Friday, May 15, 2009

Clive Barker at the LA Times' Festival of Books

Sporting a freshly shaved head and torn jeans, Clive Barker sat down with Gina McIntyre at the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books on April 25th 2009, to discuss his "Abarat" series and other creations. The "Abarat" series depicts an archipelago of islands where every island corresponds to an hour of the day. Barker remarked that he spent six months researching the concept after he came up with it to ensure that no one had used it before.

Although Barker’s voice was hoarse from a recent operation to remove benign polyps from his throat, he spoke at length about the third book of the "Abarat" series, which was fifteen pages from completion at the time of this interview. In keeping with the rest of the series, the third book of "Abarat" is inspired by paintings that Barker works on daily, of which over a thousand have been painted. Eventually he hopes to produce an "Abarat" encyclopedia with a detailed description for each painted character. Barker also mentioned that he was fine with other authors writing about Abarat after completion of the series. The "Abarat" book series will be five volumes in all, and Barker has already completed some paintings for the fourth and fifth volume. He felt that the third book has been the most difficult to write, as he had to set up not only an apocalypse, but also a deliverance from it. Barker felt that his subconscious mind - “the painter’s mind” - worked out a piece of the ending for him, and if one looks closely at the paintings, one of the character’s anatomical details will yield a clue to a major surprise in the last chapter of the third book.

In response to a question by McIntyre regarding Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, Barker answered that he enjoyed the trilogy and its radical anti-Christian stance despite not agreeing with it personally.

At this point the interview opened to the audience for questions. The first question regarded the deal with Disney for "Abarat". Barker responded that the deal was no longer in place.

Another audience member asked about Barker's creative routine. He explained that he writes in the daytime and paints at night. Barker also noted that he keeps notebooks handy for detailing dreams (he presented one to the audience as he explained), and wrote the manuscripts for his novels in longhand.

When asked why he chose to write a fantasy about identity, corporate greed, and maternal figures, Barker replied that fantasy is an introduction into our dream minds and a lens for our culture.

Although he had no clear answer as to why he chose a teenage heroin - Candy - to focus the "Abarat" series on, Barker noted that girls mature quicker through their teenage years, which has its advantages when using them as protagonists.

Barker then discussed his next collection of books, “The Journeyman.” The first book of the collection will be delivered to Barker’s publisher, Harper Collins, later in the year. "The Journeyman" collection is a “book of books”, and will include a volume dedicated to horror, and a volume dedicated to poetry. He then treated the audience to a poem that will be included in the book of poetry.

When asked how long it takes to complete one of his paintings, Barker explained that it takes about “a week of evenings” to complete a typical 5”x4” painting.

In response to a question about the pending release of the third “Book of the Art” (a series that began with “The Great and Secret Show” and continued with “Everville”), Barker responded that there was more pressure to finish "Abarat", noting that the "Abarat" series has been published in forty-two languages. He said that the third book of this series would come out in three or four years.

When asked how felt art may be used to help kids discover themselves, Barker responded that kids should be allowed to do the work that they gravitate toward, to develop their own worlds. Reciting a favorite quote from William Blake, Barker said, “Make your own laws, or be slave to another man’s.”

In response to a question about special effects in movies, Barker replied that he hates CGI, and explained that his approach to special effects is informed by his painting. He also mentioned that there are plans afoot for a “Nightbreed” television show.

When asked about creative blocks, Barker explained that he’s a “secretive worker”, and advised artists not to be too quick to trash their work, or worry about what people might say about their work.

The last question the audience asked Barker regarded the sequel to “The Thief of Always.” Barker answered that he's prepping the book in his head, and that he sold it to Harper Collins for a dollar, as there is no marketing push for the sequel, despite an enthusiastic response to the first book.

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