Labels are always tricky things. As soon as you give something a label you run the risk of pigeon-holing it and limiting its potential This is true with books as much as anything. When Sorrowline was published in January it was recommended for 9-11 year old readers – a label which I feared might put off older readers. As it turns out the book has naturally gravitated towards that slightly older end, and upwards, and I’ve seen it listed in bookshops as a teen novel. This is fine. It’s a good example of the market applying it’s own label. For me I’d hope that Sorrowline will appeal to a broad range of readers, beyond that of a prescribed age range, and I’ve heard anecdotal evidence to that end, which is pleasing. But labels have their uses. When someone ask me what Sorrowline is about I often reply, “it’s a children’s fantasy adventure.” Three labels right there. Three confining statements. But they do help a potential reader decide if they want to know more. If you’re into gritty crime fiction there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have made up your mind about Sorrowline from my brief description, and moved on. Which got me thinking…
Maybe there’s another label I can give Sorrowline, and it’s follow-up, Timesmith. Something that encapsulates all the things I’m trying to do in those stories. Yes, they’re written for children, including the 42 year old child who writes them. Yes, they’re fantasy stories, in so much as they deal with some of the touchstones of folklore and magic (with a small m), but they probably have more in common with science fiction. Yes, they’re adventures. But they’re also about time travel, and World War II, particularly the London Blitz. They’re also about technology, mutated into grotesque new forms, using the engineering of the 1940’s. They’re about secret knowledge and hidden societies, and a way of life that might seem fantastical to us. So I wanted a label that might somehow say all of that with a mental image. At first I was stumped. I knew what I wanted to convey, but not how. Then it came to me quite by accident: Blitzpunk!
If you’re familiar with Steampunk you might already see where I’m going here. There is very little steam in Sorrowline – we’d moved on by the 1940’s – but there is a whole lot more! The war gave us Spitfires, Lancaster Bombers, gas masks, military uniforms, a whole visual encyclopaedia that identifies the era. In part that’s what I’m tapping into, overlaid with Arthurian legends, swords, clockwork and valves! So, for now at least, I’m sticking with Blitzpunk! I think it conjures up the right metal short-cuts!
So if you see me somewhere please do ask me what Sorrowline is about so I can chuckle to myself, roll my eyes and reply haughtily, “Yeah, well, it’s, like, a Blitzpunk novel, you know?” And you can nod and stroke your chin as you step away from me quickly.