As most of you know, I love chatting with other writers and hearing about their stories. I also love doing interviews with fantastic people and adore all-things mermaid (stay tuned for my WIP and you’ll see why!). So when I heard that Lisa M. of The Elegant Stylus was writing a short story about mermaids (!!!), you could say I jumped at the opportunity to interview the incredible artist who designed the covers for Rising Shadows and Defying Shadows.
Lisa typically dwells under the sea, which I imagine is a fantastic place for writing inspiration, but she was kind enough to don her land-legs and answer my questions today. *awaits drum roll crescendo* All right, let’s get to some mermaid action!
(Also, please note that this interview was written in sea foam-green to keep with the theme. *slow clap for cleverness*)
Lisa, where does your creative inspiration come from?
First, I’m going to give the totally uninteresting “mom” answer and say my children—but it’s true! Portraiture is something I enjoy, and my first portrait was of my daughter when she was two years old. Children today are photographed more than any generation in history, yet I’ve found that the simplicity of a line-drawing can sometimes capture the essence of a child even more precisely than a photograph.
(The portrait of my daughter which started it all; silhouette portraits of my daughter and son. Commission your own at www.etsy.com/people/TheElegantStylus )
Thematically, I have a particular love of folklore, weird fiction, and fantasy. I was fascinated by the stories by Edgar Allen Poe as a kid, and my first short story (titled “The Skull Upon the Roof”. . . because what else could it have been called?) was based on his house style. World building has always been a particular passion of mine; anything that hints at belonging to an eerie alternative reality which exists just beyond the fraying edges of our peripheral vision jumpstarts my imagination. Creative inspiration for those types of stories can strike anywhere, any time. Case in point: last summer, my kids and I were stuck in a completely unnecessary traffic jam while trying to leave a Sprout’s parking lot (I’m not going to point fingers, but the driver of a Subaru *may* have been responsible). It was nap time, it was hot, and my beloved children begin to loudly voice their displeasure with the current situation.
In an attempt to distract the kiddos, I made the executive decision to YouTube-up a minor-key, EDM/Dubstep cover of The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl,” which a Facebook friend (a German-raised Opera singer, to be precise) had recently posted on my wall. You know how it goes….
(See the video here: https://youtu.be/HncGtWcqyV0 )
Now’s your moment
Floating in a blue lagoon
Boy, you better do it soon
No time will be better.
The song is playing, the kids have quieted down, and I’m successfully navigating a “left-turn yields on green” maneuver through the intersection when suddenly, BOOM! The scene unrolls before my mind’s eye like luminous scroll: the singer in this goth dubstepping number is no friendly crab-buddy, narrating the flatteringly-lit rowing scene of romantic tension between our charming protagonists!! No! Indeed, there is an unholy sea sprite lurking in the dark waters, and he has his own Screwtape-esque agenda! The malicious sprite telepathically whispers, taunts, and downright mocks the young man in the boat:
Look at that boy: too shy.
Ain’t gonna kiss the girl.
It’s a shame, too bad.
He’s going to miss the girl.
My physical body may have successfully steered us home, pulled my SUV into our garage and begun unbuckling the kids, but my mind was still in that haunted lagoon, and oh baby, I had a lot of questions. Questions like:
“What deep, dark creature does this taunting voice belong to?”
“Why does he care that the eponymous girl be kissed before the sun sets? (The girl in question being, of course, a zombie-mermaid glamoured to look like a fresh-faced human girl. I know this intuitively.)
“Why is this Disney song very clearly advocating non-consensual culture? Just look at this:
Yes, you want her.
Look at her, you know you do.
It’s possible she wants you too;
there’s one way to ask her.
It don’t take a word, not a single word.
Go on and kiss the girl, kiss the girl!
Seriously??? Another way you can inquire if she, indeed, does want you too kiss her, is to, um. . . oh, I don’t know, maybe ACTUALLY ASK HER if she would be receptive to such intimate contact? Gawd, Disney!
Suffice it to say I had MANY questions. It goes without saying that, at least in my case, inspiration will strike at the most unexpected, and honestly inopportune, moments. I hurried to get my kids out of the car and into their beds so I could scribble a few lines in a notebook and not lose the sneak-peak I’d been given into this dark fairytale world. And then….
Wait….both kids have dirty diapers….SERIOUSLY?!!
Inopportune inspiration . . . Oh, too relatable! Like the shower, the sandy beach with no pen, when your hands are covered in paint, at 2 a.m., etcetera. -_-
Okay, do you have a favorite spot to brainstorm creative concepts and designs?
The majority of my creative work is done via computer, so I guess I’d have to say sitting at my kitchen bar with my laptop is my default go-to creative space. Pinterest is a great place to begin a design process, whether I’m giving a makeover to a piece of furniture, researching silhouette cameo-portrait styles, or designing the covers to your novel covers! When I paint, I always begin by creating a digital mock-up in Photoshop. That’s the origin story of the watercolor painting I did for you, based on your Rising Shadows trilogy.
During the hot summer months, I enjoyed sitting in the shade of my front porch in the evening, writing mermaid-zombie story ideas in a notebook, while keeping a vigilant eye on my kids playing in the yard; I’m trying to embrace the shaggy nature of good ol’ pen and paper writing. If I have to cross out a word, sentence, or, God-forbid, a paragraph … so be it. Writing a story by hand has been an epic triumph for my personal neuroplasticity, and I view it almost as a form of therapy for my super-uptight OCD proclivities. I cannot allow white-out in my vicinity when writing. As a Storm Trooper says in Episode IV: “Move along. Move along.” I’m trying to live according to his advice, and not get hung-up by over thinking things and imperfections.
My creative writing gurus are the brilliant people over at Storywonk.com, and through their podcast, I have been encouraged to keep plugging along. In particular the “Journeyman Writer” podcast has taught me the importance of curating a nest in which to write.
Lately, I have begun writing before bed, nightcap at my side (it helps with the OCD). I feel particularly blessed to get to write my dark faerie tale in the master bedroom of a creepy gothic mansion; I feel the atmosphere adds to my creative process. (Joke.)
(“IRL” and Gothic Photoshop)
*wishes she had the ability to bring Photoshopped pictures into reality* So. Glorious!
I know I always have to have tone-setting music and a fun beverage when I’m writing (*cough* coffee *cough cough*). What are some things that you MUST have in your workspace while exercising you creativity?
As a mom of young kids, I’ve had to learn to be creative in non-ideal situations. Oftentimes, I’m Photoshopping an image while simultaneously stepping in to prevent my two-year-old’s meltdown, and navigating Netflix to find “Octonauts” for my 4- and a half year-old. BUT if I could design the perfect creative environment, it would definitely take place after my kids have gone to bed, with the ‘afore mentioned margarita by my side and a Storywonk podcast playing on my headphones. While I’ve been scribbling my mermaid story, I’ve lately enjoyed listening to ambient ocean wave noises via YouTube on my MPOW Shell Blue Tooth.
Now I’m wishing I had the gift of multitasking while in story-mode, but alas. *sighs* Okay, now for a strange question: I love Monet, Van Gogh, and Pissarro’s works and would love to have watched them create some of their most incredible paintings. If you could bring any artist back from the dead (and possibly put a Mermaid tail on them), who would it be and why?
Definitely weird fiction author H. P. Lovecraft. The contrast between his stuffy, uptight New England personality and the truly wild, disturbing, psychedelic worlds and creatures he created are endlessly fascinating to me. Despite the fact that he was an unrepentant sexist, racist jerk, and overall unpleasant guy, I’d love to have a conversation with him about his Cthulhu Mythos.
(“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”)
Though I am an “inferior” woman, I am sure that as soon as he realizes I have not only singlehandedly reanimated his corpse, but ALSO gifted him with a super awesome mer-tail, he will be so overcome by gratitude that he will gladly converse with me about his story-craft. I imagine sitting beside his custom, 600 gallon saltwater tank in a velvet wingback chair, sipping a margarita while chatting about the danger of seeking hidden knowledge and the nature of madness.
(Howard Phillips Lovecraft, formerly of Weird Fiction. Current status: Merman)
*tries to pull self together while still on the throes of laughter over the saltwater tank comment* *at last regains some semblance of composure*
Fascinating response, Lisa. Going with the saltwater theme . . . Now, you’re on a desert island and have a choice between enlisting the help of a mermaid, a sea witch, and a couple of sea turtles roped together (probably with hair from Jack Sparrow’s back). Which do you choose to help you survive?
To paraphrase the late author David Foster Wallace, I have a marrow-level dread of the ocean; it is an endless, corrosive engine of death and chaos chockerblock full of snaggletoothed leviathans that rise from the depths at the rate which a feather falls. Needless to say, I would want to return to the mainland ASAP, so it looks like the sea witch is my gal! Luckily, I just happen to have a nifty H. P. Lovecraft-shaped mer-toy to trade her in exchange for her magical teleporting services! Sorry, Howard! Don’t blame me; Kharma’s a b*ch!
So you’ve given us a little taste of the inspiration behind your current work in progress, but would you share with us a bit about your idea and some scene-inspiring art?
Yes! I’m primarily a visual artist, and have (alas!) finished very few of the stories I’ve attempted in the past. It’s been a bucket-list item to one day complete a short story novella, as well as illustrate it.
As I mentioned before, Chase Holfelder’s Minor Key cover of “Kiss The Girl” from The Little Mermaid planted the seeds for a new story in my mind.
I’ve always loved folktales, their dark origin stories in particular.
(If you’re like me and enjoy learning about spooky folklore, check out the LORE podcast! http://www.lorepodcast.com/ )
Likewise, I’m intrigued by the concept of an unreliable narrator. Rippling out from that crucial moment of the kiss in the lagoon, I’ve created a whole framework of story! The Cliff’s Notes version is that there is a sea sprite who has been the familiar of an incredibly powerful Sea Witch for a millennia. He has loved his Mistress unconditionally (were his feelings reciprocated?….I think not, but don’t tell him that). The Sea Witch gives her life to reanimate the corpse of a drowned young woman, who is resurrected in the form of a voiceless, zombie mermaid.
(Digital paintings I’ve created as illustrations for my story.)
Now that his beloved Sea Witch is dead, the desolate sea sprite determines to win her life back by presenting the Elder Gods (a Lovecraftian shout-out) who live deep under the sea with the perfect gift: a human soul. And, of course, the formerly human mermaid is the perfect vessel to transport that soul to their underwater temple. The familiar devises a plan in which he glamours the mermaid to look like an irresistible maiden. Once on land, the sea sprite (glamoured in human form as well) sets up the meet-cute in the lagoon, gets an unsuspecting man to kiss her . . . aaaaand you’ll have to read the story to see how it all ends. As of this moment, I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends as well!
It’s been amazing having you, Lisa, and thank you so much for stopping by to answer all of my questions! I think it’s safe to say that we’re all on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the rest of this fascinating story comes together. As for the rest of you, if you liked what you read and are interested in commissioning Lisa for a project, she’s always open to new, creative endeavors. Just make sure to message her before she ditches her land-legs and dons her fin once more! (I heard computers don’t work very well under da sea.)
Be sure to follow The Elegant Stylus:
IT’S FINALLY HAPPENING!
Defying Shadows will release in paperback this week!
At the end of THIS week, both the final book and the first book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy will release in paperback for the first time. I am so flippin’ excited to have them on my shelf!!! Rising Shadows (Book I in the trilogy) got a cover makeover for its paperback release, so I’ll send updated Amazon links out soon when its beauteous self is re-released and Defying Shadows is up for purchase. *dreamy sigh*
I feel like this has been a long time in coming, and I know you’re all dying to have your questions answered: Will Sarah go home? Do she and Will belong together? What is Damien’s end-game in all of this, and is he still working for some evil power? And is Sarah’s presence in the past changing history?
Well, you’ll just have to find out when Defying Shadows comes out. *cackles evilly*
BUT, if you can’t wait until your paycheck arrives or until Defying Shadows releases, you can enter to be first on the list for a copy. That’s right, in celebration of this momentous occasion, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter for a paperback of Defying Shadows and an Amazon gift card. You can enter to win everyday by sharing, liking, tweeting, following, etc, so keep stopping by. And pay attention to social media for the link each day.
(Enter the Rafflecopter here. Active 7-19-16 through 7-24-16 Details at the bottom of post for secondary prize)
The Rafflecopter is one way to enter, but if you don’t win the grand prize, don’t lose heart! There will be a HUGE release party on Friday, August 5th on Facebook/your living room. Join and invite others for the epic 2-hour event where I’ll be giving away even more prizes (books, swag, gift cards) and entertain you all with games, excerpts from the series, activities, quizzes, and plenty of fun goodness. Click the link below to join.
And there are ebooks of the series up for grabs during the term of the Rafflecopter. Each social media share and post/re-post earns you an entry toward the secondary prizes. From 7-19 through 7-24, tag @TownsendTales and use any of the following hashtags: #TeamHood #DefyingShadows #DefyingShadowsBook #TeamWill #TeamDamien #DSBook. You can post anywhere–Instagram (follow me here), Twitter, Facebook, on your blog, Pinterest–just make sure to use one or more of these hashtags and tag me in it. I’ll calculate total entries after the giveaway ends on the 25th, and there will be one random winner selected from–I’m very high-tech here–a hat. More shares equals more entries, which increase your odds of winning. So share away!
What are you waiting for?! Follow the link below and enter to win the Grand Prize each day until it ends at 11:59pm on Sunday, July 24th. And as always, don’t forget to share this link with your friends who enjoy free stuff…. What am I saying? Who doesn’t enjoy freebies?! Good luck, Hooders, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
Welcome to week three of the Between the Pages sneak peek at the inner workings of “Chasing Shadows.” Week four, an interview with a ridiculously cheeky and gorgeous Spanish lord, will be postponed for a week because I’ll be on vacation. I may or may not be able to post it next weekend after I get back, but no guarantees! I guess that means you’ll just have to imagine what a date with Damien Lisandro would be like. Heck, I think about it every day, myself. 😉
Check out today’s interview with Karen, the fiery-sweet redhead from “Chasing Shadows,” and keep up with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram via http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 during our trip (starting tomorrow!). We’re taking a copy of “Chasing Shadows” with us to do all sorts of nonsense and hilarity with the book. So follow all of these links to check out what sort of shenanigans we’ll be up to this week in Cali!
Meet your new book best-friend, Karen Ashmore from “Chasing Shadows”:
So nice of you to pop by the future for this interview, Karen.
Whispers, “I appreciate you thinking of me.” Eyes dart uncertainly over the bright living room.
You look a little nervous.
“You never know who might have followed me to the future. It’s happened before, you know.”
I do remember. But you’re safe for now, and we’ll let you go back as soon as we’re finished here.
Relaxes. “Okay. I guess I have some time.”
Great! First question is if you have a special thinking place in Serimone?
“I spend a lot of time in the barn loft. It’s peaceful there.”
Aside from traveling through eras, what do you like to do in your spare time?
“I really enjoy reading. It’s not very easy to find books that are available to the lower classes in the twelfth century, so I have a bunch of modern books stashed away in the Joneses’ barn.”
Some people have compared the Jones family to the Weasleys from Harry Potter. I’ve never read the, but would you agree with this assessment?
Laughs. “That’s one of the series I brought with me, and every time I read a scene with them, I think of my ‘family.’ They took me in without a second thought and are sweet and hilarious in the way that they’re in each other’s business all the time. They’re also an incredibly loyal and tight-knit group.” Grins. “And Ruth Jones and Mrs. Weasley have a lot in common in the way that they both dote on guests. They’re the best thing about that era.”
Superpower of choice?
“Nope. No superpowers. I’ve realized that messing with nature as God intended gets sticky. I’ve dealt with the consequences of traveling through time, and I’d rather just be content with who I am and how God designed me.”
Wow. You truly are as wise as Sarah said. Okay, well then do you have a favorite color?
“Sunrise yellow. It always gives me hope for a new day, and Seth and I have enjoyed watching the sunrise together lately.”
Speaking of which, what’s up with you and Seth?
Freezes for a split second before recovering. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Uh-huh. Right. Sure you don’t. Then what is your favorite pastime in Serimone?
“Making flower crowns.”
It’s just that I understood that reference, folks, and you will too when you read Chasing Shadows. I just have to be honest, Karen, and say that you and Seth make such a cute couple.
Blushes. “What? You’re being ridiculous . . . Wait, did he say something about me?”
Getting back to the hard-hitting questions—
“Oh, come on—“
—What’s it like being a falsely accused witch on the lamb?
Sighs. “Okay, fine. Well, it can be a little stressful at times, and at first I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder. But I’ve taken a note from the Shadow and have learned to blend in. Plus, Gabriel Dunlivey was really the only one who took up that strange quest to find me, so with him gone, I don’t have much to worry about.”
… So, the Shadow. Do you know his identity? He did rescue you from being burned at the stake.
Smiles in admiration. “He’s a hero and one of the reasons why I’m alive today. The Shadow is also an inspiration to my cause against Cadius. But as to his true identity, no, I don’t know who he really is. And I’m not sure I want to; keeping his true name a secret seems important to him, and I wouldn’t want to burst his bubble of privacy.” Leans forward, grinning conspiratorially. “Besides, it’s kind of cool that a masked vigilante is protecting Serimone.”
*Sighs dreamily* Tell me about it.
“Well, I should probably get back. There’s no telling how much time has passed in Serimone while I’ve been here. And I’d hate to miss a very important upcoming event,” she sing-songs.
The wedding that Sarah mentioned? Oooh, won’t you tell us a little about it, Karen? Who’s the bride?
Jumps up from her chair with a small grin and a wave of farewell. “Sorry, I have to go.”
Wait! The fangirls need to know. I need to know who—
A flash of light and Karen is gone.
Blast! Well, I guess I’ll just have to quiz Damien Lisandro next time. Umm, I guess that’s it for today, guys. *Mutters to self* Time travelers are just so odd.
A couple new interviews have just been released, one with Double Decker Books and the other with Ink Spell Reviews. I loved answering the My Top 10 Fiction Crushes questions from Ink Spell. I’m a fangirl, so that’s one of the most complicated questions to answer, but I love a challenge! Check them out, like, and share around.
Also, my Between the Pages post will still be up Friday this week, but I’ll be on vacation all of next week and so I won’t have a regular post on Halloween night, the 31st. Because, you know, I’ll be on a vacation. I’m very happy about this fact. ^_^
SPEAKING of which. For those of you with an Instagram, or if you don’t have an account and have fingers for searching and scrolling, be sure to follow my sister’s Instagram before this weekend. We’ll be turning it into a promotional page for “Chasing Shadows.” My copies of the book are coming today! Gah! Suffering from excruciating joy!
Anyway, I’m taking a couple copies along with me on vacation for all sorts of nonsense. He might (yes, my books are male, like my future fiction husband Will Taylor from “Chasing Shadows”!) go hipster and sip local coffee in a cafe with a pipe and typewriter, use bathroom stalls for making cupcakes, take selfies with tourists, fly off into the sunset,etc. You never know what can happen in the fiction world! So, like I said, follow d_jeans86 on Instagram, and keep an eye out this weekend and all next week for the wacky wonders that we’ll be posting on there.
Last order(s) of business.
The 2014 Gold Rush author event at Barnes and Noble with Livia Blackburne, Stephanie Diaz, Bethany Crandell, Tracy Holczer, and Maria Andreu was, in a word: THE-MOST-SPECTACULAR-EVENT-IN-THE-HISTORY-OF-READING-AND-WRITING. Yes, just one word. There was a great turnout, and the authors were hilarious and amazing and took so much time to answer our questions (I asked several-haha). Afterwards, I picked up a copy of Stephanie’s book “Extraction” to have her sign it, and I’m super excited about it. It was also really exciting when Bethany Crandell, a San Diego local, recognized my name, and then the entire group of FIVE successful authors started asking me questions about “Chasing Shadows” and talking about how cool it sounded, and Bethany even wants to get together to discuss the book. *gasp* 80 Uh, okay? Um, YES! Liz, Katie, and I were all in heaven the entire time, and it was so cool for all of us to chat with ladies in the business. That will go down as a highlight of 2014.
Oh! And for you San Diego natives, you might be seeing “Chasing Shadows” at your local library very soon. That’s right. I’m working right now (today, actually) on getting it into circulation. EEEE! I’d love all your prayers and support for this to work out, because it would be amazing to have it available to the general public and kids who can’t afford to purchase their own copies. Been there, and the library saved my life from becoming book-less. ^_^
Follow DeAnna on Instagram for hilarity and to see what all “Chasing Shadows” is up to:
Thank you so much to all who participated in the Chasing Shadows Twitter Release Party! It was a roaring success and a blast to host.
The winner of Most Tweets During the Party is @elizabethtown88. She will be receiving a $10 Amazon gift card. Thanks so much for getting the entire San Diego County Library system to tweet about “Chasing Shadows”!
And the winner of National Timepiece Day for submitting the best picture of a timepiece to win the $5 Amazon giftcard is @readiculousgirl. You know how much I love pocket watches. ^_^
It was a lot of work to keep up with the party and the tweets, and you can check them all out at https://twitter.com/TownsendTales I had so much fun, though! I seriously would not mind doing that again. So thanks, all, for the support and love this afternoon! Phew, I’m pooped!
First order of business: Don’t forget that tomorrow I’ll be at the Barnes&Noble in Grossmont Center, La Mesa, CA with author Livia Blackburne for her and other YA authors’ Q&A and giveaways. It’s going to be a lot of fun and starts at 2pm, so don’t be square! And if you plan to get there early and want to meet me, email me at email@example.com or tweet to me @TownsendTales. Can’t wait to see you there!
Finally, I’ll be on vacation for the last week of this month and am taking my copy of “Chasing Shadows” along with me. My sister DeAnna and I are turning her Instagram into a promotional page of wildly awesome pictures of the books. It might go rock climbing, order Chinese, read itself to ducklings. You’ll just have to follow http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to find out what we’ll be doing to that poor thing this month! Toodles!
So be sure to follow this Instagram account http://instagram.com/d_jeans86 to receive updates and hilariously random pics with my own copy of “Chasing Shadows” while we’re in central California later this month.
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I just checked on Amazon, and the paperback copy of “Chasing Shadows” is alive. It’s ali-hi-hiiiive!!!
No, my dear reader, you are not…. Actually, I don’t know you personally, so I can’t say for certain. At first I thought I was seeing things, too, because certainly it was too good to be true. But, no, THE PAPERBACK EXISTS!!!!
This is the moment I have been waiting for, anticipating, longing after since I turned eight: To see my characters come alive on REAL pages! After years of plotting and planning and writing and ranting, I can now rest and die happy. Sleeeeep!
For awhile, I felt kind of like this little mouse with the cat watching it, desperately trying to make it happen for years and looking ridiculous doing it, with self-doubt leering over my shoulder the entire time. *small squeaky mouse voice* Faster, faster, FASTER!!!
Well, ha-ha! No more my furry little friends. This go-around, we actually get to touch the crisp texture of new paper as it turns to reveal a new page, smell the freshly pressed ink, gaze longingly at the gorgeous cover that Roan Carter lovingly–and patiently–bestowed upon this sequel. Boo-ya, literary world! I’m here whether you want me or not.
…. But I’d really rather stay, so I’ll tone it down. I promise. Eh, who am I kidding?
I was so excited that I kept doing this to random people, and it was freaking them out. Huh. People are so anti-social.
My sister DeAnna and I are going to take a copy on vacation at the end of this month and turn her Instagram into a silly palooza of “Chasing Shadows.” Basically, we’re going to do weird things like have the paperback sip a cup of coffee, wear a silly mustache disguise, use toilet stalls, hide in bushes and jump out to scare passerby. It’s going to be friggin’ awesome! I’ll give you the details for her account soon so you can follow all the wackiness that is our lives. Best selfies ever! Although, it will be of the book, so it’s not technically a selfie. . . I don’t think.
And if you haven’t fallen in love with these characters or this series by the time you finish, well….. Just no.
Let’s give a slow clap to the team at Ink Smith for allowing me to share this with you all!
Don’t forget to use #ChasingShadowsBook when tweeting!
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