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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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Excellent Portents

 I'm still in New Zealand, and life is weird but good. 

Amanda and I are raising our small boy, and I love being swept along in his enthusiasms. Zombies was mostly replaced by Star Wars while I was away. Since I've been back, Star Wars has mostly been replaced by Tintin and Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters, and Tintin and Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters appear to be slowly transmuting into Greek Mythology and Asterix and Obelix. This morning he ate breakfast in character as Obelix, complaining about the lack of Roast Boar, and then lecturing me on all the Greek Heroes who battled monsters (his list consisted of Theseus, Perseus and Herakles. He got very excited when I told him about Odysseus.)

Hair prior to recent haircut. I look like a bush.

Hair after haircut. I look less like a bush. Ash and I are poring over The Seven Crystal Balls. Photo by Amanda

I've done one public event since I've been here -- the Auckland Writers Festival. Here's the video of the first event, in which Lucy Lawless interviewed me and Amanda.

I did another talk -- just me -- and a six hour long signing the following day. It was wonderful to meet the people, but I'm definitely out of practice at doing marathon signings. I kept thinking about the nine months I spent on Skye, during which time I probably interacted with a dozen people who were there, and that includes trips to the little shop in Uig and socially distanced walks with archaeologists on the hills. New Zealand has definitely done right by its people, and that just makes the losses around the world even harder.

Amanda's already vaccinated. I'm due to get vaccinated in a couple of weeks.

The Netflix Sandman is taking up a lot of my time right now.  (Today I received a first cut of episode 9, and a finished-except for music and VFX cut of episode 4 to watch.)

Here's the Sandman First Look Behind the Scenes release from Netflix. 

(I saw an earlier version of this in which I could be seen marvelling at a copy of The Sun newspaper with the headline TUG OF LOVE BABY EATEN BY COWS, because the determination of the team to make it Sandman is astonishing -- to the point where I sent an email to Allan Heinberg, showrunning, last week, while I was watching the Dailies, and I told him of an error I'd spotted. He pointed out right back that the error was in the panel in Sandman 10 they'd used as their reference. I told them not to fix it. That kind of fidelity can only be applauded.)

And in the meantime, all of the writing time, and a lot of the meeting time (because the people I am meeting are in countries on the other side of the world it's either early in my morning or very late at night), has been taken up by two other projects I haven't talked about yet, although they've been 90% of what I've been doing for the last 18 months. But let's leave them for the next blog entry. It'll give me an incentive to write one.

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