E. J. Mellow is joining us today to talk about her novel, The Song of the Forever Rains. Here’s the publisher’s description:
From the award-winning author of the Dreamland series comes a new dark romantic fantasy about a young woman finding hope in her powers of destruction.
The Thief Kingdom is a place hidden within the world of Aadilor. Many whisper of its existence, but few have found this place, where magic and pleasure abound. There, the mysterious Thief King reigns supreme with the help of the Mousai, a trio of revered and feared sorceresses.
Larkyra Bassette may be the youngest of the Mousai, but when she sings her voice has the power to slay monsters. When it’s discovered the Duke of Lachlan is siphoning a poisonous drug from the Thief Kingdom and using it to abuse his tenants, Larkyra is offered her first solo mission to stop the duke. Eager to prove herself, Larkyra accepts by posing as the duke’s potential bride. But her plans grow complicated when she finds herself drawn to Lord Darius Mekenna, Lachlan’s rightful heir. Soon she suspects Darius has his own motivations for ridding Lachlan of the corrupt duke. Larkyra and Darius must learn to trust each other if there is to be any hope of saving the people of Lachlan—and themselves.
Welcome to the world of Aadilor, where lords and ladies can be murderers and thieves, and the most alluring notes are often the deadliest. Dare to listen?
What’s E.J.’s favorite bit?
As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, so in theory if you have one hundred pictures you basically also have one hundred thousand words and tada! your book has written itself.
We wish right?
While this isn’t exactly the reality for writing a novel, it’s exactly what I rely on when world building. And world building through moodboards was, by far, my all-time favorite bit for how I created Song of the Forever Rains.
My background is in graphic design and visual communication, so to me an image can truly translate a plethora of emotions. It can spark an idea or sensation, a scene or new character. I’ve found this form of preliminary plotting to be crucial to how my books get written.
The entire dark fantasy world in Song of the Forever Rains was brand new, so I relied heavily on this technique to help construct it. Before any words hit the page, I deep dove into an image search for all of my main characters, realms and cities. What was the architecture that made up my caved Thief Kingdom? How did the streets of Aadilor glow at dusk? What world made up my protagonist, Larkyra? What were her favorite colors, style of her hair, decoration of her rooms? How did the Mousai dress for a performance to kill versus a performance to please? I searched for it all. I dragged image after image into folders like an ophthalmic fiend. I couldn’t get enough. I still can’t get enough.
When I did eventually sit down to spill out my story, I had each moodboard printed and pasted up beside my computer. Like a detective with an investigative board, I would turn towards these images anytime I needed a jolt of inspiration or mining of details.
After all, so much of the believability in fantasies are made up in the details. Not an overabundance of them, of course, but mentioning the right ones; the curling of russet streets where afternoon sun creeps through tightly packed sandstone buildings. For me to write such glimpses of a world, to paint it with words, it helps to have images to be inspired from.
I mentioned the Mousai earlier who are the trio of feared and revered sorceresses in Song of the Forever Rains. Larkyra, my heroine, makes up the youngest of the Mousai who holds the spellbinding power of song. They in particular were my favorites to create moodboards for. In the Thief Kingdom they are always disguised, dripping with extravagance and beastly costumes. I found the images of designer Diego Montoya and costume designer Xue Liang hugely inspirational for how I decided to dress the Mousai. I loved the excruciating artistry in the masks that would hide an entire face, leaving the viewer wondering whether the creature underneath could see or if their powers were so strong it made vision obsolete. These sorts of wonderments made their way into the lure of the Mousai, the fascination and fear of who or what might be gazing out at the crowds during a performance.
In a cyclical way, my hope with this technique is that readers will just as easily pull together visuals from my words as I’ve spilled words out of these visuals. For what we see when we read is the true magic.
E. J. Mellow is the award-winning author of the contemporary fantasy Dreamland series. The Animal under the Fur is her first stand-alone action romance. She is also the cofounder of She Is Booked, a literary-themed fundraising organization that supports women’s charities. With a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, E. J. splits her time between her two loves―visual design and writing.