So today you can get your hands on this BEAUTIFUL little hardback book – a great addition to any collection simply for the cover alone, but as well as that, there is a truly absorbing story inside. I adored it – review a bit further down, but first I asked Tom some questions about the book amongst other things and here is what he had to tell me.
Such an amazing world you have created in “Gleam” – tell us something about how that came about, where the idea took root.
Thank you. It feels like a world that I’ve been carrying around in my head for a long time – I struggle to remember where the ideas came from, now. I’ve wanted to write fantasy since I was very young, but it was always a dreamy, surreal kind of fantasy that appealed. I think the initial spark probably came from the BBC adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. After watching that, I read and fell in love with the books. But I never found much contemporary fantasy fiction in that vein – so much of it was set in a world much like ours, except with magic. There was no real magic in Gormenghast, but the world of it felt completely alien. I decided that one day I’d try to write something set in a world completely unlike ours, even though it would contain recognisably human characters.
The idea of a single huge structure also came partly from Gormenghast, and partly – I think – from the film Labyrinth, which came out a couple of years after I was born and seemed to be on the TV a lot when I was a child. I remember being scared of the goblins and making my parents change the channel, and then me wanting them to put it back on.
I didn’t want Gleam to feel like a historical novel, in the way that much popular contemporary fantasy can, and nor did I want it to be huge doorstop, laden down with excessive worldbuilding. Not that I don’t love reading that kind of book – I do – it just wasn’t what I felt compelled to write. So there’s technology in Gleam, as well as magic, and the sense of civilisations been and gone. The language is contemporary, and though I did plenty of work working the world out, the characters don’t stop to question or explain it for the sake of the reader, and so much is left mysterious. The characters are humans living inside (mostly) inhuman architecture, and although they know that Gleam must have been built for a purpose, they’re resigned to never knowing what that purpose was.
Though, having said that, Gleam marks the beginning of Wild Alan’s awakening to certain aspects of the world that he feels compelled to investigate, and so there might be a few answers by the end of the trilogy. (Might).
A terrific eclectic group of characters to follow as well, do you have a favourite?
I do. Bloody Nora. I don’t want a favourite, I really don’t, but I can’t help it. If she survives – and I hope she will – I’d like to write a whole trilogy with her as the primary protagonist. And if she doesn’t survive, well, that trilogy could always be a prequel. She’s done a lot of living even by the point of her introduction in Gleam.
But I do love them all. They’re all a bit outlandish and exaggerated, and were a lot of fun to write.
I loved that Alan is really inherently selfish. Was it enjoyable to create a real “anti hero” who readers would still get behind? (I loved him!)
I’m glad you loved him! He is selfish, and I don’t quite know how he’ll go down with readers. But it was thoroughly enjoyable to write him. In my previous novels, which are all ‘real world’ horror, the characters are all deeply neurotic and confused, and though they’re far from perfect they’re almost completely paralysed by their own consciences. And by fear.
Alan came out of my desire to write a character who acts first and worries later, and who is confident enough in their own world to cope with the various threats that are levelled at them. And he ended up quite selfish and cocksure. But he’s not heartless – and he’s not really a killer.
There are many different “levels” to Gleam – if you had to live anywhere within that world, where would you choose?
Oh wow – I don’t know. Obviously I want to choose one of the various weird and exciting Discard locales, but in all honesty it might be the Pyramid. It means sacrificing all of your time and energy for the benefit of your superiors, but it’s safe. Although – no, because in the Pyramid the Astronomers choose your partner, and so they’d split my wife and I up.
In the Discard, I think I’d want to be quite close to the surface. They’ve got a good night sky. But then, deeper down, close to the swamp – that’s where the magic is…
Can you give us any hints about what is coming next? Without spoilers of course…
The next book is called Idle Hands, which is the name of a Discard disease. Some of the protagonists’ actions in Gleam threaten to cause full-blown gang warfare in the Discard, with the Mushroom Queen squaring up to her new challenger. The Bikers are gathering to discuss their allegiances. Idle Hands itself is back on the loose, stalking the ruins. Alan is trying to cope with the ending of the first book – perhaps relying a little too heavily on the drink in order to do so – and resolves to actually get back into the Pyramid now, cause some damage, and damn the consequences. And Bloody Nora has some family matters to attend to.
One book you recommend to everyone.
That’s tough. The Crow Road, by Iain Banks, maybe? I’m struggling to think of one that I could unhesitatingly recommend to everyone. But The Crow Road might just work.
3 people alive or dead you would love to have a drink with.
M.I.A, Nick Cave, and Iain Banks.
One thing you wish you were good at but are not.
I wish I could sing. It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to do. But – you don’t know what ‘can’t sing’ means until you’ve heard me have a go.
Thank you Tom!
In this Gormenghastian world the Factory is the law – but that does not
The Gargantuan factory of Gleam has seen a millennia of decreasing population. Now the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’ll uncover more secrets than he bargained for.
Absolutely one of my favourite books of the year this, and one that is almost definitely heading for my top ten for 2014 when I do that in December, this is a sprawling, wild and highly engaging tale of a completely different world – one inhabited by the weird and wonderful, where dark secrets lie hidden and an eclectic and highly intriguing group set out on a quest to discover them. Well, kind of, it is what they end up doing anyway…
“Wild” Alan lived in the Pyramid in presumed relative safety, unfortunately he is still mad as a box of frogs about the death of his parents and the destruction of his village in “Discard” many years before and therefore is not terribly good at following the rules. Ejected from his home and having to leave his wife and son behind, he ends up in quite a bit of trouble as he is forced into action in order to ensure their safety. Alan is not terribly good at action frankly, he would far rather remain drunk, but needs must and off we go on a most tremendous adventure.
Firstly the world building here is superb – the world of “Gleam” has many layers, each described in beautiful detail so that they form in your head as you read. A lot of it is pretty insane but still strangely believable, the descriptive prose is pitch perfect from the first overview, which then leads to each very different environment that our characters encounter. Beautifully done throughout and ever compelling I was totally immersed into those surroundings.
Then we have our eccentric and kooky mix of characters, some who have a dark hint of danger about them, others who are often pure comedy genius. Like Mr Fletcher himself, my favourite was absolutely Nora – she is tremendously well imagined and full of depth, I’m fairly sure we have only touched the surface there. I’d happily read a book where it was just her wandering through the world of “Gleam” and dealing in her indupitable style with whatever occurred. Alan himself is fascinating, very self centred, but good at heart really although he would like to think of himself as kick ass its more often HIS ass being kicked which makes him all the more enjoyable to read about. There are many more – all of whom I will leave you to discover for yourself.
So there you go – if you are a fantasy fan you should love this. If you are not usually a fantasy fan it is certainly worth becoming one temporarily in order to read this book – there is something and someone for everyone and it is all delightfully written. 5 “Gleaming” stars and a chocolate cake for this one!
Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/T_A_Fletcher
Happy Reading Folks!