Tim Lebbon: ODDER JOBS

Tim Lebbon recently contributed the short story The Glass Road to the Dark Horse Books Odder Jobs collection.

So how did Hellboy find his way into your life?
I’d been aware of him for years, but he really punched his way into my life when Chris Golden asked me to write a story for the Dark Horse anthology ODDER JOBS. I read the collected stories and absolutely loved them! I read pretty much every graphic novel over the space of two evenings, then went back and started again. I really enjoyed the fact that most Hellboy stories have a rooting in mythology, Mike Mignola’s artwork is beautiful, and I adored the atmosphere of the tales, very dark and evocative. Working on my story for the anthology was a real pleasure, especially as I had that whole existing universe to draw upon.

Was this the first time you had adapted someone else’s characters into a story?
Yes, I’d never done anything like this before. I didn’t find it difficult, but I was always aware that I was playing with someone else’s creation. Mike Mignola was looking over my shoulder every word I wrote! But because Mike had created some wonderfully rich, complex characters, the scope for using them was huge. I was aware that I couldn’t do anything drastic like kill them off, but I could build my own story around them, and dip into their own rich histories as well.

How would you describe “The Glass Road” to fans out there?
Hellboy meets the pets from Hell! The idea of the fire dogs that Hellboy and Liz come up against is actually from one of my earlier novels, UNTIL SHE SLEEPS. They’re mentioned there in passing, but I always thought they were mean critters that I could maybe explore more fully one day. ‘The Glass Road’ was the place to do this.

I think what works best in the story is the relationship between Hellboy and Liz Sherman, which I’d always seen as strong even before the movie came out. I think there’s a lot of respect between these two, respect that goes both ways. I tried to draw this out in the story. It also has a bit of imagery I thought was pretty cool in the glass road … a path of melted and hardened sand snaking across the Sahara. That was fun!

Liz is a crucial character in “The Glass Road”. What makes Liz an interesting character to you?
She’s got a really dark, almost unbearable history: she killed her family. Unlike Abe and Hellboy, whose origins are mysterious, Liz knows where she comes from, and she knows she effectively destroyed her past. How awful. How can anyone live with that? Of all the characters in Mike’s comics, I think Liz’s curse runs deepest.

I also thought it would be fun writing about Hellboy from the outside, seeing him as someone else views him. In a strange way that made him feel more human.

You are writing a Hellboy novel as well – when does it come out and can you tell anything about it at this point?
Actually I delivered the novel to Chris Golden just before doing this interview! HELLBOY: THE NEW ARK will be out later this year or early next year, I don’t believe there’s a firm publication date yet. It’s the second in the new series of four Hellboy novels, the first is by Brian Hodge.

I wanted to do a big-scale story, something spanning the globe, something almost apocalyptic. Many Hellboy stories take place in darkness or in subterranean settings, I wanted to drag him out into the sun! This novel leaps from Rio to Venice, Paris to Baltimore, Greece to Jerusalem. It involves creatures from mythology and cryptozoology … and what happens when they’re no longer camera-shy. It has twists and turns, lots of action, and a new BPRD character called Abby Paris.

From your website, I gather you enjoy music, books and the occasional film (except, apparently, “Aliens vs. Predator”). What’s keeping you entertained these days?
I’m a judge for the World Fantasy Awards this year, so reading-wise I’m working my way through the hundreds of submissions for that. My postman doesn’t like me very much at the moment. I read quite a bit of horror, and a lot of stuff that dances at horror’s fringes, such as Graham Joyce, Iain Banks, Christopher Priest and others. I always wish I could find more time for reading.

My latest discovery music-wise are the Dropkick Murphys, who I recently saw live in London. They’re a barnstorming mix of punk, Irish folk and rock, and I can’t recommend them enough. Their most recent album ‘Blackout’ is a classic, not a dud track on there, and it contains the perfect end-of-party song in ‘Kiss me, I’m Shitfaced’.

Movies … again, I don’t watch as many as I’d like to, partly because I’m hard at work on writing projects. But my wife and I enjoy all sorts of movies. I must say, one I’m looking forward to is [Del Toro's] ‘At the Mountains of Madness’. Lovecraft is a huge influence, and the idea of seeing that seminal novel translated onto screen just makes my hairs stand on end.

What projects do you have in the works right now?
My new novel DESOLATION is out now from Leisure Books. Another new hardback novel BERSERK, due to be published in July, is available pre-order only (until the end of April) from www.necessaryevilpress.com. Also from Necessary Evil, my pirate horror novella PIECES OF HATE will be out very soon. I’ve sold two dark fantasy books to Bantam Dell, the first of which, DUSK, will be out early 2006. I’m also doing some work for a movie company which I don’t think I can really talk about yet!

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