Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Review of Ellipsis, by Nikki Dudley.

This novel completely lived up to my initial favorable impression. The shocking and intriguing first chapter set up certain expectations that the author effortlessly carried right through to the end. The characters are complex and well drawn, the plot keeps the reader guessing, and the prose flows easily. The viewpoint switches between first and third person, a sometimes risky literary ploy. Yet Nikki Dudley handles this with consummate ease, proving her worth as an author of note.
I have no hesitation in recommending Ellipsis as a brilliant read.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I didn't want to be an Author!

I guess that’s quite a startling statement for someone about to see her debut novel published, so maybe I should clarify. What I really mean is that I never intended to be a writer; it was never in my life plan. If you had asked me at age five what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would probably have answered “a pony” or “a puppy”.
By age eight a huge dose of reality had kicked in and I’d realized that the chances of me actually becoming a pony or a puppy were distressingly low. I then turned my ambitions toward the next best thing – owning a pony or a puppy, and preferably one of each. Reality was prodding me in the back even then though, because deep down I knew my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a pony. Life plan revision number two – could my ambition run to a puppy?

The answer was yes, although not until I was much older. The horse-ownership dream also became reality later in life, but that is a story for another post. The point I am ramblingly trying to make is that although the idea of serious writing didn’t enter my head until the boring necessities of finding a paying job and somewhere to live had been taken care of, some small seeds of Fantasy had clearly been sprinkled over the fertile soil of my mind, even at the tender age of five.

If I didn’t set out to become a writer, I hear you ask, then how did the nine-novel Artesans of Albia fantasy series come about? The answer is twofold – Fortune and Boredom.

Fortune came in the shape of my geologist/geophysicist husband, who works as a consultant in the oil and gas industry. The company employing him back in the early Nineties were opening an exploration office in Italy, and they needed his skills. Oh bother, I thought, I’m going to have to give up my thrilling and fulfilling job in the British Civil Service and live in Italy for three years. How ever am I going to cope? I don’t, of course, intend to relate the full tale of those three years – suffice it to say that we had a wonderful time, loved the country, and still have a passion for pasta and pizza.

Now to the Boredom.
I’d given up my job of thirteen years when we left for Italy and when we returned to the UK, I didn’t immediately look for another. This left ample time for thinking and daydreaming – a dangerously creative state for me. Although I’d never done much serious writing out of school, I was always imagining little scenarios and acting them out in my head whenever I was bored. One in particular was born after I’d watched a children’s TV series which ran in the 1970s. Some of you might remember it – it was called “Tarot, Ace of Wands.” The scenario that took shape within my mind had its roots in a question that occurred to me during one episode: Supposing you were born with a glorious power but didn’t have the knowledge to use it. Who would you turn to? This question, and the scenario it gave rise to, eventually became the premise behind King’s Envoy – and ultimately, the entire Artesans of Albia series.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

I can’t tell you how excited I was on 1st February to see my novel’s cover finally displayed to the world. I was easily as excited as the day Rhemalda Publishing told me they loved King’s Envoy and wanted to publish it. Much hard work has gone into this cover, both in the concept and design stages, and much worry too! Eve Ventrue, the artist, did a fine job of bringing my imagination to life, and skillfully handled all my nervous questions and requests for changing this or that. I am immensely pleased with the final result, and must give thanks and credit to Eve for her expertise, and to Rhett of Rhemalda for helping me decide on the image.
I have to say that designing the cover was harder than I thought it would be. I guess that’s mostly because I’d grown used to thinking of the book in terms of the temporary cover I created for the peer-critique website, Authonomy. King’s Envoy made its debut on Authonomy back in September 2008. The site provided generic “book covers” which writers were free to use, or they could design and upload their own. As I’m no good with design programs, it took me a while to come up with something I liked. I decided the cover should portray the rank-badge of the King’s envoy, which is a shooting star, but I couldn’t find a suitable image. When my efforts to draw one proved similarly inadequate, I used a simple star instead, and placed a blue border around it. Although it wasn’t exactly as I wanted it, this blue “cover” came to represent the novel in my mind whenever I thought about it.
Much as I liked it, I always had my doubts that this concept was suitable for a “proper” cover. When I came to discuss it with Rhett, I realized and accepted that the book needed a completely new image. That blue-bordered star, however, resisted my efforts to dislodge it, and I had a hard time trying to pick a different image to portray the story. I like a book’s cover to relate to the title, and for reasons you will only understand if you read the book (hint hint!), this proved difficult. It also had to be an image that would appeal to both male and female readers, because King’s Envoy, indeed the entire Artesans of Albia series, is intended for readers of both sexes. The image that Rhett and I came up with, and Eve so beautifully brought to life is, I think, both dramatic and compelling. No one could be in any doubt that this is a fantasy novel, and I hope the cover raises sufficient questions to tempt a reader into picking it up.
The image went through several transformations before finally settling into its present form and we tried various poses and angles. I was becoming worried because none of them were speaking to me, and I really wanted to feel a deep connection to this image. Then we tried the final angle, and I can’t remember now whose idea it was to swing the perspective round. As soon as I saw the image from that angle, I thought – Wow! That’s what I was looking for.

I hope it appeals to you as much as it does to me. If you like it, why not read the book and discover the hopes, dreams, frustrations, shame and desperation contained within this striking cover?