Here’s an extract from my diary dated Friday 5th April, 2013:
Piers has officially asked me to write the film tie-in novel. I ran up to ask Gillian if Gollancz would be interested… they would! It all depends now on a deal being struck (and the film getting a release!), but I might be getting published, along with Claire, in 2014! Speaking of which, the first part of Claire’s advance has been paid: the company’s first bit of income.
So, let’s unpack all that… Piers Tempest was lead producer on Robot Overlords and in the run-up to production there was talk of merch like t-shirts and games, and also a book. I immediately volunteered for it, thinking that this could be a great way to get my first book published. And it made sense for me to pitch it to Gollancz, which is the SF&F imprint at the Orion Publishing Group where I worked.
Me running upstairs to ask Gillian Redfearn (I think she was a commissioning editor at Gollancz at the time. She’s now Deputy Publisher!) if Gollancz would be interested might sound like the deal was done there and then. It certainly wasn’t. In fact, and to their credit, Gollancz were wary of publishing an employee and I all sorts of hoops to jump through yet. But if you’re reading this and thinking ‘Jammy bugger’, then you’re right: I was taking advantage of my position within the company to get my work in front of a publisher. But also bear in mind that I chose to work in publishing precisely for this reason! So much of this business is about who you know, and if Gillian had said ‘No, thank you,’ then I had a long list of alternatives that I could approach. I had hoped that a day like this would come along eventually, and when it did I wasn’t about to let it slip by.
I was a little optimistic on the publication date of the book. The film had a premiere at the London Film Festival in 2014, but wasn’t released until March 2015. The book came out just before in February 2015.
And my wife Claire has beaten me to it in pretty much every field. She got an IMDb credit before me and her books were published before mine! Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots was published in April 2014.
And the company? I was advised to start a Limited Company to manage the money coming in from our writing. In the UK, if you’re self employed and do your own self-assessment, if you have a good year, followed by a lean year (which is what it turned out to be) you can get walloped by a big tax bill. Having a limited company meant that we could manage the money without having to beg for rebates. And the company is still going ten years later!
Also from my diary that day…
Jon (Wright, director of Robot Overlords) gave me the fright of my life yesterday by sending me a grid with a list of cuts of VFX shots. It looked like we’re cutting back to virtually nothing! But then he explained the colour coding system on the grid. Blue is ‘cut’, orange is ‘cut from the “skimmed” version’ (which we’re preparing for the purposes of closing the deal), but we’re still intending to make the ‘full fat’ version, by chasing that extra £1m. We’re meeting tomorrow to go through the script.
A little context for this: we were still short of meeting our budget by about a million pounds, so we needed to write a version of the script where we could still make the film, but with fewer VFX shots. We had three versions: the ‘full fat’ was as written, the ‘skimmed’ version was with fewer VFX, and the blue version… well, we might as well have made it with stick figures. In the end, I think we shot something that fell between the ‘full fat’ and ‘skimmed’ version. But that’s a diary entry for another day…
Oh, and apparently it snowed that day, too!
If you’d like to read the Robot Overlords novelisation you can get a signed copy here.
The film is available to download from Apple, Amazon, Sky etc and is currently streaming in Amazon Prime in the UK.
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