Scribble City Central's eleventh Fantabulous Friday comes from the marvellous Marcus Sedgwick - and as an added bonus, there's a GIVEAWAY of 5 copies of his newest book Midwinterblood (details of how to enter at bottom of post).
I first met Marcus two years ago at a SCBWI conference. Coincidentally, he was there to talk about the process of writing that very book. What struck me immediately was that here was someone who could unravel the inner workings of his writer's mind in a way which would make sense to a non-writer (so often it doesn't). I was also struck by his neat, meticulous notebooks, which put the chaotic, coffee-stained, ripped out scribbles in my own Moleskines (as well as on things as various as supermarket receipts and cheque book stubs) to shame. It was then that I suffered my very first episode of 'notebook envy'.
Now that I've read Midwinterblood, I reckon it's one of the best things Marcus has ever written. Structurally complex, its interwoven stories link the far future with the distant past, and it's a dark, thought-provoking examination of love and sacrifice. Although I'm not usually a big fan of books set in the present tense, this absolutely works. Marcus is what I call a brave writer. He doesn't go for 'safe' or 'easy' - and I love that he's a player and an explorer with his writing. His books range over a diverse number of subjects, but doppelgangers have never yet featured. So why did I ask him to write about them here? I'll hand you over to Marcus himself for a little EXCLUSIVE information on the subject!
D for Doppelganger
Walking Mirror Image
Although such figures can be found in various mythologies from around the world, from Ancient Egypt through Classical Greece to the fiction of the present day, the word Doppelgänger was invented by Jean Paul for his romantic novel of the late 18th century, Siebenkäs. However, whatever their provenance, almost universally the Doppelgänger is a symbol of evil or ill omen. In many cases to see one’s double meant a presage of death.
I can’t remember where I first heard of the phenomenon, but it always struck me as a creepy idea, and one I love for its subtlety. This is no brash creature of folklore or mythology, no fire-spouting beast, or blood-sucking fiend, and yet its quiet menace is therefore, to me, more potent. The Doppelgänger appears in many fictional works, but there are also apparently real cases, most notably the report that Shelley’s double appeared shortly before his death. In some cases, the double sends the victim mad, or undermines his reputation and morality. It’s insidious stuff, and I love it.
I have myself seen my double on three occasions. Once when I was in Edinburgh, in my twenties, once just a couple of summers ago, in Gothenburg. It’s an uneasy feeling. You see someone and stare at them for some reason, you can’t work out quite why, but something draws you to them. Which of us is so narcissistic that we know our own image instantly? And yet, then there is that moment when you work out who you’re looking at: yourself. To say it’s disturbing is to say the least.
My personal favourite doubles are the ones unwillingly produced by The Great Danton, a Victorian stage magician, in Christopher Priest’s wonderful novel, The Prestige, and which provide the creepiest end to any book I’ve ever read.
So I have seen my double, and yet I am not yet dead. Despite the fact my sister once phoned me up to say she’s seen me in Trafalgar Square on the TV. Fine, I said, except I was hundreds of miles away at the time….
SCC: Thank you, Marcus, and I can't wait to see how you use Doppelgängers in the new book - that's a very tantalising hint, and hooray for a Scribble City Central exclusive! I've never seen a live Doppelgänger of myself, but I found it entirely creepy to be shown a Victorian oil painting of a girl who was my own mirror image. I've always wondered who she was.
NOW, FOR THE DETAILS OF THAT GIVEAWAY!
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LEAVE A COMMENT AFTER THIS POST, AND YOU'LL BE ENTERED INTO A DRAW TO WIN ONE OF FIVE COPIES OF THE BRAND-NEW PAPERBACK EDITION OF MIDWINTERBLOOD (thanks to the kind generosity of Orion Children's Books). UK ONLY, I'm afraid. Competition ends Weds 16th May at 5pm.
Next week: Jackie Morris flies into the realms of fantasy with D for Dragon. Join us then!