Friday, May 22, 2009

Guest blog - Karen Mahoney!

I'm very pleased to welcome today's guest blogger and soon-to-be-published author, Karen Mahoney. Take it away, Karen!

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Bring in the Man with the Sword

by Karen Mahoney

So, when Chloe asked if I had anything to say about visual inspiration in my work as a writer I could actually say: Yes! :)

Normally I don't think of myself as a particularly visual person when it comes to writing fiction. I like playing with the words - that's the best part for me - and I especially enjoy writing dialogue, so it came as a big surprise to me when the second novel I completed (currently with my agent), a YA urban fantasy called DAUGHTER OF LIES, was largely inspired by a visually creative undertaking.

I made a collage:

I'd never done this before, but I was at my Day Job flipping through a magazine (at the time I worked in a library and was sorting out old issues to be recycled or donated) and came across a photograph of a guy wearing a smart suit, standing on a rooftop overlooking a city backdrop... and he was holding a sword. It was just an advert for something - I don't remember what - but I was drawn to the picture. I thought it was great that an image used to sell a watch or aftershave was so reminiscent of urban fantasy. You can see the picture in the bottom left of the collage, though the sword isn't very clear in my photo.

At the time I was working on some notes and research for a new idea - it was going to be a dark and gritty adventure, involving demons hiding in the shadows of a place that may or may not exist called Fortune City (it's not too far away from Boston). I liked to think of the project as: 'The Bourne Identity with demons and teenagers'. As soon as I saw that photograph, I knew I had my sort-of hero. I already had lots of ideas for the main character, Maxine Sullivan, and knew she was going to lock horns with an older guy who was supposed to be protecting her from the nasty things that came out to play at night. Okay, so his hair was all wrong, but the combination of suit and sword inspired me.

I decided to cut out the picture and see if there were others in the huge pile of magazines, and began cutting out all sorts of images. I didn't know quite where they'd fit - and a couple of them never did end up in the book - but it was fun and felt creative. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a huge piece of (bright pink) cardboard and stuck them on in some kind of pattern. Eventually I hit upon the idea of taking a photograph of the finished article and uploading it onto my laptop as the desktop background. Every time I switched it on and prepared to write, I saw that image and it really helped me focus.

Now I'm experimenting with inspiration boards, thanks to Anne Sage's great guest blog on Chloe's site and am trying to create one for my latest project, BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS. I didn't think that visual inspiration was such a big part of my writing process, and it wasn't until I came across that random photo of the man-with-sword. Whatever product it was advertising, I'm very grateful. :)

Thanks for having me, Chloe!

Karen's first professional publication will appear in THE ETERNAL KISS: 13 Tales of Blood and Desire, a YA vampire anthology edited by Trisha Telep (published July 2009). You can visit her at:


  1. Awesome post, Karen and Chloe - thanks so much! I really enjoyed reading it. Will also make sure to link it to mine.


  2. I found this very interesting. I don't make collages, but I do find real-life representations of my main characters. Mostly so I have a consistent image of them to refer to when I describe them, etc. *snort*

  3. Thanks, ladies! So glad you stopped by.

  4. Hi Karen, Hi Chloe!
    I was visiting your blog today Karen and cool you're here over at Chloe's. I have her first book here to read soon, so excited! I was thinking about trying more YA books since I've only read one series and Fantasy is what I was thinking of! Neat to find that you're writing these. I use collages with counseling with children and brings out so much in people and I so can see it doing it for writing. I think its so neat! Thanks for sharing this Karen and Chloe!

  5. Hi Caffey! Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. I read Chloe's book and it ROCKS! I'm sure you'll love it.

    I'm glad you found the post inspiring. Personally, I'm feeling pretty inspired by the work you do - that sounds very rewarding. :)


  6. Thanks for showin' me some love, Liz and Renee. :)

    And Renee: shut UP! Pink is totally fine for a dark, demon-infested novel... LOL!