As you might have heard by now, news has been released that I’ve been asked to write the sequel to Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black. I said yes, of course. I was actually asked before Christmas and was told to tell no one (Unless I was drunk in which case feel free to tell everyone. They didn’t actually say that bit. But I did it anyway.). Still, it’s good to actually be able to tell people about it while I’m sober. And it’s all properly official: The Bookseller picked up on it, as did The Guardian and The Times. I even did an interview about it with Den of Geek. So I guess it must be actually happening now.
When the news was announced last week I was teaching a class at university. When I came home, it seemed like the internet had exploded. Or my little corner of it, anyway. I had messages from all over the world, friends congratulating me, wishing me all the best with it, one even saying he didn’t think he would have the balls to do it himself (more on that later). So, all buoyed up with this excitement, I took a look at the Guardian’s article. Lovely piece, well-written, showed both me and the book in a positive light. Good stuff. I then paged down to the comments. Specifically the first one. That talked of how sequels were always shite.
Thank you very much, I thought, crashing down to Earth. I then read on to see what everyone else had to say. And by and large, they all agreed with the first correspondent. Very heartening. Luckily, I couldn’t see what was written on the Times’ website. That was me told. And it also made me realise what I’d actually taken on.
I’ve never done anything like this before. Never undertaken a project that had so much riding on it. So many people have so many different kinds of expectations for it. Some hated the film version, some loved it. Some preferred that to the book, some the book to the film. All sorts. It’s a proper, head-above-the-parapet public property. And to be honest, if I’d thought about it in those terms I probably wouldn’t have done it. That made me think again of what my friend the writer Neil White said that I mentioned earlier about having the balls to do it. And have I got the balls to do it? Well obviously I must, because I’m doing it. But I didn’t look at it in those terms.
At the end of last year I wrote about my two main cultural things of 2012. One was being introduced to the fantastic music of Y Niwl, the other was the Hammer Films retrospective I attended. That was exactly a year ago to the month and it kicked off with The Woman In Black. Now, a year later, I’m writing the sequel and my name is going to be on the spine of a book alongside the word Hammer (Since it’s being published by Hammer Books). I could take up the space of a three volume Victorian novel and still not tell you just how thrilled I am about that. And that’s why I said yes. It’s not a question of balls, or of wanting to try and better the original or of thinking I could (I couldn’t). I was asked if I wanted to be part of something that’s meant such a lot to me in my life. How could I say no?
I’m a huge fan of not only the original novel but of Hammer’s screen version. I’m also, as is well-documented elsewhere, a huge Hammer geek in general. Hammer’s glorious, gory, Gothic melodramas are hard-wired into my writing DNA. They’re as formative an influence on me as where I grew up and who I grew up with. Saying yes to this job was a no-brainer.
I’m not naïve. I know it could all go wrong. True. It could be, as that poster said, shite. Obviously I hope not. And I’ll try my damnedest to make sure it isn’t. I’ve never let a piece of work be published that I wasn’t totally happy with and I’m certainly not going to start doing that on a project with this kind of profile. I’m going to be under a lot of scrutiny and I’m sure some people won’t like the end result. I’m prepared for that now. But in way that’s OK, because some will. I hope. I’ve never done anything like this before and I want to make it the best it possibly can be.
Anyway, judge for yourselves. It’s out in the UK in November. Needless to say, I hope you enjoy it.