Thursday, 29 September 2016

Authors on Location

This is a blogpost that explores the power of getting out from behind the computer screen and going off on wild adventures to the places our characters live.

This September, I had an incredible adventure, I went to Paris with the #NCWR (Next Chapters Writing Retreat) run by Janet Wallace. It was incredible for many reasons, but one of the primary reasons was that it took place in Paris.

I love Paris - and when I say I 'love' Paris, I don't mean that in that typical 'Oh, I just simply love my holiday destination' way, I mean that when I'm there, my soul sings. Everything about Paris; the cafes, the food, the architecture, the vibrancy, the art, the people makes me tick. When I'm there, I feel the power of creativity in everything.

My love affair with Paris started nearly fifteen years ago when I went for the first time. I'd never really had a compulsion to go, assuming that the whole place would be some nightmare tourist destination, overly romanticised in in a gazillion films and books. I ended up going because of work, and the magic was instant. Paris really is as beautiful as the imagination.

Each time I have been, and I've been fortunate enough to go many times over the year, I have always vowed that one day, I would add to that long legacy of using Paris as a backdrop to a novel or series. And indeed, when I began penning out the second series of my serial 'Beautiful Freaks' it was a natural backdrop of the next stage in the story.

I had grown up studying the design of the Art Nouveau period, of reading French Aesthetic literature (sadly, not in French, but one day) and of the history of French art. (I was that kind of child LOL) The history of Paris is fascinating - it's raw and bloody, and full of flesh and vice, and nobility and adventure. It's a city that has indulged every pleasure and sense, and which has suffered every tragedy.

When I walk around Paris, I am haunted by a million ghosts.

So, to Beautiful Freaks. I discovered an online article about the avant garde cafes which swept Paris at the Fin de siecle. They were places that celebrated the transgressive, the dark creative mind, the limitless boundaries of spiritual and sensual experimentation. They were imbued with esoteric occultism; places of ideas and rituals. They had names like 'The Mouth of Hell' and 'The Devil's Playground' and catered for a tastes that have a long lineage in Paris. I knew immediately that this was where this story was going, that it was a natural home for my protagonist.

In Paris, there is a sense of intrinsic beauty in darkness; of ultimate life in death. The libertine pursuit for the the most pleasure that can be endured; the petit morte. The architecture reflects this, creating the sense of the sublime in the metropolis, verdant stone flora and fauna decorates almost every house, every gate and piece of iron work is excessive, and rich and full of sensuality - even the graveyards in Paris are a manifestation of this French notion that at the line between life and death, there is the ultimate beauty, the most exquisite creativity. That a rose is at its most exquisite and full of life the very moment before it begins to die.

So as part of our retreat, we spent some time visiting Monmarte Cemetery - a place of absolute inspiration and contemplation. They call Monmarte a Necropolis (A city of the dead) and you navigate it via quaint Victorian signposts, the kind you'd expect to see in any living city. The monuments are beyond a stone angel here and there, they are charnel houses, temples, and homes for the dead. They are pieces of craftsmanship and art - because there is beauty in death as much as in life.

And it's this fascination that sums up the idea of the Gothic in literature; that we are most alive when we are in fear of our own death - and it is perhaps why the character of the vampire, the werewolf, the quiet deadly danger refuses to fade from popularity; they are all creatures who hold the power of life and death in their hands - and that power is intoxicating.

And so to location - being there in Monmarte, walking the footsteps that I know my character has walked, seeing the things that I know my character has witnessed, touching the space and immersing myself in their world is invaluable - and it has put my creativity into overload - and by getting to know my characters' world in such an intimate way, it's helped me reflect on who I am as an author - as a creative identity. I guess, that as much as the adage, you are what you eat stands true, so does, 'You are What You Write.'

Beautiful Freaks Season 2 is DUE OUT SPRING 2017

BEAUTIFUL FREAKS SEASON 1 was nominated for a UTOPiA 2016 Award for Best Serial Series 2016


In order to celebrate the month dedicated to all things Gothic and darkling, Volume 1 (which contains episodes 1-6) has been placed on $0.99 Kindle Download. (Paperback editions are also available from Amazon worldwide, or if you want a signed edition, head over to my FB page and message me.



A dark and twisted saga that winds its way through the Victorian streets of London like a luxurious and lethal ribbon. 
When a series of terrifying and seemingly paranormal murders occur at a rapid rate, panic and fear grip the city. Still haunted by the ghost of the Whitechapel Ripper case, Inspector Steptree is forced to admit the murderer he now pursues maybe even more wicked and brutal. As the case closes down on the mysterious No.7 club, owned by the enigmatic Evangeline Valentine, Steptree discovers that evil is far from a fantasy. 
It is against this backdrop that Kaspian Blackthorne turns eighteen and begins his apprenticeship under the scientific maverick, Doctor Greyson, a pioneer in brain surgery, and human transplantation. Whilst Kaspian is introduced to the horrors and wonders of man’s scientific progress, he also begins an epic adventure of self-discovery and infatuation. Guided into the decadent and luxuriant world of the London West End night scene by his new friend Hugh Denvers, Kaspian tastes the sweet temptation of a life less ordinary, but such a privilege comes at a terrible price. 
A cast of timeless characters and dark, grown-up fairy tales interweave to create a rich and haunting tale of fear and desire.

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