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Fanfiction is the highest form of flattery
When I was writing Obscurity, I was completely wrapped up in it. I was immersed in a world where the Americas were new, where Europeans struggled to survive in a swamp determined to swallow them, where disease was healed only by incense and prayer and hope attained solely from spells sung into the bayou.
It was a world where sugar plantations poured rum into the streets, where apothecaries dispensed every manner of euphoria, where debauchery quelled the whims of death, where red velvet drapes hid every manner of indiscretion and priests provided absolution for a fee.
It was a world where an old woman watched from her stoop, a cigar smoking from the edge of her lips as she watched me write.
I am only a writer, so this world came out as a book. But combined with other talents, it could just as easily become a graphic novel, a painting, a line of voodoo perfumes, a collection of creole stew recipes—perhaps even a bayou-themed haunted house, a Broadway musical, or an HBO series. (A girl can dream right?)
I think that is the beauty of art, that art inspires art. Like how the Bridgerton book series inspired the Bridgerton Netflix series which inspired Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow to write the Unofficial Bridgerton Musical, which is on repeat in my home as a reminder to believe in my dreams. Or how Alexander Hamilton the person inspired Hamilton the book which inspired “Hamilton” the Broadway musical, whose song “My Shot” can cure me from any hate mail faster than any meditation could do.
My book is not original—I mean, it’s a gothic novel that takes place in New Orleans. It was inspired by old books like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Phantom of the Opera, and new books like Interview with a Vampire, and television shows like True Blood. It was inspired by art I found on Pinterest and songs I found on Spotify. It was inspired by my graduate studies in Mariology.
I don’t hold the patent on any of these things—they are just an aesthetic I wanted to capture in a book. And yet, the way I captured them is unique to me—and if my book inspires you to create something else that creation will be unique to you!
I hope that my book doesn’t end here—that it becomes something else in your hands. And since we’re doing things differently here, I hope I get to be part of that. That one day I’ll be able to write the forward for your fanfiction graphic novel or share your fan art as my Wattpad or Kindle cover. That, in serializing my book in this way we can create it together.
And that starts with the artist Coleen Baik.
Coleen was dipping her toe into the dark before I even shared a single chapter of my book. In fact, the only thing I shared with her was my Obscurity Pinterest board. But the idea resonated with her and she was inspired to create the paintings below. “I’ve been antsy to get some moody vignettes out of my head for a while,” she shared. “So I mostly (though not completely) shifted gears from my animated short Chamoe to paint a series of…gothic vignettes.”
It started as a few sketches painted at night. “I’ve been holed up in the studio, steeping, working. The cicadas have emerged en masse. I listen through open windows with the AC off, because I find it depressing to be in a closed box. Their undulating calls come in series of 15-second waves, growing louder as the temperature rises.”
“Long after they go quiet, I’ve been writing and painting, sometimes through the night... This interlude has felt particularly exciting because I’ve been working to music again,” she shared. “The track is gorgeous and I realized how much I miss anchoring in this way…”
Coleen cleaned them up a bit in Photoshop and in the end, what came out was Obscurity, a set of illustrations where “a woman, lost love, and dark redemption come into focus in a dream-like, sensual atmosphere. (I know, so gothic.)”
I titled my novel Obscurity because, in French, the word “obscurité” means darkness. And I set it in 18th-Century Louisiana because that time and place was the linchpin of the world’s darkness—where the confluence of English, Spanish, French, African, and Native conflicts were at their height and the dark shroud of monarchy, religious oppression, slavery, and native suppression were being reconciled.
Obscurity is set in the darkness—in the parts of ourselves that still haunt us—and that theme is universal. Like the characters in my novel, I too have darkness in my past and I too had to reconcile with it. That experience was ultimately expressed in the form of a gothic novel. And for Coleen, her experiences were ultimately expressed in the form of the paintings above.
When I was writing the book, it was my own, but now that it is being published, the chapters will come transposed with all of your own experiences upon them. And that will make the story even richer! If it ultimately inspires art of your very own—well I’m all about it. In fact, that would be a dream come true.
Chapter Three of my gothic novel Obscurity is coming for you this Friday night at midnight! It’s the last free chapter before my novel locks down to paying subscribers only. If you’re enjoying the book and want to continue reading it, you can subscribe here:
If it’s not your cup of tea, then I will see you right here for my next newsletter, and you won’t receive another chapter from me again. Thank you so much for reading!