Creative generalism is a dangerous thing. It leads to a plethora of ideas, many of them impossible to accomplish. The gray matter up here is spewing ideas by the thousands. Some of those would make a lot of people happy, I'm certain of that. That April fools joke about the stoner rock dating site, which I published a few years ago on Merchants Of Air, actually got several people thinking about creating a music-driven Tinder. I'd say, go ahead. I have no idea how to begin with something like that so be my guest. Another thing that creative generalism causes, is the constant urge to cross-over and combine. For that, my new episodic novel is a perfect example. For years, I have been writing about music. Now it was time for music to infiltrate my writing. 'Cecilia's World' already combined those two, but it also raised the bar for a follow-up, especially since I planned to return to my writing-roots: thrillers. From my late teens and into my thirties, I have been writing a heap of short stories. The plan is to translate, rework and publish them in the future. But until then, there is a huge project, based on an old idea that resurfaced and got stuck in my head. The year 2018 was nearing its end and the story out a little girl with psychokinetic powers started unfolding.
The similarities with books like 'Carrie' and 'Mathilda' were immediately apparent, which should not be a big surprise. With a main theme like psychokinesis those similarities were to be expected. I wondered how Carrie and Mathilda would have lived their lives today, in 2019. How would they cope with the challenges of this era, where corruption and civil unrest rage wild? I found the inspiration for those themes in series like 'Mr Robot' and the 'Zeitgeist' movies, but also in the world I see around me. When those two ideas, psychokinesis and our crumbling society, came together, there was no stopping me. The basic storyline emerged quickly and in only a few weeks most of the characters were born, along with their backgrounds. The only thing I needed now was a title, something interesting, something that makes you wonder. I found that title with the band Nine Inch Nails. Their track, 'I Do Not Want This' is a harsh industrial rock tune, loaded with despair and anxiety. So is my novel. I think I can easily say that this is not a follow-up to 'Cecilia's World'. I had to rate it as "adult" before distribution: foul language, violent events and sex. It has it all.
Describing the writing process for this book is easy: I sat down in my couch and started typing. First I wrote down the spine of the story in a notepad document. Then I added the main characters and their backgrounds. Finally, I took a few long walks to create a mental image of Aralburg, the city where most of the action happens. I also built some of the buildings in The Sims, like the bungalow where Louis lives. It's a pretty good continuity exercise. The kitchen will always be in the same place, and so will everything else. The plan was to build the whole city in The Sims but I thought it would be a better idea to just start writing. I'm glad I did. Once all the technical preparations were finished, I sat down and let my fingers guide the way. The characters came to life and lived through their adventures. Chapter one, the rough version, was finished in a month. Even I was somewhat baffled by the speed and the result, especially the sudden and unforeseen appearance of one of the main characters. I have no idea where she came from. She invented herself and her own storyline. It was an odd experience.
Become approved for premium
I was having a nice jam with my buddies from Synchyse when I received the awaited e-mail: "your book is approved for premium". I think I almost collapsed from happiness. I can't say it was the happiest day of my life, but I did feel like opening a bottle of champagne. When I wrote the dialog heavy 'Cecilia's World', I had no idea about formatting e-books. The whole publishing process caused me a lot of stress, and even today, my debut is not available on all platforms because of it's format. Perhaps that will change in the near future, but now the focus is on 'I Do Not Want This'. I had to get it right this time so I completely changed my writing style. No more lengthy sequences of spoken text. This time, the whole thing would contain blocks of text, with dialogues interlaced in between. I decided to write it like a movie script.
Of course, before Smashwords, where the book will be published, sent me this e-mail, there were a lot of steps to go through. We, my beloved wife and I, read the Smashwords style guide before I got to work. Then I had to use that information to tell my story. I realized that I was going to need a few test readers to help me keep up with the continuity and to filter out all the little errors. In the past fifteen years or so, my wife has always been number one. Here, too, she was the first one to read the chapters. I remember one passage especially. She read the scene I had written the night before, stood up and walked to the balcony. There she lit a cigarette and whispered. "Fuck!" At that moment, I knew I was heading into the right direction.
Avid reader and erotic short-story writer Shanna became test reader number two. I think it's safe to say that parts of her also appear in one of the main characters. My friends inspire me and their stories quite often infiltrate my writings. In 'Cecilia's World' my friend Marc literally appeared in the audio shop. In the new book, Shanna gazes through the eyes of Agnes, the biographer. When it gets kinky in 'I Do Not Want This' and you like it, go read Shanna's stories. Then it was time for two batches of test readers. Batch one consisted of friends and artists on the soundtrack. Batch two were people from a facebook group, selected by my wife. Their reactions were gratifying, although I haven't heard that much from some of the second batch. Still, people seemed to love the book and I just kept on writing. My wife was also the final test reader. Firmly focused on a printed copy, she searched for those last typos. I hope she found them all. Test reading is a tough job so I want to thank all of these people from the bottom of my heart.
Finally, I needed a decent cover. For 'Cecilia's World', my niece Emma helped me out but now I wanted something eerie, haunting and professional. A few ideas popped up but eventually I ended up asking Gootslaper to create something. He had made the cover and video art for Ashtoreth and I loved it, so I sent him my idea and he came up a very unsettling image. A job well done, and with the aid of my friends Bart and Marc I turned Gootslaper's photo into the official cover art.
Music Maestro, Please?
The fact that there's a soundtrack coming with the book will probably surprise nobody. The idea to seek a heap of artists came quickly, all because of the music I was listening to while I wrote the story. Ambient and drones, more particular releases from Ashtoreth and Stratosphere. I know these guys quite well. I've been couch droning with the first and jamming with the second, plus I wrote plenty of reviews for both of them. Time to engage them in another one of my crazy adventures, right? Right! Both of them immediately agreed. I sent the opening scene to Ronald and he started composing. I sent another scene to Peter and he got to work. In between I sent out a bunch of messages to other artists on facebook. 18 tracks quickly became 24, but I didn't mind.
I'm not going to reveal everything yet but there are a few songs I'd like to pick out. I really feel like some of these artists have gone through great lengths to create something perfect. I reached out to several acts in my personal circle. I already mentioned two of them, and they will appear more than once. Ronald got the opening theme and a track with Synchyse, which also includes Gert, who also appears in chapter one as Distant Fires Burning. Ashtoreth even managed to appear three times. Solo, in Valavond Ensemble (with Izzy on bugle) and with a rework of the planned Misantronics track. Yep, things change, and here they seemed to change for the better.
Outside of the close circle of friends, but still within a larger group of festival buddies, I found David, mister Wayward Bound. I instructed him to rework a wedding theme. That idea changed over time but David kept on working and sending me snippets of his work in progress. The result was a perfect post-track with heavy guitars and pounding drums. I was delighted, also because I did no want to stick to ambient tunes. There had to be some variation, which Wayward Bound perfectly provided. Since I had asked David to deliver some heavy guitars, I thought I might as well make a bold move and just ask Telepathy. They're one of the most captivating live bands today, which had already inspired me to write them into 'Cecilia's World'. Their metallic heaviness fits quite well with some of the chaotic scenes in my book. They said yes and I made a little dance. Inspired by their approval to select the song 'Metanoia', I boldly asked a few other bigger names. You'll see who in the near future.
So we had ambient. We had post-rock and post-metal and Valavond Ensemble took care of that jazz feel. Still, I felt like I needed something different, something catchy and contemporary. I found exactly that with Ludoviq, a fantastic pop musician from Antwerp. I loved his music, inspired by Prince, Michael Jackson and many other icons in the music industry. His song 'Beth's Psalm' became one of the cornerstones of the sexy aspects in 'I Do Not Want This'. So, Antwerp was represented quite well and it was time to cross the borders and make this an international thing. In the UK, I contacted my label boss P23, who runs Sombre Soniks. Three projects from their stable made the cut. Akoustik Timbre Frekuency, Syrinx and Druha Smrt delivered music for the dark, mysterious and occult passages in this book. Here too, the artists seemed to be perfectly aligned with the storylines, even though they had not read it.
Crossing the country's border for this thing had proved to be a good idea, so I went a little further still. In Ukraine I contacted Gamardah Fungus. In Germany I discovered that Father Sky Mother Earth was highly enthusiastic about this little project. And from India, Arka's post rock project Mixtaped Monk joined in on the fun. The USA delivered the downtempo darkness of Auel. Shortly after their confirmation, UK residents A-Sun Amissa donated a track as well. You see, a whole lot of music and there is still a lot more to be found.
So I say thank you...
The past several months have been wild and the ride is not over yet. While this little article is being published, Eline is going through the opening sequence of chapter 5, to be released in August. Funny thing is, sometimes people tell me that they are curious about the whole story and then I reply with "Me too". Up until now, about 82.000 words have been written. That leaves 38.000 still to appear on the screen. That's a shitload of words, I know. That is why I have decided to publish it in monthly chapters. Next Saturday, you can dive into this relentless story. Until then, be safe. You never know what lurks in the corners...
1. Smashwords (Ebook)
2. Bandcamp (Soundtrack)
3. Bandcamp (Soundtrack + PDF)
4. Check you favorite e-book provider (Kindle, Kobo, Google Books...)
More info and details on future formats: http://www.sergetimmers.com/