Monday, 19 March 2012

The Fizzy Pop Vampire – Story of a Creative Process

Seven years ago I summoned a strange creature from my brain meats and gave him a tiny story of love, loss and redemption. The love was for lemonade, the loss was... well, I won’t spoil the story, and the redemption was sadly lacking. I’m no illustrator, and so the tale of Fizz (as I call him) was purely a written affair.

I got a job at Titan shortly after and met someone who I thought was a good fit for the project. I pitched the idea at her and crossed my fingers. Nothing happened and I busied myself writing reviews and scraping together an RPG supplement, forgetting about Fizz altogether.

Time passed.

Then, one day, Fizz came up in conversation with the Web Mistress at Forbidden Planet, one Sarah Langton. She rather liked the idea and asked me if she could have a crack at bringing the sweet-toothed nocturnal terror to the printed page. Sure, I said, not realising that I’d misplaced the original story.

Fangs for the memories.

I re-wrote the whole thing from memory, which is to say I started over and hoped it would be as good as I’d remembered. Sarah started on a concept for Fizz and things were underway. Fitting in illustration around a full time job, an addiction to Portal 2, and an irrational shoe obsession (seriously, she has loads) is no mean feet, erm, I mean feat.

Waiting for art to materialise has to be one of my least favourite things in the world, so I got on with other projects. Stuff like Tales of Japan over at Weaponizer, The Boy With the Porcelain Ears, and a short story for those awesome kids over at Pornokitsch.

And then suddenly, without my realising, Sarah had completed the book. She even made little proof copies and we had interest from a publisher.

What could go wrong?

The publisher got cold feet, deciding they couldn’t distribute a children’s book (a concern of mine from the get go). We brushed down our respective egos and started hitting up agents and even directly approaching children’s publishers.

We heard nothing. No one was taking a chance on new projects that didn’t come from established authors. Or so we were told. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to writing about people with swords and nice jackets. Sarah didn’t get mad, so much as get even.

Screw the publishers, was her rationale, I’ll go straight to iPad. Which is what is happening this week, all due to Sarah’s hard work.

So the take away from this short (and possibly uninteresting) blog post is this: nothing ever comes easy. If you’re working in a creative environment it’s likely to be damn near impossible, but you should not give up.

Monday, 12 March 2012

What I think About When I Think About Writing

I love cinema and don’t know half as much as I’d like to about this fascinating medium. One feature that cinema does have over books is the use of soundtrack to create mood. Mark Charan Newton has posted a couple of times on this subject HERE and HERE, but I wanted to post up some of my favourites.

Music is incredibly important for adding resonance of feeling to film, so why not try and capture some of that alchemy when writing? Any piece of music with lyrics is disqualified as my brain will instantly seize upon them. Film soundtracks are perfect for this reason, but ambient, electronic and drone are great too.

Nest – Retold

This album is a touchstone for me, not just when writing, but reading too, or gazing out of rain-streaked bus windows. It’s also perfect company for bouts of insomnia. Retold manages to be sinister (Marefjellet) and minimal (Amroth) whilst displaying motes of hope and a wistful nostalgia (Charlotte).

This album is in no way intrusive, but simply oozes from the speakers with a stately menace and gently repeated piano motifs. You can listen to it on Soundcloud for free too.

Recommended tracks: Kyoto, Wheatstone.

The Sight Below – Various

Even more abstract than Nest is The Sight Below, a one-man outfit from Canada. Much of Glider and the No Place For Us EP features a simple metronome bass sound that can feel a little uninspiring, but the beat simply provides a structure for the ethereal soundscape to hang on. Samples of distorted reverb guitar wash up in endless, drowsy waves. There’s a urgent yet nocturnal feel to this music; perfect for getting in the zone and drawing chapters out of the aether.

Recommended tracks: Dour, Twice Failed, Already There.

James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer – Batman Begins

I know many people will sing the praises of The Dark Knight,  but the less frenetic Batman Begins soundtrack has a good deal more creeping dread than the successor. This soundtrack even has some tender (Barbastella) and nostalgic (Macrotus) moments in between the sturm and drang (Molussus). This OST is perfect for writing brooding Gothic tales with the occasional interruption of orchestrated violence.

Try before you buy? Why not just watch the film again and prick up your ears.

Recommended tracks: Corynorhinus, Vespertilio.

Saffron Slumber – Somnogen

I stumbled across this when I found the net label, Resting Bell
Some of the tracks are quite short for this type of experimental drone and ambient music, but the album has really grown on me. There’s a decidedly ‘just woken’ feel to much of the album, especially on Möbius Thought, which gives way to a sweet hopefulness of Onyx. The stand out track has to be the 18-minute monster Oneiric Sun, which conspires to be soothing and yet sinister as the distortion gradually increases in pitch and intensity

You can download the entire album for free HERE.

More on this subject soon, when I'll actually include some more film soundtracks.