SpooksBlog

Seventh Son Review

The Writer’s Review
I watched a special preview of ‘Seventh Son’ in Paris on Thursday November 27th. It was shown in a small private cinema belonging to Universal Studios.
So here is my first review of the film; here are the early thoughts of the author of ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ after watching the adaptation of his book. It contains no spoilers. I do not intend to give away the plot or in any way diminish the enjoyment of anybody who reads this and then goes on to watch the film.
The key word is ‘adaptation’. It is not just a conversion of the text into an audio-visual form. It has been transformed. This is inevitable because the process took many years, involved three directors and several screenwriters. Change was inevitable.

 Is it a good film? The answer is yes. I enjoyed it

 Is it spectacular?

The answer is yes. I watched it in 3D and there is a great deal of action, conflict and combat. There are creatures of the dark that lurch out of the screen and try to remove your head, your heart or maybe even your thumb-bones.  And there are witches; lots and lots of witches.

 Are the acting performances good?

The answer is yes. The cast perform well. They act well. I expected no less from the people involved.
Jeff Bridges is a convincing Spook and more ruthless than the John Gregory I describe in the book. As an actor he is a perfectionist. On the film set in Vancouver (back in 2012) I watched him perform many takes of the same action sequence striving to get it right.
Julianna Moore is a dangerous and charismatic Mother Malkin who is a worthy opponent for the Spook. My only reservation is that I could see neither maggots in her hair nor slime on her dress. Neither did she suck the blood from a single rat.
Alicia Vikander is an alluring Alice, torn between her feelings for Tom and the dark domination exerted by her mother and Mother Malkin. Just like the Alice Deane in the book, she strives to do what is right.
Ben Barnes is a great action hero who is the true star of ‘Seventh Son’. I forgive the fact that he is somewhat older than thirteen. He should play Tom Ward in the film adaptation of first book of the new series – ‘A New Darkness’ (where Tom is 17). That should become the sequel to this film.

Will you enjoy the film?

The answer is ‘yes’ – but if you have read and enjoyed the Spook’s books, watch it with an open mind. I spoke to three people about their personal judgements of the film. The first two were journalists. One didn’t like it that much because she preferred the book; she was more involved in the world of books anyway. The second loved the film; she was a journalist who reviewed films. She was judging it as a film amongst films. The third was a boy called Robin who is a great fan of the series. There was a danger that he would have found the film disappointing. Historically, there are many film adaptations where those who loved the book hated the subsequent film.

What did Robin say?

Robin said the film was very good. He enjoyed it.
So go and watch it with an open mind and enjoy it too.
Afterwards please send me your own reviews but avoid spoilers. We will publish the best reviews on this site.

‘Seventh Son’ is released in France on December 17th, 2015.

It opens in the USA on February 6th, 2015.

In the UK it can be viewed from March 27th, 2015.

Joseph Delaney

 

Bill's Duck Pie

Many of you have have expressed surprise even disappointment at the outcome of The Spooks Revenge. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read that far but in response to the question why I chose that ending, a story has its own momentum and natural direction and I am not prepared to force a happy ending onto a book just to make everything cosy and nice. The truth is that life isn't like that anyway for most people.

However the story of Tom and Alice is not over yet and you do not yet know the real reason for the behaviour of Alice. In the next series, in the second book, Alice returns. I promise nothing but we shall find out why things happened the way they did. I also am interested to see what happens!

There have also been questions regarding the delay between A New Darkness and the release of Book 2 in The Starblade Chronicles.  The second book is not out until Feb/March 2016. It is a delay that is beyond my control and is due to scheduling around the film release, which as far as we know is now out in February 2015.  I understand this is a long wait between books but I hope that you will be placated by the release in 2015 of my new science fiction book.  Again, I can say very little about it for fear of something similar coming out at the same time (but there isn’t a spook in sight). This is an idea that I have been sitting with for a long time, I first created the world of the SF book in 1992. It is something that I have kept returning to. It is far older and more complex than the world of the Spook and it is very exciting for me to finally get the chance to develop it.  Watch this space for more information.

A few months have passed since my tour in June to promote A New Darkness. As always we covered a lot of territory and faced large and enthusiastic audiences. On the last day of the tour In the company of Naomi  a bookseller from Heffers in Cambridge, we visited Bassingbourn Village College  in Bassingbourn. After my talk, as usual, I answered questions from the audience, some of which are predictable. For example I am often asked ‘Which Spook’s book is your favourite?’ or ‘Do you enjoy writing?’. Occasionally, a question takes me by surprise and the answer does not come easily to my lips.

‘What is your favourite pie?” one boy asked.

I thought it might be a steak pie and that was my answer but, in truth, I wasn’t sure.

Afterwards it worried me. I’d lived on this earth for many years (that’s another question I sometimes get asked – ‘How old are you?’) and still hadn’t made up my mind what my favourite pie is. Fortunately the answer was soon within my grasp. We went into Cambridge for lunch and decided to eat at Bills.

There were pies on the menu and I chose one. It was delicious.

Now I have the answer.

Bill’s Duck Pie is my favourite.

On the next tour I will be ready for a repeat of that question.

The thirteenth person to ask about my pie preference will receive a free copy of my latest book.

We will be counting carefully!

 

Halloween blog

Stone Chucker 

Stone Chucker 

Boggarts are from Lancashire the English county where I set the series about Tom Ward and the Spook. But similar creatures are found all over the world. I think they are mostly invisible and are a type pf what we would now call a poltergeist.
By now most of you will be familiar with the story of the Stalmine Boggart, also known as ‘The Hall-Knocker’ because it rapped on walls and scared people away from church. It was bound under the step of a local cottage by a priest. That was my inspiration for ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ which was called ‘The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch’ in the USA – it would be about a man who dealt with the supernatural.
A couple of miles north of Stalmine is the ‘Hackensall Hall Boggart’ which is sometimes seen in the shape of a horse and can be heard to clip-clop up and down the nearest lane. There is also a hairy boggart at Wheeton. Lancashire is riddled with boggarts that scare people play tricks and cause harm.
Another famous Lancashire boggart was bound under what has been called ‘The Written Stone’, near Longridge (a place known as ‘The Long Ridge’ in my books). A farmer thought the stone would be useful in his kitchen so he had it removed from its place on the ground to there. That’s when the trouble started! Any kettle cup or up or other piece of crockery placed upon it would be thrown over by the invisible boggart. At night when the farmer was in bed they would hear noises from the kitchen. The boggart was moving things to show its annoyance. So the farmer gave up and returned the stone to its original position where it remains to this day. Thus peace was restored!
This brings me back to my original point that I think boggarts are a type of poltergeist. My son once lived in a house that appeared to be haunted. One dark winter night they heard a tremendous crash from the kitchen and went downstairs to find a pan in the middle of the kitchen floor. Inside it there was half of a cup and a spatula. The other half of the cup was over by the door. The pan and the other items had all been safely tidied away so how did they get down there?
It sounds to me like a poltergeist (an invisible spirit which can move objects – perhaps another name for a boggart). So I think my son had a boggart in his kitchen. He’s moved house now so it is probably plaguing somebody else!

Have a great Halloween!

Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney

 

August 2014

As far as anybody can be sure the film, ‘SEVENTH SON’ is still scheduled for UK release in February 2015.

In December 2014 ‘The Seventh Apprentice’ will be published in e-book form only. I have set this new story (it is about a third of the length of the other Spooks books) earlier in John Gregory’s career. At this point he has trained six boys and only one has qualified as a spook. The others either ran away or were killed. Now his seventh apprentice, Will Johnson, turns out to be very lazy and is in danger of being sent back to his father. However, he is about to face a very dangerous opponent. The original title of the story was ‘The Pig Witch’.

 In January 2015 the film tie-in book will be published. This will have an image from the film on the cover (probably Jeff Bridges) but will contain the first two books in the series (‘The Spook’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Spook’s Curse’).The target audience is, of course, new readers. 
For those who haven’t read the first book (hardback) in the new Spook’s Series (‘A New Darkness’) the paperback will be published in February 2015.

Now we come to what is for me the most exciting thing of all (even more than the film) – it is the publication in June 2015 of the first book in my new Science Fiction series. I can’t even tell you the title at this stage. But I can show you one thing. Remember how each Spook’s book had an epigraph? It began with ‘The highest point in the County is marked by mystery’. So here is the epigraph of the new SF book.  

The dead do dream.
They dream of the world of Nym and twist hopelessly
Within its dark labyrinths,
Seeking that which they can never reach.
But for a few, a very few, a wurde is called.
It is a wurde that summons them again to life.
Cursed are the twice-born.

 Amabramsum: the Genthai Book of Wisdom

Trust me that isn’t a spelling mistake! Wurde is far different than word. I’ll tell you more next blog.

Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney

Happy New Year 2014

BLOG: February 2014

I began my blog last year by saying 2013 would be a busy year with ‘The Wardstone Chronicles’ coming to an end and ‘Seventh Son’ out in January 2015.
Half of that at least was true. The series came to an end with the final book ‘The Spook's Revenge’ published in December. I won't spoil it for those that haven't read it yet but I hope I tied up all the loose ends (at least all that I wanted to) but also left the reader guessing a little.

I often get asked whether I was sorry to see the series come to an end. Maybe I am hard-hearted but I did not find it emotional writing 'Revenge' because it is not really the last book. There are going to be at least three more spooks books before we say a final goodbye. There is a short extract of ‘A New Darkness’ at the back of ‘The Spooks Revenge’. Basically it begins with Tom being the new Chippenden Spook. So please read that to get an idea of what the new series is like. There is a new threat and it will take all Tom’s strength and courage plus the help of Grimalkin to deal with it. I know that some readers were not happy with the way the book ended but the story of Tom and Alice is not over yet.  

Tours
In November and December I was on a ‘Revenge' promotional tour in the Lake District (with Elaine and Sue from ‘Silverdell’ books in Kirkham) and in London with a host of other excellent booksellers.  It was very busy with at least two events every day with big audiences that were as always enthusiastic and appreciative.  It was nice to meet some readers that had been with the series from the beginning, some who had started recently and read all the books and others who are just at the beginning of the series but I hope will continue. I would like to thank all the teachers and librarians that welcomed us into their school, the book sellers and of course the children who provided me with thought provoking and interesting questions. 

The Film (‘Seventh Son’)
Due to a change in the commercial relationship between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros, ‘Seventh Son’ has experienced another delay in its journey to the big screen.  Universal are the new distributors and they decided they wanted more time to promote it, so the release date has changed from January 2014 to February 2015!  So rather than touring the US and Canada and France as I had hoped I have to spend the winter in the UK. At least it has meant I am ahead of my deadlines and can relax a bit, but don't tell Random House, they will give me something else to do.
So it is another year of anticipating the film, a tour in June to promote ‘The New Darkness’ and hopefully some sun. 
Additionally I am writing a new Science Fiction series for children/young adults. The first of that Trilogy will be published in June 2015.
Oh! I almost forgot. I have just written another short Spook’s spin-off book which is provisionally titled ‘The Pig Witch’. It features ‘Will Johnson’ one of the early boys apprenticed to John Gregory and Snout, the pig butcher (he appeared as an adult in ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’) when he was a boy. It is one of the darkest spooks adventures I have ever written. It’s put me off bacon forever. I’ll just have to eat crumbly Lancashire cheese!

All the best for 2014
Joseph Delaney

Spook's finale

Who will live and who will die?

This is the year that the final book in the ‘Wardstone Chronicles’ series is published. So far the book hasn’t even got a title (my working title is ‘Spooks 13’) but it is almost complete. I have just finished Draft 3. We expect the book to be published in early December.
But first, on June 6th, ‘Alice’ will be in the bookshops. This is Book 12 and very much part of the series. In it Alice visits the dark in an attemp to retrieve the ‘Dolorous Blade’. We also have an extended flashback into Alice’s past which should throw up a few surprises for some readers and fully explain the greatest threat to Alice.
 I will be on tour in June visiting schools, bookshops and libraries. 

best wishes
Joseph Delaney 

Alice

I have just completed the first draft of ‘I am Alice’ which is to be published in June 2013. At the moment the book is in two halves. The first deals with some of Alice’s early training; the second with her journey into the dark to recover the third blade – that is necessary to complete the ritual that could finally destroy the Fiend.

 Here is an extract from the first section:

“Got work to do, we have - dark work,” Lizzie hissed, “Coven business. We drew straws and of the thirteen, mine was the shortest. The witch assassin is busy elsewhere, so down to me it is. I’m going to kill a spook. Deserves to die he does. We cursed him before but somehow he survived. Messed with us far too long and now he’s got it coming.”

Normally Grimalkin the Malkin clan’s witch assassin would have been sent off to deal with a clan enemy such as a meddling spook but someone had to do the job and Lizzie had been chosen. She must have seen the reluctance in my face and she scowled at me.

“Right, girl! You’ve asked enough questions and dawdled too long. On your feet or you’ll wish you’d never been born!” Lizzie said, stamping her foot. Immediately, nasty twitchy things with tentacles and sharp teeth began to form in the darkest corners of the room where the flickering light from the candle flame couldn’t reach

“They were ‘sprogs’ from the dark, new-born entities, still trying to understand who they were and what their place was. Lizzie could summon them to do her bidding and she was good at that: they could terrify, torment or even kill if there were enough of them. I shuddered with fear. If I didn’t get up right away the most powerful ones would get closer to me and start to nip and scratch. I’d have to close my mouth firmly and pinch my nostrils to stop one getting up my nose.

 So I closed the grimoire, Lizzie’s oldest book of spells, got up and pushed my stool underneath the table. As the sprogs started to fade away, I blew out the candle and followed her up the stairs."

 The section you have read will probably change – hopefully for the better. I meet my editor, Ruth, on Friday and we will discuss possible improvements. So we will see!

As I wait to begin Draft Two, I am already working on the final book in the Wardstone Series. I can’t tell you much about that but the first chapter’s title will probably be ‘The Spook’s Legacy’. As for the title of the actual book, I am still thinking. Later we may have a competition to guess the title I use.

 Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney

The Spook's Blood Tour wrap up

I have just completed what was probably the best book tour I’ve done since being published by Random House in 2004.

 I think it is important to visit new areas and meet new readers. But also the balance has to be right; I also enjoy visiting the local schools and bookshops in Lancashire where I have always received great support.

We started in France at a book festival in Montpellier. The books are very successful in that country due to the great team at my publisher, Bayard Jeunesse, which includes my excellent translator, Marie-Helene Delval. My editor, Karine Sol, visited the festival and spent the day with us whilst I met many enthusiastic French readers.

Week Two saw us in Scotland with Alan Wilson, the Random Rep for Scotland. He was great company and after events in Edinburgh and Glasgow he drove us north into the Highlands (I’d never been further north than Stirling before). We met many booksellers in Scotland and visited lots of schools including Earlston High School, Lilliesleaf, Gordonstoun and Buckie High School in Moray. One day I would like to travel even further into Scotland and visit schools well off the beaten track.

In Week Three it was the turn of Lancashire. The booksellers there included Elaine and Sue of the ‘Silverdell Bookshop’, Kirkham, and Tony from ‘Formby Books’. I particularly remember visiting St Aidan’s Preesall, Over Wyre, because that was the school that my own children attended. There were also the usual successful visits to Waterstones stores at Wigan, Preston and Lancaster where I met readers who bought the series right from the start and have now become like old friends.

Week Four began with a visit to London to meet the very supportive and enthusiastic team from Random House Children’s Publishing. We discussed the latest film news and listened to information from Sales, Rights, Marketing and the Editorial team. From there, after signings at Golsborough Books and Waterstones Piccadilly, it was a train journey to Devon. Based in Torquay, we visited schools and bookshops in Paignton, Tavistock , Totnes and Taunton.

Perhaps my most vivid memory was of crossing the River Tamar into Cornwall on our way to an event in Liskeard. It’s a fantastic view and it brought back memories of all the family holidays we had there when my children were young.

It was back home to Lancashire then with just one more event to end the tour – the Lancashire Book Awards in Preston, where once again a Spook’s book, ‘The Spook’s Destiny’, had made the short list. That brought the tour to a happy end and within a few hours my publicist, Linda Worner, flew back to New Zealand. Then it was back to my writing.

‘SLITHER’ (Book 11)

So here’s looking forward to the October tour to promote ‘Slither’ which is number 11 in the Wardstone Chronicles Series. In part the story is told by a non-human mage (try looking up the ‘Kobalos Mages’ in the ‘Spook’s Bestiary’, Page 150). But there is also a young heroine, who tells of her plight in her own words. It is the first time I have used two narrators in the same book.

The Kobalos are bestial, blood-thirsty and dangerous. They no longer have females of their own but hold human women as slaves treating them with utter contempt.

They are about to meet Grimalkin.

That, to me, seemed quite an interesting meeting to arrange! 

I hope you agree. The book is out this October and is part of the main narrative with important pointers to the resolution of the series and maybe even beyond it

Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney

 

                

Glamour

THE LATEST FILM NEWS

Some people think that being a writer is glamorous. I know that I once did. I dreamed of finally getting published and all the amazing fun that would follow. I imagined travelling to distant countries, staying in city hotels and seeing the sights.

Most of that came true and I do enjoy it but sometimes it can be hard work: having to grab a coffee and manage without breakfast to be in time to travel to some school event; attending a bookshop when hardly anybody turns up; spending a night alone in a strange town on a wet Monday; visiting a big city but seeing only the inside of your hotel room.  So when you actually do live the life of a writer it’s not as glamorous as some people might believe.

The same is true of film-making. On April 30th I visited Vancouver, Canada, to watch the film of ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’/ ’The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch’ being made. The film is called ‘The Seventh Son’ and it is a good choice. After all you have to be a seventh son of a seventh son just to be eligible to become a spook’s apprentice.

They have created some amazing sets designed by Dante X. I was shown the preliminary models and artworks then, finally, the sets themselves. They are big and very convincing. I saw a walled city set in a huge muddy field. It was like a building site complete with heavy machinery and workers in hard hats. There was no glamour there.

That comes afterwards.

I met Jeff Bridges who plays the Spook. He looked convincing. He believed that he was the Spook – I could see it in his eyes. Yes, he was the Spook! Then I watched him playing the same scene over and over again until he and everyone else, (especially the director Segei Bodrov), was satisfied. There were a lot of people involved and each one of them knew exactly what to do. It was an action scene and the ‘Spook’ kept falling backwards against a pillar in danger of his life. He was covered in dust and he probably had bruises or at least aching bones the following day. It wasn’t glamorous. It was hard work.

The glamour comes later.

They started filming in March and will continue until the end of June. Then post-production will begin. They’ll spend hours, days, weeks and months, editing the film until each section is perfect.  Then like a Pendle witch casting the spell called ‘glamour’ the film will come to life and the magic will be there.

It will differ from the first book somewhat. All films are adaptations and make changes. But I am convinced that it will be a great film.

I’m looking forward to it.

Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney.

                

How do you get published

That is the question that I am frequently asked via the website and at school events.

The answer is ‘with difficulty’!

It really is not easy for most people. There are a lot of would be authors out there and I was once one myself!

All publishers have what they call a ‘slush pile’ - manuscripts they have been sent by writers hoping to see their books in print. So for every book that is published there are hundreds that aren't.

So how do you avoid those slush piles? How do you get noticed and read by an editor?

The answer is ‘Get an agent’!

Unfortunately, that isn’t easy either. Public libraries have a reference book called ‘The Writers and Artists Year Book’. Back in the year 1990, I went into Knott-End Library in Lancashire found he book and looked at the list of literary agents it contained. I wrote to three. Only one wrote back and eventually she became my agent.

When my agent sent my manuscript to publishers there was a difference – it didn’t go into the slush pile – it got read! Of course,I still got rejected. So with that in mind, you need perseverance and have to realise it might take many years to get into print properly.

Not only that you may not be as good a writer as you think. I certainly wasn’t. Long before I got my agent a publisher did read the first full-length novel that I’d written. They sent me back a very polite rejection slip. So I wrote to them asking for more criticism. This time they told me the truth. My characters were ‘two-dimensional; my plots were ‘structurally unsound’! Reading between the times what they were saying to me was ‘You are rubbish!”. Now I realise that editor was right. I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to improve.

How do you improve your writing?

You have to work hard at it. You need to write something every day if possible. You also must read widely from lots of different genres (reading fiction helps you to write fiction). I always liked to read and the best stories inspired me to write. It was discovering the magic of books like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ that made me want to be a writer.

Also keep a notebook. Jot down into it all your ideas before you forget them.

For me it was a long, slow gradual process and took me well over ten years of continual effort. I was rejected over 97 times, I stopped counting after that. From 1990 I wrote a book a year and every time my agent said, "I am sorry Joe, they sent that one back. I’ve now sent it to all those who publish your genre so there is no publisher left to send it to!” I didn’t get too down-hearted. Why? Because I’d been busily writing and I had another manuscript ready for her to send.

 If I hadn't believed in myself and developed a thick skin I would have given up after the first few rejections. Remember too that just because your manuscript is returned it doesn't mean it is not any good - it may just not be what the publishers are looking for at the time. A publisher’s list is limited and the number of authors they have may become significantly fewer when economic conditions are bad.

I do most of my writing when I am not holding a pen - when I am watching television, waiting for a train, or just sitting and thinking.

For example, I got the idea for ‘The Spook's Apprentice’ when I moved to the village where I still live and discovered there was a local boggart. I jotted into my notebook the idea for a story about ‘a man who deals with boggarts’ and years later, when I needed to come up with a story idea very quickly, I went back through my notebooks and found it. That eventually became The Spook's Apprentice and the subsequent series.

 What about self-publishing?

  It has now become much easier because of the internet and e-books. I confess that were I still an unpublished author writing today I would go down that route. But it is not as good as having a real publisher. I am published by Random House and have an editor who prods me, pushes me, gives me helpful criticism and gets me to produce the best book possible. Not only that my publisher organizes publicity for me, markets my books (ensuring that they are stocked by bookshops), designs the eye-catching covers and sells the rights to foreign publishers and film producers. That has resulted in translation sales to 25 countries and a film deal (‘The Seventh Son’ starring Jeff bridges is in cinemas in 2013). There is a lot of support given.

So I wish you all luck in your efforts to get published. If you enjoy writing as I did, the journey is worth it even if you never arrive. I really mean that. Even if I had never got published I would not have regretted all the effort I made. I enjoyed trying.

Best wishes,

Joseph Delaney.