‘…stories change our behaviors by actually changing our brain chemistry.’

In his 1897 book What is Art? the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy defined art as “an infection.” Good art, Tolstoy wrote, infects the audience with the storyteller’s emotion and ideas. The better the art, the stronger the infection—the more stealthily it works around whatever immunities we possess and plants the virus. Tolstoy reached this conclusion through artistic intuition, not science, but more than a century after Tolstoy’s death this is exactly what psychologists are finding in the lab. When we enter into a story, we enter into an altered mental state—a state of high suggestibility.

Note that this goes against our culture’s dominant idea about stories. When I ask my students why people like stories, most cite escapism. Life is hard. Storyland is easy. Stories give us a short vacation from the troubles of our real lives. We enter the pretend worlds of stories and have a nice time, and then walk away unscathed and unchanged. But if we think this we are wrong. Studies show that our fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by our stories.

Keep Reading Jonathan Gottschall article here: https://www.fastcocreate.com/3020046/infecting-an-audience-why-great-stories-spread

Let’s Stop Cannibalising Ourselves and Start Making Art

I can’t be the only one that’s noticed inflammatory shit happening in the world of writing in the last few weeks. There was Lionel Shriver’s smug speech and the subsequent uproar a.k.a. Brisbane finally gets publicity apart from Tom Hiddleston’s visit and there was also Merritt Tierce’s article in Marie Claire a.k.a the Crying Starving Artist Personified or WTF is going on with Traditional Publishing or Writing isn’t a REAL JOB.

Ultimately these things focus on some big issues surrounding writers and the publishing world especially in the categories of representation and supporting your artists. They also highlight my ongoing frustration with artists everywhere called : Let’s put Labels on Everything and then Argue about Those Labels instead of Focussing on making Art.

I know a thing or two about labels. White, blonde, female. People put those on me like I’m somehow white privilege personified. I recently read an article that tore apart how I look and told me I shouldn’t dare to write a character with those attributes. I find this kind of amusing because one of the reasons why I started writing as a teenager was because all the white, blond, female characters where love interests or sexy lamp shades that hung around to be rescued. I didn’t have an Aelin from the  Throne of Glass series to look up to. Have you seen one blonde in Star Wars? The closest I have gotten is Satine in Clone Wars who’s a pacifist that waits for Obi to bail her out all the time. The only blonde I could look up to was Eowyn from Lord of the Rings and thank God for her.



Dumb Blonde. There’s another label people like to put on me before they get to know me. I started writing with a blonde female protagonist to try and shake off that label too. It’s also assumed that I was a mean popular girl at school. Let me tell you something right now, I was probably the most bullied person in any school I went to. Oh sure I’m white and blonde but  a last name like Kuivalainen  was enough to wipe out any chance I had to fit in with the Aussie kids. Being half caste means you never belong anywhere; too weird and foreign for the Aussies, too Aussie for the Finns. I lived in a western New South Wales town and was bullied by Aboriginals for being white. I had rocks thrown at me because of what the whites did to their ancestors, even though mine weren’t early settlers but being ruled by the Swedes and Russians at the time. I’ve seen racist on the faces of every shade and nationality.

Christian Kid was another label that was whacked on me as a child and I got bullied about that too in a so called Western Christian country. Yeah, it’s not just the Muslim kids that get picked on about their religion in Australia. My parents raised me in the church and I knew by the time I was 15 that I was always going to be too argumentative and rough for the Christians. If you want to know, I was bullied by other Christian Kids too.

In recent times a label has been Self Published Writer. One of the reasons why I turned to SP is because I was told by Traditional Publishing professionals that my books were too foreign to be marketable. I’m a paranormal fantasy writer, a genre writer, and to some that doesn’t count as real writing because I don’t write literature. I refuse to be a starving artist or bitch about how publishing some how owes me a life where I can write full time. I won’t stop writing or publishing because I still have to work a 40 hour a week day job or because I’m also finishing a university degree. I do a lot but I’m able to have the luxury to write and publish books. I’m fucking blessed.

Labels, labels, everywhere no matter what you look like, where you come from, what you write, what you do. I write about displacement a lot in my books because I’ve felt bewildered and displaced my entire life.

I can see see why people are pissed off at Lionel and J K Rowling. If you are a writer that has the luxury of being able to write, do  your research. You have an infinite number of resources at your finger tips. Don’t be ignorant of the cultures you choose to write about. Be respectful. If you make mistakes, as we all do, own them and try and do better next time. People trying to get the point across about representation shouldn’t choose to pull down the white, blonde, heterosexuals of the world in order to do that. Respect guys, we all want it and we all have to fight for it.

The peace keeper in me tries to see things from all points of view even though ignorant arseholes can make that difficult. I can’t help but sit back and think that if all the writers and artists in the world united against something like the Syrian Refugee Crisis instead of using all this creative energy to attack and cannibalise each other, we could make a real difference.

Artist’s have the unique ability to jump into the heads of others, to see the world differently, so why are we using those abilities to attack each other instead of showing the world how to do shit better? Art is a universal language, it’s timeless and powerful, why do you think ISIS is determined to destroy it all time? It’s beyond skin colour and belief. It’s truth, it’s power.

Writing is magical. If you need to be reminded about how to be a writer or you need to remember that magic is real read this article about Alan Moore.

2016 has been a shit fight for everyone and as Chuck Wendig recently said so eloquently in his blog It is Art That Will Help Us Survive, “…let the art flow, motherfuckers. It may be the only way we stay sane enough to make it to 2017.”











Weirdness that Happens when writing about Exorcists

Today I sat down to write and do some additional research on a chapter of my new exorcist book only to find the man I was going to mention, the famous Catholic Exorcist Gabriele Amorth had died. I’ve had this chapter planned for weeks but still, it made me take a moments pause.

It also got me thinking of the spooky things that had happened on various movie sets over the years when exorcism is concerned. Like the deaths of two of the girls who appeared in the first Poltergeist movie, the claw marks found on Vera Farmiga’s computer after agreeing to act in The Conjuring and who can forget the tragic death of  Brandon Lee who was accidentally shot and killed on the set of The Crow. There are also countless stories about things that have happened on any production of The Scottish Play, Macbeth.

Does spookiness happen to writers when they are writing about the paranormal? Are there anecdotes out there about it? (If you have some please share).

I have to be honest watching too much Supernatural over the years makes me look at any flickering lights suspiciously so maybe I’m not the best one to judge.

I’ll have to keep a list of what happens as I write about intrepid freelance exorcist Jael Quinlan. So far it’s been more coincidental things like how many times I’ve used The Dead Sea Scrolls for research and completely failed to find the Songs of Exorcism until this morning.

Maybe it’s just the day for it.