I’m going to an interview/book signing later today and I just can’t deal with it because it’s only Anthony bloody Horowitz.
To understand why I’m so excited about this you have to go back to April, when we moved back to Edinburgh. The first thing I did was register for a library card, because books are more fun than council tax forms. I was also keen to read more in the nebulous new genre that is YA. It’s research, even if you occasionally have to suffer the humiliation of one teenager turning to his mate and saying ‘what’s she doing in our bit? She’s old enough to be our mum!’ *sigh*
While he’s best known for his TV work on Midsomer Murders and the excellent Foyle’s War, my first encounter with Horowitz was at the tender age of six, when he wrote an episode of Dramarama on CITV called ‘Back To Front’. Here it is on Youtube. Give yourself half an hour and go watch it. Seriously. (Come back here afterwards though.) Even as a youngster, this creeped me the hell out. I had nightmares. I was nervous around mirrors. But you know what? I watched it as an adult and I still love it. It stuck in my head for a reason- it was well-written.
Back to this year. I picked up Raven’s Gate, first book in the Power of Five series, because it seemed very urban fantasy-ish and had a teenage protagonist. I only meant to read the first book to get a feel for it. Famous last words. I had to know what happened next, so I tracked down the next one. And the next one. Aaand the next one. I was hitting up Inter-library Loans so hard they didn’t know what hit them. Then a good friend asked if I’d read his Alex Rider books, and I started reading those just before the summer conventions. My husband practically had to drag me off the plane, so engrossed was I in an action scene. And then I was told he’d done a Sherlock Holmes novel. Was there nothing this guy couldn’t do? House of Silk was a wonderful pastiche of Conan Doyle, and kept me guessing right up to the end.
What was it that held my attention through saving the world from demonic beings, young James Bond-esque romps around the world and solving crimes in Victorian London? Well, his pacing is spot on; people aren’t sitting around doing boring monologues for chapters at a time. His characters are well-rounded and his research meticulous. (For Power of Five I heard he did everything from hiking up Macchu Picchu to going to Antarctica and visiting Triad gangsters. For my novel I…er…hung around in Edinburgh?) In his teenage fiction, he doesn’t talk down to his audience. And the subject matter can be pretty grim and dark, which is totally what I was reading as a teen. Point Horror and Goosebumps, anyone? Best of all, he’s got a lot of folk reading again, especially teenage boys. The person that recommended Alex Rider to me wasn’t much of a reader, and now he’s devoured the entire series. Reading as a force for good, guys!
Horowitz is a prolific writer too. As well as penning a second Tintin film, he’s working on an ITV series, he’s been licenced to
kill write a new Bond novel and he just let slip he’s writing a Victorian-themed Disney film. I had a listen to his interview on Five Live (starts around 1:14) and love him even more now. He improvised some fiction in five minutes! He gives amazing writing encouragement! He takes ideas from people he meets at signings!… oh. I hope I can, y’know, not look too crazy or cry all over him. I’ve gone from despairing that my writing’s awful after reading one of his books, to actually listening to his pro tips and, quite possibly, applying some of the things I like about his work to my own. (I looked back at the first draft of what might eventually be a second novel, and the pacing was faster than Usain Bolt launched from a catapult. I’m learning something.)
Tonight’s interview and signing, for bonus nerd joy, is in the Surgeons’ Hall. The museum there has the most gruesome medical exhibits you’ll ever see, and there are references to the lecturer Conan Doyle used as a basis for Holmes. I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you have any idea what I should ask him when I get my copy of Moriarty scribbled on, that would be nice to know.