Tag Archives: origins

Once Upon A Time…

…there was a boy named Balik and a girl named Cassie and they lived on board the Space Station Hope. But where did they come from?

 

People will always look for autobiographical elements to someone’s writing, perhaps in the belief that you can only “write what you know”. I’m sure for every writer there are elements of them in each book they write – it might simply be a single phrase you use or a description of how you feel about something, which you then put in the mouth of one of your characters. But I think writers must appear in their own books somewhere.

I can tell you honestly that I am not Cassie, but we have similarities… I don’t like silence when you’re with people: I’m definitely a nervous waffler; but with people I’m comfortable with and care about, I’ll happily be quiet. We both have sarcastic tendencies and similar taste in guys 🙂 We like the same school subjects and she probably got her mildly argumentative streak from me. But I don’t live on a space station (surprise, surprise), or rock climb in my spare time (I am clumsy to a point that would make Bella Swan appear graceful and coordinated), and my medical expertise is limited to a basic first aid qualification.

Balik is – unfortunately – not someone I’ve met personally. But some of his strongest personality traits are familiar. The “have to know how it works” thing is another little piece of me – not necessarily in the practical sense as my lack of co-ordination inhibits me there J – but I love learning about new things. His strength and protective nature, putting someone else before himself, is something I have seen in loved ones close to me and is perhaps the most desirable quality anyone could possess. Who wouldn’t want the warrior with a heart on their side?

So where did the rest of the story come from?

Before I began Hope’s Daughter I was stuck in a rut with another novel I’d been working on (I probably hadn’t done any real writing in six months or so) and knew that I wanted to start something new, just to get myself going again. I had also been through a bit of a sci-fi phase in my reading (lots of Philip K Dick and HG Wells among others) and so I decided to do a very short piece for myself in this genre, just to see what it was like. At first it was just the Married Quarter, Balik and Cassie – but once I was writing it the story kept growing: I would drive to work listening to music and would see scenes pulling themselves together in my head, like a mini-montage and the outline of a deeper story began to come together.

I’m not a sci-fi specialist by any stretch of the imagination and so when I started building the world Cassie lives in, although I knew what it looked like, I had to refer to other people’s versions of space stations and outer space colonies to understand where technology we have now, might genuinely take us in the not too distant future. Although some of this detail was edited out of Hope’s Daughter, some things remain like the body scanners (which are real today) and waste recycling systems – naturally The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, which is Balik’s story shows much more of these things J You know how he is!

Similarly – and quite scarily – Cassie’s answer to the exam question posed at the beginning of the novel is based entirely on newspaper articles I have read. Often I would grab a copy of the free paper on my way into work and each day there are odd little science snippets alongside the more prominent articles on which celebrity is doing what or bizarre news stories. These tiny, single sentence items usually reference research being done or scientific predictions being made, which if they prove accurate could well affect the whole world…and they are hidden in a small text box alongside a page of celebrity fluff, which says a lot about what people think of as important. I cut out and kept the one that first made me think about this:

 

Metro – August 5, 2009

GLOBAL WARMING WILL SEE ‘BILLIONS AT WAR’

Billions of people will go to war as they are forced to leave areas made uninhabitable by global warming, climate change expert Lord Stern has warned. Much of the world’s population will be put into ‘severe conflict’ unless temperature rises are tackled, he added.

 

Billions of people…Billions… That’s the whole world isn’t it? As post-apocolyptic views of the future go (zombies, global plagues, giant monsters from outer space) for me, this is the one I could actually imagine happening. I could imagine us sleepwalking into a devastating situation like this, brought about mainly through a lack of interest and co-ordination. Today’s science fiction being tomorrow’s science fact…? A terrifying thought.

There is obviously more to the creation of Hope’s Daughter, most of which I can’t share because of the spoilers! But it is surprising, even to me, when I go back to my notes and research from the beginning and see how a single idea became an entire book. It is interesting to see what changed – a lot – and what remains from the original concept.

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Cover Design – Hope’s Daughter

Recently I’ve been working on the cover for Outlanders – sometimes it helps to get me focused knowing that side of things is already done – and it got me thinking about how different ideas actually make the final cut. In the current process, very helpfully, I’ve got some lovely friends (real world and ‘book world’) who I get feedback from and can ask lots of ridiculous questions, about the smallest details – hopefully they don’t get too bored!

I’m obviously not going to sneak-peek Outlanders just yet – but I thought you might like to see some of the ‘early thoughts’ I went through before finally selecting the final cover for Hope’s Daughter and why…

In the beginning…

Text wise – I preferred the plain, minimal typesets – to me they felt futuristic, perhaps because they’re less like traditional fonts you’d get from a type-writer, more like the keys on your laptop or used on websites. Something like Nocturnes in the Moonlight had the right kind of feeling for me: 

Deciding on what to do with the main cover image was much tougher. Because of the space setting, originally I looked to include that, and with it being Cassie’s story, thought that she should make an appearance too. With that as a rough brief, the first cover I got back was this:

And – after the excitement of seeing the email in my inbox – I was sorely disappointed. I didn’t like the girl, the text, the over-exposed light (so you couldn’t actually see the starry backdrop). To me, this cover just said nothing about the book. It also made me realise that someone who didn’t know the story wasn’t going to make great creative leaps to generate the perfect cover: they needed much better guidance.

So…the brief changed…

I really liked the idea of hinting at the issues that would come out in the book, without making it obvious, I wanted to find something something simple, but striking and found that this guided us towards a single image. I also wanted people to make up their own mind on Cassie – I know how she looks in my head, but personally I’m not always a fan of the covers that give you a full picture of the character – if it’s not what I imagined, it can take away some of the pleasure of reading the book (if that makes sense?) It’s a little like the films not living up to the book because of how you picture some elements – I get the same thing with covers.

So I started looking at ideas for covers with less detail in them, I leaned towards covers like The Host – with the generic face and not too much detail on the character, but with the point of interest being drawn to the eye.

  

As the setting is post-apocolyptic something around the reflection of the semi-dead earth going back onto an eye seemed like it would work – Cassie is so drawn to the idea of Earth and what it would be like now or could have been like, having her eye focused on this fitted for me. When I was looking around for inspiration I came across the image of the ‘rainbow eye’ and I really liked the mix of colour and black and white. In many ways, Cassie, Balik and the others are living a half-life for much of the book, only seeing part of what is happening around them and so having the small part of Cassie’s face we see being black and white was a nod towards that. Her life only becomes full – coloured in – as she begins to awaken to the reality of her world.

The final element – plain white cover – wasn’t me, it just happened, and when I saw it, I felt it worked. In my head, much of Cassie’s physical world is plastic and white – and as I only wanted to hint at the difficulties to come – the white on the cover felt clean and pristine and blank. Sound familiar?

So there you how the cover came to be: the black and white element stayed, and the reflection of the Earth stayed (although as Cassie’s hopeful of something better, and also living in what is reported to be a perfect world, the image itself changed); the ‘less is more’ character image also stayed, so that Cassie can be who you want her to be.

I’m sure you’ll have guessed that The Rainbow Maker’s Tale is a straight reflection of the Hope’s Daughter cover: you’re going to see the same story and time line from Balik’s point of view…and it’s coming soon!