If one is looking for Literature, you don't need to go far on deviantART. There is a large community of writers and a plethora of work to peruse. Featuring genres such as fantasy, mystery, horror, and romance, one would be hard-pressed to find an area not covered. However, due to the nature of the site, shorter works tend to get more focus. It's easier to quickly read a poem or a short story, and thus many of the feature articles on dA showcase those works. However, there are many novelists and serial writers among the mix, oftentimes fighting an uphill battle to have their works seen and appreciated.
With that in mind, I have started an article to spotlight some of those artists and their literary-worlds. The works covered in this feature will exclusively be long-form fiction such as novels, trilogies, etc., or fiction serials.
Current Stop - 1866 LondonThe next stop on our Literary journey is the Victorian-era London and featured in the novel, "Fiction" written by Dorian Harper (DorianHarper).
What better way to find out what a book is about than reading the back cover. Grab the virtual paperback and flip it over to see what Fiction is about...
Daniel is a young writer living in London in the year 1866. After falling ill with consumption, he strives to complete the piece he's been writing: a collection of stories for his deceased lover Helena. Death comes closer and after an argument with his wife Rebecca, Daniel finds himself in an opium-induced coma. When he awakens, however, it's not in the world he once remembered. Helena is alive and well and the landscapes and villages from his stories have become reality. For a short while, he feels at peace trapped within the pages of his mind with the woman he once loved, neither having to fear Death. But there's a darkness on the horizon creeping closer. Daniel soon realizes that not everyone in this world is as hospitable as they seemed. The deeper he falls into his dream, the more he realizes that there's less hope for waking up and that Death in his fantasy may be more vicious than in reality. Awakening is his only chance for survival against the shadows in his mind. What he needs to understand, however, is that waking up means closing the book and losing Helena forever. It's his choice to give in to Death or finally learn to let her go.
“I’m a writer, not a father, Peter. The closest thing to children I’ll ever be blessed with is a finished work.” ~ Daniel
Of course, the best way to learn about a Literary World is to visit it yourself. Here are some works from Fiction to help whet your appetite.
Literary Universes are worlds created out of words on pages, but many authors now expand beyond that. Creating or commissioning art of their characters and settings is a way to help enrich the reading experience for their fans, as well as help inspire the creators themselves. We asked the creator to pick out three of his favorite pieces and tell us why they are so special to him
1. I've always adored this piece by CristianaLeone. It was the first piece I commissioned from her and to this day, it's still the wallpaper on my laptop and phone. It represents one of the vital stories within the story: "The Sparrow and the Swan". Daniel tells this story many times in different versions, and it's known as his "story without an end." Ultimately, it represents his relationship with Helena-- the young woman he fell in love with but couldn't have and lost. "The Sparrow and the Swan" was originally written for Helena and to be told in two parts, the first the night before they planned to elope to the country, the second on the night they ran away. Due to circumstances, Daniel never got to finish telling Helena the story, and thus, never came up with a true end. By the end of the story, the "Sparrow and the Swan" does have a finalized end to it, perhaps a bit unexpected from how it originally was intended to be. The picture captures the overall tragedy of Daniel and Helena's relationship and how Daniel is never willing to let Helena go as his story encourages him to do.
2.The current lock screen on my phone, this piece of Daniel by Nuaran has got to be my favourite depiction of him so far. I've always pictured Daniel in so many different ways when writing him, and seeing art from various people and how they interpret him is always enjoyable. The moment I saw this piece, I had to sit back and literally say "that's Daniel!" Daniel like I had imagined him. I've always loved the smoothness of this piece as a whole and it's got to be my favourite portrait piece of any of the characters.
3. I have the original of this painting from Aurasama hanging up in my bedroom above my second closet. I love everything about it and it depicts the second story Daniel tells: "Death Takes Three Sugars". It ties in with "The Sparrow and the Swan" story somewhat, a tale of how Death arrives early for tea with his victim and lures them into conversation (during which the victim is claimed). It's probably my favourite scene from the entire novel since it brings all of Daniel's stories together into one. This painting also includes Adrian, the antagonist of the novel, with his shadow lions that he uses to hunt down those he is after.
“It’s good you have other stories to tell. Holding on to one for too long, well… you’ll end up like the sparrow. He holds on to one note for so long that he forgets how to sing.” ~Ariel
The second-best way to learn about a literary work is to talk to the creator. DorianHarper was nice enough to sit down for a Q&A about his novel and other works.
Please introduce yourself.
To make it short, sweet, and to the point, I'm Dorian, author of Fiction! I was born and live in New York and work as an assistant at a literary agency during the week. On the weekends, I also am a cat adoption assistant at a local humane society, since my love for kitties has no end. I'm an avid writer and editor and have been told I give some of the best critiques people have gotten on the site (really?). I absolutely love history (primary WWII and the Victorian era). Prior to working in publishing, my dream career was to be a palaeontologist.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing for as long as I can remember honestly. My mother tells me that before I could actually read or write, I would pick up books (with or without pictures) and just start telling stories to my pets and stuffed animals. So, in that retrospect, I've always been a story teller, at least. In my Kindergarten class was when I really began writing, though. Every Friday, we would take index cards and write and draw our own stories and get them laminated and stapled into "books" and read them aloud to the class. I always looked forward to Fridays for that reason alone. (I even still have some of the "books" I made back then in one of my writing boxes). I of course wrote smaller things after that, but after being persuaded by a teacher my first year in middle-school to submit one of the pieces I wrote to a national contest for a chance at publication, I think I started taking writing seriously. I ended up being a Top 10 finalist in that contest and won a ribbon, savings bond, and had my piece published in an anthology with the other winning pieces. I suppose I can say that was when I started writing-writing (at least seriously).
Tell us a little about your novel/series?
Fiction is a sort-of Victorian fantasy (if you can call it that) that takes place between the reality of London and the fantasy of dreamworlds. It focuses around Daniel Blackburn, a writer who is suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), who falls under an opium-induced coma and wakes up in the world of his dreams. There are many reasons as why he enters the dreamworld: to try and escape death, to be reunited with the young woman he lost that he has been trying to write to life, etc. Most reasons focus around immortality and the significance of life in literature being forever. It also touches quite a few areas between the thin line that separates reality from fiction, and the importance of holding on to some things and letting go of others.
When/How did you come up with the idea of your novel/series?
Honestly, I've always wanted to write a story about a writer who ends up in his/her fictional world. It's always been a theme that fascinated me, but after my time spent in London, I think it really started to solidify into an actual story instead of an idea. I lived in London for a little while in a small flat in Islington (near Kings Cross station) and every day during my lunch, I would take the Tube to Green Park Station and get a Cornish pasty for lunch and bring it with me to Berkeley Square to sit and write. Since I didn't want to lug my laptop all over London with me, I would write in a journal that I carried at all times, and actually wrote a lot of the novel's first draft there in Berkeley Square. I also chose to have Daniel and Rebecca live in Berkeley Square for that very reason, since I adored the old Victorian mansions and estates of Mayfair. Of course, things have been added to the story since then and tweaked here and there, but I definitely must say that my time and experience living in London was what really shaped how the story went and the initial idea of it.
Who are your two favorite characters and why? (Yes, I know picking only two is hard.)
I would of course have to say Daniel, the main character. I've heard from many readers that he is extremely easy to relate to in many ways (which I found interesting considering the wide range of readers I do get). Personally, I put quite a bit of thought into Daniel when I was considering the type of character I needed to fit the role of the writer in the story. A lot of him was inspired by John Keats (both life and work) and his strong notion that life in art lasts forever (ie: "Ode on a Grecian Urn"). While he does have a sort of "dark past" and secret, I've been told that it was "tragically beautiful" and something that makes readers cling to him. Also, as a fun fact, although he was inspired by John Keats, he was named after Daniel DeFoe, the "father of the modern novel". As for my second favourite character, I would probably have to say Adrian since I love his charming but devious personality, and his overall design. Adrian's the type of character that easily would befriend you, but then slowly stab you in the back-- hard! Personally, I love writing his double-sided personality, especially when it comes into contact with Daniel's. His personification of Death is also fun to play around with, adding my own interpretation to the stories and myths already out there.
What’s one of the best compliments you’ve gotten on the novel/series?
I've gotten a bunch of lovely compliments from many people about my novel, but if I had to choose just one, I'd say the many times that readers have said they've connected with Daniel as a character. It's surprised me since I really wasn't expecting it and I feel like I always struggle writing characters that people can connect and relate to, but I've been told this many times. It definitely makes me feel good!
What would you estimate the readership of the work has been/is?
It's hard to keep track. I get about a dozen or so avid readers that always comment on the chapters and ask when the next is going to be released, but I'd say probably around a hundred or so all together (and that's not counting people I know in real life that read it, as well). I really don't keep a record of everyone who I assume reads it, or who adds a favourite, etc., but I definitely can say that I do have a handful of "hardcore" readers who are very interested in the story as a whole and eagerly await the next installments.
Just for fun, if you could pick an actor or actress to pay the lead protagonist and antagonist, who would you choose?
Oh, gosh. Well, I've been told by many people that Daniel's actor would have to be Ben Barnes-- can't say I disagree after I saw who Ben Barnes was and what he looked like (haha). As for Adrian's actor, I really haven't given it much thought. I don't typically sit and think of which actor would best play which character, but if I had to pick, my college roommate said Hugh Jackman would be a good pick for Adrian. Sure, he'd have to dye his hair and all that, but, why not?
You commission/create a lot of art for your novel. Do you feel having illustrations and pictures of your story affects your writing?
I feel like it motivates me sometimes when I'm feeling like I can't write, but other than that, not so much. I don't usually base my writing around art, but I love getting pieces of art of characters from the story or scenes from the book. I think what I love most about it is that I like seeing different artists' takes on the characters. I never actually have an exact image of what the character looks like in my head when I write, but seeing how artists take the descriptions from the stories and create their own interpretations is something amazing.
You've had a bit of a dilemma where you've had people suggest that your character (Daniel) was stolen from a different source. Tell us a little bit about that.
Well, like I always tell anyone who ever assumes that of any artist or author, no idea is 100% original. There are many differences between the character that people have claimed my Daniel is or is based on, and through reading, they'd be able to see that. Both share the same name (Daniel), which was common in England during the time period that the story takes place. While the other storyline takes place in Regency era, Fiction takes place in the Victorian era. Some small things people have pointed out concern the fact that my Daniel takes laudanum (a drug that was prescribed as an all-cure during the 19th century to cure anything from a simple cough to full-blown consumption). I've been happy to educate people who think that laudanum was created simply for this other storyline that it was as common as ibuprofen today. Apparently, both characters live in Mayfair, as well. As stated in an earlier question, Daniel's home in Mayfair was chosen based on the history of the area and the wealthy families that lived there. To this day, Mayfair is still one of the wealthiest places in the world to live. I spent so much time in Mayfair when I was living in London that it was essential for Daniel to live there-- historically, any wealthy family would live within that part of the city. I've also gotten comments saying my Daniel "looks just like [this other] Daniel." All the artists who originally drew pictures of Daniel went off of the description in the novel when working on the art (new artists use old concept art as references). Perhaps they were inspired by this other Daniel, perhaps not. What matters most is that in the end, all pieces of art of Daniel are the artists' representation of him-- not my personal one. Those who read the novel know precisely what I mean. It is quite aggravating to hear of the "similarities" again and again from people (whether they mean it in an ill-mannered way or not) and it puts a damper on my creative mood overall. I do have some people who know both Daniels and enjoy my story very much and have come to say that the characters are nothing alike at all and just a coincidence, whereas others have simply bashed and left. I think the main thing here is that once someone is in a fandom without knowledge for history, they don't understand that things that are "coincidental" are only historically correct for the era. I do wish that there would be less people "reminding" me of the "similarities" because seeing art of my character and this other character together or hearing about it constantly does get quite upsetting and aggravating. I just wish people would step outside their fandoms for a little while and learn about history as it's meant to be. It not that, at least the history of character and story origins and how no story is ever "original".
Aside from this novel/series, what are some of the other works you’ve done (if any)?
So many! I have been working on a series for about six years now-- the first book recently got signed to a book deal after years of querying and will be released late next year! It's my only YA work and my earliest novel project, but I am quite proud of it, as it holds great nostalgia. My second novel I hold much dearer to me, though. It was probably my most well-known novel, actually (Fiction I think has topped it recently, though), and is a WWII historical fiction that takes place in Nazi Germany and Poland. I've done the most research for this novel (both interviewing Holocaust survivors and ex-camp guards; visiting Auschwitz, Poland, and Germany [many times]; and reading countless books on the matter [I literally have about four bookshelves of just WWII books] as well as taking classes at university on the subject) and it has taken me probably the most time to work on. In terms of Fiction, I also had a stage play I wrote based on it performed in Boston in April. That certainly was an amazing experience! Of course, I have worked on far too many small projects (short stories, poetry, scripts, etc.), as well, but those are my big ones.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
Personally, it's probably when the story is over and it's time to start editing. While that's definitely some of the harder work (determining what stays, what goes, what needs fixing, etc.), the first hurdle is done: the writing of the story. During the editing process, you get to see your finished work as a whole and get to read it over with a pair of (almost) fresh eyes. You get to see the characters alive on the page instead of just in your head, and you get to work on making it the best it can be during this stage.
What are your goals for the series/novel?
I definitely want to aim for publication with this novel. I usually do with all my novels, but this one has my heart a little more towards it than some of the others right now. It's still going to take a very long while, considering the book is still in-progress and I have a lot of editing to do before I can start writing query letters, but I do hope that sometime in the future, it will land a book deal. (A film adaptation wouldn't be too bad, either!)
First off, I'd love to thank the #LiteraryCompass for taking the time to do what they do with these articles, and for choosing to feature me in this one! I'd also like to just say thank you again to all my lovely watchers/readers of Fiction for always supporting me and cheering me on. And, of course, to everyone who read this article and/or will be checking the story out now because of it. Being offered this feature certainly was amazing, and I thank everyone again.
"I always promised myself that when the time came for me to no longer be a part of this earth, I would leave my wealth to the woman I loved. I may not be rich with money, as to your displeasure, Rebecca, but I am rich with words. And you can bet that every last one I write, I leave for her." ~Daniel
It was not deliberate, but the timing of the publication of this article happened to fall a day shy of Daniel Blackburn's birthday. Dorian shared a little bit about that with us:
Daniel's birth date was made to be August 13th since it was the day that I began really working on the story years ago. It was perfect in my eyes since it fell under the star sign Leo (the lion), which represents Daniel in so many ways-- both good and bad. I still remember sitting in Berkeley Square on that day with my journal and calligraphy pen and wondering what to write. I just finished lunch and was watching all the business people in their suits and ties leaving the park and, to this day, I remember looking up into the window of one of the old estates in the square and suddenly getting the urge to write. I started with a mere line (which still is the first sentence to my first chapter): "The sweet taste of laudanum still lingered on Daniel's tongue." and then I wrote there on that bench until the park closed that night. So, August 13th will always be the day of Daniel's "birth".
You can follow the "Fiction" through DorianHarper's page.
You can view past editions of the series here
If you would like to recommend a novel or series to be considered for Literary Compass, please drop me a note. A series or novel must have a deviantART base , be fairly established, have supporting art, and offer some 2-3 excerpts/literary pieces for reading. You MAY self-suggest your own work.
Guidelines and FAQ for the series can be found </a>here
Commissioned journal CSS and map background created by GillianIvy
Coding modified and formatted by Ravenswd
Art featured in article courtesy of CristianaLeone, Nuaran, and Aurasama