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.wordpress.com
Jeni’s blog www.jenimawter.com

What is Emotional Abuse? Source: Crosswalk.com

No one broad definition covers all aspects of what constitutes emotional abuse, but generally speaking, the following types of behaviour occur with regularity in the emotionally abusive relationship:

• Attacks on personal character
• Blame and accusations
• Shame and judging
• Sarcasm and twisting what you say
• Rewriting history
• Playing the victim
• Manipulation, control and coercion
• Unpredictable explosions
• Criticism that is harsh and undeserved
• Swearing
• Intimidation
• Escalating situations or refusing to discuss a situation by not speaking at all

If you feel you are in an emotionally abusive relationship seek help!

Readers of Kiss Kill (www.reallybluebooks.com) can contact Headspace: Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation at www.headspace.org.au or Mensline Australia on 1300 789978

Entrepreneur Tips for Authors in a Changing Publishing Market

I spent last weekend with 480 entrepreneurs at a course in Sydney, run by Siimon Reynolds from The Fortune Institute and I’ve put together a summary of points that I feel are particularly relevant to today’s authors given the current seismic changes in the publishing industry.

• Authors will need a ‘Growth Mindset’ whereby they believe abilities aren’t fixed, that with practise they can conquer new areas. John Kay coined the term “obliquity” whereby oblique approaches are the most successful when negotiating difficult terrain.

• Success is not about perfection, it’s about self-correction, constantly making small changes to ensure continued writing success.

• Time mastery reduces stress.

• Positive attitude of ‘I am unstoppable’.

• Every author must have an image of their ‘future self’, not just their past and present selves. Self-identity is FUTURE based.

• Be unstoppable.

• When focussing on sales and marketing you need to test for effectiveness in a measurable way.

• Buyers respond when they feel there is a personal connection with the author. Start by developing your personal story, why you came to writing.

• Every author needs to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market. It’s called having a USP, Unique Selling Point. Can also have an ESP, Emotional Selling Proposition.

• Have a clear goal of where you want to be positioned in the market. This is your brand.

• Reflect your brand in everything you do. Make smart media and social media choices.

• What audience do you want to attract?

• Build relationships with readers/buyers.

• Structure increases efficiency – structure for each day, week, month, 90 days, year. Structure in both personal goals as well as business goals.

• Outsource anon-core tasks.

• Realise that you may need to create a new self-identity and business identity. If not, maximise what you’ve got.

• Introduce daily accountability.

• Monitor yourself for: self-discipline; concentration; optimism; relaxation; enjoyment.

• Know the financial facts of your business.

• Invest in personal development.

• Consider forming joint ventures with complementary others.

• Maintain standards of excellence.

• Seek supportive peer groups.

• Reputation is an excellent form of advertising.

• Avoid negative people.

• Have clear goals, short-term, 3 year+ and 10 year goal.

• Keep innovating.

• Bundle your products and services to improve value.

• A well-developed website will improve marketing and sales through SEO, Search Engine Optimisation.

• Expect to fail frequently.

How to Deal with Narcissistic Rage

The narcissist believes that by being perfect they will receive the admiration/love/respect/attention they crave. Being perceived as ‘not perfect’ can result in feelings of shame, anxiety, guilt or anger.

If a narcissist’s self-esteem is threatened or wounded, they may react with anything from mild irritation to serious outbursts, or even violence. Destroying the perceived threat restores their sense of safety and power and gives them total control over their environment.

The rage is not about you, it is about the narcissist.

Respond to narcissistic rage with your mind, not with emotion. Do not rage back.

Do not try to use logic or reason to calm the narcissist as this will prolong the confrontation. There is no room for your opinion or viewpoint. This is not personal, it is about the narcissist.

Establish your boundaries. Keep calm and as soon as you are able, remove yourself from the explosive situation.

Do not believe that anything you say or don’t say, do or don’t do will change the person or the situation.

Accept that the narcissist will not display this behaviour in public view. In public, they are perfect – charismatic, fun, outgoing, laid back. It is only in private that they release their rage. Expect that unless the rage is personally witnessed, no-one will understand how life is for you.

Narcissists practice projection. When they accuse you of being selfish, inconsiderate, envious, dishonest, arrogant etc what they are projecting is inadequacies they feel about themselves. The projection is not about you, it is about the narcissist.

Narcissists may claim to have said something which they did not actually say, blaming you for not listening. Alternatively, they do say something but claim to have not. Narcissists can contradict themselves in the same breath!

Cockroaches and Happiness

cockroach sitting in the sun on the stairs

Do I Know You?

Have just read ‘Opening the Door of Your Heart: And other Buddhist tales of Happiness’ by Ajahn Brahm.
Every morning after walking my dogs we enter the house by the laundry stairs.

Five days ago a large cockroach sat on the stairs in the sun and didn’t move when we approached.

Four days ago the same cockroach was there. I blew on it, thinking it was dead. It wasn’t.

Three days ago the cockroach was still there, waving it’s feelers as the dogs sniffed at it.

Two days ago, the cockroach had changed position in the sun. I had to stop the dogs from pawing at it.

Today, when we came home from our walk I asked, ‘Do I know you?’
Tomorrow …

Why Kiss Kill is Pioneering in the Art of Storytelling

As a traditional author my focus was to write the best story I could possibly write. It would be a prose narrative, following the three-act structure. I would put it into the hands of my publisher who would put it into the hands of the readers. End of story – except for a short burst of publicity commitments after publication.

As a transmedia storyteller for Kiss Kill my brief has broadened considerably so that now I must also be involved in:

– Audience creation with the goal of building a fan base
– Online engagement (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blog)
– Brand building as ‘Jeni Mawter: Digital Storyteller”
– Connecting fictional characters with my brand (Mat’s blog
http://www.whyidon’tgetgirls.wordpress.com )
– Deepening my audience’s emotional engagement
– Providing many entry points into the story
– Inspiring community creation
– Leveraging a community of creators around the brand such as musicians, actors and friends (YouTube, iTunes, reviews)
– ongoing commitment to a story in evolution
– educating traditional story-tellers into new ways of telling
– educating the educators about the changing face of story
– upgrading technological skills and knowledge on a daily basis
– staying at the forefront of transmedia developments
– trying to belong to some sort of story-telling community but not knowing where I belong
– marketing, marketing, marketing
– moving into a world traditionally involving big entertainment creators such as television (BBC Sherlock series, Nike promotion); gaming (Perplex City) or theatre (Clockwork Monkey)
– exploring new income generating systems such as Kickstarter, Indigogo and Pozible (Australia) instead of author Advances and Royalties
– Writing as auteur, rather than author
– Writing non-linear narrative
– Finding or forging new pathways for digital reviewing, selling, publicity, competitions etc

As a writer what do I believe?

I believe in the Power of Story.
I believe I must think outside the square.
I believe in innovation.
I believe in breaking rules.
I believe in looking to the future.
I believe in our community.
I believe in family.
I believe in our youth.
I believe in good mental health.
I believe in the human spirit.
I believe in the passion inside me.
I believe in the power of the little person.
I believe that I will never be happy to be put in a box.
I believe life is fragile sometimes, just because.

Anger has many faces: How to Cope with the Narcissist in Your Life

Les Carter’s discussion on how to deal with the narcissist in your life encourages you to focus on your own anger responses. He says anger has many faces and breaks these down into 5 types of anger response:

1) Suppressed Anger (giving up)
2) Openly Aggressive Anger (ranting and raving)
3) Passive-Aggressive Anger (going underground)
4) Assertive Anger (being firm and fair)
5) Release Anger (a state of acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness)

Needless to say, when faced with a narcissist we should be fair but stand firm, with forgiveness the ultimate goal.

In order to do this we need to remove the FEAR factor from this equation. How do we show signs of Fear?
– reluctance
– resistance
– suppression
– avoidance
– lying
– complaining
– not standing up for yourself
– second-guessing the narcissist’s preferences
– allowing yourself to be talked out of a decision.

Conclusion: The narcissist will not change, you must take action towards changing your perceptions and reactions.

Ouch!

Chenoa Fawn Interview about Kiss Kill on her blog Sibylline Syllables

Chenoa Fawn Interview http://chenoafawn.wordpress.com

1. Many of your previous books have had comedy at their heart, how do you maintain your sense of humour through the publishing process?

To be honest, the journey to publication of Kiss Kill was a shocker. The manuscript was rejected by my agent, then sat in slush piles at major publishing houses. As weeks turned into months, which turned into years, my self-esteem eroded to the point where I described myself as a writer in solitary confinement on Death Row. Nothing I tried could unlock that cell door. Frustration and despair festered. My sense of humour deserted me, to the point where I no longer liked the person I had become. Creativity was absent. If this sounds bleak, it was!

2. Your latest book, Kiss Kill, is your first foray into direct to digital publishing. Tell us about what brought you to this decision?

Firstly, the story of Kiss Kill (www.reallybluebooks.com) is about how a 16 year old boy gets into a relationship with a narcissistic girl. Over time the relationship unravels, fragments and explodes. The digital form complements this in that I could deliver the story in fragments. In a way, the medium helps to define a story. Secondly, I chose not to write this story as a prose narrative. In part this was because I wrote it organically so that fragments were written in a random order. It was only much later that I wove them into a narrative. Thirdly, I wrote the story in multiple texts to reflect the type of reading young readers are doing today. Reading flicks all over the place, from prose to monologue, blogging, poetry, critical essay, script, songs, Facebook entries, notes etc. Digital suits this perfectly. Also, I want the story to be interactive with reader’s contributions helping the story to evolve. One way of doing this was to have my character blog at http://whyidontgetgirls.wordpress.com Another way was to encourage audience involvement through performances on YouTube (How Do You define a Man?), with song recordings (Thought I Knew You) and through Twitter @kisskilldigital and Facebook .

3. Kiss Kill is about a sixteen year old boy’s relationship with a girl with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What sort of research did you undertake for the book?

As with all my books I do extensive research. I researched teenage relationships and relationship problems. I researched relationship abuse, emotional abuse and bullying. I also read everything I could on Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I read books, research papers, articles, watched interviews, personally spoke to ‘victims’ of NPD, went to chat lines, men’s chat lines (because they wear their abuse in silence, against a community backdrop of disbelief). I used my own personal experiences, workplace experiences, experiences of family members in relationships with a person with NPD. Not only did I need to get into the mindset of NPD, I needed to understand how someone gets ‘trapped’ in a relationship and why is it so difficult to extricate yourself, even when life is so unpleasant. Also, as this is a digital story that uses multiple platforms I needed to do a huge amount of research on telling stories using transmedia. I wasn’t just on a steep learning curve, I was on a trajectory. I went to a conference on Creativity and Technology in New York and got involved with if:book, the Institute for the Future of the Book. I joined Digital Book World, went to seminars on digital storytelling and have grown from there.