Friday, June 06, 2008

Danse Macabre for banjos and clarinet...

So Maddy is sick, and is fast asleep on the other end of the sofa, so I put on Shock Treatment on DVD -- it's been ages since I've seen it (I'm not sure I've actually seen it since it was on in London's West End in about 1981), although I've had the CD (and before that, the LP) for many years, grabbed a computer and thought I should start to catch up on my blogging. I'm way behind on everything (email? returning phone calls? blogging? I'm backlogged on all of them. Let us not even mention anything new I'm meant to be writing). I'm keeping more or less current with the proofreading of Graveyard Book in the various editions, though, and I'm hugely proud of having done the Graveyard Book audio over the last few days.

(Yesterday morning before the reading started I also did an NPR interview about Anansi Boys for the Bryant Park Book Club [you can read the discussion so far here] as a sort of warm up.)

The reading was, in some ways, the hardest I've ever done. I always forget how exhausting doing an audio book is -- sitting in the same position and reading 75,000 words, and getting every word right. The concentration involved is ridiculous. I do them once a year, and admire all the voice actors who do them day after day, reading books they didn't even write! It was hard, and longand somewhere in Chapter Seven I was scared my voice would give out entirely, and then I got to Chapter Eight and it felt like I was flying and could do it forever. (When I finished, I went back and did the very first four pages again, and nailed them.)

Director Michael Conroy flew in from New York. (He replaced the amazing Rick Harris, who recently retired.) He was a fine director -- picked me up on places I flubbed, let me go when I was doing well. We started talking about what kind of music we'd like on it. "The Saint Saens Danse Macabre," I said, " long as it isn't a version we've heard before."

By which I meant not a standard orchestral version, or a piano version. Not the Jonathan Creek version either. We started talking about takes on the Danse Macabre that might be odd and interesting, how we should go and find a string quartet version, or a version that's just double basses or accordions, or the danse macabre arranged for banjo and clarinet... and about how hard it would be to find versions like that.

And then we started to wonder whether if I mention it on this blog, we could actually get submissions...

So that's our current plan. No-one's going to get rich from something that's the chapter intro music on an audio book, I'm afraid. And it won't be a competition, more of an easy way for anyone from anywhere in the world to send in audition samples -- and we need to figure out how to do it, and what the technical specs would be. But that's the plan. If you play the Danse Macabre on the musical saw, this may be the opportunity you've been waiting for...

More information as we figure it out.



There seems to be a little more information at and,0,6511196.story

Honestly, I was shocked and a bit saddened.

Back in early 2002 I was ready to leave Harper Collins, when my then-editor left; Jane Friedman talked me into staying, promised a lot and then delivered on all of her promises. (There were things I wanted that were against Harper Collins policy, like having a trade paperback and a mass market paperback of the same book out at the same time.) I got to spend real time with her last year in Beijing, at the Book Fair, and she really impressed me with her understanding of publishing, of where publishing was going. She's very funny, very practical, ferociously smart. I don't think that Harpers would have been so supportive of the monstrous thing that has grown into without Jane -- nor would it have been as easy to push through the free online American Gods a few months ago.

I like Jane -- she's larger than life, and I like larger than life people. I'm glad I was at what turned out to be her farewell party at the Fox lot (even if I did spend much of my time reminding Matt Groening that I really need to be a head in a jar on Futurama) -- and I hope she winds up somewhere that's as challenging for her and as interesting as CEO of Harper Collins.


What are your thoughts on the idea of age ratings on books? I personally think it's potentially off putting to children who want to read outside of their "age range".

I saw a discussion about it on BBC Breakfast this morning.



I think it's deeply stupid. You can get all the information about who a book is aimed at across to a book buyer with typefaces and design. Putting more or less compulsory coloured bands on books saying what age the reader is expected to be seems like something that's just going to stop people -- of all ages -- reading books. Exclusive, not inclusive.

As far as I know, Bloomsbury, my UK children's publisher, has simply decided not to play, and won't be banding. (Bloomsbury are also doing one edition of The Graveyard Book for adults and another edition for children, and none of us have any idea what age group it's aimed at. People who like reading about a boy who was brought up in a graveayard, I suppose, of whatever age.)

There's a web site where a number of authors, illustrators, academics, librarians and editors have pointed out how deeply twerpish the banding is. I signed up for it with enthusiasm, endorsing the following statement:

We are writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, publishers and booksellers. Some of the undersigned writers and illustrators have a measure of control over what appears on the covers of their books; others have less.

But we are all agreed that the proposal to put an age-guidance figure on books for children is ill-conceived, damaging to the interests of young readers, and highly unlikely, despite the claims made by those publishers promoting the scheme, to make the slightest difference to sales.

We take this step to disavow publicly any connection with such age-guidance figures, and to state our passionately-held conviction that everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out.


When you first posted links and photos on your blog about "Blueberry Girl", your collaboration with Charles Vess,I was thrilled. Now, a bit after a month since it was supposed to be published, I haven't see hide nor hair of it. Was it published in late April, or pushed back?

Thanks so much,


It definitely hasn't been published yet. I looked around, and it looks to me like Blueberry Girl is going to be released in February 2009. (You can see pictures from it at

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