Five Authors and the Five Books that Inspire Them –
Five by Five, May 7th – 11th:
Minneapolis-based writer Carolyn Crane is a freelance advertising writer by day, and a kick-ass urban fantasy writer by night. She is the creator of the Disillusionist Trilogy, quite possibly the most original UF series I’ve read. With great world-building, a hypochondriac for a main character (there is a part of me that totally identifies with that), and enough tension to make you sweat, Crane has created a unique series that makes her one of my favorite authors writing in the genre today.
Let me tell you five things I love about Crane and the Disillusionist Trilogy:
A neurotic, hypochondriac as the heroine? Who learns she can “weaponize” her neurosis? Um, yes. This speaks to me. I’ve been known to have a hypochondriac moment, or moments, or I am a hypochondriac (according to my husband). So, yes. Love this unique heroine. And it doesn’t stop there. The secondary characters are just as interesting, just as original.
2. Original World-Building
If the unique heroine didn’t get you how about a psychological hit squad tasked with ridding a city of its most devious criminals? Weaponizing what some people would see as weaknesses – hypochondria, recklessness, despair – in order to psychologically cripple these criminals and reprogram them to do good? What about the leader of this crime fighting team being trapped in a Mongolian restaurant? Forever? This is a world that is familiar, but slightly different. I don’t even know how to describe this. And that’s a good thing.
3. Romantic Tension
I read so many books with thin romantic triangles but Crane manages to create one with real plausibility and life. In most books, it’s obvious who the heroine will end up with but in this series, I was a little unsure. In fact, I wasn’t sure who I wanted Justine to be with. I love that feeling of unpredictability.
4. Crane Gives Good Cliffhanger
As a jaded reader, any book that has me jumping out of bed after reading the last page and yelling, “Holy shit!”…well, that’s a good book. Read book two and you’ll understand.
5. Carolyn Loves Her Fans
Follow her on Twitter and you will see what I mean. She appreciates you.
Without further ado…here is Carolyn Crane!
Book Influences: 5 books that have inspired me
Thanks so very much for having me here, She-Wolf!! I think this is a fabulous topic, and I can’t wait to see what the other authors say.
It was interesting to pick the books for this. You asked for 5 books that have influenced us, or that we recommend. I’m doing what books influenced me, though I’d recommend all of these. I really feel like, as a writer, every book has a gift for me of some sort.
Anita Blake Series by Laurell K. Hamilton
This series is where I first fell in love with Urban Fantasy. I remember first reading these books, and just feeling so breathless about it all. (And I think that’s where my fondness for the LUV triangle came from!) Also, one thing that really influenced me (well, hopefully influenced me, but at least gave me something to aspire to) is LKH’s attention to detail. LKH just manhandles the reader – I mean that in the best way. She is a totally skillful writer who retains serious visual control over the reader experience – she shows you the room you’re in, shows you the people, makes sure you know the hair, the body, the clothes. People used to joke about Anita’s ugly wardrobe and her stupid white Nikes, or Jean Claude’s thigh high boots and chest baring shirts, okay, those are dorky things to wear, but that is an example of her control. How imprinted on people’s minds those details are. Yet, somehow, she doesn’t go on and on. She gives the perfect key details and you totally see the person or the place. I petered out on this series as others have, but I think she’s amazing.
Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
I feel like Kresley Cole has tons of fun raising the stakes. That is something that just so blows me away about her writing. Nothing is ever halfway. Everything is HUGE! Crazy huge!
In book #1 of this series, A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER, Lachlain didn’t just hate vampires, they burnt him to death repeatedly for 150 years. In NO REST FOR THE WICKED, Kaderin’s not just cold-hearted, she hasn’t felt emotions for centuries, ever since her sisters were killed by a vampire she spared on the battlefield. It is her fault! DEMON is one of my faves in the series, where the fabulous heroine, Carrow, has to betray the man she’s falling in love with, Malkom, who has lived on this hell-plane forever. I don’t want to give stuff away, but that is something that I so love about her work, the massive stakes.
Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair
This is a highly enjoyable space adventure/romance that I really learned a lot from early on. Mostly the thing I took from this book is a new understanding of the power of a hero who absolutely PINES away for the heroine. I love this hero, Admiral Branden Kel-Paten. He’s this part-android, seemingly straight-laced commander, and the heroine, Sass, is his nemesis, and they have to serve together on a ship, and there’s all this friction. What she doesn’t understand is that through all the years of Kel-Paten chasing her back when she was a mercenary, he was in love with her. It is so, so highly enjoyable to see this revealed, and it showed me that there is a kind of magic in a hero who pines.
The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
This is nonfiction, actually a “how to reduce your chances of getting raped or murdered” sort of book, but wow, it’s been golden to me as a writer on the level of psychology. This baby added major dimension to my understanding of instinct, intuition and the way predators and victims operate. Every book I’ve written since reading this owes something to it. I recommend it to writers, and to all women, actually, for being safe in a sometimes dangerous world and trusting your intuition.
Broken by Megan Hart
This book by Megan Hart, as well as others in this series (Dirty, Stranger) really showed me what a good sex scene is. Hart uses such plain language, and she is so straightforward with her details, I sometimes feel like she sort of broke some important creative boundaries in this way. She has a special genius for hooking into female fantasies—of course, many writers have this, but what Hart brings to the table is that she articulates sex in a precise and honest way. Her work is honest in more than sex scenes. It’s honest in how the characters speak and behave, and honest in the details of life.
What do my characters read?
In the series, I had Justine reading this Victorian mystery series, and the book she lost is called Mrs. Archer and the Golden Plume. I totally made that title up, but it’s based on the Deanna Raybourn series, Lady Julia Grey, which I envision her loving. (I love that series, too) I also envision her reading Julie James, another author fave of mine.
Packard reads a lots of travel books and magazines, especially while trapped in the restaurant for eternity. He also loves mystery books. I imagine him loving authors like Elmore Leonard and Louis L’amore.
Otto reads very ponderous stuff. He is a weighty thinker, and would be into authors like Oswald Spengler, Bruno Bettelheim, Balzac, James Baldwin. Mostly nonfiction. I don’t imagine Otto reading anything published in the last few decades.
What’s up next for Carolyn?
Short story in “Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance” anthology (June 2012 UK/August 2012 US)
My story, “Old Salt,” is about a snarky woman tour guide at a seaside tourist trap in North Carolina (‘the haunted pier’) who wishes that a certain strapping young sea captain who died in 1870 had a less pathetic haunting technique.
So, she totally insults this ghost all the time when the tourists aren’t around, but then something happens to bring her and Old Salt the ghost into contact, and he is mad about being insulted by her all those years, and also totally hot and hunky. It’s my first humorous romance story.
Mr. Real (late 2012)
Book #1 of my new Spy Paranormal Romance series
I’m really excited to be self publishing this series, which is really the series of my heart right now. It’s way quirkier and way hotter than The Disillusionists. And, it’s more a traditional PNR in that there is one hero and one heroine per book, but the world is consistent. I just typed and erased about five different descriptions of it. I seem to specialize in series that are hard to describe. I’ll have one up on my site at some point!
Stop by and visit Carolyn at her favorite spots:
Now, enter to win one signed copy of any book in Carolyn’s Disillusionist Trilogy AND one book of your choice from her top five most influential books:
Next week I am hosting something I call, “FIVE BY FIVE.” Five of my favorite authors will be stopping by the blog during the week to discuss five of the most influential books of their reading lives – one author a day. I love this kind of thing because I think we can sometimes be surprised and enlightened when we learn what books have inspired our favorite writers. And what is book blogging all about if not recommending good books? I hope you will stop by next week and see what Delilah S. Dawson, Nicole Peeler, Carolyn Crane, Jenn Bennett, and Eileen Wilks put on their top five lists! There will also be a few giveaways so stay tuned (and spread the word!).
As a special treat to close this week and help start the next week off right, Nalini Singh has generously offered a signed copy of ARCHANGEL’S BLADE to a lucky reader! She is one of my favorite authors, and if you have not read the Guild Hunter series, please do. It is fantastic!
The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.
Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.
As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…
Please enter for a chance to win a personalized signed copy of Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh!
Today is Shelf Candy day! This is a meme hosted by the lovely Five Alarm Books in which the cover art of a book is highlighted and celebrated along with its artist. This is my second edition of the weekly meme, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do.
WHY I LOVE THIS COVER:
The moment I saw this cover I loved it. As a big fan of The Disillusionist Trilogy, I was excited to see a novella about the enigmatic and reckless Simon. What I appreciated about the artwork was its subtle romanticism coupled with a sense of vulnerability that you would not expect from the character. The textured background, brooding hero, and beautiful colors combined to create a cover I thought was pretty powerful.
The person responsible for its creation is the artist Anne Cain. Based in the Southwest, Anne is a celebrated artist with extensive experience in publishing and illustration.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful Anne Cain!
SWR: Can you tell me a little bit about your art background – your training and development as an artist and how you got into doing book covers specifically?
I’ve been drawing my whole life, and being an artist was one of my earliest dreams as a kid (right after being a paleontologist and crime fighter). I’m trained in studio art and have a BFA in drawing, but I fully embrace graphic and digital arts as well. A friend introduced me to the world of epublishing a few years ago, and I got into doing covers in addition to other illustration projects.
SWR: What techniques do you use to create your covers? Traditional painting and sketching or is it more computer based?
My approach to cover art varies as much as the genres of the books I work on. I try to be a jack-of-all-trades and can switch styles/techniques depending on the project. So, for example, a YA fantasy with steampunk elements might call for an illustrated cover, while a dark paranormal romance novel needs a mixed media image with photos and digital paint. That kind of versatility is fun for me as an artist since I have more options to play with while creating the image.
SWR: Tell me the story of how you got involved with Carolyn Crane’s “Devil’s Luck”? Had you read the series before and what was it like working with her?
I had a little luck of my own in creating the cover for “Devil’s Luck”. Carolyn herself approached me with info on her story and characters, and I was hooked. She was amazing to work with, not only because she’s a great person, but because she let me have fun with the art. Creative freedom is something any artist appreciates!
SWR: The character of Simon is a bit of a mystery and tends towards the flamboyant in his sense of style. What I love about your cover is that feeling of Simon being laid bare (both literally and figuratively) and he retains that sense of mystery while hinting at something deeper than what one might expect from the character. I think that fits the story perfectly. I also like its subtlety – he is depicted as a romantic figure but it doesn’t have a typical romance feel. How did you develop the concept for the cover and how much collaboration with Carolyn was involved with its design? (and I promise my next question won’t have a paragraph lead in)
LOL! Well, it’s a fantastic question. I know there’s a lot of imagery out there that romance novels rely on to help promote the content of the book. The bare-chested hunk and, to use an older example, the “clinch” pose, are common visual conventions that let readers know at first glance, “This book is sexy, romantic, and you want to read it now!” The trick as a cover artist is to acknowledge those conventions while making sure the uniqueness of that particular story is demonstrated. With “Devil’s Luck” the emphasis had to be on Simon because he’s such a fabulous character and we wanted to capture his essence—especially with his tattoos!—but we also had to be careful to not overpower the ‘romance element’. Carolyn and I discussed whether or not to portray him with more of a nod to his flashy sense of fashion, but we decided that less is more, and that resulted in the cover where we get a sense of Simon “being laid bare”.
SWR: What is the one thing about Simon that you felt must be translated on the cover?
Strength, physically of course, but also that intensity of spirit and recklessness.
SWR: If you are familiar with the series, what other characters from the Disillusionist world would you like to bring to life on a cover?
I’ve read Double Cross, and I love Justine. If Carolyn were to pen another story with her, I’m claiming dibs on the chance to make some art! *lol*
SWR: Looking at your body of cover work, I would say that subtle yet edgy and romantic are words that come to my mind when trying to describe it. The layered backgrounds are also interesting and seem to be a signature of your style. How would you describe your style?
I love texture and color and intensity. I like creating images which hopefully make the viewer pause for a moment or two just to enjoy looking. Rich backgrounds with just a hint of abstraction enhance that viewing experience. So I would definitely describe my style as “atmospheric”.
SWR: What artists have influenced your work?
So many! Drew Struzan, James Jean, Paul Cadmus, Cliff Nielsen, Brom, Julie Bell…those are just a few that popped into my head on the spot. Never underestimate where and from whom an artist will draw inspiration—if art is a language, we pick up turns of phrases and colloquialisms from everywhere.
SWR: How has the rise of the eBook format impacted the art of book cover design?
Definitely more consideration is given to how the artwork will reproduce in teeny-weeny thumbnail sizes. We also have to be mindful of how the art might look on black and white screens, in the case of some Kindles. Fundamentally, though, the spirit of the design stays the same: make a piece of art that’s eye-catching and awesome!
SWR: If you could create a cover for any one book, what would it be and why?
I’m going to throw something out there which might be totally from left field, but it would be the bee’s knees to create the cover to a new edition of The Dark Phoenix Saga. I loooove comics, and that graphic novel is one of my all-time fave X-men books.
SWR: Are there any up-coming projects you would like to tell us about?
On the cover art front, I’m excited to be working with a number of excellent companies. I recently added Amazon Publishing to my client list, and I’m getting ready to work with C.E. Murphy on some art projects which is going to be fun. I might also have a short sketchbook coming out from Dreamspinner Press later this year. For updates on projects and convention appearances, please check out my DeviantArt page or hit me up on Twitter!
Please take a look at some of Anne’s other beautiful work:
A big thank you to Anne for her interview! Please take a moment to check out her site and follow up with her on Twitter. And read the book! The Disillusionists Trilogy is one of the most original UF series out there and the artwork on Devil’s Luck highlights that!
Q: What book would you love to see made into a movie or television show and do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters?
There are several things I loved about this book. The world-building McKinley was able to achieve was remarkable – tense, dark, atmospheric, and very, very cinematic. The relationship between Rae and Constantine was also taut with tension, romantic, and left me with questions. How these two characters met is a scene so memorable and visual that I want the book to be made into a film just to see it played out on the big screen. And just as a side note to those who have read Sunshine, when I finished reading it, I went directly to Cinnabon. Rae and her cinnamon buns made me hungry every time I picked up the book.
What can I say about this trilogy other than it is one of the most original series I have ever read. A character stuck in a Mongolian restaurant…forever? A group of psychological crime fighters? A main character who is such a neurotic hypochondriac that she can cripple you with her own fear? How cool is that?! What was great about these books was that Crane was able to create twists and turns (and one hell of a cliffhanger) that even I, a jaded reader who sometimes feels she has seen it all, did not see coming. This would make a fantastic TV series.
I am at a loss about who to cast. Give me some time to think about it…
In the meantime, if you’ve read these books, I would love to know who YOU would cast. If you haven’t read them, tell me what books you would like brought to the screen!
I was excited to see Carolyn Crane, author of the amazing Disillusionist Trilogy, post a cover reveal for her new Simon novella. I’ve been waiting for this to come out for a while and the cover art does not disappoint.
The novella is scheduled for publication in late February-early March but if you subscribe to Carolyn’s newsletter, you will be able to download it for free a week early. Click the cover above and subscribe!
And in case you have not read the Disillusionist Trilogy, please do yourself a favor and read them. This series has to be one of the most original I’ve read in a long time: