Take Me Back To Manchester

I’m currently wrapping up another film project before I get back to my writing. A couple of months ago, my friend Dom Bush and I were commissioned to make a film called Take Me Back To Manchester, based on the extraordinary true story of a lion tamer called Lorenzo Lawrence, an elephant called Maharajah, a cartoonist called Oliver East and a 200-mile walk across the country.

It was an incredibly tight turnaround – we had less than six weeks from commission to completion, and only three weeks from the shoot to the deadline. Dom shot the film, using drones and steadicam, and I cut it. I used the parallax effect for the first time to bring some of our amazing archive images to life. Technically we co-directed the film, but the story was so rich, the contributors so engaging, and the archive material so fascinating, that it pretty much directed itself.

Take Me Back To Manchester has now been shown at Toronto Comic Art Festival, and a shorter version will be screened on a loop in Manchester Museum.

Roll up, ladies and gentlemen, roll up…


This is my last film project for a while. I’ve really enjoyed working on this piece and To The End We Will Go, but I’m more than ready to get back to the Hollows. I’ve been maintaining my erratic early morning writing sessions, even if that means grabbing five minutes before Dora explodes downstairs demanding her breakfast. Those snatched sentences and stolen paragraphs might only give the book twenty words, fifty words, a hundred words a time, which feels painfully meagre in isolation, but they add up over weeks and months. I’m up to about 66,000 words, for all the difference it makes, and happy with where it’s going. I think again of how little I achieved last year, and feel a grim urge to push on and make up for so much wasted time.

A Monster Calls


Okay. So I’m late to the Patrick Ness party, but delighted to be here at last. Agent Sue recommended the Chaos Walking trilogy to me earlier this year, which I read and loved; then my excellent wife Monica gave me A Monster Calls for my birthday. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned, and I’ve been saving it for a time I’m marginally less stressed. I planned to read a chapter or two each night, and really savour it. In the end, I devoured it in a single sitting. It’s one of the most striking, compelling, heartbreaking books I’ve read in a very long time. Jim Kay‘s illustrations – bringing almost every page to life – are sumptuously perfect, and Patrick Ness writes with power, precision and grace. The intertwining of artist and writer blurs the boundaries between novels and graphic novels. I think this is also the first book I’ve read that utterly defies ebooks. The story would be the same on a Kindle or Nook, of course, but there’s no way of electronically mapping this sort of paper book; the weight, the feel of the paper, the shape of the book, the stark integration of a full-page illustration with a page of a text. It’s an experience, and it’s simply beautiful. Read it.

Swamp Thing indahouse


Friends Iona and Ali Shaw stayed with us this week. Ali and I studied English at Lancaster University, many moons ago, long before I started writing and when Ali was already laying the groundwork for his career. He’s a brilliant author, with novels The Girl With Glass Feet and The Man Who Rained winning awards and translations all over the place. I was privileged enough to read an early draft of Glass Feet, and Ali kindly took the time to read through my first draft of Riptide. His subsequent advice, notes and hour-long phonecalls were extremely helpful in shaping my third and final draft. Over the last few months, I’ve leaned heavily on Ali’s experience of being published, and his knowledge has helped me work out some of what I’m doing with the good people at Quercus Books.

Mon and I don’t get to see Ali and Iona very often, so it was fantastic to have a long overdue catch-up. We mostly nattered about babies, but we also discussed our current projects (his new book sounds AMAZING) and some wider publishing news. Ali recommended two things: firstly, that I try Scrivener. It’s a writing program dedicated towards managing large documents, with all kinds of bells and whistles for organising plots, characters, locations and notes. The various features sound extremely useful, and it’s available on a free 30-day trial, so I’ll definitely give it a go.

The second recommendation was for Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. I was describing my own new work, which is set in a maze of bogs and marshes, and Ali (who reads more graphic novels than me), thought Swamp Thing might be good for inspiration and ideas; another book on my birthday wishlist, then. I enjoy graphic novels, and own several of the real classics (Maus, Watchmen, From Hell, Ghost World, etc.) but seldom know where to begin with trying something new. Good stuff.