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:
There comes a time in every writer’s life where they become “that” writer—the one who forgets to put on shoes before going out or wears pajamas to church, who doesn’t remember to pick up Grandma from the airport and forgets that The Flash is returning. *face palm* And then the common, Did I brush my teeth today? We don’t like to admit it, because those writers should have a better grasp on things, but all these semi-disasters can and do happen because our heads sometimes get a teensy bit jumbled with all the crazy thoughts and plotting going on up there. Between author signings, my birthday, a coworker quitting and taking on extra shifts at the office, and trying to reach a deadline for my WIP Jungle Princess, I may or may not have forgotten that my beloved middle child, Chasing Shadows, turned TWO this past Tuesday. Excuse me while I hide in shame….
It was a hard-fought battle to get Chasing Shadows out there in the world because of time constraints, publishing issues, and trying to find a marketing plan that worked for a busy student/office manager. So it was a gift worth squealing over when the second book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy released on October 4th, just a day after my own birthday. Raise a glass to help me celebrate a story that made me accidentally fall in love with a character who wasn’t Will Taylor (Damien … *le sigh*) and that caused me to realize caffeine addiction isn’t “technically” an addiction if you don’t drink after 4pm.
Music inspires me.
One beat or pulsing rhythm or lyric that catches on my heart strings, and I’m hooked on a song. My sister Katie (follow her blog Books and Wonderful Things!) brought a random song from Florence and the Machine to my attention while I was writing Chasing Shadows, and the chorus and a single line in the bridge of “Heavy in Your Arms” inspired the waterfall scene between Jade and Will (“The one who creeps in corridors and doesn’t make a sound.” Come on, people!). Sometimes when I get blocked, I take a break, close my eyes and just nap in the sunshine and listen to music. I’ve overcome many a writing stump by absorbing the tone and lyrics of random songs.
My writing playlist consists of about 150 inspiring songs in all sorts of genres so that there is something to fit any scene (romantic, intense, moody, tragic). But there is always one lyric or beat or chorus that so perfectly encompasses the entire mood of a chapter that, before I realize it, the repeat button has been pressed, and I listen to nothing but that song as it inspires the setting and the way I write, even how the characters respond to one another. Some music causes me to pound away at the keyboard as swords clash and arrows fly, while sweeter melodies make me slow down and smile as I pen a romantic interlude (ooh, interludes! ^_~). Music is, essentially, the backbone behind life and every story, if you listen close enough to the birds, the wind, and “every breaking wave” (*cough* U2 reference *cough*).
Since there is one specific song that really stuck out to me as being the lifeblood behind each chapter, I had to share with you the melodies that inspired Defying Shadows. If you’ve read the book, then you’re probably freaking out because you’re reliving every laugh and tear and emotional tidal wave that you experienced while reading the book. If you haven’t started Defying Shadows yet, then find it here so you know why this playlist is perfect.
I hope you enjoy the sounds of Serimone!
“Drop of Smoke”—Hudson Taylor
“I Will Be Back One Day”—Lord Huron
“Best Friend”—Jason Mraz
“Into the Wild”—Lewis Walton
“Sing Loud”—Alpha Rev
“Another Story”—The Head and the Heart
“Big Bad World”—Kodaline
“Can’t Pretend”—Tom Odell
“The Lion’s Den”—Twin Oaks
“Let it Go”—James Bay
“I Have Made Mistakes”—The Oh Hellos
“Moon Shines Red”—Jamie McDell
“Running for You”—Kip Moore
“All I Want”—Dawn Golden
“Stay Alive”—Jose Gonzalez
“Daniel in the Den”—Bastille
“I Found Love”—Amber Run
“Prince of Peace”—Hillsong
“Way Down We Go”—Kaleo
“Song for Someone”—U2
“Knocking on Heaven’s Door”—Raign
“Charlie Boy”—The Lumineers
“All I Ever Wanted (Was Time)”—Vance Joy
“On My Way Back Home”—Band of Horses
“Light”—Sleeping at Last
“Hanging by a Thread”—Aaron Espe
“All This Time”—One Republic
“Our Last Days”—The Fray
I returned from another fun-filled day at San Diego Comic Con (swag, books, panels, fun. Details to come!) to a surprise package on my doorstep.
Yes, my copies of Defying Shadows have arrived!!! I requested a few more copies of Chasing Shadows, and I’m so excited to bring these with me when I fly out to Pennsylvania for Realm Makers next week. And I’ll admit I had some fun staging little mock battles between Damien (Hook) and Will (Arrow).
Also, a ton of people on Facebook are already posting pictures of their copies of the book that arrived on their doorsteps today, and I’m so excited that this is finally happening. I know you’ll laugh and cry and hate some of the characters while sobbing over others with all the love you have in your heart. But I hope, most of all, that these characters stay with you for a long time, as I know they’ll live in my heart forever.
Find your own copy of Defying Shadows, the final book in the Rising Shadows Trilogy, on Amazon today. If you post your pics of your copy, use #TeamHood and tag @TownsendTales for a surprise!
And don’t forget that the Rafflectoper giveaway only goes through 11:59pm this Sunday. So follow the link below to enter to win an Amazon gift card and your own paperback copy of Defying Shadows
Defying Shadows has officially been released into the wild!!! 😃
Hallelujah! It’s been a long time in coming, but I am so ecstatic that it’s out. Follow the link to the paperback of Defying Shadows here, and find me wandering San Diego Comic-Con tomorrow through Saturday. I’ll be the blond shamelessly promoting my own books. 😋 Follow the crazy person with the Defying Shadows tee and tote for a bookmark!
And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter each day to be entered to win a paperback copy of Defying Shadows and an Amazon gift card. End this Sunday!
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.