mjhearle

Month: December, 2012

The Next Big Thing

One of the coolest aspects of my new writing career has been the chance to meet a whole bunch of lovely and talented people in the blogging community. People like Zena Shapter, an Aussie author who is soon to take the speculative fiction world by storm with her novel, Towards White. Recently, Zena asked me to take part in The Next Big Thing blogging initiative. The idea is to answer the below questions and then tag five other authors to follow suit.

Here are the questions –

1) What is the working title of your next book? 

Claudette in the Shadows.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Claudette was a supporting character in my first novel, Winter’s Shadow. Sister to Blake Duchamp, the romantic interest, she spends most of the novel as a demonic force intent on destroying Winter. Claudette wasn’t always like that though and I was eager to write about the time before she became a monster. Sometimes particular characters, like Claudette, resonate with you more than others. They take up residence in your thoughts and refuse to budge until you pay them attention.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood is age appropriate and has the acting chops to pull off the role of Claudette. She’d have to dye her hair black though and apply some fake tan. Ariman (and Blake) could be played by Taylor Kitsch. Despite his lack of success in Hollywood (I’m looking at you Battleship and John Carter) I think he’s got the looks and the charisma to be a big star. There’s a darkness in his eyes that isn’t easily faked.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A girl on the threshold of womanhood discovers a key within herself that unlocks the doorway to another world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The novella is still a couple of drafts off being ready for submission, but once it is I have a publisher who has expressed interest in reading it. We’ve worked together in the past so I’m hopeful. However, Claudette in the Shadows was always intended as an ebook, so if I can’t get it published through conventional methods, I’ll happily release it myself.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Longer than it should have. Usually a first draft takes me about 2 months. I’ve been writing this story for nearly 5 due to one major unavoidable obstacle – my wedding. Weddings take up a lot of mental real estate. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to multi-task.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Anne Rice’s work in the Vampire Chronicles is an inspiration. I love the melodrama of her books and the wry humour. Rice’s paranormal aspects never overwhelm her characterisations, a balance I try to emulate. Lovecraft’s Chthulu mythology is also deeply influential when it comes to my description of the The Dead Lands and Krypthia. Nobody could write creeping dread like Lovecraft.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A conversation with my publisher at Pan Macmillan is responsible for Claudette in the Shadows. We were chatting about the new digital publisher Momentum and how e-publishing offered writers of short fiction the chance to get their work more widely read. I’d been knocking around the idea for a novella about Claudette for some time but had resisted putting pen to paper because I didn’t know what I would do with it once finished. Novellas are traditionally a tricky sell with the publishers. Not so e-publishers it seems. Discovering I could conceivably write and publish a short novel digitally was enormously liberating.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

For those, who haven’t read the Winter novels, Claudette in the Shadows works as a self-contained story. However, fans will hopefully be excited to learn that story features not only Claudette, but Blake, Ariman and Madeleine. The mythology of The Dead Lands is expanded upon as are the Demori, Malfaerie, and Skivers. Being a novella, I didn’t have to worry about some of the narrative heavy lifting I have to do with a full length book so the story hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. It’s spooky, romantic and – if it works as intended – should be one hell of a page-turner.

Thanks to Zena for forwarding those questions through. Here are the five other authors I’ve tagged to take part in the next round –

Jessica Shirvington (The Violet Eden Chapters)

Claire Corbett (When We Have Wings)

Rebecca James (Beautiful Malice)

Lara Morgan (The Rosie Black Chronicles)

Rebecca Lim (Fury)

Clothes Maketh The Man

It was hot on Saturday.

The kind of sweltering, steamy heat that bakes Sydney during the warmer months. I spent most of the day wandering around the house in my underpants trying to keep cool. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave the house at one point to buy groceries. I would have avoided this, but a man cannot live on peanut butter crackers for long without risking scurvy.

Before leaving for the supermarket, I was faced with a quandary. Normally, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy but the heat was such that there was a distinct possibility of the denim fusing to my skin. This left me with two pants options: pink fluorescent boardies or skimpy black running shorts. Any other time of the year, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of shorts. It’s nothing personal. My knobbly, pale, hairy gams simply weren’t designed for public viewing. Panicking, I picked the boardies figuring they covered more than the running shorts and found the loosest, tattered singlet I could to complete the ensemble. A strong gust of wind would have dissolved this piece of clothing but I didn’t care. Comfort trumped vanity.

Sure enough, I was grateful for my light attire the moment I stepped outside. The heat of the house had not prepared me for the thermonuclear hell haze beyond my front door. The road had liquified into a coursing river of molten tar and the air was full of tiny explosions. These were flies bursting into flames. I walked as quickly as the conditions would allow, craving air conditioning the way a hungry man craves pizza. When I finally reached the supermarket, a sodden, red mess, I nearly wept with joy at the blast of refrigerated air issuing from the entrance.

The heat had made my thoughts sluggish so it took me twice as long to shop as it should have. After filling my basket, I trudged to the self-checkout machine and started scanning the items. Now, I’m usually a bit of whiz at these things, treating each interaction as a game – can I scan through an item with a single swipe, flash the FlyBy’s card before the machine prompts me too – but because of my cooked brain I found myself making mistakes. Beep after angry beep the machine registered its irritation with me. So much so that one of the helpful supermarket staff members was forced to intercede.

It took me a few seconds to realise I’d never heard anyone speak in such patient and gentle tones before I remembered the way I was dressed. The supermarket girl’s gaze kept flicking from my livid shorts, to my tattered singlet and I could see the pity in her eyes. Poor, brave soul, she was thinking, it’s a miracle he’s allowed to shop unchaperoned. To make matters worse, I was too hot and bothered to dissuade her of this misconception, and could only manage inarticulate grunts punctuated by much head scratching and confused frowning. It was as though the clothes had infected me with their mentally deficient aura.

When I got home, I immediately threw the clothes in the bin and set fire to them. Like Sauron’s ring, I thought it better to destroy the offending articles rather than risk their foul influence again. There’s an idiom credited to Mark Twain – Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.  I’d amend that to – Clothes make the man. Unless you’re wearing fluoro boardies and a ripped singlet in which case you’re better off going nude.

MJ.

A writer who doesn’t read

I need to read more.

I’ve always suspected this but it became abundantly clear to me during the Imaginary Worlds panel a few weeks ago. Claire Corbett (When We Have Wings) and Mark Harding (Momentum Publishing) and I had been called upon to discuss the speculative fiction genre and all things geeky. The panel was moderated by the charming P.M. Newton who kept the discussion going via her stimulating questions and was there to bail us out if we ran into trouble. I write bail us out but in truth, I was the only one who might have needed a helping hand.

Public speaking is still something I’m not entirely comfortable with. Oh lets be honest, it terrifies the crap out of me. Still, I recognise it as an absolutely crucial aspect of self-promotion, so I do it whenever I can. Albiet, with a stomach full of butterflies. When I received the invitation to take part in the panel discussion I jumped at it, knowing full well the anxiety I was signing up for. If my fellow panelists shared a similar apprehension you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Both Mark and Claire were consumate professionals, never failing to offer insightful and articulate responses to the questions posed.

Listening to the way they effortlessly reeled off author names and book quotations to support talking points really drove home just how little I’ve actually read in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Sure, I might have more books on my shelf than the average punter but as an author I feel woefully illiterate. I haven’t even read The Lord of The Rings for chrissakes! It’s not that I don’t read – I do, it’s just I don’t prioritise reading as highly as I should.

Instead, of surfing the net during my lunch break I should be leafing through a paperback. Instead of listening to Siamese Dream on my way to work for the thousandth spin, I should have an audiobook running. Rather than watching two episodes of True Blood in a row maybe I could stop at one and use the extra time to oh, I don’t know? READ! There are so many great novels out there it seems almost a crime that I’m not reading at every available opportunity. For an author, it should be a crime.

A firmly believe the more we read the more our writing improves. Reading not only expands our vocabulary, it broadens our imagination, stretches us, prompts us to think differently about story and character. The more we read the greater opportunity we have to pilfer linguistic and structural tricks for our own writing. Not to mention an expansive knowledge of books also prepares us to speak eloquently during panel discussions and not come across like a total ning nong. Writers should read. It’s as simple as that. A writer who doesn’t read, is like an architect who doesn’t live in a house. Actually, that’s a terrible analogy. If I read more, I probably could have come up with a better one.

MJ.