eyE[before]Adina West

AdinaWest300dpiThis week’s eyE is on the talented Adina West. I had the pleasure of seeing Adina speak in a panel at ‘Forest for the Trees’ as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival last fortnight. Adina is an up-and-coming author who’s debut novel, ‘Dark Child’ is being released in a revolutionary serialised format by Momentum Books (a digital branch of Pan Macmillan). The episodic release of Adina’s exciting new paranormal fantasy series (which reached #1 in the iTunes book store in Australia and NZ on May 1st) has the potential to change the face of e-publishing as we know it. Luckily for us, Adina has been gracious enough to grace us with her presence.

An interview no independent or mainstream author should miss; the lovely, lively, and lexicological Adina West.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“I was bitten by the bug when I was too young to remember or pinpoint a reason. I’ve dallied with writing since I was in primary school, and I think I still have a hand-typed draft, with pictures, of a children’s book I wrote called ‘Maura goes shopping’. Yummy afternoon teas seemed to be a focus in my writing at that age. Very Enid Blyton!

“More to the point is what first made me finally make the mental leap to thinking seriously about seeking publication. And I can certainly identify that! It came from me reading Stephenie Meyer’s website, which at the time contained, and perhaps still does, a long account of the process she went through in writing Twilight in only a few months, and then sending it to a publisher on the urging of her sister. She mentioned fitting writing in around normal mothering duties like taking her kids to swimming lessons, and as I’d recently had my first child and was both sleep deprived and time poor, her story really resonated. It’s not a unique scenario by any means, but it came at the right time and spurred me on to take the next step. Self belief and persistence are enormously important to writers. I realised all sorts of things are possible if you want them badly enough.”

Your paranormal fantasy novel, ‘Dark Child’, has recently been released in a serialised format. Do you believe that serialisation of e-books and novels could become a standardised, or even more commonplace, form of release for e-books?

“It’s hard to say whether it’s a trend that will endure. It’s certainly very popular at the moment, particularly for self-published erotic fiction. It allows a first instalment to be offered cheaply or for free, and the ‘loss leader’ idea is a great marketing strategy in this electronic age when discoverability of product has become the single biggest sales barrier. Perhaps when the marketplace is flooded with serialised fiction this choice by authors and publishers will drop in popularity as it’ll no longer be a point of difference.

“But right now we’re seeing a resurgence not just of serialised e-books, where each instalment is often 20,000 words or less, but also anything written in a series. Series certainly aren’t new, particularly in fantasy where for years it’s probably fair to say they’ve been the dominant form. But in YA and NA fiction, and in both contemporary and traditional romance, it’s becoming more and more common to see authors writing books that are interlinked. One of the very newest trends I’ve noticed is where an author writes an interlinked pair of books, with both covering the same events but from opposing viewpoints (usually male and female protagonists). A recent example is author Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster/Walking Disaster duology.”

How do you envision the evolution of the paranormal fantasy genre in a ‘post-Twilight’ world?

“I’m not sure that should be phrased as a speculative question on what the future will hold because I think we’ve already seen very significant evolution in this genre since Twilight. An entire generation of teenagers has had their reading experience informed by its presence. The single biggest contribution Twilight’s success made was to move paranormal and urban fantasy fiction out of the shadowy realms of genre niche and into the mainstream market. Literally millions of new readers tried Twilight as their first ever foray into the genre, and have since become fans of paranormal fiction. YA fiction is certainly rife with paranormal offerings!

“With a vast increase in potential readership for the genre, so much more experimentation and genre blending is possible, and certainly people have realised the huge amount the genre offers to readers who love romance! Pre-Twilight, mainstream readers hadn’t heard of PNR (paranormal romance) at all, and the word ‘vampire’ would make them instantly anticipate a story steeped in horror and gothic elements. Times – and reader expectations – have certainly changed.”

As a writer of paranormal urban fantasy, how do you feel the advent of e-books, the internet, and the inevitability of globalisation have affected the narrative mechanics of the genre, particularly in regards to world culture?

“I think the directness of an author’s response to these changes is commensurate with their understanding and acceptance of such realities. The world can change all it wants, but some writers, and their readers, will continue on much as they always have. There are, and will always be, traditionalists. But within the genre as a whole, I think we’re already seeing big shifts, particularly from writers outside the U.S.. Hmmm, wonder why that is?

“Distribution of fiction has become international and I personally think the opportunity to cater for a much more diverse audience than ever before is a wonderful challenge. I think one author who is doing some very interesting things in this regard is New Zealand PNR/UF author Nalini Singh, who sets her work in a fictionalised near-future. She has stories that span the globe and include characters of every ethnicity and skin hue imaginable.

“Personally, I’m a bit of a magpie in this regard, and I’ve always liked the possibility of being able to pick and choose elements I’d like to include from as broad a range of options as possible! An international canvas suits me just fine. That said, I have my traditional leanings too. Having grown up with a vampire mythology rooted in Eastern Europe (where my mother was born, incidentally!) I have found it hard to discount this. But immortal or near immortal beings with plenty of time on their hands would logically have travelled the world, and there’s plenty of scope for narrative diversity in that.”

A dyslexic vampyre-slayer, a syphilitic succubus, and a werebadger with alopecia engage in violent combat to see who gets the last slice of birthday cake. Who is the obvious winner, and why?

“I don’t want to be the one to tell him, but that balding werebadger should see his GP ASAP. Alopecia is a symptom of second stage syphilis, so him and the succubus? Well, I don’t want to point fingers…but when she finds out what he’s ‘passed on’ (and a succubus always finds out – they’ll suck the answers right out of your mind at a moment of weakness) the two of them will be too busy fighting to notice the vampyre-slayer nipping in and scoffing that cake…”


DarkChild_OMNIBUS_Adina_WestAdina’s premiere paranormal fantasy book ‘Dark Child’ is out now. Episode 1 can be purchased here, or it can be bought as a collected Omnibus edition here. Also, be sure to check out Adina’s website – AdinaWest.com

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The Death and Resurrection of Albert Einstein: Super Jesus

It’s pretty common fair to misquote Albert Einstein.

albert-einstein

Ever since a slew of internet memes attributed a string of misplaced sayings to the famous physicist, there’s been a general air of distrust about anything philosophical that has the name ‘Einstein’ attached to it. The misquotes were largely connected with themes of new age spirituality and broad existential philosophy. And ever since these misquotes have been made public, I’ve seen a lot of people say things like ‘what does Albert Einstein have to do with spirituality anyway’?

Good question. 🙂

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

                – Albert Einstein

Einstein actually had a great deal to say on the subject of theosophy. The reason these spiritually inclined misquotes occurred in the first place was because a great many confirmed quotes were in a similar vein. Albert came from a non-practicing Jewish family and went to a private Catholic school. In his later life, he would make friends with a number of empirically-informed philosophers, basing their spiritual assumptions of the world on rational understanding. Though it is not confirmed whether Albert Einstein actually believed in a god, a number of his quoted attributions do indeed hypothesize on the subject.

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

                – Albert Einstein

But it goes deeper still. Though Einstein was himself primarily a man of science and empiricism, his deeper understanding of the universe would go on to forever change the face of modern spirituality. Let us put aside Einstein’s theory of relativity for a moment, which hypothesised the interconnectedness of existential building-blocks such as space and time. Let us simply look at the mass to energy equivalency equation – or E=MC2. As we all know, this equation would go on to revolutionise the physical sciences, not to mention the world at large. It would allow for the invention of the atomic bomb and open the scientific community up to the idea of black holes. It showed the world that nothing was wasted and revealed the innately mutable nature of worldly existence. For what was energy if not the abstract excitation of sub-atomic particles? What was a wave if not the echo of something beyond the particulate spectrum? And what was the metaphysical if not that which had no physical equivalency… until E=MC2?

“…the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.

                – Albert Einstein

As Einstein’s discoveries became culturally ingrained in modern society, new age spiritualists would pick up the cry. ‘Energy’ is a term now synonymous in spiritual circles with ‘chi’ or ‘prana’, and ‘energy body’ has begun to replace what was once called ‘aura’ or ‘chakras’. Albert Einstein might be considered the father of new age spirituality, if only due to the derivative etymology that formed from his work, let alone his admirable balance of rational empiricism and open-minded philosophy.

I understand that there’s a natural urge to assume hard-nosed scepticism is the path of the truly scientific mind, but I simply don’t believe that. Let us not remember Albert Einstein for the times that he was misquoted or used as a branding device. Let us remember him as he was – a brilliant mind, made all the more brilliant for his open-minded rationality towards the spirituality of existence.

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

                – Albert Einstein

5 Easy Steps to Channeling the Force

I’m sure we all know by now, but Star Wars – Episode 7 is coming.star-wars-iv-a-new-hope-nei1b

For those of you who have been squatting under rocks, chomping on maggots like Timon and Pumba, Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas a few months back and have set to work breathing fresh life into The Saga.

I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. Though I was not old enough to see the original trilogy in cinemas, I’ve spent my fair share of time watching poor quality VHS recordings of New Hope whilst making Luke and Han action figures duel to the death with Skeletor. And, like most Star Wars fans, I left ‘Revenge of the Sith’ feeling a little violated.

The wound Lucas has gouged into the Jedi mythology will not be an easy one to heal, of that there is no doubt. And so, philanthropist that I am, I shall list the ways to ensure a successful return to a galaxy far, far away.

Gosh, I’m a good human being.

  1. Cast Returns – there’s a lot of talk about getting the cast from the original trilogy back in, and I’m all about it. Good sequels always hinge on maintaining the link between installments. Replacing or writing around characters has proved to leave gaping holes of dissatisfaction and remorse in the mass consciousness – it don’t work guys, don’t try it! They may be able to get away with missing one, maybe two, of the main actors from the original trilogy, but they really need to get as many of them back as possible for this thing to be a success. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Luke and Leia’s matching trailers in a Tattooine caravan park at the ripe old age of 60? I know I do.
  2. Bigger Isn’t Always Better – a classic big-budget mistake is thinking that if you have cash you should put it to use. There is a culture of one-upsmanship prevalent in action movies these days, and it grows tiresome. Think about the prequel trilogy. The prequels were meant to set the scene for the awesome three movies that followed them. If we see nothing but colossal CG droid fight scenes, expensive and extravagantly budgeted sets, and entirely unnecessary fight scenes between core characters (cough-Emperor-and-Yoda-cough), what’s left to follow? I think the fact that the original trilogy shines so much more so than the polished turd of the prequels tells us that bigger and better are not synonymous. Also, well-made puppets will always look better than the best CG. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Story, Story, Story – this may be the writer in me, but I can’t stress the importance of a good story in film. A good, well-planned story is absolutely key to making it work, especially when you’re making a trilogy (and I’m certain Episodes 8 and 9 will follow all too soon). While it’s true that audiences these days are a bit more sophisticated in what they expect than they were in the 70s and 80s, I think that everyone will be happy with something that matches the tone of the original movies in a well-thought out way. Remember the last rule; bigger isn’t always better. Keep it simple to start with, gently remind us why love this franchise, and lay the foundation for an epic story arc in the last two movies.
  4. Grit – I must confess, the Disney label on this scares me a little. The original trilogy were infamous for some really gritty scenes, like the death of Obi-Wan, Han and Greedo’s shoot-out, Luke losing a hand… Don’t fluff this out too much, Disney. The temptation will be there though, since Star Wars has a ‘cross-generational’ appeal (because fans of the trilogy are now parents who want to share the experience with their kids) and movies that gross the highest tend to be ones that all age brackets want to see. Keeping it light and fluffy ensures a high-grossing movie at the potential cost of artistic integrity. I hate being able to observe decisions that have obviously been made based on production-end meddling, but there it is. Of course, Disney’s influence doesn’t scare me quite as much as my last point…
  5. J.J. Abrahams – is slated to direct Episode 7, and words can’t express how overrated I think this guy is. Now, I’m sure a lot of people will leap to defend him, so lets look at this logically – what has J.J. Abrahams ever done for me? Alias? I enjoyed the first season or two, before it flopped. Lost? Another show that flopped due to lack of planning. Cloverfield? Super 8? Not terrible movies… Not great movies either. Truthfully, the only 2 movies on J.J.’s IMDb profile that I don’t mind are Regarding Henry, which he produced in ’91, and the new Star Trek movie (and even that didn’t have a great plot). Am I missing something? Why do people think this guy’s so great? He’s a modern day Spielberg, sure… But Spielberg’s big-budget, grandiose style have become par for the course in modern cinema. You might as well say Abrahams is a modern day Karl Marx in Communist Russia. But I digress… By the same token, J.J.’s mediocrity hasn’t gone too far against him, so I’ll hold out hope. But in all honesty, I’d rather see Joss Whedon behind this project.

Disney for the win.

Here’s hoping for cybernetic Ewoks.

(image credit to nei1b)