Robot Monkeys, Space Rockets and Novel 5

I’m now deeply into illustrating The Great Space Race. So far, I have constructed a robot monkey at life-size, and am drawing plans for a moon rocket (at not quite life-size). I’d like to say ‘It’s not rocket science’ but it is… sort of.

The Great Space Race is being ‘set’ – in other words my final draft is being made into a book by the art director, Ben. This is the moment when the project begins to breathe and take on its final form. It’s looking really good so far, and Ben is doing a superb job of pushing me to the limits (again) as he did with the Guild Trilogy to create something extraordinary and ground breaking.

So… I need to build a space rocket for photographic purposes! My Dad has offered his services and wisdom for the construction. Great news, because I tend to bodge stuff together, but he is more thorough, and likes to do things properly.  He also has a most impressive track record of building models – huge working battleships mostly, but there have been life-sized locomotives for a drama production, and memorably, he once converted his car into a submarine for a parade. Also, if I started to build a rocket in my London flat, I’d probably be arrested under the current terrorism laws. (‘Honest officer, it’s not an actual real rocket!’). He lives in the country, so we should be safe enough there at the Mowll Space Centre. I’ve showed Dad some rough plans and I could see an immediate glint in his eye. He immediately identified the tricky bits. More on these once we’ve begun construction.

With Space Race in good shape, this is also the moment when I have to start to think about what I am going to write next.

I have been honing my ideas for novel 5 on and off for a few months, plotting and planning, and working up a story into something I hope will be a cracking read. I’ve had several different ideas for novels, but one seemed a clear winner in the end. I had to condense 40 pages of detailed notes into five page outline, and write 3 chapters, just so I could get the feel of it (notes are all very well, but once you start writing characters, they do tend to take on a life of their own, I find). The story will be something new, not connected to the Guild trilogy, or The Great Space Race.

I managed to get everything ready just in time for a very lovely breakfast meeting in Soho last week with my literary agent Clare. The good news is that she liked the idea very much – although not the title! – hence it still being known as novel 5. Dreaming up names for novels is like dreaming up names for bands… surprisingly hard work. I thought up Operation Red Jericho whilst going to work on a Number 15 bus – a proper old fashioned red Routemaster London bus. There are still a few of these left for the tourists, so perhaps I should buy a ticket and see what I can dream up.


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