Real Talk: Mental Illness and Faith

How do you guys feel about a Real Talk post today? If that’s not your jam, cool, cool, just skip over this and carry on with your life. BUT for those who want to hang around, just a heads up: I want to talk for a little bit about mental health.

I’m guessing it’s pretty obvious from the themes I touch on in my books, and the fact that I’m an author (therefore a creative), that mental health is something very close to me, and something I really struggle with. It’s funny — I’m such a huge advocate for people knowing they’re not alone in their mental battles that I often forget the same is true for me.

So I figure it’s time to shed some light on my journey, if only in the hope that maybe, just maybe, it’ll help someone reading this.

Ten years ago, you could say I was a different person. I was 23 at the time, just finishing up uni, and ready to go out and make my mark on the world. I booked my first ever overseas trip and I took off on what was meant to be a glorious 6-12 months post-uni gap year adventure around Europe. I was fearless — literally, fearless.

But then something changed. Something shifted.

The first day of my overseas adventure was spent at a hospital in London getting checked for blood clots after the long-haul flight. Now, that sounds a bit strange, right? Well, I had the awkward timing of getting a deep tissue massage the day before my flight, having read somewhere that it helps limber you up and make the long travel experience easier on your body. Unfortunately, my masseur was a bit too deep on the deep tissue, and by the time I landed in the UK, there were massive bruises all up and down my legs, enough to freak me out — especially since I’d read all about blood clots (DVT) prior to my trip.

So my first ever blood test was done by a foreign man in a foreign hospital in a foreign country. (Tangent related story: he was this huge African doctor, and I was so exhausted and so terrified and so convinced that I was dying that I burst out crying in his ER consultation room — cue mortification — and he just passed me some tissues and petted my hand and said in his rumbling, accented voice, “You know, where I’m from, we don’t have clean needles. You would probably get AIDS from this.” And he waved the syringe around, thinking I was worried about the needle and not at all helping with my anxiety, but it was enough of a distraction to calm me in the moment — true story!). On top of all that, I had no way to contact home because I couldn’t get a SIM card to work in my phone, and this was in the days before mobiles had easy access to the internet, so I couldn’t just FaceTime or bring up WhatsApp or anything. I had to wait until I was back at my hostel (hours later) before I could pay to use their public computers and contact my family. (It’s actually amazing how much technology has changed in just ten years!)

That first day sucked — a lot — but when my blood work finally came back, I was cleared of blood clots, and told to go and enjoy myself. I set out from the hospital, exhausted but exhilarated and ready to restart my adventure.

And I did.

For all of one week.

I had one good week before I got sick.

Not just “Ugh, I feel gross” sick, but coughing-up-blood kind of sick. By then, I’d spent some time in London, Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon (hello, Shakespeare), and Chester, and I was about to head up into Scotland, which I was so excited for. Given how unwell I was beginning to feel, I weighed up whether I should continue north, especially since it was so cold (and would only be colder the further up I travelled), and I hadn’t packed for that kind of freak weather. It was April so it should have been more temperate, but that year the UK experienced an unexpected cold snap (including snow) just as I arrived with my backpack full of jeans and tees (*insert eye roll here*). I decided that I might as well continue on, though, especially since I’d already booked my ticket on the Hogwarts Express (not called that, but that’s what the train from London to Edinburgh felt like!) and had my hostel booked.

So up I went.

To this day, Edinburgh is my favourite city in the world. It’s so beautiful, like stepping into a fairytale.

The problem is, I didn’t get to experience any of it.

I was meant to be there for 3 days. I spent those 3 days in a 12-bunk dorm (not advised) right next to the castle (that part was amazing), and I basically spent the entire time in bed. After those 3 days, I was meant to continue even higher and do a 3-5 day tour of the Highlands, which I had been so looking forward to. But I was just too sick to move, to the point that I only dragged myself out of bed to go to the Royal Infirmary (ie. the Edinburgh hospital). So that’s two foreign hospital trips within 10 days.

There were two lovely German girls staying in the same dorm as me, and I’ll never forget them and their kindness while I was all but dying. They went out and bought me bottles of water and soup and paracetamol, and one of them even called her doctor mother to find out what kind of over-the-counter medicine might help me. (Since the hospital just told me I probably had a virus and there was nothing they could do — no tests, no caring that I was coughing up blood and could barely stand… at the time, it was at the tail end of the swine flu, so perhaps they just assumed that was it). So I’ll be forever grateful to those two girls, because no only did they come to my aid, but they also put up with me coughing through the night and interrupting their sleep (along with the other people in the 12-bed dorm).

This sickness stayed with me long enough that I had to cancel my Highlands trip (devastating), and since I wasn’t getting any rest in the hostel with so many people coming and going (and I was acutely aware of disturbing them all with me being so sick), I splurged and booked myself into a B&B for two nights. That might not sound like “splurging”, but I had no money. I’d saved (and borrowed) enough for a very cheap backpacking trip, and my daily budget didn’t allow for B&Bs, not if I wanted my funds to stretch for 6-12 months. But desperate times…

The B&B ended up being a total miracle since I was able to get hot water (which had been limited at the hostel) and a quiet room for rest. I was still really sick, but I also felt a little human again.

From the Highlands (which I missed), I was meant to jump over to Ireland, but instead, I scrapped my plans and went back down to London, hoping that the “warmer” weather (comparatively) might help me heal faster, so that I could then continue over to continental Europe, as intended.

That plan didn’t end up working out — if anything, I kept getting sicker. I ended up at an NHS walk-in centre (a medical centre) in London, and they also did nothing but recommend some over-the-counter meds (without any testing), and by that stage, I was honestly ready to beg someone to check me into a hospital, that’s how sick I was.

And it was at that point that I realised I was done.

I was 2 weeks into my “amazing adventure” and I was miserable. I decided that my best course of action was to fly home and give my body a chance to recover, then venture back once I was healthy again.

But then the volcano went off.

I’m not kidding — the Icelandic volcano (Eyjafjallajökull) erupted, halting all air traffic. So I was literally stranded, sick, and without accommodation.

… For another four weeks.

Fun times.

I’m going to skip those four weeks since they’re irrelevant to this story other than for me to say that I remained incredibly sick that whole time — and then continued to be ill for another three months once I finally made it home to Australia.

Yup, you read that right. And I still have no idea what was wrong with me, since by the time I got home, I just wanted to curl up and never see another doctor again.

And I didn’t, for two years.

Those two years were full of bliss. They included a lot of changes in my life, my friends, my world, and all of them wonderful. (I also started writing books in that time, which led me to where I am today.)

But then… two years of wonder shattered in a moment.

The day before I was about to get on my first plane since that traumatic overseas trip, I became convinced — convinced — that I had a blood clot in my leg. Never mind that I literally had no reason in the world to have a blood clot, I was positive that I had one, and that it was going to move to my lungs/heart/brain/whatever and I was going to die.

Convinced.

Utterly convinced.

So I had a blood test — and it came back positive.

My world stopped.

That’s the only way I can think to describe that moment.

Now, I should pause here to mention that, prior to that day, I’d never had to face any kind of major health concern. Yes, plenty of injuries and broken bones and stitches and even surgeries (I grew up riding horses), but nothing that made me feel so totally and completely out of control, almost like my body was my enemy.

The problem is, I later discovered, that the blood test they did was so vague that anything could have made it be “positive” — from something as small as a mosquito bite, to something more serious (like I feared). So they ordered an ultrasound, and they expedited it since I was meant to hop on a plane the next day.

The ultrasound came back clear, the doc told me to enjoy my trip… but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t go.

didn’t go.

I was frozen. I was completely paralysed by fear. I couldn’t reconcile the blood test results, and was certain that something was wrong with me. So much so that my body began symptomising what I feared, making me have pains in my leg as if I did have a blood clot.

Something to mention here was that it was 2 years — to the day — since that overseas nightmare trip, and, as already mentioned, it was about to be my first flight since I’d returned. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was experiencing was Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which spiralled very quickly into an unshakable anxiety disorder coupled with extreme hypervigilance.

It was… not wonderful.

The next six months became a black hole for me. I have only the vaguest memories of them, of going about my days in a fog of constant terror, certain every night that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. My mum had to fly over from Perth to keep an eye on me for the first two weeks because I was basically catatonic with dread. I remember having conversations with people where I would see their lips moving and I knew they were talking to me, but I had no idea what they were saying because I was so stuck and “lost” in my own head that I couldn’t pull myself out of the foggy, terror-riddled darkness.

Somehow, I still managed to function, even in those six months, though I have no idea how. I was referred to a psychologist, but because I’d studied a lot of counselling therapies at uni as part of my degree, I already had the theoretical “knowledge” in my head, but I struggled with putting it into practice. Plus, I won’t lie, I felt so stupid. I’m a rational, logical enough person to know that worrying about something doesn’t change it. But there was just such a disconnect within me — I knew there was no point in having anxiety, but despite that, I couldn’t not be anxious.

It was… exhausting. I was so, so, so tired, trying to fight an invisible battle, hour after hour, day after day.

Six months into the black hole, I decided that I had to at least try and break out of it. I had to find some semblance of my old life, grasp onto that, and push through in at least one, small way.

So I started writing again. I remember thinking, “This is my dream; I refuse to let go of it.”

It was a lifeline for me, and bit by bit, I slowly started to edge out of the black hole.

But the anxiety remained — I just learned how to deal with it a bit better.

This was eight years ago.

I wish I could say things had improved since then, I really do.

Some days are good. Some days are great. Thankfully, I have more good days than bad days… but I do still have bad days. Sometimes really bad days.

Mental illness sucks, guys. It’s irrational, and can strike at anyone out of the blue for no reason. Who’d have thought that one unpleasant “holiday” would come back to bite me two years later? When I think of PTSD, I envision soldiers who have gone to war and seen (and done) horrific things. That’s stressful and traumatic — in comparison, what I went through was a total non-event. And yet, my mind turned it into my very own kind of battleground: an immovable mountain of shadows, a nightmare that hit me out of nowhere… and decided to hang around.

The truth is, despite everything I’ve written here, I’m lucky in so many ways. While I’ve had little success with therapy, and I’ve chosen not to take anti-anxiety medication in case it stifles my creativity (a very hard decision that I still grapple with, since I love the idea of numbing the fears, believe me), there is something that I do have, that helps me more than anything else ever could. Or, not so much something, as someone.

If you’ve read my acknowledgements in any of my books, you’ll know I’m Christian. My faith is really important to me, and all of my books are filled with Biblical elements and themes if you choose to look for them (eg. the Library as the God-figure in The Medoran Chronicles, and the entire premise of Whisper being about the power of life and death in our words)… and honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything that I’ve done in the last few years without God giving me the strength and courage to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Some of you reading this would have come to see me at events. I’m bubbly, right? I smile a lot, I laugh a lot, I seem super confident and talkative and friendly and just, all of those upbeat, positive things, right? Well, more often than not, I’m also terrified. During my Vardaesia launch tour last year, which was like 17 events in 15 days, I had a pain in my stomach for pretty much the whole time, and I was so freaking afraid that something was seriously wrong with me. My anxiety was at an all time high (to the point that my stomach was literally in knots, and after one of the events I even had to go back to my hotel room and curl up in a ball on my bed, shaking violently from fear)… but I got through it, and I did it smiling with no one having any idea that I was in pain, or scared out of my mind — and I only managed that because God was holding my hand.

I know, I know, 95% of you are rolling your eyes right now. “Oh, jeez, not another one of those crazy religious people,” you’re probably thinking. And that’s cool, you’re free to think what you want. But as for me, my faith is what helps me when the dark days come. And, honesty moment, they come a lot. It’s not just anxiety; sometimes it’s depression, and it’s almost always some form of obsessive compulsive catastrophising. There’s loneliness, abandonment, self-criticism, and deep-seated insecurities, among too many other things to list, all like little (big!) arrows shooting directly into me — all the time.

Part of it, I know, is because I’m a creative, and creatives tend to be rather sensitive to mental illness, since our brains are just wired that way. Yay for powerful imaginations (*sigh*). But having a reason for mental illness doesn’t take it away.

And, I’m not gonna lie, sometimes having faith through it is really hard, too. At least, in the sense of, if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He just take my anxiety away? Take my fears and my sadness and loneliness and whatever I’m dealing with — why doesn’t He step in and make everything all sunshine and butterflies?

That’s a great question, and one that I wonder about a lot.

I wish I could tell you my answer, but I’m still trying to figure it out. But… isn’t that what faith is? Believing in something even when you don’t understand it? Like, I fly in a heap of planes, but I have no idea how they work — I just have to have faith that the engineers built those things properly, and faith that the pilots know how to fly them. Just because I don’t understand the mechanics doesn’t mean they’re not real. The same is true for God — I don’t understand why He does (or doesn’t do) some things, but that doesn’t mean He’s not real. I’m just… not an engineer, or a pilot.

I’m just me.

Some people think faith is a crutch, that only those with weak minds or low intellect or insert-insult-of-choice-here believe in. I get that — sometimes it’s easier to believe God isn’t real than it is to wonder why bad things happen in this world. Wars, disease, famine… those are all awful, so why does God allow them? And what about the other things a bit closer to home? What about your dog being run over by a car, your friends abandoning you, your boss firing you, your child being diagnosed with leukaemia… where is God in these things?

For me specifically, where was God when I was hit by PTSD? Where was God in the 8 years I’ve battled with anxiety ever since? Where was God when I was so tense from that anxiety that I inflamed my spine and couldn’t sit down — for four years — which meant I couldn’t meet up with friends in social environments, and I therefore lost pretty much all of them, leaving me completely alone with only my dark, terrified mind for company?

Seriously — where was God in my own personal nightmare of the last 8 years?

Doubt says God isn’t real.

Doubt says, if God is real, then He doesn’t care.

But faith…

Faith says God was with me — is with me — every moment. For every fear I feel, He’s whispering in my ear, “Don’t be afraid, I’ve got this. It’ll all work out for good in the end — you mightn’t be able to see it now, but one day you’ll understand. Just trust me.”

God is the pilot of my life — He’s the one flying the plane. And while I mightn’t like it at all when He lets me fly into storms (eeek), I just have to remember that He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll get me through those clouds to the rainbow on the other side.

Yes, okay, it might get a bit bumpy. Mental illness is bumpy — it’s up, down, and all around. There’s turbulence, good days and bad days. But as long as I remember that I don’t have to fly the plane, that someone else is in control and knows exactly what they’re doing, then I can breathe a little easier.

To me, that’s faith. Or at least, it’s my faith. I can’t speak for anyone else.

And, honestly, it’s really hard to hold onto that faith, especially when I enter those turbulent times.

But… can you imagine if I tried to bust my way into the cockpit and sat myself in the pilot’s chair and tried to fly that plane myself? Yikes, that’s not a good idea. And yet, that’s what so many of us try to do (me included — what can I say, I’m a total control freak).

I’m not writing this as some kind of preachy-preachy message, I just wanted to be real with you and share my journey from the last few years. Mental illness didn’t just affect my mind — it changed my life, in every single way. But… for as much as I hate it, there has been so much good come out of it, things I never would have experienced, people I never would have met, lives I never would have touched. I mean… if you’ve read my books, you’ll know. You’ll know. And I know you know, because you email me, and you message me, and you share your hearts with me, your stories with me, and you reveal your brokenness and how my characters and their journeys have helped you in yours.

All of that? It’s because of what I’ve gone through in the last 8 years.

It’s sucked… but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because it gave me The Medoran Chronicles. It gave me Whisper. And it’s given me The Prison Healer — and everything else that’s coming in the future.

It gave me you — and, if I may be so bold, it gave you me.

Remember what I said at the beginning about how I’m always telling people that they’re not alone? Well, it’s true. And I hope some part of everything I’ve written here helps you feel that, even just a little bit. I hope it breaks into your own darkness, filling the shadows with light. Whether or not you believe in God, whether or not you have your own faith journey (though, I mean, what does it hurt to give it a shot, if you’ve never tried? If you’re willing to give Jesus a chance to be your “pilot”, shoot me through a message and I’ll help point you in the right direction!), we’re all in this together. Life is a little bit less scary when you do it side-by-side with others. After all, a battle is best fought with an army. There’s power in numbers. And for anyone struggling with mental illness, your mind is your battleground, so conscript the people around you for help. They’re your army — your friends, your family. So let them help you fight your nightmares.

… And if you don’t have anyone, then take heart, because for 8 years, I felt like I didn’t have anyone, and here I am, still standing, still fighting. Just, whatever you do, don’t give up. Because you have an incredible future ahead of you — just wait, you’ll see.

Right! On that note, I’m going to finish up, but I want to leave you with some of my favourite quotes from The Medoran Chronicles. Don’t worry if you haven’t read that series, there’s nothing spoilery in these, but hopefully you’ll find comfort and encouragement from them:


“All you can do is live in the moment and choose not to worry about what the future may bring.” – Draekora


“You can’t change what happened… All you can do is decide how you’ll react to it.” – Draekora


“Don’t waste today by fearing tomorrow, for tomorrow will come whether you’re ready for it or not.” – Draekora


“Don’t fear the shadows. Make the shadows fear you.” – Graevale


“On the days when you feel most alone, rather than dwelling on what you don’t have, instead consider what might lie ahead.” – We Three Heroes


“You are much too special to live a life defined by the opinions of others.” – We Three Heroes


“Some scars never heal. But even the scars we consider ugly can be beautiful when we look at them in the right light. When we see not what was done to us, but what we overcame.” – We Three Heroes


“Tomorrow is a new day. Your light will shine again.” – Vardaesia


“Don’t lose hope before we’ve even begun.” – Vardaesia


“What matters most is how we cope in the face of our suffering; that we get up and keep trying, remembering that each new day is a new opportunity for something to change; for something better to happen.” – Vardaesia


Hope was all she had left, but it was enough. Because in a future filled with uncertainty, hope was everything. – Vardaesia


Her past didn’t define her. It never had. She had fallen and she had failed, but she had never given up—and she wasn’t going to now. – Vardaesia


“Don’t doubt in darkness what you believed in times of light.” – Vardaesia


 

Best of 2019

Wowsa, where did the year go!? Talk about time flying! With 2020 now upon us, I thought I might share some of my fave movies, TV shows, and books of 2019. Some were only released this year, some are older and I only experienced them for the first time within the last 12 months. All of the following I highly recommend! (NOTE: for any younger readers (and/or the parents of), please check the ratings/blurbs of the following before watching/reading!)

BOOKS:

I had a busy, busy, busy year editing and releasing two books (VARDAESIA and WEAPON), both of which ended their respective series and therefore required extra care and attention. Not to mention, I basically lived out of a suitcase since I travelled so much for the billion events I did… and on top of that, I also wrote my next book (THE PRISON HEALER) and did a lot of exciting but time-consuming stuff with that (more news coming soon!)… SO I didn’t have a heap of spare hours for reading. That said, I was surprised by how much I did manage (I tried to R&R as often I was able, given the craziness of everything else). Sadly, only a few books really wowed me this year, and those are the ones I’m going to list here, in no particular order:

  • Crescent City by Sarah J. Maas (*releasing March 2020)
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend
  • This Love by Dani Atkins
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
  • The Black Witch (and the sequel The Iron Flower) by Laurie Forest
  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

AUDIOBOOKS:

I’ve started to get into audiobooks this year, which previously I haven’t been a massive fan of (since I prefer to be able to imagine the ‘voice’ of the characters in my head), but I’ve now come to love this medium of reading! My faves include:

  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (obvs I’ve read and re-read HP too many times to count, but I listened to the entire series via audiobook this year — narrated by Stephen Fry — and OH, MY, it was magical!)
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and narrated by Richard Armitage (the actor!)
  • Red Rising (the original trilogy) by Pierce Brown and narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds (interestingly, I tried a few times to read the physical books, but I struggled to get into the first one. However, I fell in love with the audiobooks — 5 stars for all three of them! Such an epic experience! I’m now afraid to continue on to the next ones set in the future since I don’t want to risk losing any love for the original trilogy!)
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver (narrated by Eleanor Tomlinson and Charlie Anson)

MOVIES:

It was a mediocre-ish year of movies for me (in comparison to the amount of TV shows I became obsessed with), but there were a few that I enjoyed. Only a handful elicited a “THAT WAS AMAZING!” response from me, but the following were all enjoyable. (I should note here that I’ve been told I have poor taste in movies/TV shows, haha. I like to find shows to escape into, which means I watch for entertainment purposes, and I’m not looking from a critical perspective. Many of these were ripped to shreds by reviewers, but I still liked them):

  • Avengers: Engame
  • Aladdin
  • Robin Hood (the new 2018 version)
  • Red Sea Diving Resort
  • Aquaman
  • Skyscraper
  • Small Foot
  • Mortal Engines
  • Frozen 2
  • Last Christmas
  • The Hustle
  • Forever My Girl
  • Wonder Park
  • Chalet Girl

TV SHOWS:

2019 was definitely a year of TV shows for me. I already mentioned that I travelled a lot, so I had a heap of time in hotel rooms to sneak episodes while I was getting ready for events, and also watching on planes, etc., or just when I needed to relax in between edits/writing. The following are the shows that I devoured, some of which were only released this year, many of which are older and I only just discovered (and sadly lots haven’t been renewed for more seasons):

  • Chernobyl (I cannot recommend this highly enough!!)
  • The Witcher (my newest obsession!!!)
  • Umbrella Academy (loved!)
  • Roswell, New Mexico (the new 2019 remake – amazing!)
  • Deception (devastated there’s no season 2)
  • Emerald City (again, devastated there’s no season 2)
  • A Discovery of Witches
  • The Order
  • V-Wars (lots of supernatural gore but I really loved this!)
  • Krypton
  • Once Upon a Time (the final season where everything is different)
  • Dynasty (the newer remake)
  • The Bold Type (similar vibes to Younger — so good!)
  • Another Life
  • Switched at Birth (wholesome and lovely!)
  • Manifest (so mysterious!)
  • Timeless (sad that there’s only two seasons, but it ended well!)
  • Alcatraz
  • The Crossing
  • Turn Up Charlie (not my usual kind of show, but Idris Elba is fantastic!)
  • Merry Happy Whatever (dysfunctional Christmassy fun)
  • The I-Land
  • Game of Thrones (I only started it this year since everyone was in such a tizzy about the final season, so I watched it all in about month)

… and of course there are new seasons of old favourites, like Younger, The 100, Suits, Arrow, Salvation, The Good Place, Lucifer, The Good Witch, Lost in Space, and probably a heap of others I’ve totally forgotten.

Looking at this list of shows, it’s clear that I lean towards the fantasy/sci-fi/magic/supernatural shows, with a smattering of drama and family shows thrown in to shake things up. It’s so weird to see it all laid out like this! How interesting! The same could be said of my books and movies. Of course, I read and watch a lot more widely than any of these lists show, but these are the ones that have left the greatest impression on me from an enjoyment perspective.

Your turn now! Comment below any of your favourites — books, movies, TV shows — that you’ve loved from 2019! I’m always looking for new recommendations and would love to hear what has inspired you this year!

Happy Kaldoras!

For anyone who missed seeing it on my socials over the last few days, I’ve just released a (free) short story that can be downloaded as an e-book from all the standard e-retailers (Amazon, iBooks, etc.):

A VERY MEDORAN KALDORAS

Journey back to the world of Medora for a Kaldoras celebration like no other! Set nine months after the conclusion of The Medoran Chronicles, this short story will warm your heart as you experience the joys—and tears—of the festive season right alongside all your favourite characters!

*WARNING* Spoilers for those who haven’t read the entire Medoran Chronicles series!

WEAPON Launch Tour

Listed below are the details for the national WEAPON launch tour that kicks off on November 1st! I’ll be heading to Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane and Sydney, with all the information — including RSVP links — below. 

PLEASE NOTE:

1. All of my books will be available for purchase and signing at each of these events, and/or you can bring your own copies from home. 

2. A signing limit may be imposed at some events, whereby large numbers may mean I can only personalise WEAPON (with just a signature on the other books). 

3. RSVPs/tickets are needed for all of the events with details included below, so please follow the links and instructions. (Bookings are ESSENTIAL but all events are FREE — except for in the case of the Supanova events, where entry tickets to the convention can be bought from the Supanova website here.) 


And without further ado, here are the events, listed by city!

ADELAIDE:

EVENT 1: Supanova Comic Con and Gaming
Friday 1st November – Sunday 3rd November (Book club on the Friday night, then all-day signings on Saturday and Sunday, along with a panel each day — exact times to come once the Supanova program has been released)
Venue: Adelaide Showgrounds 
RSVP: General admission tickets to the convention must be purchased through the Supanova website

EVENT 2: In Conversation/Q&A and signing (hosted by The YA Circle)
Monday 4th November6:15pm
Dymocks Adelaide
Rundle Mall, Adelaide
RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/meet-lynette-noni-tickets-75098773453?fbclid=IwAR2ZeZxr2BleryZ4ahNeCIScH6_OEPjxpBYMvyIQ3QqXOsr8-nohWUiFLQM


HOBART: 

EVENT 1: In Conversation/Q&A and signing
Wednesday 6th November, 4:00pm
Dymocks Hobart
Centre Point Shopping Centre
RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/weapon-launch-with-lynette-noni-tickets-74533528791?aff=erelexpmlt


BRISBANE:

EVENT 1: Supanova Comic Con and Gaming
Friday 8th November – Sunday 10th November (Signing and book club on the Friday afternoon, then all-day signings on Saturday and Sunday, along with a panel each day — exact times to come once the Supanova program has been released)
Venue: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
RSVP: General admission tickets to the convention must be purchased through the Supanova website

EVENT 2: In Conversation/Q&A and signing (hosted by Jeann from Happy Indulgence)
Monday 11th November, 5:30pm
Mount Alvernia College, Brisbane
RSVP: https://riverbendbooks.com.au/events/11-nov-530pm-lynette-noni


SYDNEY:

EVENT 1: In Conversation/Q&A and signing
Saturday 16th November, 12:00pm
Dymocks George Street
Sydney City
RSVP: Send email to eventscoordinator@dymocks.com.au 


For any questions, please contact events@panterapress.com

Weapon tour 2

 

8-House Publishing Auction!

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but last week I found myself in the middle of an auction for ANZ rights to my new YA fantasy series!!!

I still feel like I’m living in a dream, so let me rewind and tell the story from the beginning.

About six weeks ago, I finished writing a new book called The Prison Healer. (Wow, it is SUCH a relief to finally be able to say the name!) I’d recently signed on with a new agent (which you can read all about here), so the following weeks after finishing the draft, I worked with her on a few rounds of revisions. The turnaround was really fast, and suddenly TPH was in submission shape, and my agent — Danielle — and sub rights agent — Jenny — said it was time to start sending it out into the world.

Cue me rocking in the corner, especially when, within a week, I found myself in an 8-house auction.

EEEK.

As in, ALL THE EEEKs.

Out of nowhere, I had people from each of the publishing houses wanting to jump on the phone/Skype with me (and even an in-person meeting) to share their vision for what they could do with the series, while trying to convince me of why I should go with them.

Honestly, it was the most amazing (but also the most stressful) week of my life.

As far as the actual process goes, all it took was one offer to come in before Jenny was able to go back to the other ANZ houses she’d submitted to, telling them they had 24 hours to offer a counter bid. Every single house came back with their own offer within that time (preliminary bids to get them into the auction), and that’s when things started to get really crazy.

Over the next few days, I spoke with a heap of people, and every time I got off the phone/Skype, I’m not kidding that, without fail, I sighed happily and said, “I LOVE THEM!”

This, obviously, made it an IMPOSSIBLE decision.

While all this was happening — the calls, I mean — the publishers had just under a week to send Jenny their “best and final” bids (ie. the highest $ amount they could/would offer) along with a rough marketing plan and, in some cases, a written pitch document as to why I should go with them over the others.

All of this information — the best/final bids, pitches, and marketing details — came to me in the early hours of last Thursday morning. So, a week ago today. And then, I had to decide.

One thing that kind of threw me for a loop was that the highest bidder ended up being someone that, until that point, I hadn’t spoken with. (And I’d spoken with most of them during the week.) So that day, I jumped on the phone with that publisher to get a sense of what their thinking was, which again, just made everything even harder, since like all the others, I LOVED THEM.

This was clearly a problem for me.

Since Danielle and Jenny are both based in NYC, we set up a Skype call for that night, because there was no way I could make this decision without help. During the day, Jenny had gone back to two of my “favourites” to see if they wanted to offer counter bids to the new highest bidder, and both of them did just that… so now I was down to three that I had to decide between. (Hey, give me some credit, at least I’d managed that much!)

I should also mention in here that I had breakfast with my author friend, Jessica Townsend (if you haven’t read her Nevermoor series, stop reading this right now and go grab a copy!), and I was also emailing back and forth with Sarah J. Maas, who is my go-to person when it comes to big decisions like this, and both where insanely helpful and I’m so grateful to them. (BUT it’s also worth mentioning that they were gleefully like, “Ha! Sucks to be you!” — as in, they knew how hard the decision was and were glad that they weren’t the ones in my position. Great friends, they are. *Eye roll*)

After speaking with everyone and Skyping with Danielle/Jenny, I had to confirm who I wanted to go with. The truth is, any one of the eight publishers in the auction would have been brilliant, including my current publishers who I’ve been with since the start of my career. That was why I struggled so much to choose — because there was no wrong decision. So it was a matter of who I/we thought was the best match going forward in regards to passion and enthusiasm and author care, but also for really important things like strategy and marketing/publicity and audience reach.

SO.

*Drum roll please*

I’m absolutely DELIGHTED to share that I’ve accepted an offer from Penguin Random House for ANZ rights to The Prison Healer series! I’m so, so, SO excited for all that’s ahead in my new partnership with them!!! Plus, I’m flying to Sydney to meet the team tomorrow (or, the Sydney-based team, at least), and I can’t WAIT!!! (I hear there’s going to be cake, and we all know that cake is the BEST!!!)

I’m including the official press release below to finish off this super exciting post, and I can’t wait to share more about TPH and my experiences with PRH as things continue to develop!

OH! And you’ll see in the press release that while all of this was happening, auctions and deals for other territories were also going on during the week, which is insane. My mind is officially blown!!

PRH2

AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY!!

WhisperBooks

To celebrate the audiobook release of WHISPER on Audible, I’ve decided to host a giveaway! Since it’s been released in the USA, UKand AUS/NZ, there will be 9 LUCKY WINNERS — 3 in each territory!!

SO!

To win, all you have to do is send an email to lynettenonigiveaway@gmail.com with the following:

  1. State your name and which territory you live in (USA, UK, AUS/NZ)
  2. Explain why you would like to win the audiobook of WHISPER
  3. Name the most recent audiobook you’ve listened to
  4. Name your favourite audiobook of all time
  5. Confirm that you have an account with Audible (this is needed to claim your prize!)

That’s it! 

The competition will be open for one week (until midnight on Saturday 5th October) and winners will be drawn at random and notified by email over the following few days with instructions on how to claim their free audiobook.

WHISPER WON THE GOLD INKY AWARD!

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A week ago today, the most AMAZING thing happened — WHISPER won the Gold Inky Award!!! As timing would have it, I was in Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival when the winner was announced, so I was able to accept the award in person, which was amazing

For context, the Inky Awards are Australia’s only teen choice book awards. 20 books are selected for the longlist (10 national, and 10 international):

Inky-Banner-e1551674747428

… and then a panel of teenage judges whittle those down to a shortlist of 5 books in each category:

Untitled design - 2019-07-22T133817.185

After that, voting is open to the teenage public (people aged between 12-19 years). At the end of the voting, a Gold Inky winner is selected for a national book, and a Silver Inky winner is selected for an international book — this year’s winner being THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black.

I’m honestly still speechless and so ridiculously honoured that WHISPER was voted as the winner. It’s such a beautiful thing to know that “Jane Doe’s” story has resonated so strongly with teens — I’m truly humbled. 

As an added note, it was also my birthday the day that the winners were announced, so I’m sure it goes without saying, but OMIGOSH, IT WAS THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!!!

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My (New) Literary Agent

Yikes, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on here! It’s hardly an excuse, but life has been pretty hectic over the last 18 months, what with having released 4 books since the beginning of last year, and my next one coming out in like 8 weeks. So, uh, sorry? *Awkward apologetic face*

I do, however, have news! In amongst all the craziness, I made the tough decision to part ways with my agent of nearly four years. Believe me when I say I basically gave myself a stomach ulcer over it since she was a wonderful agent, but for a number of reasons, I realised that I needed someone else in my corner going forward into the future.

SO! Thus began a stress-inducing time of chatting with a number of other agents, many of whom could be considered “dream agents”… and most of whom offered representation on the spot.

Cue hyperventilating.

You know, once upon a time, I dreamed of a single agent saying “yes”. I mean, for three years I received rejection after rejection, and even when I got my first publishing offer (for The Medoran Chronicles), I was a “slush pile” baby — I didn’t have an agent at that point, and it wasn’t until 6 months after the first book was released that I was offered representation (thanks to Whisper). So to suddenly have multiple agents raise their hands to rep me, I’m sure you can understand when I say I was overwhelmed to the extreme.

There are three people who I owe HUGE amounts of gratitude to for helping me through that time — Sarah J. Maas, who dealt with my “OMG WHAT DO I DO, SARAH!?!?! AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?!?!?” emails and texts at all hours of the day and night, especially when I kept back-and-forthing over agent possibilities; Jessica Townsend, who was literally on the first holiday she’s had since publishing Nevermoor, and she was on a beach in Fiji answering my multiple DMs of OMG HELP!! questions and fears; and Sulari Gentill, who helped me with the agent-saga while also offering advice on another publishing-related crisis I was juggling at the same time.

Clearly, it was “fun times” for me. *Eye roll*

But truly, without those three amazing authors having my back and offering advice and encouragement, there’s NO WAY I would have made it through those few weeks with my sanity intact. 

SO! To make a long story short(er), I was 99% sold on one agent (to the point that I’d turned down all the others), and I was just about to accept, but then another one asked for a Skype call the next day.

To be honest, it was an unanticipated (even unwanted) curve ball, because I’d contacted a different agent at that agency and — you know what, this’ll be a lot easier to explain if I use names. BUT that means my “short” story will be a tad longer than planned. So here goes:

One of the agents I queried was Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. Kristin represents some incredible YA authors, like Marie Lu, Ally Carter, Sherry Thomas, Scott Reintgen, Simone Elkeles… and many others, whose books I love. Plus, she has a great reputation as an agent. When she showed interest in talking further about representing me, of course I was delighted (aside from the hives now covering every inch of me at already having a number of offers on the table).

The thing is… after I quickly drafted up some sample pages, Kristin mentioned that one of the other agents at NLA was showing more passion for my proposed book, and it was that agent, Danielle Burby, who wanted to have a chat over Skype — with Kristin in on the call as well.

By that stage, you have to remember what I said about being 99% sold on another agent, so I truly thought the call was going to be a waste of my time (and theirs). I’d done my research on Kristin, but not on Danielle, and I didn’t know anything about her other than that she was based in NYC. To be honest, I wasn’t even looking forward to the call at all, but my people-pleasing tendencies kept me from just saying “no” to it. Instead, we figured out how to wrangle the time difference (Kristin being in Colorado, Danielle in New York, and me in Australia), and then we had The Call.

I don’t quite know how to describe what happened next other than to say I was devastated.

No joke.

I was so ridiculously distressed after chatting with Danielle and Kristin, because they stuffed up my plan. I thought I had everything figured out. I thought I was going to waste some time doing the polite thing by chatting with the two of them, then do the whole, “thanks, but no thanks” respectful decline of the offer.

Instead, I was blown away by Danielle’s passion and ambition and drive. And more, this was on a mere sample of a book that I’d only drafted a few pages for — while on a freaking airplane to one of my events. The pages were beyond rough… but I could tell that Danielle believed in the book, and also in what she could do for me and my future as an author.

Even so, I was terrified. The other agent — the 99% one — was almost guaranteed as a sure thing. Her track record showed just how many internationally bestselling authors she represents, not to mention, that she’s made a career out of helping Australian authors become global sensations. That was what I thought I needed.

But… while that 99% agent had all the dot-points of my “dream agent”, there was no passion, no excitement, no “we’re in this together”-ness. Working with that agent would have been a strong business decision… but it wouldn’t have been a partnership.

I can admit it — I’m pretty needy as an author (and as a human being). At times, I need nurturing and hand-holding. This industry is hard, and sometimes I really just need to know that I have someone fighting with me (and for me), someone to cry with and celebrate with. BUT I also need someone who’s not afraid to tell me if I’m overreacting or being dramatic or if I just need to chill the fudge down. When talking with Sarah and Jess, they both told me the single most important thing they have with their respective agents is a relationship. It’s not just about business; their author–agent partnerships go beyond that. (Needless to say, they were both Team Danielle from the get-go, even when I was still vacillating over the decision.)

Obviously, since I’m using names here, I ended up going with Danielle. (Seriously, it should have been obvious to me the moment she sent me a Harry Potter gif to sign off an email. Like, as if there was any doubt after that, haha.)

Ultimately, I went with my gut. And I’m not kidding when I say it was a seriously, seriously hard thing for me to do, since I have terrible trust issues and I knew I was turning down the 99% agent who basically guaranteed she could get me everything I wanted next in my career, and instead I chose the unexpected “risky”-but-passionate agent. 

And now? Well, it’s only early days still… but I can honestly say I am so freaking excited for what the future holds. The moment I made my decision and chose Danielle, I felt like a HUGE weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I just knew that I’d made the right decision. Obviously, we still have a lot to wade through, since I have so much publishing history (and, let’s face it, baggage), but I’m truly delighted with my decision and how things have been shaping up between us so far. I really, truly, can’t wait to see what happens next, especially since I’ve just finished drafting that new book I mentioned, and, once it’s cleaned up a bit, we’ll begin submissions for it. I guess that’s when the real test begins, but I also know that no matter what happens, we’re in this together — and that’s what I’m most excited about. 

***INSERT ALL THE HAPPY DANCING HERE***

ABIA Awards Night

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but last week I flew to Sydney for the ABIA Awards (Australian Book Industry Awards), and WHISPER ended up winning the Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year award!!!!!!!

Seriously, that is SO CRAZY and I’m still in some surreal state of “What-just-happened?!

It was such a brilliant night and I got to share it with the most amazing people ever, so I can easily say I’m still on Cloud Nine! 

A big shoutout to my publishers, Pantera Press, for just being awesome, as well as to Bloomsbury for distributing my books and getting them out to the world. Plus, of course, to all the booksellers and librarians and teachers (and teacher librarians) for selling and sharing my books with people everywhere. AND also, very importantly, to all my readers — YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank youuuuuu to everyone who has supported and encouraged me on this writing journey! I’m SO EXCITED for all that’s coming next!

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The Magic of Book Covers

It’s no secret that I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to the cover designs of The Medoran Chronicles. All six covers are absolutely stunning, and as such, it’s something I’m asked about quite frequently: “How did you end up with such gorgeous covers?”

Well, the short answer is, my publishers hired brilliant cover designers. The longer answer is that it took time and communication and a LOT of drafts. But all those things combined (plus a heap of talent from the designers) ended up creating pure magic.

Since the cover design process is one of my favourite parts of publishing, the wonderful team at our Sydney-based designers, XOU Creative, have given me permission to share how it all comes together. So here goes, from beginning to end — AKARNAE through to VARDAESIA!

First up, I should mention that it’s my editor who sends cover briefs to the designers. After chatting with me about a vision and asking for any inspiration pics I might have (yay, Pinterest!), as well as talking with my publishers’ sales and marketing teams, my editor then sends through ideas to the designers, including portions of text directly from the book/s. The designers are left to draft up a few different possibilities — “concepts” — which they then send to my editor. Often, I won’t ever see these early concepts. It’s only once a draft is considered as having potential that it’ll come my way for feedback, sometimes with a few different options for me to decide between.

The first time I ever got to experience the excitement of cover design was for AKARNAE back in 2014 (for a 2015 release — covers are usually finalised 6-12 months before a book hits stores). I was sent two different concepts and asked my preference as to which path I’d prefer to go down:

Akarnae original option 2

Akarnae original

The first cover was a bit too “Alice in Wonderland”-esque for me. It seemed a little juvenile for what I was after in my debut YA fantasy novel. The second cover, however, had the magic and wonder and mystery I was looking for, and I fell in love with it on sight. However, it still needed work — which is completely normal with cover designing, and also why I was brought into the conversation at this point.

One of my main concerns was that I felt as if Alex looked like she was some kind of middle-aged office executive. Her hair and clothes didn’t imply teenager — she just looked way too stiff and mature. Thankfully, this ended up being a really easy fix by letting her hair out (literally) and changing her outfit. We played around with a few different clothing choices before settling on jeans and a leather-look jacket, resulting in this:

Akarnae Ring on hand

The above looks pretty close to the final version, right? Well, the funny thing about covers is how many suuuuuper small problems you can find right up until the very end. Case in point, if you look really close at the above image, you’ll see that Alex has a ring — on her wedding finger. (#Awkward!) So little stuff like that was what we tweaked for the final few draft rounds, including changing the design of her hands and adding extra sparkles and things like that, until we hit the jackpot of the final version:

Akarnae Final Cover

With AKARNAE done, RAELIA came next, about a year later. Of all the covers in this series, I didn’t see many of the early concepts for book two until long after we’d locked in the final version. (I have them now, though, so can add them into this post.)

I had a really clear vision for RAELIA’s cover in my head — I thought it’d be powerful to have a snow-covered forest with the mushroom-circled clearing, and a lot of the moodiness and mystery (and anguish) that comes from that final cliffhanger scene where you-know-what happens with you-know-who.

Unfortunately, I was told that all of the cover designs with snow and forests weren’t coming up “magical” enough, so that was a bit disappointing and it meant I had to wipe my vision clear and open my mind to what else might be presented.

The problem was, apparently there were some issues whereby too many different opinions resulted in too many cover possibilities. Here are just a few of them that I saw down the track, all of which are gorgeous, but none of which really epitomised the feeling or content of the book. (Also note the snow ones, which are super pretty, but I can see what they meant about the lacking “magic” — and also ignore the title typo, which was obviously corrected later):

Raelia not it 6

Raelia not it 5

Raelia not it 4

Raelia not it 2

Raelia not it

As you can see, none of the above concepts really have anything to do with the book, even if they are pretty. And, confession: I actually still really love the snow ones, haha. BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not delighted with what ended up being the final version, with the city of Meya in the background, and the Silverwood trees as a feature:

Raelia1

Next up came DRAEKORA, and out of all the Medoran books, it was probably the easiest and the fastest cover to come together. Part of that was because we all had the same clear vision, which resulted in this being the first cover concept we received from the designer:

Draekora original

On the whole, we were all delighted with it. I absolutely LOVED that the floating islands were so obvious, though I did have concerns about the draekons being a spoiler. That said, it just looked so good that I was stoked. So then it was just a matter of playing with the colours — making it more vibrant overall, but also fixing up whatever was happening with the psychedelic flowers at the bottom. Plus, we wanted to see if we could add some extra elements, like details on some of the islands.

… Funnily enough, though, the next version came back perhaps a bit too extra:

Draekora overkill

You can see that it’s definitely vibrant, but it’s also a bit too OTT as well. There’s just so much happening, and so many colours. It’s like, “MY EYES, MY EYES!!”

So we had the designers tone things back a bit and even out the colours, and a few more back-and-forths resulted in the stunning beauty of the final version:

DraekoraCoverJPEG

GRAEVALE was the next cover to come along, and similar to DRAEKORA, the early concepts came back really strong, with this being the first draft I saw:

Graevale original

I loved the moodiness of the colours and the city of Graevale being half in shadows, half in light, plus the storm added the sense of danger and mystery and just… ahh, so much love for this cover. But there were still some problems that needed ironing out — things like how the mist was blowing in one direction, while Alex’s hair blew in the other direction, and things like lacking clarity and having an oil-painting/smeared appearance. Plus I still have no idea what was going on with her pants and why they were red… Nor do I know what the creepy black root things are, but I think they were meant to represent shadows… *shrugs*… 

Regardless, again, I absolutely LOVED this concept and I was so excited to see where it would end up. A few rounds later and we were at this:

Graevale not it

… And you can see that there’s a lot more clarity as well as a number of other tweaks. But I still wasn’t happy with her red pants, plus her hair seemed to have a mind of its own again (as in, it shouldn’t have been that windy if the mist/cloud wasn’t moving as fast)… plus, one VERY IMPORTANT THING was still missing: the sparkles!

All of those changes and then a few others led us to eventually reaching the gorgeous end result:

Graevale FINISHED COVER JPG

Next up came WE THREE HEROES, and this cover presented us with a whole slew of new problems. Previously, we’d only ever had Alex on the cover before, never D.C., Jordan or Bear. So the designers had their work cut out for them, creating not just a new cover, but three new characters.

Until VARDAESIA (which I’ll get to in a moment), the cover for W3H was definitely the hardest. A lot of the problems, however, ended up not being the characters, but with the academy itself. It was surprisingly difficult to envision the school and how it would look. I mean, I’d always known it would be nestled in the middle of a forest and beside a lake, with a snow-capped mountain off in the distance, but the buildings themselves? “Medieval mixed with modern and advanced” is essentially the description the books give, but how, exactly, does that translate into design?

It was a mission, that’s for sure, and the following covers show the drafting progression:

W3H1

Above is the first concept that I saw. I loved the colours and the overall layout (even if my one small gripe is that the mountain (which is a bit strange-looking in this first draft) is actually meant to be on the other side of the lake — as in, off-screen behind where the characters are, but sometimes creative liberties must be taken!), but there was still room for improvement.

When it came to the characters, Bear needed the most work (basically an entire overhaul), but D.C.’s hair and clothes also needed some help, and Jordan’s hair was too “high school jock” for my liking. These were all relatively easy fixes (aside from Bear, who took a number of drafts to get right), but the academy itself was the most challenging part. As you can see above, it looked very much like some kind of massive, gothic mini-city, and we had some trouble transforming it over the next few drafts…

W3H2

This version above is a little better — Jordan’s hair is a more normal, and D.C. looks more D.C.-like. I still had some problems with Bear (he now looked like a country bumpkin), but only small changes were needed for the other two at this stage.

As for the academy itself, you can see it’s much better, but still too big. The mountain, at least, looked a lot more like a mountain, and the lake reflecting the sunset added a really nice effect, too. 

W3H3

By this stage above, the designer was playing around with a few different ideas for the Arena and the Tower in the school. Again, he had a lot of trouble because I was struggling with what my vision of the academy was and how to communicate that, which left us with the colosseum-like structure above. On the plus side, Bear was beginning to look a lot more Bear-like, so I knew we were very close to getting where we all wanted to be.

A few more back-and-forths, and eventually we landed on the absolutely perfect end result that we now have, and I couldn’t be happier with how it came together! Everything from the characters to the academy — it’s spectacular!

W3H4

Last but definitely not least, VARDAESIA, the final book in The Medoran Chronicles. Yikes, this book was HARD to get the perfect cover for — and that was because we wanted it to be “perfect”. Every cover previously had kept getting better and better, so we knew the final book had to have the best one out of them all, and the more we tried for that to happen, the more impossible it became.

Here are some of the early concepts so you can see what I mean:

V1

V2

V3

As you can see from the three drafts above, we started out trying to use the desert and the city of Vardaesia as the feature. But while all these are great, none of them “felt” like VARDAESIA to me. None of them felt right, none of them fit in with the series. And so, the designer then tried a different angle with what he came back with next:

V5

At this point, I was grateful that we were trying something new, but I liked it less than the originals. I knew we could change the colours (since purple was too similar to GRAEVALE) but I just didn’t connect with it at all, and certainly not for this book. It also felt too sci-fi for me — too “out there” and space-like. While gorgeous, it still didn’t fit in with The Medoran Chronicles. And the same is true for what came next:

V6

Honestly, I’m pretty sure everyone was ready to pull their hair out by this stage, especially since I was still really unable to connect with it. But what I knew of the book didn’t relate to the above cover at all (or any of those previous), and so, with very little time left before my publishers needed to be feeding a finished cover out for sales and marketing, the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with this:

V8

My relief was endless, since this clicked with me instantly. Like the previous books, I knew it needed some work to make it more magical, but we were definitely (finally) on the right track since I could see the potential for this and how stunning it could end up being.

… And I was right, because after a few more back-and-forths, we had the most perfect cover for the final book in the series:

Vardaesia Cover FINAL

There’s a lot that I’ve left out in this post — a lot of the process that only my editor would know, a lot about the communication with the designers and how small changes happened that I’m not even aware of. Then there’s the rest of the cover — the spine and the back — but that’s a whole different kettle of fish, as they say. (Tangent: what does that saying even mean?)

The long and short of it is, I’m so beyond grateful to the wonderful designers at XOU Creative for coming up with the most perfect covers ever. I can’t recommend them highly enough to anyone looking for designers across a whole variety of fields, so click here to find out more about them if that’s something you’re after!

And just to end, here’s all the gorgeous final versions lined up side-by-side!

Straight line