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.