How I Wrote TALL TALES FROM PITCH END

McDowell, NigelHappy June Pub week day 2! Today we’re celebrating the release of TALL TALES FROM PITCH END with a blog from the author, Nigel McDowell. TALL TALES is a fast-paced, exciting story of teenage courage and rebellion. This novel is nine years in the making. Below, Nigel explains how Bruno Atlas and THE TALL TALES came to life… 

It’s weird the way images just drop into your head and refuse to leave: in my case it was nine years ago, and I saw a boy sitting alone on a rock.  A rock on a grey beach under a wild sky.  Odd.  I looked closer and saw others – grey-faced, trudging along this beach in clothes the colour of ash and mist and taking no notice of the boy. But were they ignoring him, or could they simply not see him?  Or did they not want to see him or did he not wish to be seen?  Then I noticed that the boy was crying.  Why?

And so it began. Novels are often investigations — that demand of ‘why?’ is unavoidable, and you find yourself dragged along, hoping to find the answer!  So as soon as this boy – who would quickly be christened ‘Bruno Atlas’ – appeared in my imagination, I knew there was a story behind his loneliness, his weeping, and I had to discover it.  I put pen to page, and (with nothing else to go on) wrote – ‘The Boy Who Was Invisible’…

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Bruno Atlas came first and then the seaside town of Pitch End formed around him.  He was an observer, noticed things others didn’t, and my first drafts were full of Bruno’s wanderings as he explored the paths and ‘darkways’, rooftops and hiding-places of Pitch End, desperate to discover its secrets.  And I was always hurrying along at his heel, trying to keep up…

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My partner was born and raised in a seaside town in Northern Ireland, and when I first visited him there, it was an instantly vivid place: town hall, clock tower, beach, two main streets on a steep slope…these details settled in my imagination, then did a weird squirm and changed: I needed a lighthouse where Bruno’s father had worked, so one was added.  And the clock tower was too small.  I knew it would be crucial to the plot, needed to be nearer to the town hall, so it grew and shuffled uphill and became the lopsided Clocktower of Pitch End (and became not unlike the Albert clock tower in Belfast) –

Cobbles replaced tarmac, pavements were opened by pernicious weeds and rooftops split, sprouting trees; a town so battered by storms (inspiration – typical Northern Irish weather!) that its buildings stood at a tilt, huddling against one another for support. And a long strip of gloomy beach, where I’d first seen Bruno:

 Then came the one-footed talking ravens; the Withermen who have clocks where their hearts should be; Cinder-Folk – gypsies with a power for controlling fire; clockwork Cat-Sentries that prowl the town and spy on the Pitch Enders, then a whole army of dormant clockwork animals waiting to be wound!  And ten unique pocket-watches bequeathed from fathers to sons…all this, and the Elders, the bad guys – a group of elderly men seeking to evade age and hold onto their power by any means possible.  Soon I had to sit down and scrawl a map of Pitch End, the first of many –

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It expanded, go out of hand, as things do, and now I’ve more information about Pitch End than I can keep track of!

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 It’s very easy in fantasy writing to become fixated on the building of the world the story is set in.  But through it all – through nine years of writing – I tried never to lose sight of that first glimpse of a boy on the beach, seated on the rock and looking out to sea, bereft and alone.  Bruno Atlas.  And as I wrote the novel, I began to will him on – to untangle the truth from all the lies of the Elders, to make his own choices and to think for himself, to discover his own voice.  Perhaps even defeat the Elders once and for all?  My dearest wish is that, if you pick up Tall Tales from Pitch End, you’ll become as immersed in Bruno’s world as I have been.  That you’ll follow just as closely in his shadow at every twist and turn and enjoy every battle and every loss, every discovery, every surprise…That as you read you’ll be willing him towards a final triumph.  Writing, like reading, is an adventure – I hope you enjoy Bruno’s, because I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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3 responses to “How I Wrote TALL TALES FROM PITCH END

  1. Have read the book. Excellent story. Congratulations Nigel

  2. Pingback: Take a journey to Pitch End… | Hot Key Books Blog

  3. Pingback: Take a journey to Pitch End…

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