MI6 talked to author Charlie Higson about titles and reviews of the first Young Bond novel - SilverFin...

SilverFin: In Conversation With Charlie Higson (3)
17th March 2005

MI6 talked to Charlie Higson earlier this month about his work on the new Young Bond series and the first book, SilverFin. Speaking for the first time to a James Bond website, Charlie Higson discussed his work on SilverFin and the future of the Young Bond series in this serialized MI6 interview.

It's All In A Name

There were some cheesy titles for the continuation novels, obvious spins on Fleming's work, how did the SilverFin title come about?

Well there were some titles for the book which I thought were good titles but they didn't make it...

Who was involved in the process of deciding?

Everyone! Even when I was writing my adult thrillers I would usually have a list of titles that would get batted backwards and forwards between the editors and the publishers until we found one that we all liked.

Deciding the title was about the hardest thing on the book. Because Fleming had fantastic titles, you can't really better them, so we didn't want to be a complete pastiche on them. There have been so many James Bond titles, and it had to have the resonance of James Bond, we had to somehow come up with something that nobody had done before and have it link in to the story.

The similarities with "Goldfinger" are there, but it's hard to come up with a title that won't have a reference to something else.


Rejected Titles

Out of Breath
Dare or Die
Black Water

"Because Fleming had fantastic titles, you can't really better them..."


And there are all the legal aspects of trademarking...

Yes, although with books there is no rule that you can't use a title that someone else has used, but then if you want to make it into a logo - which we did with SilverFin - then you couldn't.

Between myself, the publishers and Ian Fleming Publications, and my agent... and anyone else involved... there were hundreds of titles going to and fro and bits were being stuck to other bits...

The rejected titles were worse than some of Ian Fleming's rejected titles, but we didn't quite have "The Undertaker's Wind"!

In the end it just seemed that SilverFin worked, it looked quite good on the front of the book, and it was something that had various meanings but wasn't too specific.

I had finished the book by this stage, and I felt SilverFin was something that I could go back and work into the book quite well with the Scottish mythology and the lake. It is very hard to come up with a title.

Did you have fun narrating the audio CD?

Yes, I've done an abridged version. I don't know if there are any plans to do a full length version, and if they want to use me or not I don't know. I guess they'll see how well this one does and then go from there - but I ain't hal sick of reading this book! [Laughs]

Will you be performing different voices for each character?

It's tricky. I do a bit, but I didn't want to go so far down the line that you end up showing off doing voices here there and everywhere. Almost all of it is in my own voice reading it, but I have tried to do vague accents for everyone, but some of them slip a bit!

Some of the accents are not my favourite ones to do, like American accents - I've never been too hot on those. And it's difficult to do things like the Indian accent without coming off like Peter Sellers. But I hope the kids like it.

It must be a bit of a nightmare for the poor bloke who does the Anthony Horowitz books where he has six different nationalities around the same table all at the same time talking to each other. On the second book I've been slightly wary of it. There has been a couple of times when I've been writing I've thought, "no... if I'm going to be reading this outloud I can't have these two characters talking to each other...", but then I think "no, no, no, I've got to get this book right"! Worry about the audio book later, let it take care of itself...

Above: Cover art for the UK audio CD version of SilverFin, read by Charlie Higson


Will you be reading reviews of SilverFin?

I will, I'll read them all!

Previous continuation authors have said they never read them...

Yeah, bollocks! Ha, ha, ha... They've read enough to think "oh my God, I can't read any more of these!"

I look at all the websites. I go through them and keep up with what people are saying. I will read all the reviews but I'll wait until they are all out and read them in one go. You can claim not to be affected by the bad reviews, but I've done stuff in the past that has left myself open to criticism since I started as a pop singer! The music press can be pretty merciless. Writing books, for TV, films... It's all open to criticism. in the end you do have to remember that this is just one person's opinion - this is not fact. The only ones that really do annoy me is when they start to attribute things to you, like "he obviously did X because of Y", "he thought he was trying to do X at the time...", and you think "well you don't have a f--king clue what I was trying to do or what my thought process was so don't try and double-think why I did something. If it's someone's honest opinion put honestly then fine, if you put your stuff out there you've got to expect it will be criticised. Obviously you hope everyone will like it, but not everyone will like it, and some people will probably hate it.


And some people have probably made their minds up before reading it...

Yes, exactly! Some people who have been involved with James Bond projects have advised me to steer clear of the websites... But they are some of the most dedicated fans.

Some of them don't like the idea, and quite rightly don't like the idea of James Bond for kids because that's not really anything Ian Fleming would have done. He did write "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for kids but nothing about James Bond.

The precedents are not great for James Bond for children, but it's important to remember that these books are for children and if the children enjoy them then that's to me what matters.

How will you personally measure the success of SilverFin?

Sales! Not so much money... as it's not my character I do not by any means get all of the money. With a book, it's whether people buy it, and sales is the most obvious indicator.

What I hope with these books is that they have some longevity. With a lot of children's books that come out, everyone buys them, and then a year later they're completely forgotten about and they don't read them again. But going back to the 1930's with the books, you can make them a little bit more timeless. If you try and write something very contemporary, about what's going on in the world today, you're out of date by the time you've published - let alone five years down the line.The Fleming books now are still fantastic to read as thrillers, but in terms of what they're about they are interesting now as historical documents about what people thought and felt around the time of the 50's and 60's.

So I hope the Young Bond books will have the kind of longevity that future generations will want to read them as well. What I wanted to do was write the books so that kids would read them whether they were about James Bond or not. "James Bond" is a fantastic foot in the door with kids, and I do feel incredibly honoured to be asked to do this and be part of such and incredible phenomenon. I can't for any moment hope to compete with Ian Fleming, but I hope that people can read them as "proper books" and enjoy them as good books.

SilverFin was released on 3rd March 2005 in the UK by Puffin, and will be released in the USA on April 27th 2005 by Miramax.
Buy Now - Amazon UK
Buy Now - Amazon USA

Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment. Many thanks to Charlie Higson.

Young Bond Novels
Blood Fever
Double Or Die
Hurricane Gold
By Royal Command
Shoot To Kill

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SilverFin : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05 - 06
Blood Fever : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04
Double Or Die : 01 - 02 - 03
Hurricane Gold : 01 - 02 - 03 - 04 - 05
By Royal Command : 01 - 02 - 03