An epic novel about identity in the internet age
Your idea could live in The British Library forever. Pledge for Versailles* on Unbound for the chance to work with author Yannick Hill and help create one of the curious rooms featured in the novel. Entry deadline 31st August 2015.
As the daughter of Silicon Valley royalty, 16-year-old Missy Baer can have anything she wants. So why has she deleted her online profile and run away from home on the morning of her birthday, never to return?
Versailles is a fable for the information age, the story of a nuclear family set to explode.
Versailles is a 100-room mega-mansion set back from the Pacific Ocean, home to Casey Baer, founder and CEO of the internet's pre-eminent social network, and his family.
There’s his wife, Synthea Baer, former industrial designer and loving mother. She roams Versailles’ corridors in a drug-induced dream-state, searching for her children so that she might wish them many happy returns.
There’s River Baer, Missy’s twin brother. He spends all day in his cavernous bedroom dressed in a bear costume, pretending to be different people online. But why does he hate his father so much?
And then there’s Missy herself, driving into the sunrise in her birthday-fresh, black SUV. But where is she going? Is it something to do with the sword she received in the mail from an anonymous benefactor? And what about the voice on her phone, telling her where to go next? Is it some kind of cult? And what is she running from?
Is it something Casey did?
Of Versailles’ 100 rooms, the majority are locked test-chambers for Casey’s ongoing investigation into the human experience. In one room, a crew of actors play out a realistic plane crash on a loop. In another, varsity athletes from around the country come together for career-ending, bare-knuckle brawls.
And then there are the cameras. The thousands of cameras rigged up throughout the mansion.
Every second of every minute of every day, month, year and decade that the family have lived in this house has been captured, available to stream on any one of Casey’s multiple devices.
In an era of perpetual connectivity and mass surveillance, Versailles explores our dual need to be witnessed and to be alone.
Above all, Versailles is an entertainment, a rite of passage story about a girl trying to make sense of her life in the age of the internet.
Somewhere in America, a giant monitor lizard is making his way through Versailles, a 100-room mega-mansion set back from the ocean. The human that tended to him was fired for not wearing her complete uniform. In her absence, the six-foot monitor made his escape from a makeshift cage of chicken mesh and rough cuts. His lizard eyes dart from thing to thing but there is no meaning really, only forward movement and a hunger that is fast turning a tame animal into one ready to bite the exposed flesh of those not feeding him. Most of the people living in the residence do not know the monitor exists. The yellow and blue-black scales that make up his hide reflect the low light coming in through a window. He is in the Grand Ballroom now, his lizard brain detecting the change in texture from soft to hard under his belly. He makes a decision on direction based on faint smells and the distant sound of clinking, metal on porcelain.
Elsewhere in Versailles, Casey Baer is waking up. He is the man of the house, CEO of the Internet’s pre-eminent social network. A man for his times. His dreams were of mass murder, the silk sheets under him lightly damp with clean sweat. But there is no lingering guilt. Casey slips out of the bed, careful not to disturb his once beautiful wife. Standing up straight, he extends his left arm out at ninety degrees to his torso and makes a fist. A charisma without witness. His tall, lean, 42-year-old body is that of the modern sprinter, youthful, uncanny in its construction. His right hand he brings near his chin, index and middle fingertips finding an invisible bow string. He draws back, left eye closed, right eye focused on a target somewhere well beyond the bedroom wall.
His daughter, Missy Baer, turns sixteen today, but her birthday won’t be announced on the network because first thing this morning she deleted her online profile forever. That was her first act. Her second was to run away from home, never to return. Versailles is missing its princess.
Monday, 17 October 2016
Two wonderful reviews have arrived for Versailles, one in this last weekend's Irish Times and the other in i-D magazine:
(favourite quote: "The perfect Christmas gift for Mark Zuckerberg")
Word of mouth
Thursday, 8 September 2016
It's out there now. Versailles is whatever people want it to be. People are reading the book, they've been messaging me and calling me, telling me what they think and it's such a good feeling because now it's not really up to me anymore. The novel is its own thing, its own beast, a monitor lizard escaped from the cage and making its way out into the world, beyond the gates.
Foyles bookshop on Charing…
A Strange Adventure
Thursday, 25 August 2016
I suspect something may have arrived in the post for most of you by now, and if not you should expect your special holographic copy of my novel Versailles any day.
Doesn't it looks amazing?? Like my grandad said on the phone yesterday it looks like a jewel, a real treasure. And inside, at the very end are all your names, a list of all the people who made it happen. Thank you…
Cover Design (The Reveal)
Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Hi everyone! Versailles now has a cover! I was sent it yesterday and I'm orbiting the moon with delight. You might remember me mentioning the involvement of award-winning designer Yehrin Tong (http://www.yehrintong.com). Well, here is what she's come up with and I think it's stunning. She's taken three of the key visual motifs of the book – eyes, monitor lizard scales and ocean waves – and woven them…
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Time to break the silence as I finally have an update on Versailles, and it's all good news.
I've been getting a few messages from people who pledged for the book, asking about Versailles' whereabouts. Penguin/Random House, who are responsible for the printing and distribution of the trade edition, have deemed late summer 2016 the best time to publish the novel. It's a while to wait yet but timing…
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Funded! Third to last pledger was a taxi driver I was riding with at the time! This whole thing’s been a rollercoaster and I want to thank everyone again who’s supported me. You’re part of this. Your names will be in the back of the book, woven into its DNA. People I’ve known and those who will know me through my writing. It’s very moving, actually.
Versailles will be my first novel…
Thursday, 27 August 2015
So you might have gathered that Unbound are currently running a competition where current and future pledgers are entered into a prize draw. The winner gets to work with me in creating a bonus room in Versailles itself, the 100-room mega-mansion at the heart of the novel. I for one can’t wait to revisit the world of the novel one last time.
The rooms making up Versailles are like test-chambers…
How I write novels #6: In Dreams
Monday, 3 August 2015
Writing fiction is a kind of dreaming. I know writers talk about it all the time. They talk about flow. Inspiration. Losing yourself. But it's true. When I write I'm not all there. I'm in the other place, like opening your eyes under the surface of the swimming pool (no goggles). Writing is a kind of dreaming. Submergence. A relinquishment of self, or rather a division. Like a lot of modern writers…
Inside Versailles #6: Room 17
Monday, 27 July 2015
Hey! So to mark this very last phase of the Versailles funding campaign I thought I'd share a final excerpt from the book. One last room. For the uninitiated, each of these rooms functions as a test chamber for Casey Baer's ongoing investigation into the human experience. I give you...
Every Wednesday, under cover of darkness, a black minibus with tinted windows and no license…
Versailles nearly funded!
Friday, 3 July 2015
I've always liked the number seven. And four. No real reason, I just like these numbers, their sound and feel and colour. So I put them in my fiction when I can. When I need there to be a number of something I'll make it four or seven or multiples thereof. It's all part of that thing of ritualising the writing process, creating patterns where before there was blank space.
So today I hit 77%! That…
How I write novels #5: Southend-on-Sea
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
In the six months I lived in Southend in Essex I wrote one-and-a-half novels, it was mental. Seven days a week, 2000 words a-day, I spent most of that time in a kind of trance state, blueberries for breakfast (proven to improve cognitive function!) and miles of skateboarding along the promenade. Something about that place. The sense of departure I think: cargo ships headed out into the North Sea…
How I write novels #4: Exercise
Wednesday, 6 May 2015
So there’s anecdotal evidence that regular physical exercise can improve the brain’s flexibility in coming up with creative solutions, sometimes called ‘convergent thinking’. This has worked for me again and again as a writer. I’ll be typing away and suddenly something will interrupt my flow. It might be one of my characters not knowing what to say or do next, or an outright breakdown in plot…
How I write novels #3: I come up with a title
Tuesday, 14 April 2015
To write a fiction is to create a system of belief, or rather suspended disbelief. So for me a title is like a shrine. Around which I build a temple. Around which I build a world through which my characters might pass.
Versailles. I love this word. To me Versailles sounds and looks like what it is, or at least the thing we think of first: a palace. Versailles. It glitters in an imaginary…
How I write novels #2: Empty Buildings
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
I find empty buildings in the real world and occupy them with fictional characters. So for example there's a skyscraper in Philadelphia, it looks like this:
It was bought by the Church of Scientology back in 2007 with the intention of converting it into some kind of cathedral, but it's actually remained empty since. An empty skyscraper! It's things like this that really get me going. Something…
How I write novels #1: Photography
Thursday, 19 March 2015
So one of the ways I start writing is by getting hold of a book of fine art photography, it has to be pictures of people. It doesn’t matter if the photographs are set up or documentary, as long as the pictures are of human beings, I’m gold. There’s something about this form. A captured moment. The artist Wolfgang Tillmans says he doesn’t make a distinction between a photograph that is set up and one…
Inside Versailles #5: Room 61
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
The cache. A room full of drugs and guns. It is set out like a post-raid police exhibit, the guns lined up lovingly on folding tables like show and tell, the drugs piled high in their compact, bulbous bundles of shiny brown tape. Floor to ceiling. These are real drugs, real guns, from bona fide seizures around the world. There are even a couple of grenades. All this. Street value: $100 million…
Behind the Scenes
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
My mum died a few years ago and I’m bringing this up now because after it happened, and I mean in the months immediately after, I experienced the most extraordinary period of creativity, focus and ambition. One day I was me. The next I was me writing Versailles, 2000 words a-day, seven days a week, until it was finished.
The novel isn’t about my mum. There’s no regret in the writing, no sadness…
Inside Versailles #4: Room 84
Monday, 2 March 2015
Like shuffle mode for your music. Every time Casey enters this room it is a different experience. An incredible team of artists and technicians collaborating on the ultimate art form: life.
Every month they are given this space to work with and an organic budget. Sometimes the event will be very elaborate in nature, requiring long hours of preparation and the kind of ad hoc inventiveness only…
Inside Versailles #3: Room 44
Thursday, 26 February 2015
Casey’s childhood bedroom. The same dimensions, wallpaper, curtains, a false window onto a neighborhood that no longer exists. Every object, all the furniture taken from the original room and transplanted here. The mood is undisturbed crime scene. And yet when Casey visits, he acts as though he were returning from playing out on the street, or spending Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house. He…
Inside Versailles #2: Room 27
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Room 27 is a plane crash on repeat. A faithful reconstruction of a Boeing 767 cabin and cockpit, complete with full crew and passengers, all professional actors on Casey’s payroll. They might go for months without hearing from his people and then suddenly it’s every day for a fortnight.
Sometimes Casey takes on the role of drunken captain, but mostly he is a member of the public, taking his…
Inside Versailles #1: Room 7
Thursday, 19 February 2015
The money room. A place Casey comes to experience his wealth in the form of a kind of permanent, interactive conceptual art installation. A gigantic animatronic dragon guards a cavern filled with actual gold and treasure. Gold bullion, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, various precious artefacts, large chests brimming over with shiny coins. It’s the real deal, the dragon so convincing Casey has to…
VERSAILLES (written in mid-air with sparkler)
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
What an amazing thing this is: to be able to talk directly to a future audience. I want to thank you early pledgers for your belief in Versailles, it means everything to me.
Writing a novel like Versailles is a strange experience. You pour all your love and soul into something, you draft and redraft and then one day you've finished, typos notwithstanding. Then the book's this presence in your life…
These people are helping to fund Versailles.