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Enchanted stone
I haven’t been posting for ages, or even tweeting much, partly due to the travails of trying to move to London – which, it turns out, is VERY DIFFICULT and I don’t know how so many people appear to have managed it  -- but also because of an exciting project I’ve mentioned before but will be going into more detail about soon. Before that, I want to get a lot of entirely self-indulgent thoughts off my chest. In a way, it's about saying goodbye to the trilogy, which I do find I miss. I've been  having dreams about it lately.  (Una. In the snow. With giant robots. No, I don't know.)

So:
If you are a nerdy obsessive sort of person – the kind who has, for example, long conversations with friends and brothers about how to be a successful companion to the Tenth Doctor without getting your life ruined, embarrassing yourself or throttling him, then, if you also write fiction yourself, you are going to display similar nerdery toward your own creation.

YOU ARE.
 
STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT.

I mean, you have to be unhealthily obsessed with a story you want to tell, or you’re not doing it right.

Anyway, you already know how  I draw my characters, etc. In fact, there’s this piece that I made for the Genre for Japan drive, which I don’t think I shared, and as it may be the last Romanitas piece I ever make...



Let's have a look at it now.Collapse )
 
But the other thing is that...I HAVE PLAYLISTS.  And oh hell, Stephenie Meyer does it, and lord knows I strive to emulate her in everything I do, so I’m about to dump those on you too.  To get a little more serious and artistic about it all,  music is often very important to me when I write: I play scenes in my head -- often long in advance of actually writing them – to the soundtrack that, to me at least, is just right  and it helps fix the mood I’m going for, it helps keep me excited for when, at last, I get to write that bit and the music kicks in.

It’s also, of course, solace when everything’s going wrong. As I’ve intimated before, things got a bit messy between books 2 and 3, and while Shit Was Going Down I played Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible over and over and over again, wandering around town with a backpack on my back and 'Windowsill' in my ears, and the whole album, as far as I’m concerned, is Savage City music now and if I ever meet any of the members of that band I would like not only to fangirl them madly but to thank them for getting me and my books  through.

So, uh, I made a youtube channel. And here are the playlists. And you can listen to them and then, should you wish to be, you will be inside my Romanitas-writing head.

ROMANITAS
ROME BURNING
SAVAGE CITY


Note, as with so much in my life this started out as a silly little game and got all kind ofserious as I went along, with the result that the Savage City list is the longest, the most detailed, and the most spoilery.  Well, actually they’re all somewhat spoilery. You might want not to  listen to the playlists for books you haven’t read, and particularly not to read the thoughts under the cut:
 
Track listings and ramblings about songs.Collapse )


A Site, a Planet, a Picture

halloween
So first of all I finally have a website: sophiamcdougall.com . It's not completely finished yet, as you'll see -- eventually, I want to have the blog content there, although I've had this LJ long enough now that I'll keep it as a mirror too.

I had a  birthday, and if I only had a camera I would show you the most lovely present I had from some wonderful friends: a SQUASHY PLANET MARS. You know you are totally jealous. I can use it for research and sleep on it! It is more or less cotton-stuffed heaven.
 
Continuing the planetary theme, On 23rd June, from 6pm,  I will be signing Savage City at Forbidden Planet with a host of splendid writers such as benaaronovitch  and Jaine Fenn aka maeve_the_red. Look, it's true. Afterwards the plan is to go to the pub! Come and play!


I've been doing a lot of art lately. I always used to say "Oh I'm a writer, I'm really not an artist", and I used to feel there was no point pursuing what I can do beyond "doodles" but that was kind of because... I always felt that if I wasn't effortlessly good enough to be hanging in the Tate, plainly I wasn't good enough to do ANYTHING. Which now reminds me rather of this (I've read that this particularly affects girls, but I can't find the link now). Anyhow, I've realised I want to do more visual art. And for now,  finally I can post some of the art I made for the Genre for Japan charity auction, now the winning bidder has received his prizes. I was offering signed first editions with a "doodle" in the frontispiece -- my "doodles" were already pretty goddman detailed because that's what comes of an obsessive temperament, but I really wanted these to be special. I bought SPECIAL ART PENS.

The bidder asked for Una in one book and Sulien in the other. I put Una in Romanitas and Sulien in Rome Burning.

I drew Una on the day she escaped from slavery and goes off to rescue her brother from being crucified on the banks of the Thames:
UnaCollapse )


This picture of Sulien is a mild distortion of what actually happens in the book, but you know, what the hell:
SulienCollapse )


Finally -- and I'm sorry to continue a trend of concluding posts with massive non-sequitur downers -- , I urge all of you to raise as much of a stink as you can about  the disgraceful ejection of Samira Ahmed from Channel 4 News. (Start by complaining here) Losing yet another intelligent female news reporter (or rather banishing to radio where no one has to look at her face) even before she starts to lose her pretty-young-thing looks -- that message of "women, you're not allowed to grow old. You're barely even allowed to grow up" --  depresses me more than I can possibly say.

But, hey. Come to Forbidden Planet. Cool books and cool people -- make it all better.

Romanitas pictures -- Una

halloween
So very very close to the new Romanitas edition now. So it's way past time we had some pictures.

If you're just joining us -- I cannot help but draw pictures of my characters. Some of these began life as costume designs (though I'm not fantastically good at that) and then were obsessively honed over months and years...

Click here for pictures of Marcus:

Here's an early attempt at Romanitas!Una





And here's a later head-shot.





And here's Una at a dramatic moment in Savage City! I don't know if hair-styles and facial expression really count as spoilers (and there's nothing else in the picture) but cut just in case:
Una in Savage City...Collapse )

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Write me a story, draw me a picture

Romanitas

“It’s so sweet,” said my mother. “It’s like how you’d draw pictures of princesses and write stories about them when you were seven!”

“It is NOT like that,” I said. “I am doing very serious important work here.”

But of course she was right. It is in fact, exactly like drawing pictures of princesses and writing stories about them when I was seven. Or – to put it in a slightly less embarrassing way – drawing pictures of my characters is something I’ve always done.

With Romanitas, it started as a world-building exercise.  I needed to have some idea of how modern Roman clothing looked in my head – something to get across that this world  is like-ours-but-different, something to keep me consistent. So I finished Romanitas with a handful of scrappy sketches of Varius’ business-wear and Marcus’ mourning clothes and Una’s sort-of-Chinese/sort-of-Roman outfit. I drew them in hotels and cafes while I was chasing my characters across France, from  Toulouse (Tolosa) and Saint-Béat (Wolf Step) to the gorge in the Pyrenees where at last, I decided they were hiding. (Which was a great relief. There had been mild panic when I got into Andorra and they were not there).   

I also drew six-wheeled Roman cars and glassy modern palaces too, of course, (the cars were okay. The palaces, I’m just not very good at). But drawing costumes meant I got to draw my people. I ended up with a lot more of the costume designs.

And then, I found I had rather a lot of time on my hands. I couldn’t really get started Rome Burning, because every week I expected to have to start work on editing book 1 (because every week my editor told me that his notes were almost ready.) But I had to be doing something. And then a film company wanted to see me. Now, I’m pretty sure foisting amateur sketches of costumes onto film producers is not really done but I... uh... did it anyway. No, I do not currently have a film contract. WHAT’S YOUR POINT?

(They really didn’t seem to mind. )

Anyway, that’s how I started working up my sketches into ever more detailed pictures – first with pencil and paper and later with Photoshop. And gradually, the focus on the costumes dropped away. That was never really what I cared about. I wanted to draw my characters just because I love them, because, after I finish writing about them, it’s a way to keep hold of them when I’m still not quite ready to let them go.

I didn’t get much of a chance to draw pictures during or after Rome Burning, because as soon as I finished EVERYTHING COMMENCED GOING WRONG. The one character I did find I really had to draw? A PRINCESS. IN A PRETTY DRESS. (Dammit.) So I promised myself I’d draw a lot when I finally finished the trilogy altogether, because I  missed it. I love the leisurely wind-down of it, the difficulty, the way it’s like writing and not like writing at all. I finally started drawing my characters actually doing things this time, rather than just staring out of the page at me.

But those pictures are for another day.

I don’t want to talk these things up too much – they’re approximations of what’s in my head at best. I’m a very amateur artist. I’m even worse as a fashion designer, even if that was nominally the point. I’ve cobbled together noses and jawlines from pictures  off  the internet and Photoshopped the crap out of them. If you’ve read my books and you picture the characters differently – you’re right and I’m wrong.

Well, maybe. Unless you thought Una was blonde or anything like that. In which case I, in fact, know better.

With all that said, for now, here's Marcus.
Pictures under the cut...Collapse )

Do you ever draw your characters?