Author Interview: CL Raven – Part I

Interview we did with Matt Doyle

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Welcome, one and all, to the first part of two-day interview with the horror writing twins, CL Raven. Now, this is a special run, because I went a bit overboard and sent them more than seventy questions … and they answered every single one! So, we’re splitting it up over a few days. Today, we’re talking about their latest title Bleeding Empire, and their other novel and novella length works.

Welcome to the site! For those unfamiliar with your work, can you readers a quick introduction to yourselves and what you write?

Hello! We’re C L Raven, we’re identical goth twins from Cardiff and we write horror short stories and novels.

CL Raven Bleeding Empire Book Cover HorrorWe’re going to talk a little about as many of your projects as possible, but we’re going to start with your latest novel, Bleeding Empire. Now, this is a darkly humourous take on the apocalypse, and features…

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Bleeding Empire

“Are you ready to end the world?”

Well, not actually end it. We have a new book to launch and an Apocalypse would be really inconvenient right now. Finally, 6 years after writing Bleeding Empire, we are ready to release it. It’s taken us so long because it was with Gollancz for 18 months/two years. They had an open period so we submitted the book to them. They received 1800 submissions. Bleeding Empire made it to the final 100. In the end, they said our writing was genuinely funny and the book was well written, but because they publish Good Omen by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, they didn’t want to published another funny Apocalypse book.

Yes. Neil Gaiman stopped us being published by one of the big publishers.

We can’t even be mad. Good Omens is a funny book. Though it is nothing like ours. But Bleeding Empire is now available for pre-order here. So read the blurb and enjoy the cover reveal. And when the world ends, remember to grab some popcorn.

“Are you ready to end the world?”

It’s supposed to be the greatest Apocalypse the world has ever known. But the death of mankind isn’t as headline-grabbing as who laundered their last load on Celebrity Dirty Washing. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse’s offspring want to tear up the biblical rulebook with style, sexiness and smiley face achievement stickers.

There’s one problem with rebooting legends: nobody recognises them.

Health and Safety forbade horses (and there’s nowhere to park them), so they ride motorbikes. And budget cuts only allow one Travel Inn room between them. Their arrival breaks four seals. And a streetlight. It’s hardly the epic, end-of-the-world entrance they’d imagined. Less ‘world-wide media coverage’, more ‘notice in the personal ads’.

Death excelled at reaping, not reproduction, so there are five Horsemen: twins Morgan and Aeron are in charge but couldn’t lead a conga line; Marsden would be the hero if slaughter wasn’t his favourite hobby; Demi prefers destroying people’s confidence to destroying crops; Mac’s low self-esteem and pacifism hinders his pestilent plans.

Fallen angel Drew fights to stop them. But as usual, love arrives to cock things up for everybody. And what better time to host an Apocalypse than Christmas, while mortals are distracted by the contents of Santa’s sack. Instead of Jingle Bells, there’ll be abject screams. Providing they stop getting drunk on sexually-named cocktails…

 

Bleeding Empire

Guards! Guards!

Humour, sacrifices and dragons. Guards! Guards! had it all. Sadly, this was to be Monstrous Productions’ final Pratchett adaptation. We’ve loved every play we’ve seen and we’re gutted it’s all over. This was a fantastic play for them to go out on. We’ve not read the book but will definitely be buying it now. This was another play to feature Sam Vimes and fitting for their final act. Jes Hynes fantastically reprised his role of Vimes from Nightswatch.

Guards! Guards! follows a rather large dwarf, Carrot, played hilariously by Christopher Maxwell, who is sent by his adoptive parents to join Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch. He memorises every rule in the law book. It’s a shame the rest of the city haven’t. He makes his presence known by marching into the Thieves Guild and arresting their president. But a law-abiding Watchman is the least of Vimes’s problems when a Brotherhood steal a book – How to Summon Dragons – and use it to, well, summon a dragon. See, only the rightful king can defeat a dragon so in order for Ankh-Morpork to have a king, there needs to be a dragon. It’s all about destiny. That and a promotion to king’s aide for Lupine Wonse.

Vimes and the rest of the watch are in the Shades when a large dragon incinerates three people. The people’s charred silhouettes on the wall is bound to draw attention, though not as much as a freshly painted wall in the Shades would. But regardless of how dodgy some people are, a giant dragon turning them into ash is bad for morale. With the help of a swamp dragon, Errol, Vimes and his team are tasked with finding and stopping the dragon. That’s not easy when it’s summoned with magic and promptly disappears.

This was the first play that featured the Librarian – a wizard who was accidentally turned into an Orangutang and refuses to be changed back. We love the Librarian in the books so were thrilled he was in this. Lowri Belson was superb as the book-loving ape. She injected so much character and personality into a role where communication was done solely through facial expressions and “ook!” And the occasional “eek!”

The show was hilarious, with added things like Death playing with a fidget spinner, Brother Watchtower replacing his mask with a cat one and Errol flying across the stage on a wire to fight the dragon. What we love about Monstrous Productions plays is the cast always look like they’re thoroughly enjoying themselves. Sets and props used are always minimal and work so well. Everyone was superb in their roles and made this a fantastic play to end on.

We have loved watching the plays and even enjoyed being in one. We’re sad it’s over. So it’s best to sum it up with a quote from the great man: “It’s still magic, even if you know how it’s done.”

Cast:

Sam Vimes – Jes Hynes

Corporal Carrot – Christopher Maxwell

Nobby Nobbs – Josh Flynn

Sergeant Colon – Eamonn Corbett

Lupine Wonse – Josh Stevenson-Hoare

The Librarian – Lowri Belson

Lady Sybil Ramkin – Becca Smithers

Brother Watchtower – Asher Townsend

Brother Dunnykin – Matthew Hitchman

Brother Plasterer – Jamie Gibbs

Brother Doorkeeper – Loz Shanahan

Brother Fingers – Loz Dixon

Dibbler – Harry Spencer

Lord Vetinari – Michael Dickinson-Smith

Death – Matt Burnett

Carrot’s Dad – Pete Belson

First Guard – Matt Edwards

Second Guard – Tony Beard

Urdo Van Pew – Terrance Edwards

First Worthy – Ellen Warren

Second Worthy – Katya Moskvina

Chief Assassin – Gareth While

Archancellor – Steve Durbin

Voice at Door – John B. Dent

First Citizen – Paul Wooley

Second Citizen – Sarah Roberts

Zebbo Mooty – Nick Dunn

Warrior – Richard McReynolds

Bunting Carrier – Howard Dickins

Knowlessman – Bethan Lisles

Servant – Luke Belson

Voice in Crowd – Nelson Cotrim

Crowd – Sarah Burrow

 

London Comic Con

London Film and Comic Con

Us and Sarah

Yesterday, we did something that we’d never thought we do – went to London Comic Con. It shocks people when we tell them we’ve never been to London. There are places we want to visit – Highgate Cemetery, the Tower, the Dungeons, the Chamber of Horrors – y’know, pleasant touristy stuff, but London terrifies us. Its population is almost three times the size of Wales’s. That’s why it scares us. Deep down inside the healing versions of ourselves, are still the social anxious wrecks that used to be in control. And when it comes to London, these demons rise to the surface and dissuade us from going.

London Film and Comic Con

Oogie Boogie

London Film and Comic Con

Thor. He even sounded like him.

But Ron Perlman changed our minds. We’d already agreed with our mate, Andrew, that the three of us had to meet him. Then he cancelled. We didn’t. Andrew tries to persuade us every year but we never end up going. This year was different. Some members of our gym class, Sarah, Lloyd and Ellie, also wanted to go so the six of us travelled up in Sarah’s minibus. And this time, we were in costume. We like to theme our costumes – Freddy vs Jason, or we go as the same thing – Silent Hill nurses, ghost pirates, etc. This time, we went as Mileena and Kitana from Mortal Kombat 9. Mileena is Kitana’s clone (mixed with blood from a Tarkatan warrior, hence her teeth) so it’s perfect for twins. Being the eldest twin, Lynx was Kitana. Being the evil twin, Cat was Mileena. It’s one of the few games we’ve played on the PS3 that isn’t Streets of Rage or Golden Axe. We bought the costumes because we have no sewing talent, although we did make Kitana’s fans. Well, we painted fans and cut out the blades from card, painted them and glued them on. We even colour co-ordinated our nail varnish and underwear with the costumes, seeing as the costumes didn’t cover a lot.

London Film and Comic Con

Hellboy

London Film and Comic Con

Green Arrow

London Comic Con wasn’t the crush we expected. We thought we’d have to fight our way down the aisles. Or use our usual method of letting Andrew create a path through the crowd and follow in his wake. He’s 6’5 and an ex rugby player. People move for him. The traders tables were more spread out than they are in Cardiff, allowing for wide aisles which made it a pleasure to walk through. Being 5’1 in a crush means you’re armpit level with most people. It’s not a nice place to be. Loads of people loved our costumes and we couldn’t go anywhere without people wanting photos of us or with us. One teenager was a little embarrassed so his mum pushed him forward and we flanked him. One photographer ambushed us before we’d even got inside. We looked fabulous still wearing our hoodies. A few photo journalists took our photo and had us do fight poses, though one didn’t know who Mileena and Kitana were. Even the ice cream van man outside wanted our photo!

London Film and Comic Con

Son of Harpy

One of the highlights was being asked to do a fight scene for a 360 vr headset. We had to stand either side of the camera, looking like we were squaring off then circle the camera pretending to fight. Luckily we still remember our karate moves, though we may have to take up tessenjutsu (the art of fighting with war fans,) and sai fighting. The guy was really impressed and asked if we’d choreographed it as we were perfectly in sync. Nope. We were terrified we’d cock the whole thing up as we didn’t have time to practise and had to wing it, but Andrew said it looked cool. We don’t always wear costumes when we go to cons, but when you do, you experience the event differently. Had we gone in our regular clothes, we wouldn’t have been asked for photos, or been asked to do the fight scene. Although we do often get asked who we’ve come as. Maybe we should say we’re cosplaying C L Raven.

London Film and Comic Con

Boba Fett

And then we attempted to talk to a celebrity. Mark Sheppard, who plays Crowley in Supernatural. If there’s one thing we shouldn’t be allowed to do, it’s talk to celebrities. In Wales Comic Con last year, Cat attempted to flirt with Tom Wlaschiha, who plays Game of Thrones’s Jaqen H’ghar. It went like this: Cat “You’re actually really hot in real life.” Tom “You’re going on my list.” He plays an assassin. This wasn’t a great list to be put on. We vowed we would not disgrace ourselves in front of a man who plays the king of Hell. We broke our vow. Spectacularly. At first he looked confused, like we were speaking another language. Then we joked about kidnapping the cast of Supernatural. He looked scared. Even more so when Cat asked him how fast could he run. That’s when threats of the FBI were bandied about and we decided leaving was our best option.

London Film and Comic Con

Us and Steven as Jason Vorhees. We meet at most cons.

It was a big thing for us to wear such revealing costumes. We’ve always hated our bodies and never exposed them. We didn’t wear short sleeves until we were 17. Then we started polefit and were forced to get our legs out. As we became more advanced, we had to wear less clothes so our skin would help us stick to the pole. So we’re now more comfortable revealing our bodies, however, we still hate them. Cat gained weight from fluid retention after going on the pill last year and can’t stand looking at herself in the pole/gymnastics videos. Whereas Lynx feels she’s too skinny. We’re not fishing for compliments or comments counter-arguing this, we’re just explaining why wearing the costumes was a big deal for us. Especially since our legs were covered in IPL burns and polefit bruises and we also had polefit bruises on our arms and hips. Plus Cat has the big burn on her stomach from the baking tray incident. But people loved the costumes and we met many Mortal Kombat fans. We will be bringing Mileena and Kitana back for Cardiff Film and Comic Con in September. We have a table there, so come along, say hi and let us dance.

London Film and Comic Con

Twintality!

Tumbleweeds

We are on our way to becoming superheroes. No, we haven’t been bitten by a spider, or received experimental super soldier drugs. We’ve joined a gymnastics class. Anyone who’s watched our Calamityville episodes is probably laughing right now. We can barely stay on our feet when walking, how would we cope with somersaults? Faceplanting in the foam pit is our common method of landing. Our sister did gymnastics when we were kids. We weren’t interested. It was too girly for us and we didn’t want to wear leotards. So what, at age 34, convinced us change our minds?

Polefit.

4 years ago, Cat was strong-armed into joining a 8 a.m. physio class to help her back into exercise after her third knee operation. At first, she refused – 8 a.m. is too early to be so active, so her physio played on her desire to heal and said “if you want to get back to exercise quicker, join the class.” Whilst there she met a guy called Ryan, who taught gymnastics. He tried to persuade us to join his class back then but we were still quite anxious and weren’t confident enough to join a class. Plus Cat’s knee wouldn’t have coped with the impact. Fast forward 4 years to Cardiff Comic Con. Ryan came to our table and after catching up, he uttered the fatal words “you know what will help you with Polefit? Joining my gymnastics class.”

We are highly competitive in sports and we’re completely obsessed with Polefit. Most of our Instagram is filled with Polefit ladies and men and we watch all their videos, wishing we could be that good. And one of our goals is to do flips on the pole. So when Ryan said he could help us achieve that, we swallowed our fear and joined the class. A month later. It takes time to summon the courage to do something scary like joining a new class full of strangers. And every single aspect of gymnastics terrified us. It took us 6 months to conquer our fear of being upside down on the pole! And yet we were going to be doing somersaults, asymmetric bars, the beam and back flips. There wasn’t a single part of gymnastics that appealed to us, apart from using it to be good at pole.

But in April, we fought against our natural instinct to back out and we went to Planet Gymnastics. We sat in the car park for a while, psyching ourselves up. Then we did it. And we were terrible. Beyond terrible. We’re probably the worst gymnasts the sport has ever had. But we didn’t care. We’ve never done a handstand, forward rolls terrify us (for fear of breaking our necks) and we’re as graceful as an ice skating spider. But we kept going. Every week, we showed up, kept trying and kept failing. But we loved it. Now we can hold a handstand for a few seconds, forward rolls don’t terrify us so much (but we still don’t like them) and we’re still as graceful as an ice skating spider. We won’t talk about the asymmetric bars. We can’t even get on the damn things. The first time Ryan tried pushing us backwards into a spin, we fought against him and resisted for as long as we could. We’re not easy to teach.

We faceplant all the time but we’re having fun and we’ve made new friends. We even convinced one of the guys to don a dinosaur suit and do some tricks. And we’re learning somersaults, back flips and aerials (no-handed cartwheels). The gym is now filled with our shrieks, laughter and “I can’t get out of the fucking foam pit!” Each time we learn something new, we have to conquer our fear all over again. Hell, each time we do something we’ve already learned, we still have to silence the fear. But we’re doing things we never thought we were capable of doing. Scared? Absolutely. Enjoying it? Most definitely. And we are finally becoming the superheroes we always wanted to be.

We just need to learn to land on our feet…

Watch our first three months here.

The Amazing Maurice

Since we first heard of Monstrous Productions a few years ago, we have been to every play. This year, we were faced with the unpleasant realization that we were going to miss one, due to being in Doncaster for Digicon. Fortunately, director Amy Davies kindly spared us the sadness of missing their latest play by allowing us to come to the tech run, as we’ve been part of the company when we played the snake twins in Witches Abroad.

And we’re so grateful for that or we would have missed a fantastic play.

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents follows streetwise tomcat Maurice and his educated rat friends. They’re educated due to eating magic-tainted waste thrown out by the Unseen University. This has allowed them to think and speak and develop a love of stories. Every town in Discworld knows that the best way to get rid of rats is to hire a piper who leads them to a river. (Don’t tell anyone rats can swim.) So Maurice has come up with a plan to make money – the rats invade a town, gnaw on wood, widdle on food and generally behave like the uneducated rats. Then Maurice found a stupid looking kid – Keith – who can play the pipe. He leads the rats out of town and collects the money, which Maurice looks after.

Then they visit the town of Bad Blintz and their plan is discovered by a young, story-loving girl, Malicia, who is convinced that everything has a plot – including life. And there’s the slight problem of other rat catchers being in town who capture rats not to kill them, but to make them fight terriers. Darktan, played by Josh Stevenson-Hoar, is military minded and organises the rats into three camps: Widdlers, Trap Experts and Food Destroyers. Their mission is to cause as much chaos as possible. One rat, Peaches, is obsessed with a story called Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure and believes it’s real. She uses it as a guide and carries it everywhere she goes. Hamnpork is old and grumpy and convinced Darktan is trying to take over as leader. He is captured by the ratcatchers and put in the terrier ring but Darktan abseils down to rescue him and fights off the dog himself. The rats get their names from food tins and packages.

Then of course, the real Piper shows up. He’s paid far more money than Maurice and his educated rodents are. Keith challenges him to a pipe-off. Sardines, the tap dancing rat, dances for Keith. No rats respond to the Piper as they have cotton wool in their ears. Keith is then given the job as the town’s Piper.

Maurice was played fantastically by Matthew Hitchman. Being owners of 5 cats (12 in our lifetime) we can say that his was a very realistic portrayal of a cat. Becca Smithers, who played Malicia did a great job of being an overenthusiastic know-it-all. All of the actors played their parts brilliantly and it was nice seeing new faces as well as the regular cast. There wasn’t a single bad performance and the actors’ enjoyment of their roles really shows.

The set and props were the most ambitious yet, with shed walls for the rat catchers’ hut and a white screen with shadow puppets for the fighting ring. Clever lighting was used to represent a man hole cover in the sewers. There was also a brilliant use of red lighting and a scary voice recording for the King Rat to show it in Maurice and the rats’ minds. It added a chilling element to what was otherwise, a very funny play. There was also an excellently choreographed fight scene between Maurice and several of King Rat’s minions, which resulted in the deaths of Maurice and Dangerous Beans. But Maurice behaves very un-cat like when he trades one of his lives for Dangerous Beans’s and both are returned to life.

We’ve never read Maurice so had no idea what to expect. We loved it, and now we need to read the book. It shows that you don’t have to have read anything by Pratchett to be able to enjoy the plays Monstrous Productions put on. The acting, sets and behind the scenes work cannot be faulted. It’s clear from the actors’ performances how much they love the plays. Monstrous Productions outdo themselves with each one, which isn’t an easy feat. We hope there will be many more plays and can’t wait for the next one.

Cast

Maurice – Matthew Hitchman

Keith – Ben Harder-Allen

Malicia – Becca Smithers

Darktan – Josh Stevenson-Hoar

Peaches – Sarah Roberts

Dangerous Beans – Josh Flynn

Sardines – Asher Townsend

Hamnpork – Harry Spencer

Ron – Tony Beard

Bill – Jamie Gibbs

Nourishing – Katya Moskvina

Mayor – Terrance Edwards

Delicious – Ellen Warren

Feedsfour – Loz Shanahan

Special Offer – Davina Darmanin

Bitesize – Sarah Burrow

Kidney – Jasmine Iskasson

InBrine – Isabelle Burman

Piper – Michael Dickinson-Smith

Agent – Gavin Rea-Davies

Sergeant – John Simpson

Gary – Paul Woolley

Nigel – John Dent

Death & mask maker – Matt Burnett

KeeKee – Nick Dunn

Going Postal

Going PostalGold suits, golems and undelivered mail. On Friday night we went to see Monstrous Productions‘ latest play, Going Postal.

We read the book once we found out this would be the next play performed by the Cardiff-based theatre group. We never miss a play and each time it gets bigger and better and we wonder how the hell they’ll pull the next one off, as they get more ambitious every time. But they always do, with a brilliant cast and crew and a minimal set that really works. The Gate arts centre is the perfect venue for it.

Going PostalDirected by Amy Davies and Edward Thomas, Going Postal tells the story of Moist Von Lipwig – con artist extraordinaire. He’s due to be hanged for his crimes but Lord Vetinari, played brilliantly by Michael Dickinson-Smith decides to hire him as the new Postmaster. Well he has two choices – be the new Postmaster or walk out the door and into a pit. He decides being the Postmaster is a better option.

Going Postal

Asher as Moist Von Lipwig

About five previous postmasters have all died. Health and safety just isn’t up to scratch. The problem is, the post hasn’t been delivered in fifty years and the letters aren’t happy about this. Then there’s the Grand Trunk and their clacks towers to contend with and they’re not exactly pleased about the post office opening back up and stealing their business. The hanging scene was one of our favourites in the book and it still made us laugh. The gallows humour is exactly our type of humour so we were pleased it was performed so well.

Going Postal

Michael as Vetinari

Asher Townsend, who plays Moist, was fantastic. He captured his cheeky character perfectly, even down to his smile, which often made the audience laugh. And his gold suit stole the show. The golems were a particular favourite of ours and their costumes were amazing. It’s not easy to bring a thousands’ year old pottery creature to life! Moist’s scenes with Adora Bell Dearheart were always entertaining. Ellen Warren, who played Miss Dearheart was perfect for the role. She was exactly how Miss Dearheart should be. Josh Flynn, who played pin-obsessive Stanley and Neil Chappell who played Reacher Gilt’s assistant Igor, got the most laughs. Josh’s hyperactive portrayal of Stanley was hilarious. Pete Belsen did a great job as Junior Postmaster Groat. We liked that the tradition of Nick (who played Reacher Gilt) dying in every role was continued. Even if it was off stage! As usual, he was brilliant and we loved his costume.

Going Postal

Nick as Reacher Gilt

Michael’s deadpan performance of Vetinari was spot-on. He had the dry sense of humour down perfectly. We’re always astounded by the quality of acting in these productions, as well as the costumes and set props. It’s clear how much fun everyone has doing this. Not only that, but the money raised goes to charity and so far, Monstrous Productions have raised over £20,000 for Alzheimer charities. If you’ve never seen one of these plays, please go to the next one. Even if you’ve never read Pratchett, you’ll love it.

Thanks to Amy and Craig for letting us use your photos in our blog.

We think Sir Terry Pratchett would be proud to see his work performed so brilliantly by true Pratchett fans.

The next play will be The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. We’re excited already!

Going Postal

Pete as Groat and Josh as Stanley

Cast

Moist Von Lipwig – Asher Townsend

Adora Bell Dearheart – Ellen Warren

Groat – Pete Belson

Stanley – Josh Flynn

Vetinari – Michael Dickinson-Smith

Mr Pump – Matthew Burnett

Reacher Gilt – Nick Dunn

Drumknott – Matthew Hitchman

Sacharissa – Sarah Roberts

Bill/Voice of the poet – Harry Spencer

Harry – Terrance Edwards

Mr Pony – Tony Beard

Stowley/Costume – Herm Holland

Mrs Greenyham/make-up – Zoe Azzopardi

Sane Al – Alex Butterworth

Mad Alex – Matt Edwards

Crispin/Ponder Stibbons – Loz Shanahan

Postman Aggy/Mr Slant – Scott Ericson

Trooper/Anghammarad – Edward Duke

Miss Maccalariat – Sarah Burrow

Mr Spools – Paul Woolley

Devious Collarbone/various – Sam Lewis

Mrs Parker/various – Davina Darmanin

Deaconess of Offler – Claire Taylor-Shepherd

Igor – Neil Chappell

Mr Wilkinson – Jamie Gibbs

Ridcully/various – Steve Durbin

Gryle – Jes Hynes

Nutmeg/various – Luke Belson

Big Dave/various – Katya Moskvina

Various – Howard Dickins

Pin customer/various – Richard McReynolds

Various – Jasmine Isaksson

Various – Isabelle Burman

Crew

Director/Producer – Amy Davies

Director – Edward Thomas

Stage Manager – Hannah Bennett

Technical Manager – David Rose

Costume Designer – Lizzie Mulhall

Graphic Design – Gemma Willians

Golem builder – Holly Raddy

Photography – Craig Harper

Sound – Joe Davey

Production Assistant – John B Dent

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