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Book Club - by Suhaili

An exclusive interview with D.M. Cornish, author of 'Monster Blood Tattoo'

February 20th 2007 12:06
Well, I'm going to do something new today, the following is an exclusive interview with D.M. Cornish, an Adelaide-based illustrator and the author of the recent teen-fantasy novel Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling. The second book in the series, 'Monster Blood Tattoo: Lamplighter', is due for release this year. Before we get on with it I'd like to say a big thanks to Mr. Cornish for granting this interview. Read on!

It's said that you created the world featured in 'Monster Blood Tattoo' over 10 years ago... did you create the Half-Continent with a view to writing fiction about it?

Ultimately yes, though I just enjoy inventing a setting for the sake of it, ‘cause I could not help myself: I read and see things and ideas just bubble up of their own volition. Over the years all the disparate ideas have kneaded together into a homogenous whole. At times it feels I was made for ‘world invention’ – if I may call it that.

You're quite an accomplished illustrator... what do you consider yourself to be first? An illustrator or a writer?
That is a very pertinent question, for previously I have always considered myself an illustrator – a drawer – as has anyone who has known me. Yet over all these years the thing I have been filling notebooks with is not drawing, but writing. So maybe I am really a writer? Yet getting to illustrate for a period after a solid stint writing feels like a holiday – so maybe I am an illustrator first … one who can write. Then again perhaps I am both in somewhat equal measure.

Monster Blood Tattoo

How many books will be in the 'Monster Blood Tattoo' series?
The intention at this point is just the three. I reckon we might have seen enough of Rossamünd after three books. I would very much if I am allowed, like to write of other folk doing their doings in the Half-Continent or in other parts of “the world”. We shall have to see whether I am a fad or here to stay I suppose.

What is the current release date for 'Lamplighter'?
Ahh, here comes some less happy news. It had been set for May this year but there is a lot of reworking to be done by me now that editors are at their work so that will delay its release. For this I most humbly apologise to those who had read on my blog that it will be in May this year. However, as the maker of the Ultima series once said, something is late only until it is released but it is bad forever. So as much as it is an ache to me to let readers down and not have a completed copy in my own palms sooner, I would rather I gave people the best I could late, than average early.

Have you started the third book yet? Does it have a title?
The third book is in preliminary stage and it has a working title but not an official one – so perhaps I had better keep mum on that till things are clearer.

After you finish 'Monster Blood Tattoo', will you be writing other books set in the Half-Continent?
Sorry, I think I answered this in question 3. To answer the question here: I sure hope so – these might include books about actually serving in a navy or life on the vinegar seas or exploring the same. Also, a compilation of the Explicariums of MBT plus even more information, done for those who like the Half-Continent and would like to stroll about it at their own pace without the interference of a narrative.

Were you happy with the reaction and reception 'Monster Blood Tattoo' has gotten?
Umm, yes, most definitely. There have certainly be those few (that I know of) who do not get it, or for whom it is not their “cup of tea”. Bad reviews are inevitable, yet I reckon it is far better to engender a reaction from people than incite only ambivalence. On the other hand, it is a deep delight to find that MBT has actually struck a chord in some, hit them in the way I so hoped it might and made the Half-Continent a place to retreat to when times are troubling.

Sean Williams wrote a rather snazzy forward for 'Foundling', how influential was he on your work as a writer?
Sean is an brilliant role model for how a writer should be, and in that he is still having an influence on me. I am exceedingly grateful (that sounds rather formal but it says it accurately) for the “snazzy” forward and the support he has shown MBT and me. He even launched the book here in Adelaide. As far as writing goes, his influence has not been so direct, though in some ways I reckon you can tell we’re both from Adelaide.

Monster Blood Tattoo

What other authors and books do you like?
Lots and lots: I tend to cite Kafka, HP Lovecraft, HG Wells, Mervyn Peake, ER Eddison, Austin, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Hesse and Mr. JRR himself when asked this question. TA Shippey’s Road to Middle Earth has had a profound influence on me, even The Boland Light Railway by BB has had its effect. Since publishing Foundling, a suggestion of Patrick O’Brien in my work has actually got me reading (and LOVING) the Jack Aubrey books. Can’t wait for The Deathly Hallows to be out – I know the pain of waiting for a great book to come out (re: question 4)

A lot of children's fantasy books are currently being made into films, or seeking to be made into films (Harry Potter, Eragon, Amulet of Samarkand, Inkheart), can you ever foresee 'Foundling' being adapted for film? If so, who would you cast as the key characters?
Yes and I reckon it might be best made as an all CG or animae feature, or maybe a mixture of puppets and CG. We shall see… As for real life actors I have now idea – what do you think?

What influenced you when you created the Half-Continent?
That is a question with a potentially very big answer (i.e.: I could rattle on and on if allowed to). Briefly it begins with Star Wars when I was five, then aforementioned Boland Light Railway then Warlock on Firetop Mountain (a Fighting Fantasy book – the very first one in fact coming out in the early 1980’s – I still have a copy) then LotR when I was thirteen (very much a “bolt of lightning from a clear sky” for me), throw in an abortive attempt at a Tolkien-copy fantasy world when I was 13, some HP Lovecraft, EA Poe, HG Wells, Dune, many sessions of role-playing (including the invention of our own settings and rules), Frankenstein, and a whole lot of creative fun at University and you have the foundation, the flower bed if you like, upon which and from which the Half-Continent eventually emerged. It was not until I had finished reading Peake’s Gormenghast series back in 1993 that I was finally motivated to actually begin what gradually became the Half-Continent. It began with one fellow called Icarus who wore mechanical wings on his back like his mythical Greek namesake and lived and struggled to survive in a city called Brandenbrass (which, you might note, is phonetically similar to “Gormenghast”) Since then history, especially European history from the Reformation through to Waterloo has had a great influence, as has visits to New York, London, and other place beyond here. This is not comprehensive but probably more than enough.

It seems a very unique and distinct place, your Half-Continent, and your Explicarium shows the incredible level of detail you have invested in it's creation... how much time did you spend on it's formation? Is it an evolving process?
Very much an evolving process. Its original vibe and form are what I see now as the possible future for the Half-Continent from where in its history we reading about it in MBT. I have been working on it formally since 1993 – and only with the merest ghost of a hint of a notion of a hope that perhaps one day in my 40’s or 50’s someone might think it worth doing something with. My primary objective has been to create place as thoroughly as possible and know it well before venturing out into stories. Having said that, I find for all this preparation there are still great areas of how the Hc works that need greater work when it comes to the ‘nitty gritty’ of actually writing a narrative set there. There are areas I had only previously briefly dealt with and were nutted out because that’s where Rossamünd took us. So the invention and refining – the kneading – of the Half-Continent goes on, even now, with more notebooks being filled. The notebook my publisher first saw falling at her feet in 2003/4 was #23; I am currently nearing the end of #29.

What advice would you offer to any hopeful writers out there?
Hmm, wow, I have become a writer by such a strange path that I feel ill-equipped to offer advice. All I can say from my own experience is that it might just be ok to quietly back yourself, to reckon your stuff is worth saying even if many about you scratch their heads and give you a humouring smile. However, be tough on your ideas, push them, make sure they have a ring of truth to them (always a tricky thing) but be not destructively self-critical – ride those storms of creative angst, dare to hope bigger things (as Paul Atreides might say “fear is the mind-killer”), and easy as this is for me to say, know that monetary success or multiple publishing deals are not always a measure of a works worth. Heck, I was fiddling about with the Half-Continent for well over a decade thinking no one would be really interested (but for my dear friends Will and Mandii – to whom Foundling is dedicated), so hanging in there has been a long pass-time of mine So to all you creatives wrestling with ideas and the wider world, hang in there. (Apologies if any of this sounds lame)

Some Links
Monster Blood Tattoo - Official website.
Monster Blog Tattoo - D.M. Cornish's blog.
David Draws - his illustration website.

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4 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by JohnDoe

February 20th 2007 20:57
Great post Luke,
How did you score the interview?

Comment by Luke

February 21st 2007 00:24
Just got his email off one of his websites and asked. He's a pretty nice guy, he got back to me super quick.

Comment by JohnDoe

February 22nd 2007 08:56
Nice going man, and a fine interview to boot.

Thank you.

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