Recently a few people have asked me about the Furnace Penitentiary logo, so I thought I’d post a version of it here! Usually it is just the three circles, but I added the skull for a little flavour…
But what does it mean? Well the three circles symbolise prison cells, the dots inside are prisoners, and the triangle of lines connecting them represents security – those dots aren’t going anywhere! The logo is supposed to feel strong, unbreakable, just like the prison itself. And those circles kind of look like three weird, unblinking eyes, too, which is apt.
However, the logo also has another, more sinister meaning. Those three circles with the dots in the middle can represent a different kind of cell – a biological cell. And the triangle could be seen as a three-pointed scalpel blade cutting into the nucleus of those cells, destroying them, or changing them…
So there you have it, the Furnace logo! I’m planning to get some T-shirts made up with this logo on one of these days, so keep your eyes peeled for a competition to win one!!
That should say Furnace in Sweden, but as I don’t speak Swedish I can’t be sure! Hopefully it doesn’t say anything rude…
So a while back I had the amazing opportunity to visit the wonderful country of Sweden! I was invited over by a great friend of mine, Leif Ahnland, who used to be a librarian at a school in Norwich (my old school). Leif is a writer too, and was in charge of the awesome The Librarian’s Revenge anthology that I blogged about last year. To be honest I was a little nervous of flying, because I HATE planes, but I didn’t want to let that put me off seeing Leif and visiting a country I’ve always wanted to see. So I went down to Heathrow and courageously boarded a big plane and made it all the way over to Gothenburg without so much as a scream or a change of underwear. Are you proud of me?
Beautiful!! (And Sweden isn't too bad looking either...)
Sweden is gorgeous. The first thing you notice when you’re coming in to land is how green and sparkly it is. There are forests and lakes everywhere, and you can smell them in the air – which is just about the freshest I have ever had the pleasure of breathing. Even in Gothenburg, which I think is the second biggest city in Sweden, I felt like I was standing in the middle of the countryside. This lasted for approximately thirty minutes, until I managed to get sun cream in my eye and spent the rest of the afternoon in terrible, weeping agony.
As far as I could tell, this seemed to be Sweden's national dish!
Leif met me in Gothenburg and we hung out there for a while in these amazing public gardens by the river. It was awesome to see him, and we spent a good few hours chatting about projects past, present and future. Then we headed over to Mariestad, which lies next to a lake bigger than Norfolk! It’s a lovely place. We chilled out for the evening in Leif’s place, with his partner Jane and her lovely daughter, and the next day I had my first event. I was a little worried that the language thing might be a problem, but I soon discovered that everyone in Sweden speaks pretty much perfect English (in fact some were even correcting my English, which was a little embarrassing)! I did a couple of talks in an amazing free school, and everyone there was fantastic! For the rest of the day I explored the town and the lake, which was going really well until I managed to get sun cream in my eye again and spent the rest of the afternoon in terrible, weeping agony.
I even made it into the paper! (Not sure what it says, though...)
After throwing away my sun cream and buying a hat, the rest of the week went brilliantly! I did a workshop on the Wednesday with the spectacular folk in Leif’s creative writing group (hi everyone!), then another couple of school events on the Thursday, and finished with a final workshoppy talk thing in the evening. On my last day we drove over to a nearby town with the creative writing group as Leif was running a role playing / writing weekend with them. To be honest, the place he had rented turned out to be the scariest house I have ever been in. Everywhere you looked there were old dolls, scary paintings, and the most disturbing colouring-in book ever written. Certainly good fodder for horror stories! Luckily unlike them I wasn’t staying the night, and at the end of the day I headed back to my nice, non-scary hotel in Gothenburg ready for my flight back the next day.
My biggest fan in Mariestad Library!
Just one of the spooky paintings in the spooky house...
So that was my Swedish adventure, and I am already looking forward to heading back soon. Thanks Leif!!
And they say horror authors don't always wear black...
I’m just back from an amazing weekend at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was amazing in loads of ways, but mainly because I finally got to meet one of my all time writing heroes, Darren Shan. That’s right, DARREN SHAN!!! The guy is an absolute legend, and I actually got to hang out with him. Me and Darren, hanging out, how awesome is that?! In case you can’t tell, I was thrilled!
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Shanster – I even mentioned him in Lockdown, when Alex and the others are in their cell reenacting their favourite stories. The truth is that if it wasn’t for Darren then Furnace would be very, very different, and might not even have existed at all! The Saga of Darren Shan was a huge influence on my writing – I absolutely loved those books, their non-stop pace and fantastic blend of action and horror, and reading them really gave me a sense of what kind of book I wanted Furnace to be. When I found out that Darren was reading Furnace Lockdown, a couple of years ago now, I was so delighted. And when he give me the quote “Hotter than hell and twice as much fun, sign me up for a life sentence” I think I almost went into shock!!
So I’ve always wanted to meet Darren, to say thanks and to chat about books and writing – and this year I was lucky enough to not just meet him, but to do a show with him!! It was a panel event, alongside the wonderful Barry Hutchison – whose series Invisible Fiends is one of my absolute favourite reads this year – and chaired by the inimitable Philip Ardagh (a fellow Faber author), who is simply one of the most charming and witty people in existence. We started the panel by reading out an extract from one of the books which inspired us to write horror (Salem’s Lot for Darren, Something Wicked This Way Comes for me and a choose-your-own-adventure horror for Barry – sorry Barry I can’t remember what it was called, but it was so funny!). Then we chatted about why we love horror, what makes things scary, and loads more! We finished off by reading some of our own work, including my first reading ever from Furnace 5. All in all it was awesome, although we could have ran for another hour easily!!
Afterwards we did a signing, although I have to say that I was doing considerably less signing than the others. At one point I was tempted to start signing post-it notes, tablecloths, Barry’s arm, just so it looked like I was doing something! But the people who did come up for signed copies of Furnace were all brilliant, and very nice (thanks everyone!), and it really was a smashing afternoon. And although I was a little nervous about meeting Darren, purely because he is a hero of mine, I didn’t need to be – he is a really lovely guy!
I look about five foot tall next to these guys! (And I can't remember why we were standing next to the toilet... Or why Philip has me by the ear...)
That afternoon we all went out for a drink, along with Darren’s awesome girlfriend Bas, her friend Pam, and Darren’s publicist Mary. Barry and I almost didn’t make it as we got lost in a rather dodgy part of Edinburgh (I blame him, he’s Scottish and should know his way around)! But we got there in the end and enjoyed a few whiskies in the coolest bar I’ve ever been in (the Frankenstein bar!) and a delicious meal (Haggis spring rolls!) before going to see a hilarious comedian (Sam Simmons, I think, I was a little tipsy by then). And all in all it was pretty much the best day ever.
On the Sunday I went to see Darren’s epic show, where he performed the entire Cirque du Freak series, start to finish, in just under two and a half hours. It was nothing short of spectacular. In the afternoon I did my own show to a small but perfectly formed crowd, then rushed back to the airport for my flight back to Norwich (I flew! Aren’t I brave!). It was a whirlwind trip, but an absolutely fantastic one. So thanks to everyone at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for being so lovely (and they really are), hopefully see you all next year!