And the Winner is . . .

A massive thanks to everyone who entered the ‘Merciless Reason’ Competition! And now I’m delighted to announce the winner and runners-up:

The runners-up will all receive inscribed copies of each of the three Wildenstern books. They are:

Alice Maciejowska

Rhoda McNamara

Damilola Adeniji.

And the winner, who will make a cameo appearance in my next novel, ‘Rat-Runners’ is . . .

Caragh Boland!

Congratulations to all of them, and thanks again to everyone who took part!

Merciless Reason Competition

The deadline for entering the Merciless Reason Competition has now passed! A big thanks to everyone who entered! The winner of the competition will appear as a character in my next book, and will be announced on the 15th of July. There will be three runners-up who will receive inscribed copies of all three Wildenstern books.

Thanks again to everyone who took part!

Win the Chance to be a Character in a Book!

To celebrate the release of ‘Merciless Reason’, the third book in the Wildenstern Saga, we are offering one reader the chance to make an appearance as a character in my next novel.* Like a walk-on part in a film, except you won’t have to walk. To enter, you need to do two things:

1. Simply answer this question:
In the opening chapter of ‘Ancient Appetites’, the first Wildenstern book, Nate goes hunting for a wild motorcycle in the Wicklow Mountains. What do the local people call this creature?**

2. Send us a short written description of what you look like. Include some of your interests or hobbies. Use no more than forty words – no photos or attachments please!

Send your entry by email to:
Please put your answer to the question in the subject line.

There will also be three runners-up, each of whom will receive inscribed copies of all three Wildenstern novels.

The closing date for the competition is the 15th of June.

*My next book is entitled ‘Rat-Runners’. It’s not a Wildenstern book, but will be a thrilling piece of work nonetheless.

**The first chapter of ‘Ancient Appetites’ can be found here. Hint: The name starts with a ‘B’.

The winner will be announced on or before the 15th of July at

For the Terms & Conditions, please refer to the ‘Merciless Reason’ page.

And on a final, related note, I recently did a guest post on the Falcata Times blog for their Steampunk Week. It’s a letter to Nathaniel from his father, Edgar, after Nate’s first attempt to flee from the family (before the events of ‘Ancient Appetites’). It is a note of caution from a ruthless old businessman to a son he considers gormless and impulsive. It won’t warm your heart.

The New Arrival

I have to admit; even after twenty-one books, I still get excited seeing my latest one fresh off the presses. I get a box of author copies when the production run’s done and they’re all being packed up for distribution, but I normally get a couple as soon as my editor can send me them, maybe one or two weeks ahead of the ‘official’ ones.

It may seem odd, but it’s not the text I have a look at first in a book – it’s the illustrations. In this case, there are just the cover and the chapter icons, but I examine each one in turn to make sure they’ve come out okay. Before I can really enjoy the new arrival, there’s a short period of suspense as I search for flaws. It’s rare that I find any worth mentioning – I have the good fortune to work with people with a thorough knowledge of their business.

There were a few last minute changes before we went to print: the blurb got shortened down, I added a couple of bits to the background piece at the end, as well as a scatter of other minor alterations.

In a way, I’ll stop thinking much about ‘Merciless Reason’, as I do with all my books once they’re done. I’m about to start editing the next one, and I’m getting on with some other sideline projects, so that’s what’s going to occupy my mind for the next while. But I’ll still pick this up from time to time over the next few weeks. It still feels good.

Thanks to Lauren, Sue, James and everyone at Random for all their work.

Here’s the new, shortened blurb:

‘There’s no escaping this family. I’d have an easier time shaking the plague.’

It has been three years since Nate left Ireland, and his ruthless, feared family, behind. But the Wildensterns are not finished with him. When he discovers that his treacherous cousin is still alive, he is drawn back into their world of plotting, betrayal and murder.

At home, Daisy and Tatiana are among the few who are trying to stem the damage the Wildensterns are doing. The family has become even more hated by the people it treads upon in its thirst for power.

One thing is for certain – the Wildensterns are back. Violence will ensue.

Creating an Icon

I had a grand time in the two weeks running up to Christmas, partly due to the kids’ excitement, and partly because I got to spend most of my work-time drawing and painting. I was doing a painting for my sister as a present – both for Christmas, and for the apartment she got (after much ado) a while back. But before I could get onto doing that, I was working on the black-and-white chapter icons for ‘Merciless Reason’.

This is a kind of signature thing I do for all my novels – a small image at the head of every chapter. I figure you should do everything you can to make your books as memorable as possible, inside as well as out, and sometimes an image can set a tone or help the reader visualize something or even just act as a tease, a taste at the start of a new scene, in a way that words can’t. And besides, I’ll look for any excuse to get an illustration into a book.

The challenge with these is to find images that are distinctive and eye-catching; each one should be very different from the next and they must all work at a small size. I draw these no larger than 8cm by 6cm, but they appear at the size of a postage stamp. In ‘Merciless Reason’, there are thirty-eight of these little pictures. They’re a quiet pleasure to work on. For the Wildenstern books I do them in a classic brush-and-ink style to suit the era, though people sometimes assume they’re etchings or even wood-cuts. I’ve never done an etching, and only did a little wood-cutting in college. And due to the time involved, these types of techniques are used less and less in illustration, which is a shame really.

I originally wanted to do full-page ‘plate’ illustrations for ‘Ancient Appetites’, as you would have found in nineteenth-century novels, but the folks at Random thought that might make the book look as if it were trying to appeal to a younger audience (can’t old people look at pictures too?). They were very happy to go with chapter headers, however. Too many books just have a basic, graphic design repeated as a header. If you’re interested, you can see a sample of one of my proposed full-page illustrations here.

As the Christmas/New Year holiday draws to a close, it’s time to get back into planning for the next few months. I’m intending to hold a competition to promote the launch of ‘Merciless Reason’, and I’ve already got some events lined up over the next few months. Then there’s the production work on my next novel to get started on; ‘Rat-Runners’ – a very different story to the Wildensterns’ exploits. I’ll see what other projects I can come up with in the meantime. It pays to keep yourself busy these days.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of you.

Something Old, Something New

My brother sent me this and I thought it was pretty cool, so I’m sticking it up here. Somebody’s built a life-size motorcycle that looks remarkably like Flash, one of the ancient, living machines known as engimals that appear in the Wildenstern Saga. You can see Flash on the cover of ‘Ancient Appetites‘.

‘Merciless Reason’, the third Wildenstern book, is coming out early next year, and I’ll have the front cover for you to look at pretty soon – it’s all but finished and the designer and illustrator have both done a brilliant job, but there’s just a couple of tweaks to do.

I also received this bit of video, and wanted to include it too. Basically, it’s a demonstration of how a superconductor can be made to act like a levitation device, though I suspect we’re still a few years away from hover cars yet. Don’t ask me how it does it. Apparently it’s a quantum thing. The guy doesn’t explain it very well (it’s ‘locked’ there, he says). Even so, it’s excellent.


Here’s a first look at the cover of the French edition of ‘The Wisdom of Dead Men’. It’s going to be entitled ‘Féroces’, (‘Ferocious’), and I’m really pleased with the design. They’ve captured that ‘dark-gothic-mystery-and-violence-tempered-by-a-need-for-civilized-decorum’ feel very well indeed.

You can see more versions of my book covers in my Cover Gallery.

As I’ve mentioned before with the French version of ‘Ancient Appetites’, when your book is sold into another country, the level of input you get into how it looks can vary. With a publisher in the Irish or UK markets, I’d expect a lot of say in the cover.

In foreign markets, I have to trust the publisher there to know their business; the audience in every country is different. Mango, my French publisher, make a point of showing me the cover and asking my opinion, as they’ve done here, but the cover image is pretty much done and dusted before I see it, and I can only really get it tweaked at this stage.

Contrast that with my very first foray into a new market – when Tor published ‘The Gods and Their Machines’ in the States. The first time I saw that cover was on Amazon.

Thanks for the cover, Mango. Can’t wait to see it in print.

Adapting to Your Environment

My agent has just informed me that the French editions of three of my novels will be released as ebooks. ‘Small-Minded Giants’ (under the title, ‘Liberté Surveillée’) , ‘Ancient Appetites’ (under the title ‘Voraces’) and ‘The Wisdom of Dead Men’ (don’t know what they’re calling it yet) are to go digital, courtesy of my French publisher, Mango Jeunesse.

I don’t know much about the book culture in France, except that their taste in sci-fi and fantasy would be less influenced by British and American stuff than ours, and they’re much more appreciative of comics, so it’ll be interesting to see how these do as ebooks. I don’t think publishers in the UK have sussed how to sell ebooks yet, despite most of the big ones setting up their own retail sites. It all seems to be left up to the big retailers, so the stuff that sells well overall is most represented in the ebook market.

Publishers have been struggling to predict the next big thing – or trends in general – in the YA market. And with all the financial turmoil, things seem to be contracting, growing more conservative again, after a really adventurous time. I want to avoid getting caught in that pinch, so the sci-fi crime thriller book I’m just finishing up is aimed at a slightly younger audience – more Robert Muchamore than Alex Rider, but still more palatable for the gatekeepers.

But this bending to the market makes me question just who makes up that market. Once kids are into novels, they’re the ones deciding what to buy, and yet it’s the adults who are still dictating the level of content in the books that we write for these kids. I’ve said it time and time again, but one of the reasons books don’t sell in the same way – indeed, are not marketed in the same way – as other consumer products, is that we’re out of touch.

I have had people in my publishers take issue with some of the content of my stories. Apparently, O’Brien have had complaints from teachers about my Forbidden Files. Though any teacher I’ve spoken to – and I speak to a lot of them – are happy to have these books in the classroom.

My ten year-old stepson got an iPod for Christmas. A couple of his mates got ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ – a game rated 18+. I had a conversation with this same bunch of lads a couple of years ago (when they were eight), where they told me about a scene in Jackass 2, where a guy pumped beer up his own arse. This is the kind of stuff they were talking about in the schoolyard when they were eight. These are the kids to whom the publishing industry is trying to sell ‘Horrid Henry’ and ‘BeastQuest’. Think we’re hitting the mark?