I hope you’ve had a chance to check out my
Paint the Sky Audiobook Blog Tour.
Paint the Sky was first published in August 2014 and from the beginning of this year I started my search for a narrator to produce the audio version. Being set in the UK with English characters I was hoping to find a suitable voice for my story from the many available on the ACX site. It was a long process and, after a few disappointments, I finally found Joel Leslie. He was very professional and a pleasure to work with throughout. I love his narration of the story and the way he brought my various characters to life.
He read the audition script wonderfully and I signed him almost straight away. Later, I sent Joel some character notes to assist him, which, believe it or not, were a struggle to put together because it had been a while since I’d written Paint the Sky. I’d also penned several stories since and I’d forgotten many of the details about my own characters. He asked me to suggest famous people for each of the characters so he could get a feel for their looks and personalities.
The two main characters were easy to identify. From the beginning, I had pictured Rob Pattinson as Ben. In fact, in my first draft I actually wrote Ben as Edward (from Twilight). And yes, Vinnie was Jasper at first. As the story developed, the characters, their looks and personalities gradually altered so they became my Ben and Vinnie.
I also pictured Cam Gigandet for James. Joel gave him a wonderful and distinctive Scottish accent in the narration. Although I had not suggested this, it works perfectly.
These are some of the notes I gave Joel for these three characters:
Ben is a confident person, yet prefers his own company. He is well liked by other students and can easily communicate with them. He’s wealthy because of his father’s business and wants for nothing financially. He’d rather have hook-ups in gay clubs than commit to a relationship and get to know someone (until he meets Vinnie). He wants to be a writer, but is compelled to help out his father. As the story progresses, he becomes more independent and considerate with regard to his finances. He is rather self-obsessed at first but by the end of the story he is a nicer guy.
Vinnie has two elder brothers and a sister. He is quiet and reserved, shy with people and wary of getting involved with anyone because he has been hurt in the past. Vinnie has limited funds and isn’t impressed by Ben’s flashy accessories. Vinnie is a technophobe because he hasn’t been able to afford any devices or a computer, so in some respects he’s old-fashioned. He wants to pay his way, and gets annoyed when Ben wastes his money on him. He is rather naïve and doesn’t consider what his friendship with James will have on Ben. He is not really the aggressive or physical type when it comes to standing up for himself.
Ben and Vinnie are more mature students (aged 23), having had a gap of two years before starting college, but are just coming to the end of their courses when the story starts. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that they have been attracted to each other for some time even though they hadn’t spoken.
James is in his early thirties and becomes Vinnie’s possessive and abusive boyfriend in the middle of the novel. Notes from the text—tall with dirty blonde dreads with beads entwined, piercing in his bottom lip, grunge look, James’s face was striking, bulky rather than athletic. “His eyes were a pale blue, his skin sallow, with a fair amount of soft stubble. He had piercings in his eyebrow, the side of his nose and lower lip as well as two large tapered stretchers in his earlobes. He dressed similarly to Vinnie, in scruffy jeans and boots, and could have passed for Vinnie’s elder brother. He looked a lot like Finn in many respects.”
The other characters were more difficult to pinpoint and I was a little stumped for ideas. At the time of writing Paint the Sky I had no particular celebrity in mind, so my suggestions were retrospective. I used actors from the movie Magic Mike for some reason when suggesting actors to Joel! I think he did a wonderful job and made each voice their own.
Check out Joel’s others works here.
I am often asked about the inspiration behind Paint the Sky and my research into art, especially Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. I’ve narrowed down the very beginning of my story planning to the following three inspiration prompts:
The initial inspiration for Paint the Sky came from a line in Don McLean’s Empty Chairs. I happened to be singing it over and over to myself one day while I was pottering about at home:
“I wonder if you know
that I never understood
that although you said you’d go
until you did I never thought you would.”
These words formed a heartbreaking scene in my mind between two characters. At the time they were Edward and Jasper from Twilight (I used to write Twilight fanfiction, but this story was never intended as a fanfic). The whole story developed from this scene which occurs roughly in the middle of the book. I had to plan backwards and forwards from this point.
For some reason, and I’m not entirely sure why, Jasper was an artist from the start. But very soon, as the story developed in my head, I thought of Van Gogh and his artwork, especially the Starry Night painting.
The words from another Don McLean song—Vincent—helped develop the artist’s character and provided inspiration for a few of the outdoor and painting scenes, plus the title of the story.
“Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”
For many years, I taught Art in a primary school and would frequently use Van Gogh’s paintings as a starting point. We researched his life and painting styles together, so I had a reasonable background knowledge before I started writing my story. Starry Night became a favourite painting of mine and the children often chose to recreate it in pastels, crayons and paints. I love the simplicity of it, the colours and the brush strokes. The night sky is a central feature in the story and Vinnie’s painting of it provides a pivotal part of the plot
So, inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting and Don McLean’s Vincent, my story tells of the developing love between artist, Vincent (Vinnie), and would-be writer, Ben. Each chapter is titled after one of Vinnie’s paintings, and part of the storyline within each chapter includes reference to that painting.
This gif is amazing.
I’m often asked about writing angst and this ties in with the first inspiration I mentioned earlier and the heartbreaking scene I originally pictured. I love reading and writing angst-filled stories. Anyone who reads my stories will know I like to hurt my boys and make them suffer a little for their love and their happy ever after. For me, this agony highlights the depth of feelings the characters have for each other. If they are heartbroken and missing their partner it somehow intensifies the emotions and illuminates the strength of their love. The threat of a break-up sends tingles through me! The characters and plot determine the amount of angst to a large extent, but hopefully by the end of the story they are better people for the upset and separation and, from then on, they want to make sure their future will be a happy one. (Hope I haven’t given away too many spoilers away here!)
A love of art…
A mutual interest in art draws two shy university students together. Ben admires Vinnie’s painting of the university building, so Vinnie invites him to an exhibition of his artwork. From a wealthy family, Ben purchases some of Vinnie’s art and arranges for the artist to personally hang the paintings in his apartment.
Starry, starry night…
Ben commissions Vinnie to paint his portrait, in order to spend more time with the artist. On the night of the sitting, Vinnie fingerpaints the starry night on Ben’s chest… and they kiss. They begin a relationship beneath the night sky, God’s own canvas.
But every relationship has its ups and downs and so it is with theirs. When Ben thinks Vinnie spends too much time with a fellow artist, his jealousy drives a wedge between them and forces Vinnie into the very thing Ben dreads.
Hold tight to your dreams…
Ben and Vinnie will have to walk through fire before they can find one another again. But if they believe, and if they keep their faith in the night sky and each other, just maybe they can make their dreams of love come true.
Vinnie led me across the room, pulling me by the shirt. “Lie back on the sofa for me and I’ll paint you.”
As if in a dream, I settled my head against one arm of the sofa, my legs dangling over the other end, scarcely breathing now. Vinnie knelt on the floor beside me with an open pot of paint in his hand.
Teasingly, he dipped his index finger into the dark blue paint as if it were cream he would lick off. His finger connected with my skin and he made short strokes across my chest, the coldness of the paint making me shiver.
Mesmerised by the closeness of his beautiful face, the view of the night sky through the window, and the picture forming upon my chest, I watched as dab after dab and stroke after stroke he built up a mix of shades, until a dark night sky with the moon and stars were there to be seen—a masterpiece, drying on the warmth of my blazing skin, a transient thing of beauty. His fingers skimmed my skin causing gooseflesh to ripple in waves down my arms and thighs. My nipples pebbled in response to his touch.
And when he was done, his lips met mine in a languid kiss; how our first kiss should have been—sweet, innocent, and full of promise. He pulled away, smiling down at me.
This was the beginning of something special.
Lily G. Blunt writes contemporary gay romance and erotica. She loves to explore the relationship between two men and the intensity of their physical and emotional attraction. Angst often features in her stories as she feels this demonstrates the depth of the men’s feelings for each other. Lily is forever writing imaginary scenes and plots in her head, but only a few ever make it to the page—there never seems to be enough hours in the day despite having left the teaching profession to concentrate on her writing!