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Other titles in the Abarat series:
Abarat Book 2: Days of Magic, Nights of Warby Clive Barker
Author Q & A
The books of Abarat are a departure from the kind of writing you've become well known for. Where did the idea for it come from and what made you go in this direction?
As a kid I was a huge reader of what we would call fantasy, though I don't think it was called fantasy back then — C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and also that bundle of influential Edwardian writers: Kenneth Graham, J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carroll. I also took a piece of advice from a much earlier fantasist, William Blake, who said, "Make your own laws or be a slave to another man's." I think that's what many of these authors did — they created alternative worlds where the rules were different, crazy, surreal; where miracles and wonderment happened.
I put away in the back of my head the idea that, one day, I would do what C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had done, and create an entire world for a younger audience that could be revisited in a series of books. But I didn't know how or when I would do that.
Which came first, the story in your mind, or the art?
The art. As Michael Crighton writes in Jurassic Park, "Life will find a way," so will dreams find a way too. Imagination will find a way. Prevented from being fully realized in literary form, this world I had put to the back of my head started appearing on the canvas. I was just beginning to paint in oils, and pictures began to appear which were unlike anything I'd painted before. It slowly dawned on me — and it was slow — that I was painting a world.
I had been painting the art for two years before I even began to seriously think about what the story would be. I didn't have a clue who would be the hero or heroine. I was just painting, and I took to heart a line from the Belgian painter, Paul Klee, who said that "drawing was taking a line for a walk." I didn't go to a canvas and think, "This is what I'm putting on there." I went to the canvas with a brush with a color on it. And that one thing leads to another.
What is your favorite island of Abarat and why?
I have to have two favorite islands. Odom's Spire which is the 25th hour — the time out of time — is the first. It is the hub of the wheel; the island that lies in the very center of everything. What's great about the 25th island is that you could meet yourself there as a baby, or as an old man or woman. It's a place of magic and transformation.
The other is Midnight, or Gorgossium, the home of Christopher Carrion who is one of the villains of the book. Carrion's world is a world of midnights. It is a world where all the Halloweeny things that you might imagine really do exist. It's a world that pays homage to some of my favorite painters — Heironymus Bosch would be a good example — medieval painters who created extraordinary paintings of worlds.
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