Tag Archives: Book covers

Everlasting Beauty – The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are classics we have all heard of, but have never read.  Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray was one of those. In spite of being familiar with the story of the beautiful young man who never ages, I’d never read the actual novel. I think deep down, I always knew I would read it one day, it was as if it was just simply a matter of time…

Time made itself known, not too long ago, when I walked past a stall selling used books. A small paperback caught my eye, the cover captured the essence of the story, there was something about the expression on the face of that young man that drew me, so I bought the paperback, for only £1.70. Money well spent considering the fact it’s deeply affected me as a writer.

In the novel, Basil Hallward, a painter, shows his friend Lord Henry, a painting he’s working on. The extraordinary beauty of the model, makes an impression on Lord Henry. Basil, tells him the young man’s name is Dorian Gray and speaks very highly of him, even to the point of telling Lord Henry that  ‘He (Dorian) is all my art to me now.’

Whilst the men are gathered in Basil’s studio, Dorian stops by, to sit for Basil. Lord Henry wants to meet him, but Basil begs him not to: ‘Don’t spoil him’, ‘Don’t try to influence him’ but it is too late. One gets the feeling Basil somehow senses how bad this meeting will be for Dorian, little does he know, Dorian won’t be the only one affected. Even Dorian himself, appears to sense something when meeting Lord Henry as he replies ‘Yes, I am glad now, I wonder shall I always be glad?’ (in response to Lord Henry’s comment of: ‘You are glad to have met me.’)

It is during this fateful meeting, that Lord Henry begins to do exactly what Basil has begged him not to. Henry’s thoughts about ageing, and the power of youth, have a powerful effect on Dorian. We the readers, are witness to an inner change in him, and it is a disturbing one. What Dorian feels when looking at the finished painting, is not awe or happiness but pure horror as he is struck by the profound realisation his beauty will not only fade away but will also be forever captured in Basil’s painting to mock him in later years. It is during this moment of truth, that he utters words that change his destiny and that of others.

As the novel progresses, Dorian is further corrupted by a book Lord Henry lends him.  Later in the story,  Dorian says to him:  ‘You poisoned me with a book once.  I should not forgive that Harry, promise me that you will never lend that book to anyone. It does harm.’

Can a novel poison? Maybe, but the one thing I am certain of, is that a book can have a profound effect on a reader affecting them deeply. The Picture of Dorian Gray has done that. After just one reading, it became my favourite novel of all time, surpassing even Dracula. I’ve always been fascinated by duality, and inner conflict, something that is deeply embedded in my own novel. Dorian Gray is the perfect embodiment of that inner conflict. I have a soft spot for beautiful bad boys, there’s just something about them. As charming as Count Dracula can be is, pretty to look at he sure isn’t.  However, it’s not only Dorian’s beauty that captivates me, it is his inner struggle and the realisation he’s gone too far. You feel for him, in spite of it all.

Oscar Wilde’s only novel is filled with great images, actually, it is one of the most visual novels I’ve ever read. Wilde describes a London that no longer exists, and through his words, that London comes alive in paragraphs like these:

Where he went to he hardly knew. He remembered wandering through dimly lit streets, past gaunt, black-shadowed archways and evil-looking houses. Women with hoarse voices and harsh laughter had called after him. Drunkards had reeled by, cursing and chattering to themselves like monstrous apes. He had seen grotesque children huddled upon door-steps, and heard shrieks and oaths from gloomy courts.

As the dawn was just breaking, he found himself close to Covent Garden. The darkness lifted, and, flushed with faint fires, the sky hollowed itself into a perfect pearl. Huge carts filled with nodding lilies rumbled slowly down the polished empty street.

Wilde said of the novel: ‘Basil Hallward is what I think I am; Lord Henry what the world thinks of me; Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps.’ (Oscar Wilde to Ralph Payne, 12 February 1894)

I recently made a wonderful discovery when I realised Wilde was the author of the one and only children’s story to make an impression on me as a child:  The Selfish Giant, so it is rather fitting that a story of his, was the first one to make an impression and that his one and only novel, changed me as a writer.  Me thinks I need to drink up a Guinness or two to toast his name.

What about you? Are there any novels that have made a huge impression on you, either as a reader or writer?

Lucky 13 – Joleene Naylor Interview

Thought it would be fun to have a bit of darkness for December to counteract the seasonal festivities.  I’m sure a lot of you already know Joleene. If you don’t, here’s a chance to get to know her and see what a talented lady she is. I could not resist the thought of chatting with an author who’s written about my favourite dark boys/girls: Vampires.

Joleene Naylor is an independent author, freelance artist and photographer. Her published works include the first two books in the Amaranthine series: Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts. The fun eBook 101 Tips for Traveling with a Vampire and the useful How to Get a Cheap Book Cover, a great book with many tips on how to create professional book covers at very little cost.

Her current projects include Ties of Blood, the third in the Amaranthine series and illustrating The Terrible Turtle Conspiracy, a weekly web comic written by Jonathan Harvey. She also freelances doing book covers for others. You can read  more about her awesome covers here and see many examples on her Flickr page here.

As you can see, Joleene is one busy lady so I am very grateful to her for taking the time to do this interview, and without further ado, here she is…

Alannah: You’ve written 3 vampire related books and are working on the third book for your Amaranthine series. What is it about vampires that inspires you to write about them?
Joleene: Vampires rule. Zombies drool. Seriously, I love vampires because they can be anyone, from any time period. It’s like the best, or worst, of our world’s history mashed into a giant ball.  It’s also a chance to explore history without all the characters having to go back to it. And with those historical figures come historical attitudes. They can be dangerous and violent; the mighty warrior tearing through the field of bloody enemies.  There’s also something intriguing about the vampire’s immortality. They’ve seen so much and watched things change, and how would that be? There’s so much noise in the modern world that we tune out because we’re used to it, but what would it look like to someone who isn’t?

A: Did you have any concerns over writing a vampire novel in the midst of the Twilight-mania we’ve had to suffer?
J: There are vampires in Twilight? Really? Where? *ahem* I actually wrote the first draft of Shades of Gray in 2006 and in fact had started the sequel(s) before I’d ever heard of Twilight.  When I started querying, Twilight was all I heard about on the forums, and even from friends. In fact, one told me that I was “just writing mindless romance for preteen girls” but if I ever “wrote anything real” to let him know.  Needless to say, their attitudes really cheesed me off! After I self published, I was advised to use Twilight mania to boost sales. But, most of the Twi-Moms don’t like my series. It’s too violent and they especially tend to object to a semi-graphic scene that happens while Katelina is kidnapped by Claudius.

A: Who is your own favourite character and why?
J: If I say “not Katelina coz she annoys me a lot”, is that bad? Okay, I have two, actually.  The first one is Jorick, the dark vampire hero of the series. He actually is pretty complex and fills several roles; he’s the sexy lover, the angst riddled sinner, the warrior/hero who swoops in and saves the day and sometimes he’s that father-figure that “the children” try to irritate purposely.   What I love the most about him are his faults, though he still has that sweet, gentle, romantic side and, being fictional, he manages to actually admit he’s wrong occasionally, and apologize.
The second one is Verchiel, a vampire that no one’s met yet.  He debuts in book three, and he wasn’t supposed to die, but he was so much fun that I couldn’t kill him off. He’s Jorick’s opposite; where Jorick’s so serious about things, Verchiel is very flippant and casual. Needless to say, Jorick hates him, and has a lot of cause to.

A: What prompted your decision to self-publish and did you ever attempt going the traditional route first?
J: I read on an internet site that all agents were really clones of the evil Zorgon. Okay, maybe not. But that’s more interesting than the truth. I originally looked for an agent. But, I hit right in the middle of the vampire craze, so the response was  “no more vampires.”  But I didn’t want to just abandon it. Plus, the more I actually researched what I’d be getting into – like that I couldn’t do my own cover – the more unattractive it started to look. Then I discovered that most traditionally published authors are still responsible for their own marketing, and in all honesty that was the only thing I wanted a “real” publisher for in the first place.

A: Do you have any advice you could share with us regarding self-publishing?
J: When people say, with genuine surprise, “Wow, your book is actually good!” Don’t snap, “Of course it is, you prongless fork!” Also, one of the things I kept running into when I was looking for an agent was advice to un-personalize everything to look professional. One site even recommended removing lists of bands you like, lest it “offended”.  Maybe that’s great advice for agents, but it’s not so great for being an independent author. One of the cool things about the self published authors is that there’s no filter between them and their fans. And, a person with no personality is unmemorable.

A: What is the one bit of advice you wish you had been told about when you first began as a writer?
J: That it’s okay to be scared, angry, frustrated, stuck, bitter, upset or even jealous.  A lot of writers skim over those things when they’re handing out advice because it’s “not professional” to admit it. That was one thing that really drew me to Ruth Ann Nordin, because she was so honest about how the process affects you. Sometimes you feel like you’re surrounded by a bunch of Mary Sunshine’s who are all cool, calm and collected, and you’re thinking “what’s wrong with me?” But there’s nothing wrong.  It’s like teen sex in the 50’s. They’re all doing it, they’re just not talking about it.

A: You have quite a lot of artistic interests/talents. Is there one you have a preference over the others and if so, why?
J: The one that pays. Okay, no, I’m joking.  I’ve actually contemplated this for the last year. In the end it’s the visual art that wins, I think.  I’ve noticed that when I first meet people, or make new profiles, etc. I’m more concerned with saying “Look what I drew!” than saying “Look what I wrote!”.

A: Have you ever suffered from writer or artist’s block, and do you have a technique to get past them that you could share with us?
J: I find a hot shower usually heats up my brain and will make me come up with something. Really, the best thing for me is to quit being a baby and just do it.  For the first hour whatever I churn out will be complete rubbish, but after that it starts to pick up, and pretty soon I’ve forgotten that I was ever blocked in the first place.

A: You also design book covers, how did you start out?
J: My first cover was for Stevie Rey’s The Hillbilly Bible, but it was actually Smashwords that started the “real” work.  Mark Coker maintains a list of cover artists for hire, so I sent my name in. I didn’t have a lot of business until after I did some free covers and had a portfolio built up.  People think it’s hard to do book covers because it’s almost impossible to find information on it; like it’s this mystical, secret thing. But, anyone with a computer and a reasonable eye for layouts can do it. That’s why I wrote the book How to Get a Cheap Book Cover, to try to demystify the process and say “yes, you too can do this!”

A: One of your interests is Manga comics, and you’re currently illustrating The Terrible Turtle Conspiracy, a weekly web comic written by Jonathan Harvey. When did you start drawing and what drew you to comics?
J: The Evil turtle Overlords are currently reviewing my answer before I’m allowed to publicize it. While we wait, why not check out http://TerribleTurtles.com? Approved Answer: I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. I’m a nut for the whole Japanese anime style and I wanted to “grow up, move to Japan and draw cartoons” until my Dad explained how animation frames work. That’s when I decided to do comics because it was “easier”.  I abandoned it, though, until a few years ago when I did a darker manga called “Butterfly Soul” as a Halloween project. After that, Jonathan had the idea to turn his weekly silly stories into a comic and being a huge Jonathan Harvey silly story fan, I jumped on it immediately.

A: Is there anyone whose work you particularly admire; and what is it about them that makes them special to you?
J: Miss Piggy. She can beat up a bunch of ninjas and her hair still looks great. Seriously, when I was a kid we went to church with a woman named Elaine.  I’m not sure I’d say I admired her work, so much as her ability to just let it all roll off of her.  She absolutely didn’t care what anyone else thought, or whether they liked her or not. That’s something I have tremendous trouble with. And there was a woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, who was a “mouth drawer”. She’d been an artist, gotten in some kind of accident and lost her hands, and yet years later she turned out gorgeous stuff by holding a pencil between her teeth. That kind of devotion is just awe-inspiring.

A: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
J: I’m hoping that someone will win the lottery and give me a big chunk of money, so I’ll be lounging in style.  I’d also like to think that I’ll have Katelina and Jorick off on their “quest”, that I’ll have the Redneck vampire spoof finished, that Jonathan and I will have our Terrible Turtle novel done, and that I will be somewhat more organized in time management (hahahahahahaha!)

A: Lastly, a fun question – You’ve on a desert island and can only bring one book, one CD and one DVD, which ones do you choose and why?
J: The Survival Guide for Living on a Desert Island by Serve I. Vorr. Heh-heh. Seriously, the book would have to be the complete Edgar Allan Poe because it’s a mix of short stories and poems and by rationing one a day I could drag it out. I like movies, but music is more important so the DVD would have to be the HIM Love Metal Archives, Volume I, and the CD would then be Roxette’s 1992 album Tourism.  Twice the music, plus I get to look at Ville Valo

I don’t blame her, Ville is nice to look at ;-)
Hope you enjoyed this. Proud to have Joleene on my blog as she is doing what I hope to be doing some day and is a great inspiration. I had plans to make this a monthly feature but sadly, time constraints have put a stop to that idea, before I even got started. Too many plans, too little time I’m afraid.

If you want to keep up with the lovely Joleene, here are some useful links, just click on them and you’ll be taken directly to the respective site.