Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 29 Mar 00 13:14
Nick Bantock is a creator of books whose content is much more than words alone. His books are visually exquisite, and often tactile. The combination of his well-crafted stories, full of mystery, irony, wordplay, and humor and his haunting, evocative images will long remain in the memory of anyone who reads them. They are an unforgettable and welcome gift from a talented writer, artist, poet and raconteur. Nick Bantock will undoubtedly characterize himself as an artist first, and a writer second, having spent nearly two decades as a freelance illustrator with 300 book covers to his credit, including novels by John Updike and Philip Roth, before undertaking his own career as a writer with the intriguing and phenomonally successful Griffin and Sabine series.. How that series came about is one of the many things that we will be talking about during the course of this interview, as we cover his various works, including his latest, _The Museum at Purgatory_. I ask you to join me in welcoming him here today to inkwell.vue.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 29 Mar 00 13:36
Nick, welcome to inkwell.vue. There is so much to talk about, I don't quite know where to start! I've been looking at a list of your work at your publicist's Web site, <http://www.fan-dango.com>, and that list is quite impressive, especially considering that the earliest publication date listed is 1990. You have created quite a body of work in that decade. Would you tell us, please, what your first book was, and how you happened to create it?
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 29 Mar 00 15:58
Thanks Linda. Although my background is painting, for many years I earned a living as an illustrator doing book covers for most of the major British publishers. A year or so after leaving England and moving to Vancouver I got involved with a L.A.packager of pop-up books, and one day while sitting in a hotel lobby listening to a successful author talking about his next project. I started to think, 'I could do what he's doing, how come I'm just the service industry?' At that point a little light-bulb came on over my head, and I said under my breath, "Sod that! I should do my own books." It was that basic. I headed back to Canada and put together a dummy for a pop-up book based on the old verse, "There was an old lady who swallowed the fly." The idea was accepted almost immediately and the book was sold on to Viking Penguin. Apart from the exhausting slog of the twenty five year build-up, getting published was relatively painlessly.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 29 Mar 00 16:51
So there you were, after 25 years, on the verge of becoming an overnight success! Then, in 1991, came the first of the series, _Griffin and Sabine_. On the Web site, you relate an anecdote from your soon-to-be-released book, _The Artful Dodger_ about an encounter at your local post office, and in that anecdote you say, "most everyone knows I'm strange because they've read the newspaper articles describing the way I got the concept for Griffin & Sabine at my post box." Will you relate that anecdote, and tell us what the newspaper articles said?"
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Wed 29 Mar 00 17:57
Ten years ago, I was collecting the mail from my PO box and finding nothing but brown bills, when I spotted that the guy next to me had a mysterious looking blue airmail letter with an exotic stamp. I was overcome with jealousy, and as I walked up the hill questing why no one sent me letters like that, I considered the desperate act of writing to myself. Dismissing that notion for obvious reasons, I decided I'd do better to write two sides of a correspondence in the form of postcards and letters and turn it into a book. So I did. And Griffin and Sabine were brought into existence. Then: A year or so ago, I stepped into the post office intending to execute my daily ritual of checking the mail, saw there were a few people waiting in line at the counter, nodded a good morning, then turned ninety degrees to head for my post box. The island I lived on was small and people tended to greet each other in a friendly fashion. Most everyone knew I'm strange because they've read the newspaper articles describing the way I got the idea for Griffin and Sabine while collecting my post. Anyway, so there I was, looking into my box once again to see what mail it had to offer when I spied through the hole that led to the back room the eyes and nose of Adele, the postmistress, who was still in the process of loading up the boxes. Naturally enough, I said, "Hi!" And she responds with a quiet, equally cheery greeting. I asked, "How you doing?" And she and I proceed to have a little conversation. It was at this point that I caught sight of something in my peripheral vision. I turned slowly to see the other people at the counter staring at me as if I'd completely lost my marbles. I frowned and then it dawned on me. They couldn't see or hear the postmistress. From their position, all they were aware of was that Nick, the guy who got his brainwaves from his little silver post box, was chatting away to it, like a hatter at a tea party. I closed my eyes and considered, was I going to try and explain about the hidden postmistress? No point. I just smilingly exited, thus confirming what everyone suspected all along. As for the newspaper articles. When the books took off big time, there were hundreds of them, everywhee I looked, and the post office on the island became quite a star.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 30 Mar 00 12:41
In the _Griffin and Sabine_ series, you take a very, very unusual approach to an epistolary romance - one that is conducted entirely by letter - in that you include the actual mail in the book - postage, postmarks, envelopes and all. Has any other author taken that unusual step that you know of, and what sorts of rechnical things did you encounter in trying to get that published? What I really want to know is, how did they get the letters into the envelopes? Was it a manual process, or were they able to automate it?
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 30 Mar 00 16:07
When I was half-way through working on Griffin and Sabine a friend who'd seen my dummy phoned and told me that a kid's book had just been released using the same idea. I had a couple of bad hours till I got to the book store. However, when I saw The Jolly Postman, I breathed a sigh of relief--it couldn't have been more different. Since the trilogy, there have been a number of books with envelopes in, but from what I could see most of them were either parodies or they were appealing to a far more sentimental audience than I was. The philatelic details were very important. To create a believable correspondence between a real and unreal place, you have to understand the real, then corrupt in a believable fashion. The process of including envelopes in a book was more of a psychological than physical problem. Once we'd worked out that real pre-made envelopes were the way to go, all we had to do was find someone to glue them in. Little did we realize that it wasn't going to be a question of ten thousand books each with 4 envelopes, millions of the things. And yes, they were all stuffed manually...I can only that the Goddess or God of 'stuffers' provided well for his or her devotees.
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 30 Mar 00 16:17
I just lost the 'but' from in front of 'millions' at the end of that last response. Which reminds me that one of the things I did in the trilogy was to keep-in some of my spelling errors (you'll probably see a lot more during this interview). By crossing out my handwritten mistakes (ie. their handwriting) it felt less like 'I' the author, was imposing on what 'they' the charecters wanted to say to one another.
Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 30 Mar 00 17:42
There really is a sense in those books that the characters are talking to one another, which is enhanced, not diminished by the errors and stray ink marks. It makes them more real. How many books are there in that series? Are any more planned?
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Thu 30 Mar 00 20:58
To date, just the three. Griffin and Sabine Sabine's Notebook The Golden Mean However I've recently started working on a new trilogy that picks up from where The Golden Mean has been hanging for seven years. I'd begun to realize that the charecters and their world, were my personal mythological arena and I'd lost sight of them. And in so doing I'd let go of the thread of my first language. I needed to claim them back. Once I'd come to that insight, the story-symbols started tumbling out of me, in faster and faster gushes.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 31 Mar 00 08:44
It's very exciting to hear about that new trilogy - especially for those of us who have been wondering about the addition of that "M" in Sabine's name that shows up unexpectedly at the end of the last book and left us wondering whether it was purely coincidental that Griffin's last name also starts with "M"... What do you mean when you say "I'd let go of the thread of my first language? And what are story-symbols? I have also been wondering if the Griffin and Sabine trilogy inspired your readers to start send you letters and postcards with their own mysterious messages and symbology?
No, I thought. I'm not crazy. I'm an adventurer. (fom) Fri 31 Mar 00 08:54
Hi. I have some questions but I'm going to go out and buy my own copies of the books first, having spent hours with them in bookstores and at friends' houses.
Ben Fong-Torres (esau) Fri 31 Mar 00 09:20
I was cleaning up my books last weekend, sorting through hundreds of extremely thin children's books, and I came across the "There was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly" pop-up book, and noticed your name. Although my kids had both enjoyed the book (a bit too much, sadly) I had never noticed your name before. And now here you are!
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Fri 31 Mar 00 11:03
My first language is the realm of symbols that have taken root within me (not a conscious choice). The means be which we/I understand the connecting aspects of the world without having to go through the plodding process of words and pedantic logic. Story-symbols--because I work in a mixture of words and images, and the images are part of the narrative (not illustrations to the text), the significance of reading the pictures (giving them more time and study) becomes important to the reader. It's probably easier to understand if I use an example. In Griffin and Sabine there were many visual themes that run as a thread through the cards. One of these is literally a thread, a cord, a rope, that represented Griffin's life-line. He hangs on to it and eventually has to cut it to be free. If you look through the three books you will see it appearing over and over. Sometimes small like in the kangaroos pocket, sometimes more dramatically like the rope that holds the upside down man in the card titled, "The Hung Boy". Once you begin to look at the connections between the images, you will discover another way of seeing-reading that feeds the imagination in its own terms. I hope that doesn't sound too off-the-wall. It's an old skill, there in all of us, it's just become partially dormant. As for the last part of the question. Yes, I recieved vast amounts of handwritten mail. The dull brown envelopes were at last outnumbered by the colorful ones.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 31 Mar 00 12:32
Clearly, I am now going to have to get the books out and look again. And we will talk more about the images and the connections between them as this interview progresses. I was just going to ask you if you could talk a little bit about the Griffin and Sabine movie that's in the works, but one of your fans beat me to it: From email@example.com Fri Mar 31 12:29:16 2000 Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 16:29:50 -0500 From: Henry B Damon <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Nick Bantock interview Perhaps Mr. Bantock could comment on any progress with development of his "Griffin & Sabine" trilogy in Hollywood. Casting? Filming? Release date? Sincerely, Henry B. Damon And I would add to Mr. Damon's inquiry - will it be live action or animation?
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 31 Mar 00 12:37
Let me also interject a couple of hostly notes here: First, if you are not a WELL member and have questions for Nick Bantock about the subjects being covered in this interview, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will see that your question is included. Second, a note to WELL members: please do not use pseuds - people who are reading outside the WELL cannot look at your bio to see who you really are, and especially do not use pseuds that imply you are someone you are not! (Yes, I am speaking to you, esau!) I now return you to the Nick Bantock interview...
Franz Schubert (esau) Fri 31 Mar 00 15:05
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 31 Mar 00 15:06
Nick Bantock (purgatory) Fri 31 Mar 00 16:18
Ben Fong Franz Scott (esau), Thanks for multipersonalitized diversion. Stops me from getting too esoteric. Fom, Be my guest, buy as many as you like! Henry Damon, Hollywood, being what it is, who knows. But we have a good script writer in Rick Ramage and all being well we hope we'll be able to get moving later this year. Out of curiosity, if anyone has thoughts on who'd make a good Griffin and a good Sabine, please suggest away.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 31 Mar 00 16:33
Gwyneth Paltrow as Sabine! Or Chloe Sevigny. Do we know how old she is? Maybe Dianne Wiest if she's middle-aged. Funny how I see her as a blonde. Griffin...I don't know. I want to say Albert Finney or Sean Connery or John Lithgow or Harrison Ford, but that may be older than you see him. I guess he's young, because he's not grounded yet. So maybe somebody young and nervous, likely to bolt at any moment. Who is that? Jude Law?
No, I thought. I'm not crazy. I'm an adventurer. (fom) Fri 31 Mar 00 19:42
Please please don't let it be a 60-ish guy and a 20-ish woman like in so many Hollywood movies.
Linda Castellani (castle) Fri 31 Mar 00 21:28
I think it begs to be animated.
Molly Ker (molly) Fri 31 Mar 00 22:33
Welcome to the Well, Nick! I worked at Chronicle Books in the heady days when the G&S trilogy was first published. It was so exciting - we all went nuts over Nick's exquisite dummies and the whole place would crowd around when more of his artwork came in. And the wild success of the books was pretty thrilling, too.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 1 Apr 00 07:25
fom, you shouldn't have said it out loud. Now it'll be Harrison Ford and Natalie Portman.
Gary Pattillo (gary) Sat 1 Apr 00 07:32
Sir John Gielgud and Anna Paquin!
Gary Pattillo (gary) Sat 1 Apr 00 07:39
Richard Farnsworth and Madonna's latest spawn!
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