Writing my book: The idea and the cover.

In the next few posts, I intend to discuss each story in my book, The Camera Obscure. I will look at my influences, the writing process and include a little extract. But first, the whole collection.

The title. I originally considered calling it Camera Obscura, which means ‘Dark Chamber’ and of course some of you may be familiar with the device. If not, here’s a quick explanation:

A camera obscura is a darkened room with a small lens at one side onto which is projected an image onto a wall or a table. There is one I have seen in Edinburgh, and another which I have seen at the Greenwich observatory. The table projects the streets below, and although it looks like a film, it is actually happening in real time. I love this – it makes the observer God-like, watching all the small humans running around below. This idea suited my interest in Victorian habits and obsessions – imagine being around at the time when these things were first being discovered and invented! I also thought ‘Dark Chamber’ was a good metaphor for my mind, creating these weird and wonderful supernatural and bizarre stories. Furthermore, I observe people and situations in minute detail.

However, I discovered that there were already some books with the same title, and also, I remembered a Simon Armitage poem with the title. So I adapted it as play on this to The Camera Obscure. Not only does this take away the possibility of the Latin alienating readers, it is also suitable. ‘Obscure’ means ‘not known about or uncertain’; ‘not easily understood’; ‘hidden or concealed.’ If you read the stories, you will see that this also suits them and their contents, as well as the dark recesses of the human mind, as ‘camera’ means ‘chamber or vault.’ So I settled on that.

Next: the cover design. I chose a Hybrid publisher – I was very impatient to get the book out there, but I felt it would be a good investment to get a professional job, whilst maintaining some control. this was a good call – the book quality is beautiful and it turned out I had LOT of control. I had strong ideas on what I wanted overall, especially for the cover, and I am sure that I was a very ‘exact’ person – a right pain in fact.

I wanted an image of a girl waling in a veiled mist as if in a dream, and on a path leading into infinity. Most of the stories have journey as the central metaphor and although they are all genders, and different characters, I wanted to reflect the feeling that they all had some traits in common. I wanted it to look bit like a camera obscure image, in monochrome, but I also wanted something red, and I included a wilting red flower. this is mentioned in one of the flash stories and also acts as a metaphor for some characters. This got moved from left to right an I was Very Fussy about this. Finally, I wanted to include some shadowy hands, like a nightmare, all reaching at the character, as if trying to grab a piece of her, or threaten her.

I also wrote the blurb. It goes like this: Supernatural secrets; psychopath; disturbing dystopias; vanity and Victorian graveyards. Each story, evoking an atmosphere of gothic classics, will take you on a journey through past present and possibilities, where the familiar becomes strange. The new tenant above a bookshop uncovers a terrifying truth; a man looks out of his window to discover he is completely alone; a young man’s vanity ends up ensnaring him. You will anxiously anticipate characters fates, whilst reflecting on your own lives and experiences. It may lead you to speculate that there are many ways to be haunted, and that the most frightening spectres walk within us and among us.

After that, the editing process took forever. I am very, very pedantic about where I want my punctuation. For example, I believe in using the Oxford comma to craft certain effects in my sentences, and I love using punctuation in general for effects – like Stevenson or Poe. So I must have read my stories hundreds of times and I really hope I got it perfect eventually in conjunction with the editors. It was a better book for editing content and grammar meticulously and I did not allow it to go out until I was sure.

My ethos in the book was to deliberately use beautiful language and tend to be on the archaic side where appropriate. It’s not everyone’s taste; one editor from a different publisher said she found it irritating – but I think she was wrong. I wanted to evoke stories of the past, and although they are all ‘haunting’ in some way, they are not all one genre. Therefore I also deliberately left the last – a sort of dark adventure story- on a bit of a cliffhanger. I am using those characters in a sequel. I envisage several stories with those characters and have a novel length arc for them, but I liked the idea of the way Dickens, Conan-Doyle et al serialised their stories in magazines, and this was the intention. I see myself as a modern Victorian writer! I do sometimes feel a bit fey myself, as if I don’t quite belong in this world or time, so I think my style reflects this.

Anyway, The next post will be about the first story, and how it evolved, and where I wrote it! So I will leave you with an image of my book when it was published and if you are interested in reading my work it is available on Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, and at the moment you can get it from the publishers, Austin Macauley, with a code AUTHOR0622 to give you a discount. If you read it, reviews are very important, so don’t forget to leave one (be nice! x)


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