MI6 talked to author Charlie Higson about titles
and reviews of the first Young Bond novel - SilverFin...
SilverFin: In Conversation With Charlie Higson
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
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.
Out of Breath
Dare or Die
"Because Fleming had fantastic
titles, you can't really better them..."
And there are all the legal aspects
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
The rejected titles were worse than some of Ian Fleming's
rejected titles, but we didn't quite have "The Undertaker's
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
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
Now - Amazon UK
Now - Amazon USA
Stay tuned to MI6 for the next installment.
Many thanks to Charlie Higson.