In less than two months – if my poor mathematical skills are correct – I’ll be in Chicago for my first GRL. I thought I’d be feeling anxious by this stage but, aside from a morbid fear of flying, I’m more excited than nervous. To be able to finally meet friends in person, and have the opportunity to make new friends, is an opportunity I’m extremely grateful for.
My first MM novel, The Curtis Reincarnation, was published by Torquere Press about six years ago. It was followed by The Slayer’s Apprentice, Liquid Glass, and Left of Centre. I then wrote a free short story called One of Those Days and, after that, pretty much disappeared off the face of the Earth. I crashed and burned with severe PTSD, and along with that, I lost faith in myself as a writer. Which, I have to say, was shattering because it had always been my one true passion. To lose it, then feel like you’d never get it back, it left another big gap in my life.
I had a lot of hours in the day that I used to spend writing and now were spent twiddling my thumbs. In school, I loved art and I was pretty good at it. I also admired the beautiful digital art I saw on the Internet and wondered if I could teach myself how to do it. To cut a long story short, I downloaded a program called Daz 3D, I purchased Photoshop, and I threw myself into it. What I never expected was how a new passion for digital art could kick-start my writing.
I’m a very visual person. I think in pictures. When I write, I see a scene like a movie sequence and then put that sequence into words. Digital art and 3D modelling opened up a world of opportunity for me to get ‘my boys’ out of my imagination and create them in art. To be able to do this, to craft them, to see them coming to life, was so exciting for me. Not only could I create them, I could create entire scenes from Works In Progress. And, it’s a process of continual learning, and polishing of characters as digital technology improves.
The natural progression from there was an interest in eventually writing and illustrating graphic fiction. My newest novel, Amara: The Rebirth, started off as graphic serial fiction on my blog. However, had I never discovered the passion for digital art, I dare say Amara never would have been written. Everything I write now always has graphics, even if I’m the only one who sees them.
It’s interesting, and also quite strange in many ways, that there will be people at GRL who know me as Zathyn Priest the author, some who know me as Zathyn Priest the cover artist, and some who know me as both. Although nowadays I’m shifting more of my attention back to my writing and graphic fiction, it’s a lovely honour to see my original artwork on the covers of other author’s books.
So what it is I actually do? Is it a matter of loading a 3D model into a computer program, pressing a few buttons, and voila? Well, no, it isn’t. I’m going to use Emrys Amara, from my novel Amara: The Rebirth, to be my lovely assistant for this demonstration. Emrys started out as a plain, grey, model with the base name ‘Genesis’.
Most of my models start out, or are transferred onto this base. Using dials in the Daz 3D program, Genesis is sculpted, a bit like modelling clay. The face, body, everything is sculpted to create the character’s features. Skin maps, which in many cases are also created ore reworked by me, are applied over Genesis. Eventually, after days or weeks, a character is born.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, he doesn’t look too impressive standing there like Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Vitruvian Man’, bald and expressionless. But, believe it or not, that is Emrys, the finished product. Once done, he’s saved into my stable of pretties and brought out when I need him. And, I needed him tonight, so he came out to play. I decided I’d do a portrait and posed him up in Daz to show off his vampire fangs. And here’s the final pose…
It’s still not looking the best, I know. Once he’s posed, the lighting goes into the 3D program, which is kind of similar to lighting a photo shoot. Silly me forgot to time how long it took me to do this from pose to lighting to final render, but around one and a half hours. You may be wondering why he’s still bald. I could, and generally do, add a hair model inside the Daz program, although this time I decided to Photoshop the hair in during postwork. This is the final render out of Daz…
Now I take Emrys into Photoshop, where he’ll finally get some hair. Postwork can take hours or days, but is my favourite part of the process. It’s where the real magic happens and a 3D model is turned into artwork. Again, I didn’t time how long this took, and I was stopping and starting in between while doing other things. However, this is the finished product.
So, there you go! Whether you know me as an author or an artist – or even if you’ve never heard of me from a bar of soap -I look forward to meeting everyone at GRL and having a great time!
Zathyn Priest – Bio: Zathyn Priest is an Australian writer/artist with severe vampiric tendencies. Absolutely convinced the sun could turn him to a pile of ash, he prefers to write under the cover of darkness. This serves two purposes, with the first being the afore mentioned sunlight danger, and the second being the fact that night means no annoying phones ringing or people knocking at the door.
Zathyn has written four published novels using this strange moonlight technique. The Curtis Reincarnation, The Slayer’s Apprentice, Liquid Glass, and Amara: The Rebirth. He has also written three short fiction works: The Statue, Left of Centre, and One of Those Days.
Zathyn lives with two greyhounds named Chrissy and Eldon, a cat named Fran, and a duck named Charlie.
Amara: The Rebirth
Available from Mlr Press
BLURB: Matthew and his husband, Dean, are slayers, trying to end the choke-hold Amara half-breed vampires have put on Nottingham City and kill the leader, Amdis. A diary supposedly written by legendary Emrys Amara is sent to them via the Royal Mail, yet they doubt an orphaned vampire could have survived the demise of his clan. Meeting Emrys proves them wrong. Matthew falls deeply; Dean’s jealousy takes a sinister turn. A chain of events involving werewolves, and kidnapped children, follows as Amdis teams up with another vampire clan. Can Matthew and Emrys save the children while rebuilding the Amaras as the greatest vampire clan in history?