Posted on | April 14, 2011 | No Comments
Just back from a week in the US – New York, Phoenix, Arizona, and a quick peek at the Grand Canyon -but it feels as though we have been away for months. The alleged reason for our visit was to accompany Anthony on part of his book tour to promote The Good Book (at times this felt a little as if we had turned into the von Trapp family – the non-singing version, of course) but any form of travel is full of revelation – and this one was, well, as you’ll see, just wonderful.
We had been invited to Phoenix by our good friend the astro-physicist Lawrence Krauss (and if I come round again this is definitely what I’d like to be …..) founder of the Origins Project at ASU (Arizona State University) for his Science and Art Conference at which Anthony was to speak. As well as Stephen Hawking and Cormac McCarthy, two of Lawrence’s other special guests were Werner and Lena Herzog (one of the events was a screening of Werner’s new 3-D movie about the paeleolithic Chauvet Caves in France).
Lena is Russian, and a wonderful photographer. Her latest book, ‘Lost Souls’ is a series of exquisite photographs taken in sixteenth and seventeenth century wunndercammen – or Cabinets of Curiosities – exactly of the kind for which my fictional character in The Pindar Diamond, Ambrose Jones, is collecting. (I’m fairly sure that this Cabinet will also feature in my next novel, Winter’s Tale).
The particular subjects that interested Lena were the human specimens sometimes included in the Cabinets – the ‘lost souls’ of her title. Although there is no mermaid baby in her photographs – and I should point out that the mermaid baby in my novel is entirely fictional – she told me that she had indeed seen such a child in a Cabinet during the course of her researches.
How strange it is when life and art connect. Sometimes, as a novelist, you have the strange feeling that all you need to do is imagine something, and you will find that, yes, indeed, it does exist.
But – ‘How macabre’, said another friend who was talking with us. Neither Lena or I could agree. The Cabinets were early attempts at science; and the inclusion of anatomical specimens merely part of our natural curiosity to explore the very limits of what it means to be human.
Lena’s photographs, although not for the faint-hearted, are both serious and eerily beautiful. (See my Facebook wall for a link)
Posted on | March 31, 2011 | 2 Comments
It’s a strange experience ‘growing’ a novel – you never quite know what direction it’s going to take you in. I’ve been reading fairy tales for my research, and living with my character Celia Lamprey for some months now, trying to get inside her head. I did a lot of knocking, with no replies, for what seems like months now, but finally she’s letting me in.
People talk about ‘writers block’, and I’m never quite sure what that means. I don’t really believe in it – but I do know that some passages, or characters, or incidents, take a lot longer coming that others, some of which just seem to write themselves (if only that happened more often). Sometimes it’s a good idea to do other things to break the log jam. I’m very excited by my new Facebook pages for The Aviary Gate and The Pindar Diamond – no guesses what my displacement activity has been recently – so come and visit me at Katie Hickman Books. I’m going to be posting up lots of photos – so easy to do from my phone, I sometimes think it’s like magic.
Speaking of which, I was checking out some of my fellow Bloomsbury authors blogs (they have links, as I do, on the Bloomsbury website) and I’m completely bowled over by Neil Gaiman’s author blog. He gives a link to a website, Scary Sunday (says it all), which shows the black and white fairy tale photographs of Japanese photographic artist Miwa Yanagi. These are not for the faint hearted (so this mention comes with a health warning) but so powerful and disturbingly beautiful that I keep having to go back and have another look.
They remind me of another photographic artist who uses fairy tales as his theme, the (I think) Chinese Chan-Hyo Bae, whose exhibition at the Purdey Hicks Gallery in London was one of the best shows I went to last year. Not quite so black, but still disturbing enough. Fairy tales as they were always meant to be – most definitely not for children.
Could it be that in Winter’s Tale I’m about to take a walk on the dark side?
Posted on | March 28, 2011 | No Comments
Bloomsbury’s ravishing posters for The Pindar Diamond are now up all over the underground in London, and also in mainline stations round the country. I haven’t seen it yet myself, but friends keep emailing me photos of it, so I know it’s really there at last (Paddington, Bath-Spa…. I won’t mention them all, but I’d love to hear about any other sightings of it…..) Husband thinks I’m pitifully over-excited about it, but, hey, how often do you get to see your own name up…. well, ok, not quite in lights, but the next best thing.
I remember when The Aviary Gate poster came out two years ago and I took my children on an underground poster hunt to find it – I seem to remember that it whiled away a happy day over their half-term (poor things). We found it finally at Borough Station – appropriately enough as it’s the closest tube to home.
I can’t go anywhere in London – old London that is, by which I mean Southwark or the City – without wondering what it was like to walk these same streets 400 years ago. 400 years exactly I have just realised, as the new novel is set, for completely objective historical reasons, in 1611 (Paul Pindar may have come back to England in this year, as 1611 marks gap between the end of his stint as Levant Company consul in Aleppo, and the beginning of his time as the Company’s Ambassador to Constantinople).
I’m always as hands-on as I can be with my researches – never happier than when pounding the pavements – but lately I’ve been enjoying Liza Picard’s books, both Restoration London and Elizabeth’s London. If you want to find out anything from the concoctions women used to keep their teeth white or to colour their hair, to how they decorated their houses, got rid of their slops, or fed their pet monkeys, she’s the expert. It almost – but not quite – makes me want to go back to writing non-fiction again.
The Pindar Diamond is Book of the Week in Waitrose this week. Wonder if I can buy myself a copy when I do my Ocado shop……
Posted on | March 21, 2011 | No Comments
The paperback of The Pindar Diamond is published today.
My editor spotted it at WHSmiths at Heathrow, Terminal 5, late last night (Sunday) and sent me a photo – (see my website, or better still find it in your nearest bookshop…) and I also saw it on the shelves at The White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough where I was spending the weekend – so exciting! It is always a great moment when you first see your book in its new incarnation, and I am incredibly pleased with this one.
I have to confess that it wasn’t always this way. I loved the old cover of The Pindar Diamond with the masked woman on the front, with her implied nakedness and the beautiful and slightly erotic curve of her neck, and didn’t like this cover at all at first, which looked too modern to me and somehow…. well, different. But, after a good deal of healthy ‘discussion’, and a few small but transforming changes, Bloomsbury persuaded me – and now that it’s finally published I have to admit that they were right and it looks fantastic: it shows the the face of a woman who looks almost uncannily as I have always imagined my character Annetta to look, with a strikingly beautiful sapphire blue and gold background which really stands out on the shelf.
All the supermarkets have taken it – a huge coup in this difficult market – so this is a public admission: Bloomsbury, I was wrong! I am eating my hat!
Happily, I had more to eat than old hat at lunch today. I celebrated publication by taking a friend to lunch at the Bleeding Heart Tavern in Hatton Garden, the locus of some of my most enjoyable research (diamonds!) for The Pindar Diamond.
I so love these old parts of London. This is my city – and never more so since I started writing the third and concluding part to The Aviary Gate series, A Winter’s Tale, which is set partly in London. It is the Jacobean London of 1611 admittedly, but every bit as exotic to me as late sixteenth century Constantinople or early seventeenth century Venice (the locations of The Aviary Gate and The Pindar Diamond respectively), and even though there is almost nothing left of the old streets and houses, in Hatton Garden the names remain, and also a sense of almost souk-like community amongst the jewellers and traders, especially noticeable on this warm spring-like day.
There’s a story round every corner, and Bleeding Hart Yard, in Hatton Garden is no exception. The seventeenth century society beauty Lady Elizabeth Hatton, the daughter-in-law of Queen Elizabeth’s one-time favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, is said to have invited all the beau monde of London here to a ball at Hatton House, on January 26th, 1626. Half-way though the evening the door swung open and one of her jilted suitors, Senor Gondemar, the Spanish ambassador, strode in. He grasped Lady Hatton by the hand, danced once around the ballroom, then together they disappeared into the night. They never returned.
“The assembled party-goers assumed the couple had kissed and made up -but no. At dawn the body of Lady Hatton was found in the courtyard behind the stables ‘torn limb from limb’ with her heart ‘still pumping blood onto the cobblestones. From that day forth the yard was known as Bleeding Hart Yard.”
Posted on | June 25, 2010 | 2 Comments
25th June, 2010
The most extraordinary thing happened to me yesterday.
I have been in an email correspondence with a man who is an expert on Jacobean furniture, and to whom Paul Pindar’s house, that amazing carved oak front which is no so beautifully on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is well known.
He sent me a picture of an engraving of the interior of the house, which I had never seen. So there I was, on the 53 bus, suddenly looking into Paul Pindar’s sitting room. What a strange and wonderful experience that was.
The only thing I have ever known like it is when I went to the Bodleian Library to look up Paul Pindar’s book bequest, one of the earliest ever made to the then nascent Bodelian (the eponymous Thomas Bodley was obviously a friend of Pindar’s ) only to find that all the books he had bequeathed the library were early seventeenth century astronomical texts.
I had conceived the idea of the character of Jamal al-Andalus, the Arab astronomer who befriends and helps Pindar in the Aviary Gate, long before I ever knew this.
Strange how art so often imitates life.keep looking »