January 8, 2012
This is a weird business. Just before Christmas, I got a courier package from Random House. I normally know ahead of time when I’m due something from them, so I was a little curious when I opened this one up. Imagine my surprise (and pleasure . . . and a touch of confusion) to discover that the first two Armouron books, ‘The Armoured Ghost’ and ‘Lying Eyes’, had been translated into German. And published in hardback, no less.
This is how I found out – I opened that package to discover my copies of the books.
Now, normally when my books are sold into another country, I’ll be consulted, and there’ll be a contract to sign. Beyond that, how much input I get into the foreign editions is down to the individual publisher – some I have contact with, most I don’t. There’s none with the Armouron stuff, because I don’t own the creator’s rights, the designer of the toy range does – although I did do most of the initial set-up of the world and the characters. Even so, you’d think somebody would have sent word that they’d sold the German rights for two of my books. And my agent (who normally handles foreign rights for me) was as surprised as I was.
Not that I’m being all negative about this (well, a little more communication would be nice); it’s always cool to see your book in another language, even if most of the rights are, in this case, owned by someone else. It’s interesting that Loewe, the German publishers, kept the original covers too – those often get changed when you break into a different market. You can have a look at the covers of my other foreign editions here. I thought I’d got over the stage in my career where I found out about stuff after it was done.But this little episode just goes to show how unpredictable and disjointed this industry can be at times, even when you’re working with the most professional people.
It reminds me of my first ever foreign edition, when ‘The Gods and Their Machines’ was published by Tor in the US. I did have to sign a contract for that one, but the first time I saw the cover of the book was when it appeared on Amazon. Thanks, guys.
September 16, 2011
I’ve been asked this a few times over the last while – particularly by people who are dealing with the book distributors, and can see that my next two books ‘The Orphan Factory’ and ‘Dead-End Junction’, were scheduled for release this month.
The short answer is ‘I don’t know’. But I’ll tell you what I do know (and what discretion allows):
Unlike my other books, I don’t own the rights to the ‘Armouron’ franchise, so I’m not kept in the loop as much. The whole project started with a television production company that had taken on the film rights for a new toy range being released by Bandai. They approached Random House to handle the publishing side of things – starting with the production of a series of eight books aimed at confident readers; novellas about 25-30,000 words long.
Way back when I was first starting out as an illustrator, I worked on twelve ‘Power Ranger’ books, so I know how this usually works. A big franchise like this is normally led by the television series and the toy range. They’re established first, and then the books come along as merchandising. But at this point, there was no script for the television series (a live-action one, rather than one that was animated), and the toys were already in production.
Instead, it was left to Random to establish the world and the characters of ‘Armouron’, based on a rough set-up originally provided by the woman who had created the toys. So in this case, the books were going to come first, establishing the whole franchise. Random brought me over to London for a brainstorming session with the production people, and I was commissioned to come up with the setting, the characters, and the framework for the stories.
They contracted me to write four books in the series, including the first two. Even though I wasn’t to get creator’s rights (which is why I use ‘O.B. McGann’ on the covers) I was keen to get involved. I went through plenty of these kinds of franchises when I was a kid: ‘Star Wars’, ‘Action Force’, ‘Transformers’ etc. I’m not ashamed to say that I and the people I worked with chucked in every well-tried element we could think of to create the Armouron world. After all, we weren’t trying to be wildly original – although aspects of the toys, and stories, actually are – we were putting together something kids, particularly boys, of a certain age would love.
The first two of my four books, ‘The Armoured Ghost’ and ‘Lying Eyes’, came out last year, and are available in most good bookstores now. Another writer, Richard Dungworth, was to provide the other four. His first two, ‘Caged Griffin’ and ‘Prisoner on Kasteesh’ are also out now. Both of us have now completed all of our stories, but the final four haven’t been released yet, even though the toys are now also out there on the shelves (check out the big launch in Hamley’s in London). Ironically, this seems to have nothing to do with the paralysis that’s gripped the publishing industry over the last couple of years.
I haven’t been told anything about the television series in nearly a year. Last I’d heard, they were at the script stage, but I did produce a fair bit of the source material – based on the rights owner’s initial ideas – and nobody’s been in touch with me about any of it. That said, I’ve had no word that it’s been canned either. Armouron would be a major film production, being a sci-fi series in a futuristic city, with a lot of special effects, so getting the funding for it, and putting it together, will be no small task.
This is probably nobody’s fault. I’ve learned enough about the television and film industries to know that – despite the confidence of the producers in this case – projects like this get pitched all the time. They can be really difficult to get off the ground, and sometimes they can take years to get through the production pipeline. This is not something that’s likely to wind me up – I know how it is. That’s the nature of the film business and publishing works much the same way, albeit on much, much smaller budgets.
But it does mean that the release of my next two books has been postponed – and presumably, Richard’s too. I don’t know for how long. So even though the books came first, and set up the world that features this clever, multi-functional armour, they are now being treated like merchandise for the toy range (which they are, to be fair). While they are part of a franchise, these are solid, action-packed stories with distinctive characters, and are more than good enough to stand up on their own. And the remaining four books are ready to go.
If I hear any more about the release dates, I’ll let you all know.
December 14, 2010
We’ve just come out of the cold snap, but I’ve heard reports on the radio that we could be heading right into another one this week. Some would say the weather we’ve just had is the the last thing we needed after all the crap that’s happened to our economy over the last year, and the crap that’s still to come.
But I’m of the view that it was the politically incorrect slap in the face for the panicking passenger on a sinking ship. And it came along just when we needed it most. Last year showed just how hopelessly unprepared we were for this kind of weather, so we did a (slightly) better job this time round. We’ve just been hit with the most snow I’ve possibly seen in my lifetime, and the lowest temperatures on record, and I’ve been intent on getting the best out of it.
Having finally got the house in order – sort of – and had a couple more events cancelled, I had got back to doing some writing. And I’m really behind on the various projects I’ve got on at the moment. I can’t complain about the time spent on the Armouron books – there’ll be two more out next year, and another two from Richard Dungworth – it was a fun job and a valuable experience. But it knocked my other books back a bit (more about those later) and the house and the new baby knocked them right back. And I can hardly complain about those either, can I? All in all, life’s been good – unproductive on the work front, but good.
Then the weather closed the country down, and we had three cabin-feverish kids bouncing around the house for two weeks, complete with stomach bugs, no television, no door to my studio and a choice of giant heating bills or chilly rooms just when Maedhbh and I are more strapped for cash than we’ve been since we got married. Not very conducive to getting much writing done. But the cold snap did mean the countryside looked absolutely beautiful, complete with frosted trees whiter than I’ve ever seen in Ireland, and thick blankets of snow on the ground. The roads in our area were hopelessly icy, but you could get around if you took your time, and didn’t come across too many eejits. You were better off staying put if you could, meaning a bit of chill-out time (pardon the pun) and whole days spent with the kids – not that relaxing, but a proper pleasure nonetheless. By going with it, adopting a slower pace, things worked out okay.
Petrol-head and broadcaster Anton Savage made the point – a little too glibly – on Today FM that it was ‘just snow’. Tell that to the people who couldn’t get out to get food, or couldn’t afford the fuel to heat their homes. Perhaps they’ll get ‘just hypothermia’. But in a way he was right to make fun of all the people who were turning it into a drama. We’re not prepared for this type of weather: we don’t put snow tyres on our cars when winter approaches. We don’t clear the stuff from our paths, we expect the council to do it for us (in other countries, the law holds you responsible for the stretch of path in front of your home). We don’t have stores of food put away, or even have proper clothes or shoes for this kind of winter. We don’t have snow-ploughs or sleds, skis or snow-shoes. But we can still be sensible about it.
In a world where the role of men is becoming muddier and unclear, this is a good time to prove we can still do the stuff our dads and grandads did when this kind of thing descended on them. We can make sure the cars keep running, and dig them out of the snow. We can clear blocked paths and blocked drains and keep the fires lit and fix stuff that’s broken, rather than waiting for a repairman who might not be able to come out, or doing yet another trip to the shops to buy more new stuff. We can help our neighbours out. We can look after our families, like we’re supposed to.
I’m grateful for this weather, for reminding us all what’s important. Because there’s been an awful lot of crap thrown at us over the last couple of years, and amid all the panic induced by the financial world, it’s been easy to just freeze up. It’s too easy to forget about getting on with living in the real world.
I’ve avoided paying too much attention to the economic misery on the radio and television. I’ve been too busy, and I’ve decided that the parts of it that affect me I’m just going to have to deal with anyway. There’s too much to get on with as it is, without spending my days cursing complacent, corrupt and incompetent politicians or greedy idiot bankers, or all that other shite. The weather has provided the media with a flurry of meteorological metaphors for our economic woes, but it’s reminded me that it’s the practical needs that I should be focusing on.
This country is down, but far from being out, but even that’s not my first concern. Time to get stuck back into my work, and keep doing what I’ve always done to get this far. I don’t know how to deal with a recession, it’s too big a concept. But continuing to turn out books – to make a living and look after my family? That’s something I can manage. And as for the weather? Well, after all, snow is just snow.