Hark! Here’s a bit of my Audiobook

I love audiobooks. There are so many good ones but I really recommend Joe Abercrombie’s ‘First Law’ series and his new release ‘A Little Hatred’ read by Steven Pacey. Every character is uniquely defined, perfectly realised, and full of personality. It probably wasn’t helpful that I was listening to ‘A Little Hatred’ while deciding whether I should read ‘The Last Smile in Sunder City.’

I’ve never done an audiobook before. Some part of me was worried about botching my own work. After a little test-run, we decided that, yes, I should be the one to read my own story. I know these words better than anyone else and there is so much of Fetch in me, and me in Fetch, that I felt pretty darn comfortable in his skin.

Here are the first few minutes of the recording which lead directly into the written sample I posted here.

Enjoy!

Ready to Launch!

Okay Australia, let’s party.

In case you missed the announcements on social media, I’m launching my book in Sydney and Melbourne at the beginning of February.

SYDNEY

5th of Feb. Hosted by Better Read than Dead at the Vanguard on King St.

In conversation with Toby Schmitz and featuring other special guests

https://www.betterreadevents.com/events/luke-arnold-the-last-smile-in-sunder-city

MELBOURNE

6th of Feb. Hosted by Readings at The State Library.

In conversation with Lawrence Boxhall

https://www.readings.com.au/event/luke-arnold-on-the-last-smile-in-sunder-city

 

I’d love to see you all at these events if you can make it. Please click the links and register your place.

These will hopefully be the first of many events around the world so stay tuned for more announcements as we lock them in.

x

Free Sample!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Though the world is on fire and our leaders are useless and the discourse is toxic and the future is uncertain, I hope you found some time over the holidays to sleep in, discover new music, indulge in one or more of life’s temptations and make a few unforgettable memories.

It’s time to kick this lazy blog back into action by sharing a piece from the first chapter of The Last Smile in Sunder City.

A few hours ago, Fetch Phillips received a call from Principal Burbage of Ridgerock Academy asking him to stop by the school so they can discuss a potential case. Though their meeting would happen after the kids had gone home, the principal asked Fetch to arrive a little early so he could witness a special presentation.

We pick up the story as Fetch enters Ridgerock…

 

It wasn’t my school and I’d never been there before, but the grounds were smeared with a thick coat of nostalgia; the unforgettable aroma of grass-stains, snotty sleeves, fear, confusion and week-old peanut-butter sandwiches. 

The red doors were streaked with the accidental graffiti of wayward finger-paint. I pulled them open, took a moment to adjust to the darkness and slipped inside as quietly as I could. 

The huge gymnasium doubled as an auditorium. Chairs were stacked neatly on one side, sports equipment spread out around the other. In the middle, warm light from a projector cut through the darkness and highlighted a smooth, white screen. Particles of dust swirled above a hundred hushed kids who whispered to each other from their seats on the floor. I slid up to the back, leaned against the wall and waited for whatever was to come. 

A girl squealed. Some boys laughed. Then a mousy man with white hair and large spectacles moved into the light. 

‘Settle down, please. The presentation is about to begin.’ 

I recognized his voice from the phone call. 

‘Yes, Mr Burbage,’ the children sang out in unison. The principal approached the projector and the spotlight cut hard lines into his face. Students stirred with excitement as he unboxed a reel of film and loaded it on to the sprocket. The speakers crackled and an over-articulated voice rang out. 

‘The Opus is proud to present …’ 

I choked on my breath mid-inhalation. The Opus were my old employers and we didn’t part company on the friendliest of terms. If this is what Burbage wanted me to see, then he must have known some of my story. I didn’t like that at all. 

‘ . . . My Body and Me: Growing Up After the Coda.’ 

I started to fidget, pulling at a loose thread on my sleeve. The voice-over switched to a male announcer who spoke with that fake, friendly tone I associate with salesmen, con-artists and crooked cops. 

‘Hello, everyone! We’re here to talk about your body. Now, don’t get uncomfortable, your body is something truly special and it’s important that you know why.’ 

One of the kids groaned, hoping for a laugh but not finding it. I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous. 

‘Everyone’s body is different, and that’s fine. Being different means being special, and we are all special in our own unique way.’ 

Two cartoon children came up on the screen: a boy and a girl. They waved to the kids in the audience like they were old friends. 

‘You might have something on your body that your friends don’t have. Or maybe they have something you don’t. These differences can be confusing if you don’t understand where they came from.’ 

The little cartoon characters played along with the voice-over, shrugging in confusion as question marks appeared above their heads. Then they started to transform. 

‘Maybe your friend has pointy teeth.’ 

The girl character opened her mouth to reveal sharp fangs. 

‘Maybe you have stumps on the top of your back.’ 

The animated boy turned around to present two lumps, emerging from his shoulder blades. 

‘You could be covered in beautiful brown fur or have more eyes than your classmates. Do you have shiny skin? Great long legs? Maybe even a tail? Whatever you are, whoever you are, you are special. And you are like this for a reason.’ 

The image changed to a landscape: mountains, rivers and plains, all painted in the style of an innocent picture book. 

Even though the movie made a great effort to hide it, I knew damn well that this story wasn’t a happy one. 

‘Since the beginning of time, our world has gained its power from a natural energy that we call magic. Magic was part of almost every creature that walked the lands. Wizards could use it to perform spells. Dragons and Gryphons flew through the air. Elves stayed young and beautiful for centuries. Every creature was in tune with the spirit of the world and it made them different. Special. Magical. 

‘But six years ago, maybe before some of you were even born, there was an incident.’ 

The thread came loose on my sleeve as I pulled too hard. I wrapped it tight around my finger. 

‘One species was not in tune with the magic of the planet: the Humans. They were envious of the power they saw around them, so they tried to change things.’ 

A familiar pain stabbed the left side of my chest, so I reached into my jacket for my medicine: a packet of Clayfield Heavies. Clayfields are a mass-produced version of a painkiller that people in these parts have used for centuries. Essentially, they’re pieces of bark from a recus tree, trimmed to the size of a toothpick. I slid one thin twig between my teeth and bit down as the film rolled on. 

‘To remedy their natural inferiority, the Humans made machines. They invented a wide variety of weapons, tools and strange devices, but it wasn’t enough. They knew their machines would never be as powerful as the magical creatures around them. 

‘Then, the Humans heard a story, a legend that told of a sacred mountain where the magical river inside the planet rose up to meet the surface; a doorway that led right into the heart of the world. This ancient myth gave the Humans an idea.’ 

The image flipped to an army of angry soldiers brandishing swords and torches and pushing a giant drill. 

‘Seeking to capture the natural magic of the planet for themselves, the Human Army invaded the mountain and defeated its protectors. Then, hoping that they could use the power of the river for their own desires, they plugged their machines straight into the soul of our world.’ 

I watched the simple animation play out the events that have come to be known as the Coda. 

The children watched in silence as the cartoon army moved their forces on to the mountain. On screen, it looked as simple as sliding a chess piece across a board. They didn’t hear the screams. They didn’t smell the fires. They didn’t see the bloodshed. The bodies. 

They didn’t see me. 

‘The Human army sent their machines into the mountain but when they tried to harness the power of the river, something far more terrible happened. The shimmering river of magic turned from mist to solid crystal. It froze. The heart of the world stopped beating and every magical creature felt the change.’ 

I could taste bile in my mouth. 

‘Dragons plummeted from the sky. Elves aged centuries in seconds. Werewolves’ bodies became unstable, leaving them deformed. The magic drained from the creatures of the world. From all of us. And it has stayed that way ever since.’ 

In the darkness, I saw heads turn. Tiny little bodies examined themselves, then turned to inspect their neighbors. Their entire world was now covered in a sadness that the rest of us had been seeing for the last six years. 

‘You may still bear the greatness of what you once were. Wings, fangs, claws and tails are your gifts from the great river. They herald back to your ancestors and are nothing to be ashamed of.’ 

I bit down on the Clayfield too hard and it snapped in half. Somewhere in the crowd, a kid was crying. 

‘Remember, you may not be magic, but you are still … special.’ 

The film ripped off the projector and spun around the wheel, wildly clicking a dozen times before finally coming to a stop. Burbage flicked on the lights but the children stayed silent as stone. 

‘Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions about your body, your species or life before the Coda, your parents and teachers will be happy to talk them through with you.’ 

As Burbage wrapped up the presentation, I tried my best to sink into the wall behind me. A stream of sweat had settled on my brow and I dabbed at it with an old handkerchief. When I looked up, an inquisitive pair of eyes were examining me. 

They were foggy green with tiny pinprick pupils: Elvish. Young. The face was old, though. Elvish skin has no elasticity. Not anymore. The bags under the boy’s eyes were worthy of a decade without sleep, but he couldn’t have been more than five. His hair was white and lifeless and his tiny frame was all crooked. He wore no real expression, just looked right into my soul. 

And I swear, 

He knew. 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

There we go. Yeah, it’s a bit of exposition but now that you have an idea of the world, we can launch into the rest of it.

More pieces coming soon!

 

P.S. If you’re reading this before Saturday 11th of Feb, I’m auctioning off a signed first edition of The Last Smile in Sunder City and a half-hour Skype chat for #AuthorsForFireys on twitter. Check out @longlukearnold if you want to join the bidding.

Sunder City Goes Global!

In February 2020, The Last Smile in Sunder City will be released in the USA, UK, and Australia. Since I first announced the book, I’ve been flattered that so many people have asked me where else it might be coming out, and in what other languages.

As of writing, I’m excited to say that there are now four translations of The Last Smile in the works. A couple of these I’ve mentioned on twitter already. Others, I am able to announce for the first time.

These have been my favourite emails to receive over the last few months. New publishers coming on board, bringing the book to new countries, designing new covers, and teaching Fetch Phillips to speak a few new languages. My agent Alexander Cochran and the team at Orbit have done amazing work to make this happen and I feel like a very lucky debut author.

I don’t think any of these versions have a locked-in release date yet but I’ll do my best to update the information as it comes to me.

So, The Last Smile in Sunder City, the first book in The Fetch Phillips Archives, is going to be translated into…

German! – courtesy of Verlagsgruppe Droemer Knaur!

Portuguese! (Brazil) – with Nova Fronteira!

Italian! – coming to you from Triskell!

and Spanish! from the good people at Trini!

It’s still early days, but I’ll share more information about each release as I get it. I hope this is exciting news for some of you. It certainly is for me.

No firm travel plans yet, but you can bet I’ll be using this as an excuse to bounce around the world as much as possible when the book is out.

See you soon!

 

 

 

Cover Me!

It’s time to talk about this beautiful piece of art!

Sunder-City-VISUAL

It was designed by Emily Courdelle and Steve Panton under the watchful eye of all the incredible minds at Orbit UK.

I love it, and it looks even better on a bookshelf.

All the details are taken from locations in the book (including some that Fetch doesn’t visit till the sequel) but if you ever end up in Sunder City, don’t try and use this map to navigate the streets. The artists have taken some liberties. Hopefully one day I’ll bring out something more practical.

People ask me how much input I had, and the answer is very little. Orbit was kind enough to keep me in the loop but it looked so good that there wasn’t much for me to say. The first versions were much cleaner and I did make the suggestion that we break it down a bit. When we first step into Sunder, the city is already a shadow of its former self. I thought the cover should hint at the fact that this place has seen better days. They added the cracks, and I was happy. Then they went even further by turning some of the areas black-and-white and now it’s just perfection.

One of the joys of looking at the cover is the fact that it isn’t my work. I can admire it and show it off without wading through the complicated feelings related to everything inside. When people open up the book, it’s all excitement, nervousness and vulnerability, but when they admire the cover, I can just admire it with them, honoured that these talented people would dress my words in such a charming outfit.

The Winter That Was​

Well, here we are – months after my last post with a million things to talk about. We have revealed the cover of The Last Smile in Sunder City, advanced copies are out in the world being read and reviewed, Glitch Season 3 is airing, and winter has come and gone.

I’ve been in Melbourne for the last three months, playing the role of Kit Marlowe in the stage adaptation of Shakespeare in Love: a rollicking romp of a play that was having its Australian debut. It was an absolute riot. I was back in my home city with a ridiculously brilliant cast performing a hilarious show to packed houses, and it couldn’t have gone better. It was a chance to sharpen my acting chops (as theatre always does), spend some time at home, work with an incredibly talented cast and crew, wear some tights, and have post-show drinks with as many old friends as possible.

It was also a bit of an experiment. Since this whole writing thing has taken off, I’ve been trying to work out how to balance these two careers. After struggling to find proper writing time while working on film and television, I thought that the theatre schedule would be more conducive to my writing/acting ambitions.

I was very, very wrong.

Without rambling too much (I did write a longer post but it dragged on way too much) there is only so much creative energy I can muster up in a day. Working on one project will drain time and passion from the other. To make sure that I do each job at the level that’s required, I plan to bounce back and forth between them. I’ll lock in big chunks of time to writing, then take a break from the books while I flip over to being an actor again. It’s a constant negotiation of deadlines and job choices but it seems to be the most enjoyable and productive path I’ve found so far.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that I’ll be trying to blog more going forward. We’re about five months away from release so there are lots of exciting things to discuss. I hope you all had a lovely winter/summer/whatever depending on where you are in the world.

More soon x

 

Updates and Emotions

Hello again! Yes, it’s been a long time between posts. In my defense, I’ve been working on all kinds of things that will be coming your way soon.

Some updates:

The Last Smile in Sunder City is now at the copy-editing stage. Soon I’ll be able to share things like release dates, excerpts, and the incredible cover! I just visited London and New York and was able to meet the awesome people at Orbit Books in both cities. I’m in very safe and experienced hands and my luggage is weighed down with all kinds of amazing books written by the other Orbit authors.

On the acting side of things, I filmed the third season of Glitch (check out the first two seasons on Netflix) and another program in Australia called The End which I am really proud to be a part of. I’ll have more to say about that as it gets closer to release.

While I was back in Australia, my brother George and I got the cameras out and filmed a little project of our own called Level Up Lance. The post-production is going to take a while but it will hopefully be one of many things we’ll produce this year.

A short film called Gutterpunks that I wrote and directed is days away from being completed. It’s pretty special. Once we hit up some festivals I’ll make it available online.

But mostly, I’ve been working hard on the next book in the Sunder City series. I’m actually feeling pretty good about it so far. Because The Last Smile isn’t out yet, I still feel like I’m writing in my own little bubble, which I will enjoy while it lasts. I imagine this will all feel different once an audience has something in their hands.

Now, a little ramble…

While traveling, writing, and balancing both careers, I’ve realized that there’s a part of this job I hadn’t quite anticipated, and that’s the emotional effect that writing can have on my day.

A few times this month, I’ve caught myself feeling emotional, not understood why, and then realized that it was linked to whatever I’d been writing about that morning. I would find myself sitting in the same emotional state I’d sent Fetch Phillips into a few hours earlier.

This reminded me of my first year at drama school when our improvisation teacher (shout-out to Chrissie Best) took us through a series of lessons that I’ve never forgotten.

We’d drop into a particular emotional state, then force ourselves to come out of it and move on.

Emotions are addictive. It can be really tempting for actors to take their one-stage (or on-screen) lives home with them. Whether it’s joy or anger or grief, once those feelings have hold of us, we don’t want to let them go. But it’s indulgent and it can make us insufferable to be around if we don’t keep it in check. In those classes, we would go to the deepest emotional point possible, then shake it out and try to go back into the real world as decent human beings. (Well, we were drama students, so maybe not that decent).

Learning not to cling to those feelings was an important lesson as a young actor, and it turns out to be just as important as an author. Writers go to some strange, deep, vulnerable places. If you don’t break free of those feelings, they can turn you into a grump or a bundle of tears.

As creators, it’s tempting not to leave our little worlds. Sometimes we fear that if we step too far away from them, they won’t let us back in. But, in my experience, those emotions always return when called and don’t need to be kept on a leash.

That’s how I feel about it anyway. It’s important to suffer for our art while we’re doing the job – take risks, shed tears, scare ourselves, be as honest as we can – but then we wash our hands of it before we sit down at the dinner table.

I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you in the comments and on twitter, so let me know your thoughts on this. Have you ever found yourself too caught up in the emotional world of your work? Or maybe as a reader?

Thanks for hanging out. I’d better get back to Sunder City and push Fetch into the next chapter. I left him in a pretty rough place and he won’t be able to get out of it on his own.

Thanks for hanging out x