Month: February, 2012

When the King speaks, you listen!

I don’t often post clips like this but I enjoyed watching it so much I thought I’d share it with you. King touches on the inspiration behind some of his early books as well as gives a tantalising glimpse of his future works, including the sequel to The Shining, Dr Sleep. I’m looking forward to reading it if only to see if King can re-capture the magic that made his 70’s – 80’s run so great. I think his writing is as good as its ever been, but the stories  don’t seem to have that ‘gotchya!’ power they once did. Nevertheless, he’s still head and shoulders above most other genre writers working today.

He’s still the King.

Watch the clip below.

Breathe, then write

I remember the moment I was inspired to write Winter’s Shadow. Three years ago I was walking past a BORDERS on my way home from work when a Twilight poster caught my eye. I’m sure you know the one – the pale hands holding the red apple. This was before the movie had opened so the series hadn’t reached critical mass yet in the public consciousness, however being a pop culture savvy individual, I had already read the first two books. They were entertaining enough but not earth-shatteringly brilliant. Nevertheless, elements of the story had stuck with me – the dreary atmosphere of Forks, the Cullens’ house on the edge of town, and the curious (sometimes batshit crazy) tweaks to vampire lore Meyer introduced.

For a book that didn’t resonate deeply with me, Twilight was definitely occupying a significant amount of mental real estate and I didn’t twig as to ‘why?’ until I saw that poster and was struck with an epiphany of such startling force that it changed the course of my life forever. Twilight was a book I could have written. I should have written. By the time I reached my front door I was gripped with the powerful urge to write a paranormal novel. Like Twilight, only better. Of course, I’d never written a book before but that didn’t seem to matter. The certainty that I should was so strong it was impossible to ignore.

In the grips of my epiphany I began writing my paranormal novel straight away. This was odd in itself as I usually had to drag myself kicking and screaming to the old laptop to write. For once, my general laziness didn’t derail me. I was hot and wanted to get something down on the page before I lost the heat. Sure, I didn’t have a plot yet but I had an opening scene – an angsty teenage girl comes across a handsome young man in a graveyard. What the girl doesn’t know yet but will soon discover is the handsome stranger is – wait for it – a vampire! A nice vampire though – one that doesn’t snack on you but gathers you up in his big strong arms and whispers in your ear ‘everything is going to be okay’. You can roll your eyes because what I’ve just described is the most generic of generic paranormal scenes. I was writing Twilight Fanfic and didn’t even know it.

Being so drunk on the sheer exhilaration of my epiphany to write a book, I didn’t stop to question what I was writing. Or why. Later, when the initial rush had subsided and I re-read the pages it occurred to me how derivative they were. This didn’t cause me to slip into a depressed funk as it once might have done. Instead, I recognised that the epiphany wasn’t a false high. I’d always written genre pieces (horror short stories, screenplays etc) so writing a paranormal novel wasn’t a crazy concept, it was just the execution I needed to think about. The world didn’t need another novel about moody vampires.

I took a deep breath and started to think seriously about the story I should write. Eventually, I found my true inspiration but even then I didn’t just rest on my laurels and write down the story that resulted from that blinding moment. I was constantly challenging myself on story points and character motivation, never trusting that what I was coming up with was gold and should be left unexamined. Too much of it was just yellow dirt.

Looking back over the novel there are parts I wish I’d challenged myself more strongly on. Specifically the romance between Winter and Blake isn’t as unique or as moving as I think it could have been. But coulda, shoulda, woulda – didn’t. The book’s out there and enough people liked it that I don’t beat myself up too much. If nothing else, Winter’s Shadow taught me the valuable lesson of being mistrustful of creative epiphanies. They happen so rarely that I think it’s very difficult not to blindly give into them.

For example, today while I was on my lunch break waiting for my pad thai, the idea for a new story occurred to me. I didn’t jump up in the air, click my heels and shout ‘Eureka!’ instead, I took a breath and carefully considered the originality of my idea. After mulling it over, I allowed myself to get excited. I think I’ve stumbled across something that hasn’t been done before. My next book is going to be about a neglected boy who discovers he’s actually the chosen one and has to go on a magical adventure to defeat an evil sorcerer. I already have the boy’s name – Larry Cotter.

M. J.

Winter’s Light Cover Reveal

A few weeks ago I posted a question on the Winter’s Shadow facebook page about the importance of book covers. As in how much they affected a consumers decision when choosing a book. For me, they don’t mean a whole lot. When I buy a book it’s because I’m familiar with the author, or I’ve read a review or it has been recommended to me by a friend. The cover art is probably the least important factor in my decision.

Based on the responses to my Facebook question, many of you feel differently. Cover art plays a significant role in your decision process. In fact, quite a few commenters admitted the reason they picked up Winter’s Shadow was because of the cover. I’d love to say I was responsible for the cover but it would be a bare-faced lie. The credit goes to my publisher, Alex and all the other clever clogs over at Pan Macmillan. Sure, I had to sign off on the design but in terms of conception/execution I had very little to say other than some minor superficial amends like tidying up the deep etching around the hair etc.

Having a graphic design background, it was difficult for me to relinquish complete creative control. However, I suspect it was for the best. I don’t have any experience designing book covers and so left to my own devices I probably would have settled for something painfully sparse and monochromatic. Something like this:

Doesn’t have quite the same punch as the eventual image, does it?

And so when it came time to design the cover for Winter’s Light, I again wisely deferred to my publisher. They knocked it out of the park the first time and I dare say they’ve done it again. See for yourself:

While the previous colour scheme has been abandoned (save for the red of Winter’s hair) I love the way the designer has kept the same title font and decorative elements to tie the series together. The forest crowding around Winter, her resilient posture, and the desaturated colours all work in tandem to create a perfectly appropriate atmosphere of foreboding. I couldn’t be more thrilled or grateful to be working with such a savvy publishing team.

I also would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Jessica Shirvington for generously supplying me with a quote for the cover. No doubt her name is familiar to anyone who’s been in a bookstore in the past year as she is one of Australia’s most successful Paranormal authors, but for those who haven’t been lucky enough to stumble across her work please rectify the situation now. Jessica is the author of The Violet Eden Chapters (also called The Embrace Series) and apart from being a talented writer is also an uncommonly kind one.

Let me explain, a few months ago my publisher asked if I knew any authors I might ask for a cover quote. This question left me stymied. I don’t belong to any writers groups, and if there’s a pub or cafe where Sydney writers nobody told me where it is. Occasionally, I’ll see someone pecking away at a laptop but I never approach them to see what they’re working on. Mainly because these people generally look like Hipsters, a cultural subset I’m ideologically opposed to (seriously, roll down your pants cuffs. Nobody wants to see your hairy ankles.) So I was left with a dilemma – either go without a quote or try and befriend a fellow scribbler.

But who to befriend? More to the point – how to befriend an author? Most high profile writers are surrounded by a blockade of agents, managers, PR people and the like. It’s very difficult to get in touch with them directly and even if you do, successful writers are usually pretty busy writing their own stuff. Asking someone to take time out from their own book to read yours is a pretty big imposition. Regardless, I selected a handful of dream authors who’s quotes could genuinely make a difference to the commercial prospects of Winter’s Light and started firing out emails. Jessica was the only one who replied and was so kind and considerate in her response that I could barely believe my luck. The fact that she made time in her dauntingly busy schedule to read not only Winter’s Light but Winter’s Shadow too is a testament to her stirling qualities. So a big thanks to Jessica. Hopefully, I’ll be in a position one day to return the favour.

M. J.