My ‘Wild Card’ Mixtape

I’ve written before about the role that music plays in my creative process, and specifically the hand it had in writing the first Vanguard Prime book. Now that the second book in the series, Wild Card, has been on the shelves for a few months, I thought it’d be safe to write about the music that inspired certain scenes.

But for those who are still yet to read it, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to keep things as spoiler free as possible.

So let’s kick things off the best way you can – with a bit of David Bowie!

‘China Girl’ by David Bowie

‘China Girl’ would have to be one of my favourite Bowie songs…or at least, it’s one of my favourite Bowie songs to sing along to (I may or may not have performed a karaoke rendition at our huck’s party). That said, it’s a bit of an odd addition here as it didn’t directly influence the writing of Wild Card; I didn’t craft any scenes in my imagination while listening to it, it didn’t conjure up any particular imagery in my head.

What it did do was inspire not only how the Knight of Wands dresses when he’s out of uniform, but his appearance in general as well. The suit/trench coat combo Bowie wears midway through this video is the point-of-reference I used when describing the Knight’s attire as he and Sam jet off to the lecture they attend.

More than that, I remember thinking how unique Bowie’s eyes are, and how I’d like to incorporate the one brown eye/one blue eye look into a character one day. And then I figured, why wait?

So that’s how the Knight came to have one blue eye – it was only later that I realised that his mismatching eyes and the backstory for how he got them also resembled that of Spike from Cowboy Bebop. But you can’t always take everything into account, and being a Bebop fan I thought it was appropriate.

Note: If/when you watch this video, I would like to point that yes, it is a little racist and no, I have no idea if it’s self-aware about that or not. I’m leaning toward that being the case, given that Bowie’s talked about how the lyrics are an anti-racism message.

 

‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ by David Bowie

Continuing the Bowie train, we have this song. Originally used in the film Cat People, it would rocket back to fame when used in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I remember thinking how powerful and evocative it was. And though it sounded a little dated, it sounded dated in the best of ways. Tarantino used it as his story was leading into the final act, with one of his characters preparing themselves to do battle (essentially). I would play it as I imagined the flight that the Knight of Wands, Goldrush and Solitaire take to the World, readying themselves for the fight to come.

And though I thought the lyrics worked wonderfully for that (especially as the Knight of Wands is associated with fire in tarot, and I wanted to harken back to that motif in the songs I used), the lack of originality bugged me. Which is why it was fortunate that I soon ran across the next song…

 

‘Cities Burning Down’ by Howling Bells

If you haven’t heard of them before, Howling Bells are a fantastic Australian band fronted by the brother/sister duo Juanita and Joel Stein. I saw them play over ten years when they were known as Waikiki, and I’ve been a fan ever since. When I heard this song, I knew it fit even more perfectly for the scene I had in my head than the Bowie song did. I can’t listen to it now without thinking of the Chariot flying over the Hong Kong cityscape, its passengers preparing themselves for the darkness that lays before them.

 

‘Me and the Devil Blues’ by Robert Johnson

There’s a conversation that happens in the book regarding the music of Robert Johnson. My publisher was uncertain about keeping it in, given that it’s a bit of a dated reference that’s not exactly “down with the kids” (not that she put it like that…not that anyone would put it like that). But it was important to me that we maintain it, as I felt very strongly that it reflected on the character who was depicted listening to it.

If you’ve not heard about him before, the mythology that revolves around the blues musician Robert Johnson was that he sold his soul to the devil to attain his musical ability. Johnson wrote more than a few songs that referenced this oft-repeated urban legend, with Hellhound on my Trail probably being the most famous of them. I picked Me and the Devil Blues, however, as I felt the lyrics were even more indicative of the character listening to the song.

 

‘It’s a Fire’ by Portishead

Following the conversation about Robert Johnson, an altercation breaks out that leads to a pivotal moment in the book. Without wanting to be too spoiler-y about it, a button is pushed and things get very…uh…explode-y?

I imagined this sequence slowed down and with all the ambient noise stripped out, leaving only the imagery…and this song, which continues the fire motif surrounding the Knight of Wands. It’s not a big, rousing number to finish on, but it’s certainly a beautiful one.

And that would be it. While there are still plenty of other songs I could write about, I wanted to pick just a handful that I felt had the strongest link to the text. If you’ve already read the book, I hope this gives you a chance to revisit it, or at least that it’s provided some extra insight.

But if you’re yet to read the book, well…I hope I haven’t ruined anything for you.

‘Til next time!

Notes from a Wayward Writer

Hello.

You may have noticed an awful lot of tumbleweeds rolling through this place lately. That is, if you’ve been back to check in at all, given how long it’s been between updates. The reason for that is that I’ve been away. Really away. In fact, for all of May my wife and I were overseas on our belated honeymoon.

Though our wedding was in December, we decided to delay our honeymoon until midway through the year. Partly it was because the weather would be better in the northern hemisphere. Mostly it was because organising a wedding, a house move and a honeymoon all at the same time seemed like a form of torture, exquisite though it may have been.

I had intended to blog while we were on the road and…well…didn’t. But now that I’m back I fully intend on getting back in the swing of things. I thought I’d start by offering you a little insight into our time on the road, which included a few days in Venice.

At events I’ve done, I’ve recommended to any aspiring writers in the audience to keep a journal handy, especially when travelling. That way, you can note down the things you see and use them for future reference. More than that, it’s simply a good writing exercise, forcing yourself to become more observant of the little details and find a creative way to encapsulate them.

My wife and I made a game of writing down what we’d seen each day, eventually ending up with three pages worth. I won’t bore you with all of the notes, but here are a few so you can get an idea of what I mean;

The smell of leather wafting from shopfronts. Masks in windows. Lime-green moss. Pinks, putties, pastels and creams. Green window shutters. Computer print-out tributes to the recently deceased. Ironwork bars spotted with rust. Waterbuses that slam against every stop. Squiggles of light in the black evening waters. The rattle of suitcases over stoney streets.

And so and so on. Some are more original than others, I’ll grant you. The thing to keep in mind is there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Just write down what you see. Worry about the poetry of it later. The side benefit is that you end up with a record of your trip, even if you’ve never been one to keep a diary.

From Venice we went to London, driving up through the UK to Scotland, before heading over to New York. With every country we went to, I meant to write down notes of what I saw each day and unfortunately never got around to it. Just goes to show that sometimes the hardest advice to follow is your own.

In fact, I got a lot less writing on the trip done than I’d hoped to, but now that I’m back I’m looking forward to getting back into it.

Of course, it doesn’t help when there are distractions available, such as the art exhibition we went to on the first Saturday we were home. I’ve been a fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion since I was a teenager and the original series was aired on SBS. Since then, I’ve collected the Platinum Box Set and, from there, eagerly awaited the release of each new movie in the “Rebuild” series, where writer/director Hideaki Anno revists the series and reinterpets the story with updated animation and a divergent plotline.

Anime fans who also happen to be Vanguard Prime readers will no doubt see the influence that Evangelion had on VP, given that both series revolve around a teenage protagonist who’s reluctantly drafted into saving the world by an international military operation and the female Major who acts as his handler. In fact, the red jacket that Major Blackthorne dons in Goldrush was intended as a joint shout-out to both Akira and to Major Misato Katsuragi from Evangelion.

Yes, I know she's a Lt. Colonel in 'Rebuild'. But she'll always be a Major to me.
Yes, I know she’s a Lt. Colonel in ‘Rebuild’. But she’ll always be a Major to me.

With the upcoming release of the third film in the Rebuild series, an art exhibition has been touring the eastern states of Australia, showcasing the film’s production art. Thankfully, we got the chance to see it before it finished up its run in Melbourne.

And if the art were for sale, I'd buy the heck out of it.
And if the art were for sale, I’d buy the heck out of it.

I’d hoped that there’d be some merchandise for sale to add to my nerd hoard, but unfortunately the pickings were slim. I’ll just have to content myself with the bits-and-bobs I picked up during our trip (photos of which I fully intend to show off…at some stage).

In the meantime, the edit for Vanguard Prime: War Zone is keeping me pretty busy, as is the edit for Red Alert, the e-book novella that will be getting released before War Zone to help promote the series. New readers and old should both be interested in Red Alert for a variety of reasons. Namely;

1) It’s an all-new adventure that follows the whole team and is over a quarter of the length of one of the full-sized novels

2) It features a whole host of new villains

3) It’s 100% free!

Pretty cool, huh? I’ll make sure to post more details about Red Alert as they come through, as well as whatever info I can share about War Zone ahead of its September release (like, for instance, the brand new cover that Chad McCown has illustrated and that I can wholeheartedly say looks fantastic).

‘Til next time.

Life in a Nutshell

Life has been keeping me pretty busy lately, so I haven’t been able to post in a while. Sorry about that!

I’m currently knee deep in the edits for Vanguard Prime Book 3 (aka War Zone), which is still on track for its September release…so long as I don’t slack off! I’ve also been out and about promoting Wild Card, doing a couple of interviews as well as some events. I got the chance to talk to kids’ book club at The Younger Sun bookshop, which was a lot of fun and very insightful.

A week later, I had an event with Eltham Bookshop. This was the second event I’d had with the store, and the kids were just as bright and engaged as they were the first time around. One Vanguard Prime reader, Elliot, even brought along a drawing he’d done of Goldrush and the Knight of Wands, which he not only gave me permission to share here but also very generously let me keep. Thanks, Elliot!

SCN_0001
Pretty cool, huh?

To make sure I didn’t rip him off, I traded him a signed piece of cover artwork. Hopefully he liked it!

My wife and I are heading off on an overseas trip soon, so my blogging may get even more sporadic. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, provided my fingers don’t fall off or I’m struck suddenly and thoroughly blind.

And now I need to find some wood to knock on.

‘Til next time.

Babes in Toyland

Recently, I took the opportunity to show off our bookshelves. The photos I shared were from the lounge room and the dining area, but there was one more set of shelves I didn’t tweet about – the shelves in my office. 

I’ve written before about the office I was going to have in our new home. Well, that dream is now a reality. To be honest, though, it’s still a work in progress, but I thought I’d post some pictures of it because I figured some of you out there would be interested. 

Now, photos of bookshelves may not sound that exciting, but the thing is I’ve amassed a collection that I feel is something of a pop cultural autobiography. My goal is to have an item for all the major sources of inspiration from across my life. In short, I have a very flimsy excuse to collect toys… 

…lots of toys.

Not that I’m completely without sophistication. I mean, one of the things I bought to celebrate my book deal was this antique typewriter, which sits quite snugly on the shelves behind my desk…

Inspiration sold separately.
Inspiration sold separately.

But I doubt it’s the antiques you’re interested in. So let’s take a closer look at those bookshelves, shall we? 

Hurm.
Hurm.
Is that a budding romance I see...?
Is that a budding romance I see…?
Behold, the instrument of your liberation!
Behold, the instrument of your liberation!
Further proof that I'm not a complete philistine.
Further proof that I’m not a complete philistine.

Besides the antique typewriter, the other prized possession in the office is this display cabinet I purchased from eBay for $150.

Yes, that's a guitar on the floor. No, I can't play.
Yes, that’s a guitar on the floor. No, I can’t play.

This cabinet contains many wonders…

If 'Toy Story' were real, Batman here would totally be this group's Woody. But grumpier.
If ‘Toy Story’ were real, Batman here would totally be this group’s Woody. But grumpier.
I would pay money to be able to write the crossover that involved all these characters.
I would pay money to be able to write the crossover that involved all these characters.
Me in Muppet form. Plus guests.
Me in Muppet form. Plus guests.

Now, like I say, this is a work in progress. I’m still planning on painting the walls, and the shelves are still a little bare…well, the bookshelves are, at least. In short, I reserve the right to take more photos in the future, once things are looking more like I imagine they will.

But the thing about this collection, and this office, is that it provides me with a visually interesting space to draw inspiration from as I work. Plus, you know…it’s fun. 

Look out, Finn! He's got a gun!!
Look out, Finn! He’s got a gun!!

Bang.

A Whirlwind Tour of Stevenlochran.com

This Sunday morning, I’ll be making my second appearance on Kids’ WB. As much fun as I had the first time around, this time was even better…

...though I have to admit, I didn't expect to make such a spectacle of myself.
…though I have to admit, I didn’t expect to make such a spectacle of myself.

Last time I was on (which you can read about here and here), this site saw a huge spike in traffic. So in advance of that, I thought I’d write up a post to say ‘Welcome!’ to all the new visitors.

And if this is the first time you’re visiting, you may be curious about exactly who I am and what kind of books I write. Thankfully I haven’t had to write up a big piece explaining all of that, because in one of my earliest posts on this site I wrote all about my background and influences, which you can read here.

Of course, that’s not to overlook the About and FAQ pages, which should also help shed some light on the enigma that is me. And if all that hasn’t helped, there’s always the Links page where you can find links (well, what else would you find there?) to some interviews I’ve done.

But that’s enough about me. After all, as far as people go I’m really kind of boring. Maybe you’re here because you’re curious about this “Vanguard Prime” thing and you want to learn more about it.

Well, in short, Vanguard Prime is the name of the series of books I’m currently writing. It’s also the name of the world-famous superhero team that teenager Sam Lee joins when he suddenly develops mysterious powers. You can read more about the books on, appropriately enough, the Books page.

But if you don’t want to go wading through all that, let me share some of the highlights with you, including this rundown on all the members of the team. The Books page also has a link to an extract from the first book, Goldrush, which you can read here.

You’ll also find on the Penguin website that you can buy the book directly from them, as well as a variety of online sellers listed (once again) on the Books page, but my favourite option is to visit your friendly neighbourhood bookshop and ask for it from them directly. You can even get the second book, Wild Card, at the same time.

But maybe you’re still unconvinced. Maybe you need to be bedazzled by some awesome reviews. Well, you can find links to the reviews the series has received, once again, on the Books page. But seeing as I’m in a bit of a scrapbooking mood, here are some of my favourite quotes;

– “Steven Lochran’s first novel is a fast-paced action text…the plot remains tense and the sense of drama and excitement are maintained until the closing pages. Lochran has created interesting and complex characters with plenty of scope to develop them further and will appeal to readers in the 10 to 14 plus age range.” – Children’s Book Council of Australia

– “Pacy…plenty of teenage humour…Lochran’s thorough approach to constructing his superhero world pays off.” – Fiona Purdon, The Courier Mail.

– “Think CHERUB, Alex Rider and Artemis Fowl all rolled into one…then you’ve got Vanguard Prime!” – DMAG.

– “Vanguard Prime: Goldrush is a funny, stylish and action-packed read.” – Jack Heath, author of Money Run, Hit List and the Agent Six of Hearts series.

– “[Wild Card is] a book that, like the Percy Jackson books, combines quick-draw pacing with intelligent, self-aware humour and a wonderful sense of the humanity that is underscored by its super-human characters…Brimming with imagination and wit and with pacing so fast that you’ll be in pain from the G forces, Wild Card is a overall thoroughly enjoyable addition to the superhero genre.” – Read In a Single Sitting.

But maybe you’re looking for something a little more cerebral. Maybe you’re a writer yourself and you’re wondering what goes into the creation of a book. Well, I’ve written about that too in various places on this site, like this post on what music inspired my writing, or this post on what books were direct influences on Vanguard Prime. And that’s to say nothing of the series of posts on what it takes to create a superhero character, which you can find here, here and here.

Of course, you might just like pretty pictures, in which case you’re also in luck! Illustrator Chad McCown has done an amazing job with the cover imagery for the Vanguard Prime series, which you can enjoy by simply clicking on the images below.

'Goldrush'
‘Goldrush’

 

'Wild Card'
‘Wild Card’

And finally, if you don’t mind subjecting your ears to potentially harmful noises, you can listen to the Vanguard Prime theme song I cobbled together on my laptop…

Phew!

Well…that’s just about everything I can think of to share with you. Of course, there’s plenty of other posts I’ve written that you can dig through the archives to read. And should you have any questions, or if you end up reading Vanguard Prime and want to let me know what you think of it, you can either email me here or you can find me on Twitter.

Make sure to keep track of this site in the months to come, as Book 3 in the Vanguard Prime series will be getting released in September this year, along with a free digital novella which will feature an all-new adventure for the Vanguard Prime team.

And that’s it. I’m tapped. I hope you’ve enjoyed this whirlwind tour of stevenlochran.com as much as I’ve enjoyed conducting it. Actually, I hope you’ve enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed it. But I’ll settle for ‘as much’ if need be.

‘Til next time.