Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Really bloody excellent omens...

Many, many years ago (it was Hallowe'en 1989, for the curious, the year before Good Omens was published) Terry Pratchett and I were sharing a room at the World Fantasy Convention in Seattle, to keep the costs down, because we were both young authors, and taking ourselves to America and conventions were expensive. It was a wonderful convention. I remember a huge Seattle second-hand bookstore in which I found a dozen or so green-bound Storisende Edition James Branch Cabell books, each signed so neatly by the author that the bookshop people assured me that the signatures were printed, and really ten dollars a book was the correct price. 

I could afford books. Good Omens had just been sold to UK publishers and then to US publishers for more money than Terry or I had ever received for anything. (Terry had been incredibly worried about this, certain that receiving a healthy advance would mean the end of his career. When his career didn't end, Terry suggested to his agent that perhaps he ought to be getting that kind of advance for every book from now on, and his life changed, and he stopped having to share a hotel room to save money. But I digress.) Advance reading copies of Good Omens had not yet gone out, but a few editors had read it (ones who had bid for it but failed to buy it) and they all seemed very excited about it, and thrilled for us.

On the Saturday evening Terry left the bar quite early and headed off to bed. I stayed up talking to people and having a marvelous time, hung in there until the small hours of the morning when they closed the hotel bar and all the people went away, and then headed up to the hotel room room. 

I opened the door as quietly as I could and tiptoed in the dark across the room to where my bed was located.

I'd just reached the bed when, from the far side of the room, a voice said, “What time of the night do you call this then? Your mother and I have been worried sick about you.”

Terry was wide awake. Jet lag had taken its toll.

And I was wide awake too. So we lay in our respective beds and having nothing else to do, we plotted the sequel to Good Omens. It was a good one, too. We fully intended to write it, whenever we next had three or four months free. Only I went to live in America and Terry stayed in the UK, and after Good Omens was published Sandman became SANDMAN and Discworld became DISCWORLD and there wasn't ever a good time.

But we never forgot it.

It's been thirty-one years since Good Omens was published, which means it's thirty-two years since Terry Pratchett and I lay in our respective beds in a Seattle hotel room at a World Fantasy Convention, and plotted the sequel. (I got to use bits of the sequel in the TV series version of Good Omens -- that's where our angels came from.)

Terry and I, in Cardiff in 2010, on the night we decided that Good Omens should become a television series.

Terry was clear on what he wanted from Good Omens on the telly. He wanted the story told, and if that worked, he wanted the rest of the story told.

So in September 2017 I sat down in St James' Park, beside the director, Douglas Mackinnon, on a chair with my name on it, as Showrunner of Good Omens. The chair slowly and elegantly lowered itself to the ground underneath me and fell apart, and I thought, that's not really a good omen. Fortunately, under Douglas's leadership, that chair was the only thing that collapsed. 

The crumbled chair.

So, once Good Omens the TV series had been released by Amazon and the BBC, to global acclaim, many awards and joy,  Rob Wilkins (Terry's representative on Earth) and I had the conversation with the BBC and Amazon about doing some more. And they got very excited. We talked to Michael Sheen and David Tennant about doing some more. They also got very excited. We told them a little about the plot. They got even more excited.

Rob Wilkins and David Tennant on the second day of shooting.

Me and Michael and Ash aged nearly 2.
What it was mostly like shooting Good Omens: peering into screens while something happened round the corner.

I'd been a fan of John Finnemore's for years, and had had the joy of working with him on a radio show called With Great Pleasure, where I picked passages I loved, had amazing readers read them aloud and talked about them.

(Here's a clip from that show of me talking about working with Terry Pratchett, and reading a poem by Terry: Here's the whole show from YouTube: with John Finnemore's bits too.)

L to R: With Great Pleasure. John Finnemore, me all beardy, Nina Sosanya (Sister Mary in Good Omens) Peter Capaldi (he played Islington in the original BBC series of Neverwhere).

I asked John if he'd be willing to work with me on writing the next round of Good Omens, and was overjoyed when he said yes. We have some surprise guest collaborators too. And Douglas Mackinnon is returning to oversee the whole thing with me.

So that's the plan. We've been keeping it secret for a long time (mostly because otherwise my mail and Twitter feeds would have turned into gushing torrents of What Can You Tell Us About It? long ago) but we are now at the point where sets are being built in Scotland (which is where we're shooting, and more about filming things in Scotland soon), and we can't really keep it secret any longer.

There are so many questions people have asked about what happened next (and also, what happened before) to our favourite Angel and Demon. Here are, perhaps, some of the answers you've been hoping for. 

As Good Omens continues, we will be back in Soho, and all through time and space, solving a mystery which starts with one of the angels wandering through a Soho street market with no memory of who they might be, on their way to Aziraphale's bookshop. 

(Although our story actually begins about five minutes before anyone had got around to saying “Let there be Light”.)

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