Many years ago, when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, one of the assignments was to go on an “Artist’s Date.” This was a type of assigned play where you take your artist self out and see new things, or go to an art store and buy art supplies.
I loved this practice. This year, the push to finish a trilogy, a certificate program at SFU, and starting a new job has drained my personal creative coffers. I’d meditated, focused on writing something new, then took time off, then turned up at the page. And all of these things helped, but what I was missing in all of this was play.
It was time again for an artist’s date. And I was overdue for a vacation.
As a writer, I’ve always dreamed of going away somewhere just to write. I have heard of writers going away to retreats, or applying for grants, but haven’t gotten around to that myself. For example, I’d love to go to a castle in Ireland just to write for six weeks. But
I also know myself as a traveler. If I go somewhere new and exciting, I want to get out and see the place, not lock myself in a room and write. I’m an introvert who is also insatiably curious.
This year, I spent too much time indoors, so I wanted to get out and explore. Our budget was tight, and the Canadian dollar is low ($0.65 USD), so all we had in our coffers was a trip to nearby Victoria B.C. and Saltspring Island.
That’s when I came up with the idea of a writer’s vacation where I fill my coffers with inspiration from my new environment and play “locations scout.”
I did this before, made a trip to Seattle to scout locations for The Watcher Saga. And that was a definite, planned trip, because I set the books there.
This time, I had no idea what story to write or where it will be set. Instead, I simply took pictures of locations that excited me.
I drove aimlessly, or found my favorite local haunts (I know Victoria fairly well, and have Google maps so I wouldn’t get lost). I took pictures of my favorite places and used them as potential location prompts.
First, I found this gem: St. Ann’s Academy – oh so much you can do with this…
Fantan alley, with its shops and lanterns.
Then…. off to Saltspring Island where we saw this gorgeous view:
And the haunted wardrobe that opened in the middle of the night with no provocation from us:
Any of these locations could be a prompt or tell a story in itself. What if they were all in the same place?
Writing Prompt: Using these pictures, write a story using these locations.
Let me know what you come up with!
Today, I have the cover for my friend and writing colleague Kelly Charron‘s upcoming debut novel: Pretty Wicked.
Praise for Pretty Wicked:
“This creepy novel places you inside the mind of a twisted teen killer, which is even more unsettling because of how familiar and normal she seems. Be prepared to leave the lights on and look at the people around you in a whole new way.”
-Eileen Cook | Author of WITH MALICE
“Dark and haunting, this witty thriller with its petite feminine anti-hero is an American Psycho for teens. Be prepared to sleep with the lights on.”
–Lisa Voisin | Author of THE WATCHER SAGA
“Pretty Wicked is fresh, thrilling, and deeply haunting. I’ve never read anything like it! The story escalates from page one and will leave your pulse pounding as you wonder just how far Ryann will go. 5/5 stars.”
–Tiana Warner | Author of ICE MASSACRE & ICE CRYPT
About PRETTY WICKED:
The daughter of a local police detective, fifteen-year-old Ryann has spent most of her life studying how to pull off the most gruesome murders her small Colorado town has ever seen.
But killing is only part of it. Ryann enjoys being the reason the cops are frenzied. The one who makes the neighbors lock their doors and windows on a hot summer’s day. The one everyone fears but no one suspects.
Carving out her own murderous legacy proves harder than she predicted. Mistakes start adding up. And with the police getting closer, and her own father becoming suspicious, Ryann has to prove once and for all that she’s smarter than anyone else—or she’ll pay the ultimate price.
*warning – some graphic content
Pretty Wicked is a mature YA novel intended for ages 16 and up.
I heard the bell ring in the distance. Lunch was over. I leapt up to go when I was struck with panic. What if someone had seen me walk out there with Veronica? No one could know what I’d done. My breath hitched.
I ran as fast as I could back to the yard and to the first teacher I saw.
“Mrs. Hopkins! Come quick, Veronica’s really hurt!” I pretended to be hysterical so effectively that she couldn’t understand me the first few times.
She bent down so we were at eye level. “Where?”
“We went into the woods at the far end of the property. I’m sorry. I know we’re not allowed, but she fell and she’s not moving! You have to hurry!” I sobbed, shoulders shaking, snotty nose. I don’t know how I’d managed to look so distraught, but I nearly convinced myself.
Mrs. Hopkins turned to a kid named Austin, who was in the grade ahead of me. “Go get Mr. Chute. Tell him to call 911 and to come out and meet me in the woods.”
Austin, who was paper white, nodded and took off like his ass was on fire.
I ran back with Mrs. Hopkins to the rocks where I’d left Veronica. She was in the exact position I’d left her. Thankfully there was no miraculous recovery waiting for us.
After she was taken away in an ambulance, Mrs. Hopkins and Mr. Chute walked me back and called my parents.
My dad showed up to the school, hugged me, and told me how brave I was.
After my mother had finally stopped fussing and checking on me every twenty minutes, I sat on my bed and thought about Veronica. It would be weird not to see her in class every day or hang out with her at lunch, not that we hung out that much. I was usually with Bao-yu anyway, but sometimes she came along. Maybe now B and I would be better friends. She wouldn’t have to share me anymore.
I wondered what I was feeling—if I was missing Veronica. But I didn’t think that’s what it was. The twinge in the bottom of my stomach didn’t have the achy hollowness that people refer to as a pit. It was more like butterflies.
Questions About Pretty Wicked:
- What inspired you to write such a dark character?
I’ve always been fascinated with psychology and human motivation. Whenever I read a novel or watched a movie or television show, I was drawn to the villain. I wanted to understand what made them act the way they did––delve into what happened in their lives or minds to make them the person they had become.
When there was the odd story from the “villains” point of view, it seemed to characterize them as “misunderstood” and usually spun them into a likeable character who was the hero of that new version of the story. I wanted to write something unique and portray the villain realistically. What would the story look like if they were a true villain? I got the idea for a teenage serial killer who was unapologetic about who she was and what she wanted and thought it was really interesting to explore what her point of view would be if she drove the story and the “villain” was the detective trying to stop her.
- Is this your first novel?
Pretty Wicked is the second book I wrote and the first to be published. I have been writing for ten years. My first book was a YA urban fantasy that took me seven years to complete because I kept stopping for huge chunks of time while I completed my degrees (English Lit and Social Work). I finally got serious about writing in 2013 and have just completed my fourth novel.
- Why did you choose to self-publish?
I did query it to literary agents and received a lot of positive praise for the book. In the end I kept hearing the same feedback: it’s a fascinating concept, the writing and voice are great, but we don’t think we can sell such a dark book to a publisher. I completely understand this. I know this book is going to be very polarizing. People will either love the concept of hate it. So far I have had overwhelmingly encouraging feedback from readers who understand that this is a fictional story that is trying to do something different from most novels. There was some interest from small publishers but the wait times were longer than I was comfortable with. I decided if I wanted to see this book out in the world I was going to have to do it myself. It was an intimidating process, but luckily I have an amazing and brilliant support group who helped me along the way.
- What genres do you write in?
Psychological thriller, urban fantasy, and horror. I have two YA urban fantasy books, though one may never see the light of day. It’s my first book and would need to be rewritten before I decide its fate. The second (currently titled Wilde Magic) is the first in a planned series that I am very excited about.
- Is Pretty Wicked a standalone novel?
The Pretty Wicked series will continue with adult books. The sequel, Wicked Fallout, is currently going through editing and the third book in the series is brewing in my mind. I have some very fun ideas for Ryann.
Wicked Fallout takes place twelve years later when Ryann is 27 years old. That’s all I can say right now as to not reveal spoilers.
- Ryann is not a very likable character. Do you like her?
I actually do. I really enjoyed writing her. I don’t agree with anything she does at all! In that sense, Ryann is deplorable! But what I like is her humor and wit and the way she owns who she is. She was a fun character to write because she is so different to most characters out there. It’s like when you see a Hollywood actor discuss their favorite roles. Often they say the villain roles were their preferred because it was more fun and exciting to play. There are forbidden elements that make it a bit more exciting than the standard hero. It’s no different for me as the writer.
About Kelly Charron
Kelly Charron is the author of YA and adult horror, psychological thrillers and urban fantasy novels. All with gritty, murderous inclinations and some moderate amounts of humor. She spends far too much time consuming true crime television (and chocolate) while trying to decide if yes, it was the husband, with the wrench, in the library. She lives with her husband and cat, Moo Moo, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Sign up for her mailing list or check out upcoming books at: http://kellycharron.com
Today, I’m going to talk about the inspiration behind The Warrior Prophet. Because it’s the third and final book in The Watcher saga, I can’t talk about what inspired one without a little background on the others.
Inspiration for the series came from an idea I had for a story almost a decade ago about a boy who wakes up to discover he’s an angel. But telling it from his perspective seemed too much like a Spiderman tale, and though Spiderman is a great story, it’s not the one I wanted to tell. So it wasn’t until the character of Mia came to me, a girl whom he’d loved in a past life and had to face now in order to recover from his own past, did their story come to life.
After writing The Watcher, I didn’t know at first if I’d be able to write a sequel, but when my publisher suggested one, I knew right away what I would do for the third book: a journey through Hell. But I had to give Mia a reason to go, so The Angel Killer grew from that.
The Warrior Prophet takes Mia and the reader on a journey through Hell. Inspiration came from many places. I’d studied meditation and metaphysics for years and know that negative thoughts and actions affect not only our mood, but it can seem to ensnare us into patterns in our lives. I wanted to look at that in an archetypal way. What if demons were responsible for those negative thoughts? What would the world look like if they were here? I liked the idea of the world looking pretty much the way it does now, but with an overlay that only few can see, like Mia who’s a prophet.
The journey through hell had its own inspiration. I was a big fan of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I loved the epic good versus evil theme, the descriptions of hell. I also like the idea that there were many layers of hell, as Dante had in the Inferno. Thirdly, ever since I’d watched the movie What Dreams May Come I wondered about the idea of hell being subjective. After all, life is subjective. What if the afterlife were too?
If hell were subjective, then Mia might see a very different version of it and might get lost. This isn’t Wonderland. She’d make no friends in hell. In order to survive the trip, she’d need a guide. And from there, I knew that the guide needed to be unreliable, the way that Gollum was to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings.
I’m not much of a planner, but for The Warrior Prophet, I planned elements and characters. And from there, the pieces came together and the story came to life as I wrote it. As dark and scary as some of the places were, it was the most fun I’ve had writing a novel. I only hope it’s as much fun for the reader as it was for me to write.