The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; 336 pages
A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.
Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet's obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book's final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick's gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.
It’s a really interesting thing to look at how a book, or any other artistic endeavor for that matter, can change during the creative process so that the final version seen by the public may have quite significant differences from where it started. You probably have to be a real fan of a book, film or piece of music to want to take the time to find out about this process – DVDs, of course, sometimes give a glimpse of it with the deleted scenes for a movie, but most likely this is only a fraction of the creative journey made by the filmmakers, and one suspects, just a cheap way of adding ‘added value’ to the disc. With books, paintings and pieces of music you have to be something of an aficionado and be keen enough to hunt around for such information – I remember doing this a few years ago with respect to the painting Midvinterblot by Carl Larsson, the inspiration behind my book Midwinterblood. This enormous painting, which hangs in the National Museum in Stockholm, is the final pinnacle of what Larsson perceived, but spending a little time on the net and in books I came across the early sketches for his masterwork – they were interesting to see, and clearly showed how each iteration gave more power and emotion to the piece.
Larsson’s second sketch (of many) for his controversial masterpiece.
The finished Midvinterblot
This process of development can be vital to the success of the thing, and it’s something I recognize with my own books, but there’s something else going on at the same time. Before I have written a word of a book, probably even before I’m more than halfway through the development of the idea, I will have a strong impression in my head of how I want the book to feel when it’s finished. This feeling that I’m aiming for is one of the most crucial parts in the creation of the book – it’s more than just an atmosphere, it’s like having a printout of the DNA of the story before you actually begin to write it. One of the things I’ve found over the years as I’ve written is that the final book is often a little different from how it felt in your mind before you began it. Now that’s not necessarily a problem if the result is good in its own way, though it can be a little disconcerting to find out that your book is not the one you thought it was. Other times, you get closer to the original intention, and the first book I wrote where the finished book felt exactly like what I had set out to achieve was Revolver. Interestingly, that was (to date) the book with the smallest and least significant set of rewrites – it’s a while ago now but I recall that there were only three drafts and the changes made were very small – the overall word count fell by about 1,000 words, a few small motifs were added, and my editor was happy.
So there were no ‘deleted scenes’ with Revolver, unlike with previous of my books, such as The Book of Dead Days, which had a large episode taken out of the middle, or the first draft of Blood Red, Snow White (to date not published in the US) which has a ‘deleted book’ – by which I mean that the entire first draft of 80,000 words was scrapped, and I started from scratch in an entirely different way. I can assure you that I am much happier when there are fewer drafts to do, and when the book turns out closer to what you had in mind in the first instance, and I’m happy therefore to tell you that although I’d be very willing to tell you about deleted scenes in The Ghosts of Heaven, I can’t. There aren’t any, which makes me happy because it meant there were fewer drafts to work through, which can be fun but can also run the risk of diluting your initial energies and impulses. But mostly it makes me happy because, as with Revolver, it’s a sign that the final thing is very close to what I set out to do in the first place. Whether that means it’s any good or not is for others to decide.
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About The Author:
MARCUS SEDGWICK was born and raised in East Kent in the South-east of England. He now divides his time between a small village near Cambridge, England, and a remote house in the French Alps.
Alongside a 16 year career in publishing he established himself as a widely-admired writer of YA fiction; he is the winner of many prizes, most notably the Michael L. Printz Award for 2014, for his novel Midwinterblood.
His books have been shortlisted for over thirty other awards, including the Carnegie Medal (five times), the Edgar Allan Poe Award (twice) and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (four times). In 2011 Revolver was awarded a Printz Honor.
Marcus was Writer in Residence at Bath Spa University for three years, and teaches creative writing at the Arvon Foundation and Ty Newydd. He is currently working on film and other graphic novels with his brother, Julian, as well as a graphic novel with Thomas Taylor. He has judged numerous books awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the Costa Book Awards.
Biography from his website
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One US winner will receive a hardcover copy of The Ghosts of Heaven! Book is being provided by the publisher. This giveaway will end January 15, 2015 at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!
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