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The Most Difficult Project Clive Barker Says He Ever Worked On

Clive Barker is a multi-faceted creator whose contributions to the horror and fantasy genres are legendary (even in Hell). Having plied his trade in theater, art, and writing (notably his acclaimed horror short stories collection "Books of Blood") before turning his attention to the screen, Barker broke through in 1987 with his feature directorial debut "Hellraiser," adapted from his own "Hellbound Heart" novella. The movie introduced audiences to the iconic demon Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his leather-clad Cenobite accomplices, spawning an ongoing horror franchise that continues to this day, with a "Hellraiser" reboot and an HBO television series currently in the works. Most recently, Hulu adapted his gruesome "Books of Blood" series into an "anti-anthology."

However, despite having a significant presence on the screen, most of Barker's stories exist on the page, boasting expansive, original mythologies that have captivated readers for decades. Given the magnitude and complexities of most of Barker's books, the process of getting them from the imagination onto a page is rarely an easy one. He puts a lot of time and effort into bringing his unique ideas to life, but there's one particular project that required some extra patience. 

Clive Barker's ambitious YA book series Abarat is still a work in progress

In the early 2000s, Clive Barker began what's arguably his most ambitious creative venture. Collectively known as "The Books of Abarat" — so far comprised of 2002's "Abarat," 2004's "Days of Magic, Nights of War," and 2011's "Absolute Midnight" – the fantasy series follows 16-year-old Candy Quackenbush, who arrives in another world made up of islands, all of which are based on a specific time of day. The residents include beings like enchantresses, men with antlers, and the Nightmare Man, against whom Candy must face off. The mythology alone is complex, but Barker wasn't done there.

Not only did Barker write the "Abarat" books, but he also insisted on illustrating hundreds of paintings to accompany them. As Bloody Disgusting notes, there were even plans for "Abarat" to receive its own Disney theme park ride, as the company was keen to capitalize on fantasy-themed adventures at the time. Needless to say, the all-encompassing project was an enormous task at the time — and it still is considering that Barker hasn't finished all of the books yet.

In an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit held in late 2020, one fan asked Barker, "Which of your worlds was the hardest to fully realize? ... Which one gave you the most work to figure out how to convey?" Barker answered, "I suppose that the most difficult of worlds, literary worlds, that I've created so far, is 'Abarat.'"

He continued, explaining that the "complexity of 'Abarat' [25 islands, each one a different time of the day] is very complicated and quite challenging." However, despite admitting that the project has been "lengthy and complex" so far, Barker assured fans that he's almost finished with the next book, and will get to work on the final book, "Quintet," when the fourth book is complete. "This has been the most lengthy and complex of the projects that I've attempted," Barker concluded, "and I'm excited to revisit the world for the last two volumes."