Last word on the brink of fame
DAVE RUDDEN may not be a household name just yet. However, given the excitement in literary circles over the Bawnboy writer’s forthcoming teen fantasy trilogy, his six-figure book deal, and the fact he’s about to sign with a contract for the film rights, Damian McCarney suspects there soon won’t be a household in the country that won’t know him.
These are interesting times to catch up with author Dave Rudden. In the year since he signed a six-figure publishing deal with Puffin for his fantasy trilogy The Borrowed Dark, he’s been touted as the next JK Rowling. However, given that not a single Dave Rudden book has yet graced a shelf, you could be forgiven for dismissing the predictions as mere hyperbole.
Against that you weigh the fact that the publishing rights for the trilogy have also been sold in Germany and France, and Dave’s now considering with which major film studio he’s going to hand the movie rights, and you begin to see why he’s tipped for the big time. That’s not to mention the 26-year-old has also had one of his short stories recently turned into a music video for elctro-pop star Jape, directed by the multi-award winning filmmaker Dave Tynan... oh and he’s up for a gong in the Hennessy Awards emerging talent section in the coming weeks. Just how far and how fast this particular talent emerges should be fascinating to watch.
You’ve climbed into the canon but it’s yet to be fired, observes The Celt when chatting to Dave on Friday by phone.
“That’s a terrifying way of putting it, but basically yeah,” he agrees, from his home in Dublin.
With the first book not scheduled to be published until Spring 2016, Dave shares in the frustration of fantasy fans eager to get stuck into the travails of his teen protagonist, Denizen Hardwick.
'Hurry up and stop’
“For me it’s been a sort of hurry up and stop. There was a lot of excitement at the time the deal happened, and there’s been a lot of work on my side, with the editor, because it’s one thing getting the deal, but then after that you have to sit down and edit the book properly and make sure it’s as good as you can make it. So there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
“But it will be another year before the book actually ends up on the shelves and it will be another eight months before the first reviews - the pre-reviews - will start happening, so I’m basically keeping my head down and working on the second and third book of the trilogy and I’m hoping to get them both done before the trilogy comes out, so I have a bit of time to relax and focus on the promotion and publicity and going around the different schools and things like that.”
Having brought up the impending film deal, Dave laughingly apologises when he admits he can’t tell us “a whole lot” about it.
“I know that the studios who are looking at it are ridiculously excited about doing it, and it’s a very strange for me to have these kind of conversations where names have been discussed in certain roles, and I’m like, 'Can we actually get them?’
“And they are like, 'Yeah, if we want.’ So it is a very exciting time – there will be more on that in the next few months. I’m probably not allowed to say names until they make the proper announcements.”
As part of the negotiations he has secured a role in helping the creative consultant. He hopes this will ensure the films match his own vision for the books.
“One of the things they really wanted was to have me as closely involved as possible, which I thought was great because you worry if it gets taken on and suddenly they don’t want anything to do with the writer and it becomes a completely different film. But I know they want my help every step of the way so I’m looking forward to having discussions about what way it will look on the screen.”
The first movie is unlikely to premiere until after the second book is published, but given the way of the world is there a danger that the film will overshadow the book?
“Nothing will overshadow the book,” he insists. “I just want the book in my hand. I can’t wait until it is actually real. I’ve been working on this for so long, I can’t wait until it’s a real and physical thing in my hand. I’ll worry about what book two will look like, and I’ll worry about the film after I get a copy of book one in my hand that I can read from and look at.”
Are you going to be hanging around Hodges and Figges surreptitiously watching people?
“Oh yeah! I’ll be posing like my auto-photo,” he jokes. “I stick out in a crowd I have a lot of ginger hair and a big ginger beard, but I will be hanging out asking people, 'Do you like the book? Is it good?’ And then I’ll probably be asked to leave by security!”
While the books are principally set in Achill Island and Dublin, did any trace of his homeplace find its way into his fantasy landscapes?
“The story of the book is that there is another world a shadow’s width away from ours. Creatures cross over, and we [humans] end up crossing over into that world, and everything is dangerous and a bit wild on the edge of a border. And I think - it’s not something I intended - but maybe it crept in. Because it is kind of close to the border there and it has that sense of living on the edge of things, where kind of anything could happen. “And obviously, fantasy a lot of the time is real world events wrapped up in a cloak and made fantastical from all angles. As a kid I was very outdoorsy, I did a lot of walking, a lot of wandering around the countryside making up stories in my own head, so I do think it’s found its way in.”
How much of Denizen is you?
“I’m not going to lie – quite a lot. He’s an over-read, over-worried 18-year-old who hasn’t got a lot of coping skills when it comes to dealing with the real world.
“One of the things that I’ve always seen in children’s books is that they are always automatically brave, these children. They are 11-years-old and they’re ready to take on the world. I don’t think that’s particularly realistic.
“You wonder...” he pauses, considering his own question. “I don’t know if I’m a brave person. I don’t know when things come down to it, will I stand up? And that is part of where Denizen comes from - you can be scared all the time, you can be very worried, you can have not a lot of faith in yourself, but when it comes down to it, will you stand up and be actually be a brave person? It’s a constant choice rather than just being - he was a brave boy - that’s what I wanted to get with him.”
We’re living in unheroic world the Celt ventures.
“It’s in that moment, if someone is hassling someone on the street, do you stand up; or if a kid is being bullied in school, do the other kids stand up and protect him or look after him. There’s plenty of opportunities to be brave, but it is an unheroic world that we are living in.”
While the world’s bookshelves await Denizen’s arrival, Dave has the first instalment ready for the printing press, and he’s currently working on the second draft of the second book.
“That’s where all of the bright and wonderful ideas I had in book one have to be calmed down so they fit in the story and what-not.”
He accepts that it is a challenge to retain suspense in the second book of a trilogy when the reader knows there’s a third book set to land the printer’s conveyor belt the following year. Dave’s up for the challenge though.
“One of the things that always inspired me as a teenager in terms of fiction was knowing that nobody’s safe. People can sit down and read the first one and go, 'Oh I think that character is going to survive and that character is going to survive.’
“People can survive things but they can come out different, so there’s a lot of changes that are going to happen to the main character, so there’s still things can go very wrong for him.”
“In the end, logically the main character has to survive, but then there will be that point where you think – 'Oh God will they?’ he says putting on a voice thick with mock suspense. “Maybe they won’t, maybe the writer has gone completely off the deep end and they are going to do something completely different. So I kind of wanted to try to live in that little space where the reader is genuinely worried I’ve done something terrible to them.”
Feel like a fraud
Is there a part of you that thinks, Oh God what if this all goes wrong and everyone hates the book?
“Oh yeah, constantly. Roughly every minute and a half I worry that someone is going to kick down my door and say, 'Oh no we don’t like your book, this is ridiculous – please leave! Give us your laptop and get out’. And I don’t think that’s ever going to go away.
“I do a lot of reading and I do a lot of performances and before I go up on stage I always have that moment - 'Why am I doing this? This is a mistake, I should be in the audience.’ But a part of me is like, 'No, this is what you always wanted to do, so I get up there.
“I don’t want that feeling to ever go away, I don’t want to take any of this for granted. I’m just really grateful it’s happening.”
It’s healthy to feel like a fraud the Celt helpfully offers.
“It keeps you grounded,” he agrees, “it keeps you constantly making sure you are trying to be the best performer or writer or whatever you want to be because otherwise you are just going to start taking it easy and that’s not good for anybody.”