Thursday, 26 April 2012


I am taking a week off interviewing the good people at Corvus and I want to look at the future of publishing, and like the three witches in Macbeth I’m going to make a prediction. OK, I’m not Nostradamus, and Al Stewart will not be writing a ten minute epic ballad about me, but then the music industry isn’t what it was when Al released Past, Present and Future back in 1974.
In terms of the new technologies, there is a slight Dejavu it feels like we have all been here before, in the late 1990’s when people began to share music files. There are many parallels between publishing and the music industry and many lessons that publishing in general could learn from the failure of the music industry to come to terms with the possibilities of new technology. Now that one in four adults in the UK has a Kindle or other electronic reading device the world of downloading has arrived big time.
People of a certain age and an obsession with music, will remember with fondness the days of the local record shop, sadly those days are gone. The demise of all those local, independent and chain record shops is down to the change in the manner we access music. No longer is it difficult to find obscure bands or rare tracks,plus it is cheaper to buy online, and if like me, you use a storage device such as an i-pod, then you can bi-pass compact discs altogether. The next casualty of the technology will be the local book shop.
It is to misquote Van Dyke Parks it is The Clang of The Digital Reaper, (I think I am in a mid-1970’s mindset today). It takes no great insight to make the claim that the bookshop is going to be as rare a sighting as a record shop in five years time. As tragic as this is the interesting thing is what will happen to the big publishing houses? Are they ready for the Hard Rain of digital downloading? I don’t know, I suspect the larger the company the longer it takes to respond to any change. The big winner of course will be Amazon, by creating the Kindle you could say Amazon had won before we knew there was even a competition.
I think the opportunities are there for the small press publishers, and the independent authors out there. Look at Timothy Mo and how he has circumvented the traditional publishing methods, he is an example to us all. We at Corvus are in the process of setting up a digital download page, where you can load our stories direct onto your reading device, or at least you will be able to order on line.
I think I am still coming to terms with the projected loss of book shops. Here in Taunton, our one independent bookshop, Brendon Books ( has been selling a mixture of new and second hand books for some time. I find myself spending longer browsing these days as there are always unexpected titles, so the picture is not all bad news. What do you think? Why not let me know your thoughts on the digital revolution. Anybody know which band sang the song I used for the title? If you do then you are an anorak!

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Tim is the newest edition to the ranks of Corvus and I caught up with him earlier this week to ask him the six questions I’m asking everybody around here. Tim is the author of an exciting new steam punk series Victoriana, which caused quite a stir at Cardiff in February when the rough sketches were shown the enthusiastic steam punk aficionados of Wales. Tim has a unique vision as you will discover.

How did you get started in this business?
Victoriana started as a combination of things that I like: cat girls and steam punk. It arose out of my years of reading Manga and a Goggle obsession I fully expect Matt Smith to be praising on Dr Who in the near future! The thing that kick started Victoriana was the music of Abney Park ( My friend Robin introduced me to the music and he is immortalised within the pages of Victoriana as an Agency member. Steam punk is a genre that is still new to the majority of the world and I wanted to create something that was unique. The early issues of Victoriana will be more Victorian than steam punk but the steam punk style and influence will increase throughout the series, especially in the Alice centred plots. I was conscious that I could not throw my readers into the deep end too early, so to speak, I was worried that they would be confused or overloaded with information. I was always the geeky guy at school and proud of it, I have always wanted to write a comic (as have the majority of readers I suspect).
Who are your influences?
That’s a good question, having been raised from an early age with Silver and Bronze Age comics around me, I tend to have a four colour mentally when it comes to deciding what is good and what is bad. As I got older I moved into British stuff like Judge Dredd, and anything published by 2000AD as a graphic novel. In the past decade I’ve read a lot more indie comics, there are many worlds out there to explore. Gilbert Sheldon’s Freak Brothers opened a darker world of underground comics, I have a strange relationship with them.
Masamune Shirow (Dominion Tank Police) and Phil Foglio (Girl Genius and thousands of Magic the Gathering cards) influenced the creation of the Bast sisters (they are the central characters of Victoriana). I have a slight thing for cat girls you see...I wanted almost Moreauian (that’s H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau) creatures with a severe level of humanity but a distinctly alien look. The kind of faces that if you saw them on the street, would cause you to do a double take. Saskia (the first artist) nailed them spot on.
What are you working on at the moment?
 Well, finding the right artist has not been an easy task. Thankfully God (never doubt the Almighty) was smiling on me and He sent me George (the series artist) via a friend of mine Em, who was herself looking for an artist for her comic-thanks Em. George has that serious style with a slight cartoony element that I was looking for. Also she took the original artwork and ran with it making it her own. So miracles are possible, but like a Noir detective it is all about being in the right place at the right time and that takes a lot of footwork.
What’s coming up?
I have a new idea in the pipeline, but I need to get that written down. I’m helping my typographer with her comic as well at the moment, and of course there is Arc 2 of Victoriana, I’m writing that at the moment. Everyone loves vampires, don’t they-save for the sparkly ones of course...
Character or plot, which comes first?
With Victoriana it was the characters that came first, I spent a lot of time fleshing them out in my head before I put pen to paper. That’s how I tend to work, leave the ideas to percolate in the back of the brain while the frontal lobes get on with the task in hand. I wasn’t until I started writing the origins of the Bast Sisters that I realised how complex the story had become, that’s why I need six issues to tell it in. George asked me why the sisters have different coloured hair, the answer was simple, so people could tell them apart! I tend to have ideas like this slide in when I start to write. I had to do some research on Ninja Clans as they appear later in the story. There was a point when Mags Bast only spoke in Biblical quotations-now that would have been fun!
In the film of your life who would play you?
Is Ross Kemp available! (Laughter)
As you can see Tim is fizzing with ideas and Victoriana is becoming more baroque with each day. At the Bristol Comic Expo (12/13 May) Tim will be previewing two short films that relate to Victoriana. I for one am looking forward to that!

Thursday, 12 April 2012


This week I am interviewing the talented Kirsty Swan. Kirsty is a woman of many talents. Not only is she, amongst many other jobs, the Corvus colourist, but she is in the process of creating an exciting new series for Corvus, Reputations, but more of that later. You can check out Kirsty’s art work on her website: . I especially like her work on the Baker Street Irregulars, you can find it on the blog.
 Tell us how you got started in the business?

Well I guess I was drawing cartoon characters from a young age then started creating my own stories and characters when I was about twelve. I later completed a graphic design qualification and then a HND in sequential illustration (comic and storyboard illustration). I carried on drawing for myself and also did some small press work for Reynard City and From The Tomb. From there I started doing some colouring work for Bluewater, Moonstone Press, Markosia, Titan books, Strip magazine, Z studios, Corvus press and others.

Who are your influences?

Mostly Laura Martin, Jan Duursema, Brad Anderson, Jae Lee, and Richard Isanove, although I have many others.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently working on Devil Dealers for Markosia, Velica for Z studios, Black Dragon for Strip magazine and my book 'Reputations' for Corvus. Reputations is still a working title at this moment so may changed.

What is coming up?

I never know, I just have to hope something does come up.....

Character or plot which comes first?

Hmmm the chicken or the egg? I generally find the plot and characters are intertwined though in the case of Reputations, Xavier and Sophire did come first.

In the film of your life who would play you?

Is there a ferret available??

I knew that last question was silly! Thanks Kirsty.
I would urge you to get over to have a look at Kirsty’s blog: There is much of interest to read and look at. I especially found her description of how she colours a page fascinating.
In the coming months we’ll be previewing the artwork for Reputations, and having read the first issue I can tell you it has both an intriguing storyline and is peopled by some memorable characters. 

Friday, 6 April 2012


This week is the first in a series of interviews with the people who make Corvus Press what it is. I thought I’d better put my money where my mouth is and begin with me. So here are the six questions I’m asking everyone involved with Corvus.
How did you get started?
Well, I have always seen myself as a poet first and foremost. I started writing poetry when I was twelve and yes, all of it was execrable. It took be about fifteen years to get anything like proficient and many years longer before I began to get published. I won a couple of competitions in the 1980’s but I was still ambivalent about what I wanted to do. I published my first book in 2005 Burning Music and have another book out in the next few weeks Blessed by Magpies (published by Lapwing Publications).
I wrote a novel two years ago and I was hawking it around when Corvus asked if they could turn it into a graphic novel. I said no but I could write you a story if you would like! That’s how I got started. It’s a bit embarrassing really, I suppose I was in the right place at the right time.
Who are your influences?
Life model would have to be Leonard Cohen. He was the reason I became a poet, he has been hugely influential on me. Other poets: Robert Lowell, who has fallen out of fashion since the seventies but has been another touch stone; Brian Pattern; Seamus Heaney; Thomas Traherne, a sixteenth century mystic who is well worth the time spent reading him; Coleridge, Louis MacNeice, Henry Reed, Christina Rossetti, oh, the list is endless. If you want to get proficient at writing you have to read as much as you can.
As I say you need to read as much and as widely as you can. One of the great influences on my writing is John D. McDonald; the man who wrote the Travis McGee series, McDonald knew just how to tell a story, if you look at the construction of his novels they are an education. Sadly they are all out of print in the UK. Another inspiration is Donald Westlake, his Stark series again are so tightly plotted, they are a joy to read, there is not a wasted word. I also have to say that Michael Moorcock is in the mix as well.
What are you working on at the moment?
There is an eight page CO2 story about how Ryan and Shaj met, not sure if that will see the light of day. I am sketching out the next quartet of CO2 novels. I should explain, I have written the first four and they will be coming out one per year from 2013 onwards but I have this series of images for a further four novels. I think that there are many stories yet to be told in the world of  CO2.
What is coming up?
Well, Blessed by Magpies is to be released in the near future. The financial situation has caused some delay according to the publisher, but it will be out soon. Also I am poet in residence at the Fishguard Folk Festival ( and festival poet at The Acoustic Festival ( I am also appearing at a number of other festivals.
I am in negotiations about publishing my novel The Jowler. It’s not quite steam punk but it leans toward that genre. I am also writing a new series called provisionally Ice Ship, which is very different to CO2.
Character or plot which comes first?
Difficult question. I tend to start with a set of images in my head, scenes that come to define the story. Character and plot are so interlinked. With CO2 it was the world that came first then as I reflected on it, people popped up, how would you deal with life in such a strange society? With the novel I had the opening problem, a man is found drowned in a paving stone-the paving stone having turned somehow to liquid and then solidified around him. Plus the image of the Frome carnival, carnivals are important in Somerset, there are floats, music, it’s a night to party, anyway I had this image of the main character running through the carnival crowds trying to catch the villain. From those two images the story came.
The metaphor I tend to use about my writing process is that of a string of pearls. The pearls are the images/scenes I have either in my head or roughly written out and my task as the story teller is to string those images together in a manner that tells a coherent and believable story. That I suppose is where character comes in having set the scene and created the characters then I let them walk from one set piece to the next. The routes they take can be as surprising to me as to the reader..
In a film of your life who would play you?
Such a silly question deserves a silly answer. I’d have to go down the Louis Bunuel route and have two people-John Cusack and Rebecca Hall!