Well, look at that! We're finally here. I feel like we all just took a massive car ride together and managed to go out of our way to stop at every Maccas (in search of Szechuan sauce - of course - Rick and Morty fans). Which is okay. For the best, really. Because, during that time, SOUL has had the chance to grow so, so much.
Before I continue with the usual heart fest of my journey and what it means to me - HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO MEGAN FOR WINNING THE SOUL GIVEAWAY!! With over 400 entries, I am completely over the moon with the response - so thank you for getting involved if you did. I really appreciate it.
Now, let's get into it!
SOUL has been a four year project. It started with the first incomplete draft being caught by REUTs Founder, Ashley Ruggirello, on Figment in 2013. Followed by her Head Editor, Kisa Whipkey, giving me some pointers as I completed it. March: I submitted to their publishing agency. April: we had a signed contract. What proceeded after that, was years of on/off drafting and marketing and multiple release dates that were later shanked. And SOUL continued to grow during it all. It evolved and levelled into quite the beast unlike its original form and I couldn't be happier.
Yes, the amount work that has gone into this story is crazy - by all parties involved. There are so many I need to thank - from those at REUTs who endured with me, my friends and BETAs who put up with me, my family for their support, and my fans who waited. Indeed, so much work and time has gone into SOUL. But that doesn't make it perfect, and, I like it like that. Because nothing is perfect, and SOUL is literally a capsule of my abilities for the past few years. A signpost in my life.
Don't get me wrong - I have tried to make SOUL a form of perfection - but the mere concept of perfection is an elusive and subjective ideal. You could spend forever on perfection and have it evade you. The mere fact is, as more times passes, the more you grow and learn, and the more outdated your manuscript becomes, meaning it requires more updates, meaning more time passes, meaning you enter a ruthless, unending cycle. And at the end of the day - your perfection is another's bane. That's okay, too. That's excellent!
But, the point is, you need to know when it's time to say goodbye (cue: Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman). And today, is the start of me saying Goodbye to A Soul to Take and giving it to you - the reader - to love or hate; to do with as you wish.
We have finally reached our destination.
SOUL is a story that I personally love and can read again and again. It holds a special place in my heart. But now I move onto bigger things. Well, I return to my university assessment which I'm currently in the heat of - but I also move onto A Soul to Wither (Soul Stealers 2) which I already know is going to be a completely different creature from TAKE, the UNMASK ME rewrite (which I WILL complete - eventually), and another standalone novel.
So, we still have the car and it is just waiting to set off again on the next journey and I can't wait to get back into it; hopefully with even more of you joining me this time. I love company.
But, for now. Please say hello to Elixia and her friends.
I hope they treat you well, and that you love them in return, as I love them.
C l i c k a l i n k t o g o t o S O U L.
For this blog post, I was supposed to present to you all a mood board for SOUL. I don't have that - sorry. As much as arts and craft excites me, I just couldn't get around to buying printing ink, cardboard, and committing. I dallied with stop motion before realising that incorporated a level of drawing that I did not have - and making an ad is just plain tedious (though I've included a sneak peak at my first concept below).
So, long story short, here is the compromise!! Hopefully it'll give you some more insight :)
The world of SOUL is this interesting fusion of contemporary and old styles. Due to the emergence of Demons in society and their royalty's conservative influence, culture has shifted into this postmodernity where normality is not just looking back in history for inspiration, but a conscious effort by some to re-establish it, in respects to fashion, architecture, and - in some societies and foreign nations - the political environments.
This constant battle between clinging to the past and trying to move forward into the future is the heart of the Soul Stealers Trilogy and thus reflected in the beginning of A Soul to Take.
Elixia lives in a contemporary, city apartment at the start; she's looking a head, preparing for examinations to become a full Agent, and very much sees a particular outlook for her future. That's all destroyed when Shellie is taken and Elixia binds herself to a demon, outcasting herself from her original life.
Her past becomes an integral key to understanding why she's found herself in this predicament and Elixia begins turning back time in regards to her circles, acquaintances, and even values, to unlock the answers.
Her returning to her family estate reinforces this, and I wanted to find a visual for you all about what I imagined her family house to be - and I found one eerily similar.
Rose Hill Estate, Georgia, USA, almost perfectly illustrates Elixia's house and, having found it after writing the novel, it's almost scary how clearly it captures what was in my head!
With demons now in the legal process of assimilation in SOUL, what lingering racial and gender tensions may have existed in this society have been forgotten as a new order has emerged: humans are humans, and THEY are demons. This creates a social taboo of the 'mixed-bloods', one that people attempt to break via the media, despite most nobles on both sides promoting conservative beliefs.
This leaves Cernières, the main country of SOUL, in a unique position where diversity of colour and gender is a standard part of society, but new tension has arisen from the 'unknown'. Half-bloods who display demonic characteristics are warily tolerated, mixed relationships are closeted or paraded, and the ever-present terror of Savages - demons who loose their humanity to hunger - clouds the cities despite being heavily policed.
This climate is seen briefly in the background of SOUL and is shown through some of the secondary characters such as:
Saide: a police officer who has little contact with the demonic underworld until she meets Elixia. When I saw Ruth Negga (which means Dawn in Amharic) in Preacher, I just knew she was my diligent Sadie: honest, strong, and honourable.
Ana: a fellow agent, mentor, and friend to Elixia, Ana and her brother are the last of a strong Demon Hunter line. Seductive, fierce, and loyal, I definitely see Margot Robbie in her.
Verity: an eccentric demon who is assigned to look after Elixia for part of the novel, she becomes a cautious friend and alley - in her own way. Quirky, tough, and a little off the rails, I can image Karen Fukuhara in her shoes - following the Suicide Squad trend (disclaimer: haven't actually seen the 'academy award' winning movie).
I actually have a document that lists all my characters and look a-likes (yes, including the protagonist and main supporting cast!) - but isn't it always better to imagine them yourselves?
Originality is all about recycling. You draw from as many points of inspirations as you can to support your initial concept and then develop it all into something unique that stands on its own. As Tarantino proudly proclaims: I steal from every movie ever made. And I both consciously and unconsciously drew upon hundreds of sources for SOUL. Black Butler is a key one.
I was introduced to Black Butler by a good friend in Grade Ten (2010) and absolutely loved it. I never watched the second season, though, or read the manga: disclaimer. But a lot of this anime stuck with me; enough, that I found myself incorporating aspects of the characters and narrative into SOUL, at first unconsciously, then as homage, when I began re-writing years later.
Sebastian is the obvious tribute, though the two characters are fairly dissimilar. Another, Silas, also shares Grell's red hair and peculiarity (though he hasn't had such great gender exploration that I'm aware of!).
Beyond that, a character called Damien is named after The Omen (child antichrist - take that as you will) and there are many movie references such as Pride and Prejudice (2005)! - I wonder if you all will spot it when the time comes. Hint: rain is involved. - And some of the mythology is drawn from animes such as Baccano and Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood.
There's a lot that went into this novel that simmered for years before I stewed it (does that even make sense?) which leads me to the next point -
As many people are aware, SOUL has been delayed numerous times due to outside forces such as sickness and work. This resulted in me going crazy, rewriting and rewriting, and pushing things further out as I created nearly 50,000 words just in world-building that I wanted to implement somehow. My character profiles are presently over 10,000 words just in themselves and that doesn't count the working file for each novel and the history file which is a few centuries long. Again - there is a lot, and vast majority of it isn't shown in the debut. My debut is only the tip of the ice-berg!
The reason for so many rewrites was, during the time I waited for edits and progress in other devisions, I was studying screenwriting; these classes took my whole understanding of narrative structure to whole other level. I began investigating and fleshing out every aspect of my world that I could and really honing in on the emotional arcs of my characters and how they interacted with the plot. This really stepped up SOUL's standard making it indistinguishable from the first draft, besides the initial concepts - and that's how it should be. First drafts are vomit drafts. They are a shitstorm of ideas that you just projectile out. and it horrifies me a little to think something premature was nearly published.
But it didn't happen and SOUL got the time it needed: it's funny how the world works.
There always seems to be this lapse of information with authors regarding their published debut and the actual number of novels they have written. Soul is my first published novel, but it is far from my first novel. It's actually my sixth completed manuscript (including two novelles) with the second book, A Soul to Wither (shock - spoiler with the title there?!), being my eighth (mind you - this is first draft before the heavy rewrites of SOUL so this book is basically a write-off now).
I'm not sure what I'm up to now - it's probably closer to twenty if you include discarded drafts - like my Christmas project that hit 40k before being shelved (it's a savage world).
A bit more backstory: what helped me complete novels was writing sites.
I joined Goodrads first in primary school (and still kicking myself for deleting my original account!) before moving to Inkpop, then Wattpad and Figment. My first proper novel - on Goodreads - was a paranormal/action tale about teenagers decedents of Angels. Typical YA stuff. But people liked it. So I kept sharing. I explored mythical fairytales, Superheros, and epic fantasy adventures between worlds. I do find I have reoccurring themes in my works, but they transcend genre allowing me to be flexible with what I write which is great.
Writing has slowed a little with university now, but I am currently working to rewrite UNMASK ME to be featured on Wattpad and start a new story to hopefully snag an Agent!
So, that's a bit more behind the curtain.
It is also thanks to these writing sites that I found REUTs and am now being published. I don't know how Ashley (REUTs CEO) found me or what made her inspect my book, but I'm glad she did. It kind of seemed like a miracle and though it's been a long road, it's been worth all the experience.
Also, you will see in the excerpt below how much SOUL has changed. The opening actually went through three different versions before settling! hahah Fun times.
As you know, SOUL's had a long journey, but we are finally coming into the final sprint. APRIL 4. That is the day the eBook will be released and you will have this pretty in your hands - well, tablet.
Over the last few years of drafting, SOUL has morphed considerably from its initial draft: it has matured. I've gone to painstaking lengths to fine-tune its arcs and develop its worldbuilding and, because of this, we decided last year a new cover was in order to better represent SOUL.
Thus, with the help of Ashley (Founder of REUTs and Cardboard Monet), my Yondergirls and BETAs, I began drafting the new cover.
It went through many variations - most just down right horrendous - until I started playing with silhouettes of girls falling. I realised, this image of Elixia - in her crucial, world-breaking moment - is what I wanted on the cover. So, without further ado, here it is:
A S O U L T O T A K E
I brainstorm a lot on the bus, and when I get a good idea I get real giddy and excited and people are just like Ed and Alphonse going "okayyyyy". My family and friends do the same hahah
The amount of times I have rewritten this story, and attacked it in different approaches is getting beyond ridiculous. I have had at least five clear different versions of it, and that's not including the slight variations on those drafts.
I found myself struggling to build the conflict I wanted within the restrictive fifteen pages.
That was when I came across this interesting article by stilleatingoranges about the difference between western and eastern plot devices. (Here is her full article here)
She used these awesome cartoons to demonstrate the difference, which is both amusing and highlights major differences.
Kishōtenketsu is a classic structure that originated from Chinese poetry. It has four stages: introduction, development, twist, meeting point. The plot is usually based on expositional twists in contrast to the western obsession with conflict (usually of the violent sorts).
Below is the 'western' structure which follows a similar outline, but with a different result.
1. The Ordinary World
Hero is introduced with a situation the audience can
identify with; this dilemma reveals the hero's personality, and his background.
2. The call to adventure
Something comes and breaks the ordinary world
of the hero that calls for him to act
3. Refusal of the Call
Of course the hero is scared, or has other reason
to stay in the Ordinary world
4. Meeting with the Mentor
Hero meets a 'seasoned traveler' who trains them, or provides wisdom; this helps the hero discover their own strength-- or at least embeds it for later
5. Crossing the Threshold
End of Act One: hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World (or their new 'safe' world) and enters new region
6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
Hero is tested, and starts creating their own
allegiances in the Special World
Hero and newfound allies prepare for the 'boss match'
8. The Ordeal
Middle of Story, or thereabouts. Hero faces their
death, or faces their greatest fear.
Out of this he gains his true strength.
9. The Reward
Hero takes treasure won by the ordeal-- celebration, sometimes danger of losing treasure again
10. The Road Back
Three-fourths through story now; hero is now fully invested in his quest and completes it; usually great danger when they try to escape
11. The Resurrection
Climax. Final test of the hero on the threshold home-- this one is usually far more personal, and 'higher' then the rest of the ordeals. Usually this is linked to issues in the very beginning (their fatal flaw, for an example)
12. Return with the Elixir
Hero returns home (or continues journey) bearing some element of the treasure that has transformed the hero, and may possibly change the world
Blake Snyder's Beats
1. Opening Image
Usually a visual motif of the character's world be it their current ordinary position, or their struggle
Expand on the ordinary world; what is it, and what is missing?
3. Theme Stated
What is the message, the truth, of your story that the character is about to learn (usually what is missing), and can't at present due to lack of experience
The moment that propels the character out of the ordinary, and head-first into their new world
It's scary, and the character is filled with doubt; this is the final chance for the hero to chicken out
6. Break into Two
The journey begins, but we step aside to focus on--
7. B Story
Usually the 'love story'; we also stop usually here to discuss the theme-- has the character realised something is missing?
8. The Promise of the Premise
This is when we do the stuff in the trailer; we are now fully immersed in the new world and having a little fun; danger, naturally, but not overly high stakes
Depending on story, this is when everything is great, or awful; the main character either gets everything they think they want (great), or don't (awful). 'What we want is not what we need' moment usually
10. Bad Guys Close In
Physical, or emotional, maybe both-- the danger returns destroying the previous lull (great or awful).
11. All is Lost
Opposite of Midpoint: the main character realises they've lost everything they've gained, or that it has
no meaning now. The initial goal looks even more impossible and often someone dies here allowing
a new door to open.
12. Dark Night of the Soul
Rock bottom. The character feels forsaken and is mourning his loss; but it's only through hitting this point that he can truly rise to the top.
13. Break into Three
Second chance: the new plan is created; and with
last minute air-play to B Story (love story most likely),
t's do or die.
14. Break into Three
This is it. The nugget of truth now makes sense and we
have the final battle with the hero fully set on his belief.
15. Final Image
Often opposite of opening image, revealing the change
in the character.
Author @ REUTs
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