It started with a title.
My girlfriend at the time commented my ears were ‘so pale they looked like porcelain’. I was hideously hungover and being pale has always been my standard look.
‘The Boy with the Porcelain Ears, that would make a great book title’, I said. That was nearly ten years ago. I knew there was an orphan, I knew it took place in a huge castle (thank you Mervyn Peake) and I knew the King was a recluse. Outside of that I had no clue what the story was.
I wrote other things. I wrote short stories, graphic novels, burlesque reviews, book reviews, started a blog, became a comics editor. I wrote. And Steig Larson published The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
‘Bugger’, I thought. That’s like my title. What am I going to do now?
I started one novel. Gave up thirty thousand words in. Started another. Gave up thirty thousand words in. Started a third, and finished it in 2009. It was awful but I proved to myself I could finish something.
Then, almost two years ago, I was made redundant from my job as a comics editor. It was then I went back to my notes for Porcelain. I had the idea for the four Great Houses. House Fontein for the soldiers, House Erudito for the scholars and professors, House Contadino for the farmers, House Prospero for the craftsmen and traders. Things were taking shape. And hadn’t I always loved Dune? Didn’t the Houses engage in kanly, in vendetta? Ideas were coming thick and fast now.
The orphan had porcelain ears because he lacked ears of his own, I’d always known this, but now other ideas occurred. What other deformities did he have, and were there other orphans like him? And were they pitted against each other and for what reason?
The more questions I posed for myself the more I enjoyed answering them. I set to work at the beginning of March and had ninety-three thousand words and an ending (always important) by that October.
Other influences bled into the book as I redrafted. Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s excellent The Fallen Blade reaffirming my love of all things Italian and spare, polished prose. Iain M. Bank’s Use of Weapons, long a favourite of mine, would give me ideas regarding structure. Chris Wooding’s pace and sense of fun had proved catnip to me over The Ketty Jay Adventures. Richard Morgan and M. John Harrison both wrote Fantasy that was mindful of the rule book and chose not to play, instead doing something else. And a certain Joe Abercrombie, whose dialogue and characters have me counting the days until the next book is released. If I could have characters that interesting, that likable, that cool…
Now I look at those names there’s a fair few Gollancz authors among them, and I’m going to be one of them. Exciting times.
Gentlemen, I’m looking forward to joining you. I hope I do you proud.