Monday 19 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Broken Homes
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
From the real life scandal during the 1980s when Tesco heiress and uber-grifter Dame Shirley Porter deliberately housed poor families in asbestos ridden blocks of flats as part of her criminal plot to rig the local elections.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Well I call it a Crime/SFF hybrid but Urban Fantasy fits.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I have a whole Fantasy Casting page.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Architecture can be murder.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
No the book will be distributed by bananas.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It's not quite finished yet - nearly there.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I like to think that my books are incompatible incomprehensible incomplete incomparable!
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I can't stop writing them now. It's too late for me but it might not be too late for you. Save yourself! Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family...
 10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
 Come the zombie apocalypse it will make a useful source of firelighting material. Unless you get the eBook version of course - in which case you're screwed.

Monday 12 November 2012

Currently Reading: The Adventures of Amir Hamza

The Adventures of Amir Hamza
By Ghalib Lakhnavi and Abdullah Belgrami
Translated from the Urdu by Musharraf Ali Faroqi

This was a present from my good friend Samit Basu author of the brilliant Turbulance (which you should buy immediately and then read). It is the size of a couple of G.R.R, Martin books and so I suspect I'm going to be currently reading this, bit by bit, quite a way into the New Year. 

Thursday 8 November 2012

Fantasy Casting Update

Added some of the suggestions made in the last week here

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Currently Reading: Ugly Ways

Ugly Ways
By Tina McElroy Ansa

(From Amazon) Three black sisters reunite in their Georgia hometown to embrace, scream, smoke, contemplate suicide, and swap clothes while preparing for their mother's funeral--in a rambling follow-up to Ansa's Baby of the Family (1989).

Esther Lovejoy has died at last, and her three daughters- -Betty, the ultra-reliable owner of a pair of beauty salons; Emily, the lonely, unstable researcher who longs for love; and Annie Ruth, the pretty youngest whose job as an L.A. TV anchorwoman is driving her nuts--rush home to begin rehashing their traumatic childhood memories in the hope of laying them to rest. Ruled with an iron hand by Esther, who insisted they call her "Mudear'' (baby talk for ``my dear''), the three Lovejoy girls learned the hard way to hold their heads high, work hard, and, whatever happened, never to trust a man--even while Mudear herself spent her days as a voluntary shut-in, watching TV, taking naps, and wearing negligees while her husband worked in the chalk mines to support her. 

Tormented by a mother whose belief that "she was above the laws of God and man,'' to say nothing of her habit of gardening only by moonlight, caused tongues to wag all over town, the Lovejoy girls nevertheless grew up to forge successful, independent lives while their father faded into the background, muttering about "womens taking over [his] house.'' As each daughter (and, occasionally, the shrill, judgemental ghost of Mudear herself) recollects those long- gone years, the source of Mudear's familial power is revealed, the daughters' lifelong resentments aired, and the father's suffering at last relieved, resulting in a happy funeral for one and all.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Have added a cover gallery here.

Monday 5 November 2012

But but but...You're reading it wrong. Again!

....Or the strange case of Dr Walid's phenotype.

Last week I idly started a fantasy casting blog/twitter thingie which not only provided many happy hours of procrastination but also threw up loads of names that I’d never considered before. But the really interesting result was what happened when I asked for suggestions for the character of Dr Walid.

I got many suggestions for many fine actors, amongst them Ben Kingsley, and the one thing they all had in common was they were all ethnically Asian(1), Arabic or Middle Eastern. Hooray for diversity I hear you say and hurrah indeed were it not for the fact that Dr Walid is neither ethnically Asian, Arabic or Middle Eastern.

Here is the passage where Peter first meets our illustrious Cryptopathologist.

I was introduced to Abdul Haqq Walid, a spry, gingery man in his fifties who spoke with a soft Highland accent. (Rivers of London, p67)

Dr Walid is a white Scot from Oban, his family are observant members of the Church of Scotland, and he converted to Islam when studying medicine at Edinburgh. I often refer to him as ‘Gastroenterology’s answer to Cat Stevens,’ after Yusif Islam who likewise converted in the late 1970s and like Walid he took an Arabic name when he did so.

Readers read books much faster than writers write them and can miss details as they go. Obviously many readers read the name Abdul Haqq Walid and immediately superimposed Ben Kingsley on the character before they’d even finished the sentence. They did this because western culture has a hard time separating Islam, the religion, from a bundle of distinct ethnicities (Asian, Middle Eastern and Arab).

So now a quick digression followed by some waffle.

A Digression
My favourite TV drama example of this kind of stupidity comes in The State Within by Lizzie Mickery and Dan Percival during which the US Government decides to lock up or deport (I forget which) all British Muslims. Now leaving aside the constitutionality of such a move – how the fuck would they know of which British passport holders are Muslims? Religion is not specified on the passport and that information is not gathered for any British (or as far as I know US) form of identification.

There’s a scene where a British Muslim couple nervously approach a checkpoint, we know they are Muslim because they’re Asian and nervous, but how would the officer’s at the checkpoint know they were Muslims. By their ethnicity – they could have been Hindi’s, Jains, Christians, Sihks, Jews or, god forbid, atheists. By their names? Many Asian Muslims have Arabic names but many do not, many non-Muslims have Arabic names – my son for example – you run across many non-Muslims with Arabic names especially if they or their parents are from West Africa.

None of this is raised by any of the characters in the TV series because for the writers and production crew Islam was an ethnicity not a globe spanning religion. Once the US Government had made the decision to deport them they’d be easy to spot – no worries.

Some Waffle
I can't help wondering that I could have avoided the confusion if I had written the sentence as... I was introduced to a spry, gingery Scot called Abdul Haqq Walid. Would the whole gingery Scot stereotype have overcome the Muslim as ethnic group stereotype? I can't tell and that's the problem. 

You see I deliberately made Dr Walid a convert in part to work against that stereotype (in other part because he insisted on looking like Robin Cook in my imagination) so should I have hammered the point home a bit harder? Some argue that a writer has a responsibility to judge their audience reaction when tackling sensitive topics like religion and ethnicity but by what margin of overkill do you need to put into your writing to ensure everyone gets it? Is it even desirable that everyone gets it?

As my friend Andrew says - it'll just be a lovely surprise for everyone if they make a TV series.

(1) That’s South Asian in American English.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Fantasy Casting

UPDATE 03/11/2012