Choosing a Book by its Cover

The second most labour intensive process of creating your own book is designing the cover. There are many designers out there that will do it for you if you have the money, but if you haven’t, then the task of distilling all the months of sweat and tears you poured into your manuscript now falls to you. Incidentally, if you haven’t a flair for art, or good eye for design, then I would highly recommend seeking out a professional, or at least solicit a friend to help out, because contrary to the old adage, some people actually do choose a book by its cover. I’m not a designer. I’d like to add that up front. But I did study art at college and enjoy photography. I also manipulate and tweak those photos using both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. So I have the foundations, but I’m no where near the level of a professional.

When I decided to self publish, I spent a long time during the writing process, and a lot more after, trying to find the right look for the book cover. I found myself losing myself in mass market paperback thrillers, all of which had a certain style. They were uniformed in their ambiguity, which mainly involved a silhouetted man against a city skyline, or some dark woodland complete with skulking fog. Other thrillers and crime novels involved double exposure photography, again, involving cities and dark skies. Some novels used minimalist imaginary. These were clever and balanced the colours and themes of the book well. Bad People had elements of horror, so I had a balancing act too. I needed the cover to appeal to both the thriller demographic, and the horror. Naturally, I went through various designs, trying different imagery to see if I could do the prose justice as well as appeal to the right audience. Below you’ll find all the alternative covers I designed and then later discarded. I think you’ll agree, designing a book cover isn’t an easy one. But sometimes it’s rewarding when you stumble on the right look. Bad People’s final book cover has since received a lot of positive feedback, which thankfully makes up for all the hours invested in getting it right.

Bad Quotes

I’ll confess – it’s a misleading title. Below you’ll find a collection of select quotes from recent reviews for Bad People. I can’t thank enough those that have read the book and offered their words. Without readers a writer is just a person hunched over a table helping to fund a chiropractor’s retirement.

Being Human

I need to address something. A few people have highlighted typos in the early versions of Bad People. I get it. They’re annoying, and, if you’re a grammatical hound dog, they can spoil the flow of the book and cause undue stress. Writers are prone to mistakes. We don’t go out to intentionally frustrate our readers. Honestly. Novels are usually around 65k to 100k words. For those that have attempted to commit that many words to paper, they’ll know it’s a gruelling and arduous task. Writers write in the mornings, afternoons, post-midnight. We write after a full day’s work (yes, writing does not pay well so we need a day job). We write in rooms with televisions blaring children’s shows and music videos. We write in cafes and on public transport. We write as much as possible in every spare moment we have because to tell a story is the most important thing to us. For many, it’s therapy, essential – it’s the one thing they have that stops them going crazy. To write is to block out the darkness, the pain, the headaches and heartaches. And we do it the best we can so that maybe, just maybe, someone will read the “story” and see on that page something personal, something that is relatable. Something that transcends life. This is what a writer attempts to do, and when that manuscript is finished, they are nervous and excited to get it into the world in the hope, however fragile that hope is, someone will read it. That process takes months, sometimes years. And, if that writer is lucky enough to see their book in print, they have a long wait to see what the world thinks. Believe me, that wait is the most painful of the whole process. Silence is a horrible critic. But my god, when that first review comes in, and it’s positive, your heart bloats. But sometimes it breaks just as easily when the second review comes in that isn’t so positive. And yes, the humble writer, who has spent months trying desperately to create something that keeps them buoyant during hardship, they realise that all that work in building characters, creating pathos and bathos, of tuning the narrative and tendering tension in all the right places, they realise that common typos have diluted all their efforts.

A writer is a human being. They have skin, and though it thickens over time, it stills tears when simple mistakes are made. To all those that purchased the first run of Bad People, I wish to extend my apologies for being human. I made mistakes. I put grammatical speed bumps in the road. I spoilt your journey. And no review highlighting these issues will cut deeper than my own self-criticism. But shit happens. And I’m not the first, nor will I be the last writer to make mistakes. The article below highlights some of the greatest writers of our time offering books to the world that were imperfect, and yet loved by many. I too hope one day to be loved equally, and that people see beyond my imperfections. This update has not been proof read for obvious reasons.

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/89684/15-famous-typos-first-editions

The Instructional Manual For Swallowing by Adam Marek – Book Review

The Instructional Manual For Swallowing by Adam Marek is not your average book. It doesn’t quite fit anywhere, which is why you need to read it.

As I’m always searching for strange and wonderful short stories that match, and surpass, the likes of Etgar keret, I was really excited at the prospect of Robotic insects, a restaurant for zombies, and a woman pregnant with 37 babies. In truth, I was damn near peeing my pants. Marek didn’t disappoint, well, not too much. The first story really blew me away. 40 Litre Monkey tells the tale of a pet shop owner who measures all his animals by their volume. It was funny, sad and very surreal. My expectations were raised, and although the second story in the collection, the one about the pregnant woman with 37 babies, didn’t quite hit me squarely on the chin as the first, I could tell Marek had a gift for pulling you from the page.

The subsequent stories that followed had a little more weight to them, which is probably why they dragged me to real world very quickly. It’s not that these stories are bad, it’s just that based on the first two stories, I was convinced Marek would be my guide to the dark places in his mind. Instead, he decided it would be best all round to “coast” for a while before throwing back the curtain. Ramping it up with stories about a man fighting both testicular cancer and a monster tearing up the city, a boy who can extract cutlery from his body, and the title story which illustrates how the body might function if it was controlled from within by a person, makes Marek an author to keep your eye on.

Sure, with any short story collection, there are going to be lulls. Fortunately, there are not many here. From one story to the next, you’re caught between laughing, reeling back in surprise, and dropping to your knees with wonder. As the blurb perfectly illustrates, as you turn the first page you enter the “surreal, misshapen universe of Adam Marek’s first collection, where the body is fluid, the spirit mechanised and beasts often tell us more about our humanity than anything we can teach ourselves.”

The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule – Book Review

Jean Teule has created a sublime and satirical look at the dynamics of family life set against the backcloth of mortality. Balancing precariously on the precipice of life, the desperate and lonely folk of Teule’s future world seek a means to end their pathetic lives, and find it within a small shop aptly titled, The Suicide shop. Having been in the Tuvache family for generations, morose and embittered father Mishima, and his dutiful and equally morbid wife Lucrece, have forged a business designed for one purpose – death. Teule’s detail given to the means of achieving this is nothing short of genius. From the Alan Turin frieze to the belladonna, from the digitalis petals to the corporate branded breezeblock, every conceivable and ingenious method of ending your life is catered for at the Suicide Shop with hilarious detail. Imagine if Jean Pierre Junet had remade the Adam’s Family, and you’re nearly getting there. And while funny, ingenious and awe-inspiring, it’s through innocence and sanguinity that Teule interweaves a buoyancy to the book that lifts your heels. It is the youngest of the Tuvache family, Alan, that Tuele uses to express the innocence of life that is at times suffocated by the outside world, the forces beyond our control, and callousness of evolution. Alan is the light flickering in the vast abyss of nothingness. He is hope incarnate, and much to his family’s annoyance, Alan offers salvation to the unsalvageable. I don’t want to go too much into the detail of how this is achieved, but at the end of the book you’ll feel several pounds lighter, and yet your chest will be aching.

A quick and wonderful read that needs further attention. Please, before you die, read this book!

Author Spotlight – Peter Tieryas Liu

The writing community is much like a tennis academy on the first day. You’re all a little nervous and curious to who is better, but equally, you don’t want to give up too much too soon. You try and play it cool, you talk mechanics, influences, and maybe venture into your past achievements. But then comes the point you have to walk onto court. That’s when you see who has the grit. Gone is all the small talk and bravado. There’s no hiding now. Following this tennis analogy, one writer I had the pleasure of getting to know was

Peter Tieryas. Peter has natural talent; a strong arm, hard serve and endurance. I knew from his first collection Watering Heaven, Peter was special. Whereas most writers are all serve and no game, Peter was the full package. Case in point…

His novel, Bald New World, begins with a strange phenomenon where the entire population wakes up one day to find all their hair has fallen out. From that moment on you’re thrown into a world of espionage, wig-wars, faith-blind zealots that make Marathon Man seem like child’s play, telekinetic cricket fighting, and a friendship that stretches beyond life and into death. The world which Tieryas creates is rich in detail, from the grand architecture of the future to the smaller statements on the influence of mass advertising on modern society (I particular liked how a taxi cab fare could be subsidised if you are willing to watch adverts for the entire journey, and the coat that diminishes with the seasons). But like Watering Heaven, Tieryas’s brilliant short story collection, the real strength of this book lies is the intertwining themes of acceptance, love and an enduring quest for fulfilment. They say every author writes themselves into the characters of their books. Nick is a character who feels detached emotionally due to his past, and yet through his in laws he truly understands the meaning of family. I mention this because it adds a layer of emotion that fleshes out the character. Nick is not contrived in design, therefore you believe him in, and through all the pain he endures, you want him to survive. This is the test of a great writer, to give a little bit of themselves to the world, even if it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want to dilute this book by comparing it to another. It stands alone and will measured that way for years to come. The storytelling and amazing detail added from Tieryas’s furtive imagination lend themselves perfectly to the silver screen. A fantastic read for anyone whose frustration in modern literature as reached the point where they’re pulling out their hair. There is a new world of great storytelling with us, and that world is bald.

In Watering Heaven, Peter successfully peels back the rind of life to exposure the sweet, and sometimes bitter, fruit that lies beneath, where chance meetings blossom into love, dialogue is so slick you fear your eyes may slip while reading, and the ordinary is a catacomb for a surreal beauty metamorphosing within. Being a keen fan of the short story, I found Water Heaven one of the best collections I have ever read. What Tieryas does in this collection is offer questions about love that many writers dare not ask, and those that have ventured close, have done so clumsily in comparison. His ability to exposure our insecurities and thoughts is nothing short of genius. Yes, if love is the thread skewering these stories together, then loneliness is the needle punctuating each. In truth, it felt less like a short story collection and more a novel. The narrator had many voices, the stories different but united, merged and blurred but unique too. It was truly inspiring to read. I could break down the stories and give my favourites, but to do so would dull the magic and perhaps force you to gravitate to some more than others. What you need to do is go into this book blind, and discover through the skill of the writer, all the colours of the world; light will merge from darkness, the prosaic will be rendered strange and wonderful. Existential, smart, magical and dipped into beauty, a collection that will forevermore stain the fabric of great literature.

Game, set and match.

WiHM – Shirley Jackson

Jackson’s worlds are small. They inhabit a very tiny space and involve people, mostly female protagonists, who live in small towns and go grocery shopping, a lot. They are mostly insecure too or paranoid, and these microscopic worlds that add to a claustrophobic atmosphere making Jackson a writer worthy of the praise she has garnered over the years. Whether her views stemmed from her own personal life following a nervous breakdown and severe acrophobia matters not, but there seems a continuity to her characters that can’t be overlooked. Having read the novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I was surprised at how timid some of her characters are. They shrink away from the outside worlds to live isolated or within their own minds, sometimes both. And that continues to be a theme in some of these stories too, weaving in issues of mistrust, small mindedness and cruelty. Humanity is always stripped away to reveal the uglier side. The Lottery, which I had heard so much about, and had gained a reputation as being one of the terrifying stories committed to paper, may leave more harden Horror aficionados a little deflated. It’s foreshadowing is second to none, as is the tension built throughout. But the ending, while handled skilfully, may leave some wondering why it had built such a grand reputation. Of course, at the time of its release in the New Yorker, circa 1948, you may understand why they lost a lot of their subscribers and had letters of complaint, but in today’s world the story wouldn’t warrant such accolades. As I finish Chuck Palahniuk’s book on writing, he points out that The Lottery represents the horror of army selection. That there is a construct to which people (soldiers) are selected only to lose their life. As a reader, this true horror resonated, and so the ending of The Lottery echoes in the mind, especially in a post-war world.

The Haunting of Hill House will be the one most will associate with Jackson. Even if you’ve not read the book, the likelihood is you’ve watched the Netflix show or maybe even the original movie. I was suitably impressed with Jackson’s ability to build tension in that book and give so much depth to the main protag, Eleanor. While my expectation, based on the title, was that this would be a ghost story, I found that the ghosts were more the black cloth to something else, which for me was to exasperate themes of grief and trauma. A love it when a book does that. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, dealt with similar issues, but done with much more subtlety. The innocence of Mary Cat lured me into a false sense of security, and while I considered this book much scarier than Hill House due to the weight of the backstory (I won’t go on too much about that in case it spoils the journey), it had more depth. Beautiful, weird, and as always, goose-skinning.

Whichever book you choose, or short story, know that in the hands of Shirley Jackson you’ll find a small world where within lives big themes, and plenty of ghosts. A true pioneer in the field of horror and a must for anyone who loves reading scary stories.

Resisting Normality – Bad People Author Craig Wallwork Talks To Kendall Reviews.

That’s right. It’s that time again to begin whoring myself out to all and sundry in the hope it’ll increase book sales. Thanks to all at Kendall Reviews for giving me space to wax lyrical about all things horror related, and of course, Bad People.

Follow the link: https://kendallreviews.com/interview-resisting-normality-bad-people-author-craig-wallwork-talks-to-kendall-reviews/

WiHM

It’s Women In Horror Month, and I can’t let it slip by without mentioning two great writers and their books. Please, if you get the chance, pick a copy up of either one. You won’t be disappointed.

The Bone Weaver’s Orchard by Sarah Read

Sarah Read’s debut novel about Charlie, a young boy attending a Yorkshire boarding school in the early 1900s, establishes Read as a writer you need to pay attention to. Weaving together just the right amount of tension and chills to keep you engaged, and the lights on, we find ourselves plunged into a school where ghosts roam the halls, children go missing, and a history more disturbing than someone called the Ragged Man. While the following comparisons should be taken as merely themes, not facsimiles, the book at times reminded me of the Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage (only for its feel) and strangely, Harry Potter too. That I’m even drawing these comparisons in a testament to Read’s ability to craft prose that is as atmospheric as it is effortlessly composed. If you like your stories gothic, haunting, and beautifully constructed, then please check out The Bone Weaver’s Orchard.

The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter

Sarah Rose Etter can write. Jesus, can she write. The Book of X, her debut novel, is beautiful. Telling the story of Cassie, a girl born with a hereditary disorder where her stomach is wrapped into a knot, we are plunged into a world where meat is harvested from quarries, male prostitutes can be amputated if you can’t afford the cost, and jealously forms in the body as granite. More wonderful than this is seeing this world through Cassie’s eyes. Part Amy Hempel, part Margret Atwood at times, I was instantly captivated by her voice, and long after reading, heard it resonate in my mind long into the night. If Bridget Jones was written by William Burroughs, this would it. Dark, hypnotic, surreal, heart-breaking, honest and sublime.

To find out more about WiHM, visit: https://www.womeninhorrormonth.com