Book Four?"

Clive Barker : "Yeah"

Revelations : "The concentration camps at the beginning of Book Three, I assume are going to come back in to focus."

Clive Barker : "Hmmm."

Revelations : "Because it was the council of the whole Abarat. It felt like you were going to a very tough place and it's almost as direct a reference as purebloods and mudbloods as we've ever seen you venture into - "

Clive Barker : "Well, of course it was, except that you obviously know what the difference is - the difference is that I'm actually pointing my finger right across the board."

Revelations : "Everyone's complicit."

Clive Barker : "Exactly. Which is not true with 'pureblood' and 'Muggles' and so on, where you got a sense of, frankly, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys - yes, there might still be some ambiguities here and there where somebody will cross the line for their own purposes but there isn't a lot of that. I wanted to actually say, people will do all kinds of things, you know, and they're not very attractive things very often."

Revelations : "What would you like people to know this book is going to deliver them?"

Clive Barker : "It's going to deliver them a sense of how much larger the story that they entered at the beginning, three books ago, is. I wanted to make us reassess who some, not all, but some of the characters are - so characters they thought came in to be x turn out to be y, probably not radical, radical changes, most of the time, but enough to make us look at these things with clearer eyes. Even something as simple as Malingo at the end of the story, you know? Which is a cheap gag, I grant you. "

Revelations : "It wasn't my favourite choice - choosing to give Malingo that option."

Clive Barker : "You'll find out why, you'll find out why... Why nestings are very important to geshrats. I want to justify BBC: Life - Monarch butterflies the kind of surrealities we see in nature more than occasionally, often in an Attenborough show. I don't know if you saw the one about the six billion monarch butterflies that land on ten trees in Mexico? They just sleep there - it's warm enough in the winter for them to sleep - they festoon - it might be as many as twenty trees but it's a tiny number of trees, but they're blossoms, just fantastic blossoms! The wonderments of nature are things that I try to bring in to - and one of the things I've realised, I've instructed myself, you cannot be conservative. If you try to be conservative it's going to look silly - right? So if I'm going to do that to Malingo, there are going to be taste issues there, there are always going to be people who say, oh I wish you hadn't done that, or had done that, or whatever, but I feel that what happens in a certain moment, is that I have to go with where my gut takes me. With geshrat, the presence of the word rat in there is very important. I've always believed in putting odd things into words, into names, as you know. For example, Ashberry, the reverend from Cabal, had two ways to kill in his name, you know, the burning and the burying, sort of martyrdom names, really, they were just dropped in to his name."

Revelations : "We've just, for a potential documentary project, watched the first couple of hours of maybe ten hours of behind the scenes footage and interviews that were shot on the set of Nightbreed and, in what we've seen so far, there's a great interview with Charles Haid, Eigerman, explaining how you told him 'Eiger equals rock, therefore Eigerman is a man of rock... play him as solid and unforgiving...'"

Clive Barker : "Well, perfect example - sometimes it can be horribly simplistic! But also, especially for someone like Charlie, the old man of stone thing worked pretty well!"

Revelations : "So Malingo clearly goes through a journey, we've already talked about Candy's journey, there are a number of new journeys about to begin in this book as well - "

Clive Barker : "Name me the journeys - "

Revelations : "I think we begin to see that Finnegan is about to have a really tough time -"

Clive Barker : "A huge journey - a horrible journey"

Revelations : "A tough time in the presence of somebody whom he trusts."

Clive Barker : "Trusted. You're talking about Boa, right? But he's not going to trust her for very long because the reason why she should not be trusted is going to become very apparent very quickly. Because when they get back to... Sorry, another spoiler... While I think of it though, have you seen Oceans, the movie? It is beautiful. We've talked a lot about the fact that there is a universality to images and ideas that register and appear in many forms - I want to show you this right now on the DVD. This one just struck me as so strong and so unlikely as to require our utmost attention, because it's a Madonna and child, but it's not the Madonna and child we're used to. This is towards the end of the movie, here's a mother walrus trying to encourage her baby into the water and - look at that! They're such ungainly things and I never really thought much about them until I realised I needed one for Abarat Four and I started researching them and found that and it broke my heart - so beautiful. The tenderness of that huge flipper - just beautiful. As an aside, how about Thor, have you seen it?"


Revelations : "Yes, I thought it was good, a real spectacular."

Clive Barker : "I thought it was bloody great! I had a really great time, really great time. The look of the show, the energy of it, the flow of it, it reminded me - and I cannot pay it a higher compliment - of a Michael Curtiz picture, one of those swashbuckling movies, you know, which flowed beautifully and it had an old-fashioned look to it at times - "

Revelations : "It's highly stylised and - "

Clive Barker : "Yeah - and all the sets were built, there were CGI enhancements of course, but all those sets were completely real, and that was Kenneth Branagh's call because he said 'I'm a theatrical director', and I see that - as a consequence to that I think you get a show that really has a veracity to it and I think the guy who plays Thor just catches it."

Revelations : "I couldn't recall seeing him in anything before?"

Clive Barker : "Yes, you have, you've seen him as the captain - he only has eight minutes - he's the captain of the Star Fleet command ship in the beginning of Star Trek and you don't see it because he looks so much younger, as Kirk's father, and with the beard on... He also didn't have forty-five pounds of muscle on him! That is a spectacular physical change! Have you seen The Art of Thor? Remind me and I'll show it to you after... They show a sequence of a double-page spread, of all the costume designs they did on him, and he starts as a ninety-pound-weakling, pretty much, and they had to end up changing the costume The Art of Thor radically to accommodate the fact that he put on hugely more muscle than they thought he was ever capable of doing. So that short scene where he takes his shirt off, the girl says, 'Does he need CPR? I can totally do CPR!'"

Revelations : "So how many times have you watched that scene..?"

Clive Barker : "Forty-two...! I don't find blondes even remotely attractive and I had not found Thor even a faintly interesting character so I've been sort of surprised... The two pictures that have characters I don't particularly like - Iron Man and Thor - have been entertaining and the one I do like - Green Lantern - was duh!"

Revelations : "Haven't seen it - "

Clive Barker : "Oh, it was god-awful - it's a sad day."

Revelations : "That's so disappointing."

Clive Barker : "It is, because the mythology is so complex and wonderful. It could have been so much more. And how do you guys feel about the final Harry Potter movie?"

Revelations : "It didn't have much room in it for a Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows pause, did it! There were very few moments of introspection but where there were, for example at the end, on the bridge, having destroyed the elder wand, I found it mawkish and too saccharine sweet - you know, let's focus on the three of them again. And again. Even when got to the end, on the platform, still the three of them again, Ginny completely excluded. It felt like Lord of the Rings with its five endings: this one had three or four endings, but I was bored by the third one..."

Clive Barker : "We agree completely. It wasn't just that I was bored, I was irritated, because I thought it was very bland. I had not found the first half of the last one bland at all, I loved it, I loved it."

Revelations : "Part One had a huge momentum and, at the end, you wanted the next one straight away."

Clive Barker : "And the score was magnificent. I got the score and I played the score endless times and it was a revelation to me."

Revelations : "We went back to The Half-Blood Prince after you'd mentioned the Slytherin eroticism at the talk in Dublin, that brief sequence near the end where the students are kissing in the right hand half of the Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince frame while Draco walks down the corridor in the left-hand half of the frame."

Clive Barker : "I kept waiting through the last one to see, well, where's the pay-off to that? Because there's got to be pay-off, you know? Nothing. So something got cut out I think, something of some significance, I think..."

Revelations : "Readers will now be three-fifths through Abarat. In terms of looking for a pay-off, is there one teaser you would like to give for Book Four to follow?"

Clive Barker : "Oh, there's a lot. I think it comes down to something you raised, Phil, it comes down to what reasons would there have been for people to... No. There's a mystery associated with... I'm trying to find a way to do this, I would very much like to be able to but every way I go I keep hitting something I don't want to say. Maybe simply that, for Book Four overall, it's on! We're rolling!"

Revelations : "A sense then that there's more on its way, that there's much more candy in the store to look forward to?"

Clive Barker : "Exactly. Oh - more Candy in store! That's priceless... awesome!"

Revelations : "And has to be the title for the interview! Just wish I'd really meant it... "

Clive Barker - from Abarat: Absolute Midnight

Abarat Book Three
Abarat Books Four and Five
Abarat Companion Book

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