RAIN, by Mary and Bryan Talbot – out in October 2019

The characters and events of are fictitious but the idea was triggered by the devastating flooding that hit the north of England on Boxing Day in 2015. I began working on the book on the first of January 2016, when the flood waters had barely subsided. You can watch accounts of the Yorkshire floods on YouTube; for example, ‘Waving not Drowning – How Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd fought back after the Boxing Day floods’. My brother Mike is an avid fell-walker in neighbouring Derbyshire. When I told him about the story I was working on, he immediately sent me a copy of Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. The book’s author, the indefatigable Mark Avery, is a former Conservation Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, now a wildlife blogger and tireless campaigner against driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of wildlife. His book greatly enhanced my understanding of the struggle going on over our upland regions, where I’d chosen to set my story.

Rain (click the link for more details) centres on one relatively small example of moorland ownership by an elite group that impacts catastrophically on the unlanded majority living in the valley below. But, as the fictitious Rachel says, “There’s a million other valleys need saving.” They need saving not just for the sake of their human inhabitants, but for the insects and plants, birds and mammals and all the other inhabitants large and small that we share this planet with – our non-human fellow earthlings (the nature writer Mark Cocker disarmingly calls them ‘the more-than-human’, displaying a modesty about humanity that is most unusual in our species).

Instead of being despoilers, rapists, of this planet of which we’re a sentient part, we need to learn how to be its custodians. That means learning to think ecologically:

Ecological thinking entails that we see ourselves within nature and that we understand how everything we do has ecological consequences.We can, in truth, never escape nature… We live on a planet where life is only to be found in about a fifteen-mile deep veneer that is wrapped around the surface of the Earth. As far as we have been able to establish in the last 4,000 years, this is the only planet that bears life. We spend our days among the greatest event in all the galaxies (Cocker 2018, pp291-2)

We need to know that we’re part of this living, breathing, awesomely beautiful planet. And that we’re stardust.

The book I’ve quoted from is Mark Cocker’s Our Place: Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it’s too late? Thanks to Dan Franklin, our editor at Jonathan Cape, for sending me a copy. I love it when people send me books!

Rain will be launched at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kendal, in October 2019.

Read Regional tour update

As April draws to an end, we’re just over halfway through our tour with Read Regional 2015. We’re delighted that Sally Heathcote Suffragette has been selected for this promotional campaign bringing authors together with readers, especially since it’s the first time a graphic novel has been chosen. I say more about it here and here. We’ve just returned from our fifth event, in Skipton Library:

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RailwayMuseumLast week saw us in sunny Bridlington, where we did our our illustrated talk in North Bridlington Library for about forty 13-year-olds from two local schools. We decided to stop overnight in York to break up our journey there. It was an opportunity for Bryan to take lots of reference photos in the Railway Museum (think steampunk detective thrillers) and just to relax walking around the lovely old city.

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round building
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Here we are with some of the Year 9s from our Bridlington audience:
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And here with Edward, one of the two raffle winners:
Edward with the Talbots
And here I am chatting with Ann, one of the librarians, while Bryan sketches in her copy of Sally.
Ann and Talbots
We were also in equally sunny Middlesbrough last week, presenting our illustrated talk for a World Book Night event in Teesside University Library.

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For a bit of variety, I thought I’d have a go at throwing my voice. As you can see, here I’m ventriloquising through Bryan while drinking a glass of water:
FromThomasRobinson during
FromThomasRobinson after
For each of these events, thanks to the library staff for their friendly welcome and enthusiasm.

Teesside photographs by @TeesUniLib and Thomas Robinson
Skipton photos by @ScaryClaire
Bridlington photos by David Roberts