Jeni Mawter and Kiss Kill: A Foray into Transmedia Storytelling

Kiss Kill was written a few years before I’d heard the word ‘Transmedia’. I wrote Kiss Kill on the back of two series, the humorous ‘So’ series and the adventure/mystery ‘Freewheeler’ series, both published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia. For several years I had been in the blessed position of writing books on commission. Year in, year out, I wrote with a clear sense of story structure and audience. When the series stopped I found myself in a position to write something completely different. For the first time in a long time I could return to early writing roots and basically “play”. As writers we’re often told to “write what we know” but I have always been afraid of offending someone, because my ‘knowing’ seems to be so different to everyone else’s ‘knowing’.

I decided to take a completely different approach. Instead of planning this time I would free-fall. Instead of using logic and intellect I would use emotion and intuition. All of these led me to Mat, the main character in Kiss Kill, and to Elle, his abusive girlfriend. Abuse doesn’t have to be black eyes or bruises, it can be subtle and insidious. It is often invisible, and when it is visible, it can be dismissed or denied. I immersed myself in stories, men’s stories in particular. I sat in chat rooms, visited forums, read blogs, and websites, viewed YouTubes. And slowly my story began to form. The more I read the more engrossed I became with narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as it is known in the extreme. And a whole world opened to me. Suddenly, many of my own life experiences or those of younger family members started to make sense. I collected snippets, the bits that ‘spoke’ to me and began to collate them into experiences – first love, self-doubts, façades. I likened it to collecting ‘moments’. For a long time I didn’t know how these moments would come together, I just knew they needed to be put into words, or pictures, or graphics, trusting that at some stage they would be given a form. I also had a clear view of my audience, techno-savvy young adults struggling with toxicity of NPD and the rising incidence of narcissism.

I have never been one to conform with the rules, to climb in the box, to join the back of the line. I have a lot of trouble looking backwards and describe myself as a futurist. As a writer I need to fly. I wanted to experiment with the ways we tell stories. This story screamed at me ‘I don’t fit. Find a new way.’ Different scenes demanded different ways of telling. Where prose was adequate for some, others demanded poems or monologues or photographs. My earlier experiences of writing for the Critical Thinking about Humour and Text set of books (Macmillan Education) held me in good stead. I’d already stretched myself as a writer, tackling every way I could think of to tell a story – cartoons, poems, word games, pictures etc. It was a long time before the scenes for Kiss Kill wove together. Everything seemed so random. I had headings like ‘Manscaping for Dummies’ or ‘If I Don’t Cry Tears I’ll Cry Bullets’ or ‘How to Seduce a Cow When You’re a Short-sighted Donkey’. If people asked what I was writing I didn’t really have an answer. It wasn’t a novel. It wasn’t a magazine. It wasn’t fiction, or non-fiction. I tried to work out how it would fit in a market. If it wasn’t a book, and wasn’t a mag, was it a mook? It languished as “Entity Unknown” for quite some time.

In 2010, a few years after I’d written Kiss Kill, I had one of those life-changing moments. At the Sydney Writer’s Festival I heard the futurist, Mark Pesce, speak. I couldn’t sleep for 3 days. Finally, I knew what I had created. Finally, I knew how to breathe life into this story. Enter the world of technology. Enter the world of digital publishing. Kiss Kill was now ‘of its time’. I began to explore, to open my eyes and my mind to new ways of telling stories. And I came across the world of transmedia. It became very obvious it was my world, a world of possibilities, where stories could be told across multiple platforms, where issues of ownership and territories and rights were no longer set in concrete. I loved the idea of putting a text out for someone else to play with, have always adhered to the saying that the sum of the parts is worth more than the sum of the whole. By now I had a hunger, a deep need to learn as much about “story” as possible. In 2011 I attended a conference in New York on Creativity and Technology and went on a mind bender. I felt like I was in the creative hub of the universe. Alternative realities, gaming, mash-ups, the long-form story, serendipity, enabling. I discovered all these things, and more. I listened to Frank Rose and Jeff Gomez and was introduced to the worlds of transmedia. They called it stories that flowed across multiple platforms into which ‘seeds’ are dropped for the future. This was where I belonged.

I knew I had to learn more and began to immerse myself into the transmedia world, joining forums and discussion groups and Digital Story World. The more I learnt the more hungry I became to learn. I discovered the generosity of the sharing generation, of thought leaders and innovators. I was introduced to concepts like crowdsourcing and engagement and fan-driven narrative – projection mapping and kinect hacking and audio fingerprinting. My brain was exploding.

Then along came Sarah Bailey, the founder of Really Blue Books, Australia’s first digital only publisher and I knew we had to meet. When Sarah accepted Kiss Kill I don’t think she really knew what she’d taken on, but as we worked together, as she began to understand my vision, she embraced the transmedia idea one hundred percent. To be honest I don’t think she quite knew what hit her, but to her credit she remained open to every suggestion, every possibility, taking the way we tell stories into new frontiers. I owe a lot to Sarah Bailey and Really Blue Books for giving life to my creative vision. With transmedia and Kiss Kill together we are literary pioneers.

Kiss Kill listed on Amazon! http://t.co/h3XUTe5t $5.95

Really Blue Books, http://reallybluebooks.com/ebooks $4.40.

Mat’s blog http://www.whyidontgetgirls.com/

Jeni’s blog www.jenimawter.com/blog

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