The Best Thing About Creating Imaginary Worlds?


While you’re writing, you get to live in that world most of your day!




Candy, from The Tramp, just posted the above painting (without me in it, of course) on her Tumblr page. She says, “Lately I just feel like my mind’s in a carnival, with fireworks going off overhead, so I’m calling this one, ‘Celebration.’ This is turning out to be an awesome summer after all.”

She’s so cute and dramatic–I love her. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know exactly why she’s all excited: she’s falling in love with Sam Castle.

It’s hard not to get caught up in your own story lines and characters while writing. If it doesn’t feel real for the author, how real could it feel real for the audience anyway, right? So I hang out with imaginary friends and live in a fantasy land while writing a my books. I say roll with it (just like Meg Shannon would, from Wicked Lover).


Results Are In…

…and my favorite wins the vote for The Tramp cover art!


The weirdest thing about this cover winning by a landslide is that it began as an afterthought.

Since about halfway through writing the book, I had a completely different image in my mind (which became the other cover art, with the person losing balance on railroad tracks). I spent hours and hours meticulously drawing those train tracks, designing the burst of light on the horizon, and cutting out the figure with Adobe Illustrator. The diagonal lines and the colors to grab attention, and the perspective to pull a viewer into the scene–all thought out according to proper design principals. I took care to make the figure seem androgynous, because part of the storyline of The Tramp deals with various meanings of the word ‘tramp’ itself and several characters fit the bill, male and female.


VERB: 1. to tread or walk with a firm, heavy, resounding step; 2. to go on a walking excursion or expedition, hike; 3. to go about as a vagabond

NOUN: 1. (slang), a person with loose morals, tainted reputation

But, I also figured it was best to have options and get some audience feedback. I wanted the other cover art example to be completely different, and thinking my planned design would win the vote easily, I hastily decided on using some already extant art. That seemed easy, and perfect to give contrasting perspective on what I thought was clearly the perfect cover.

I had already decided to start running a blog under the guise of my main female character from The Tramp, Candy (, so I chose my favorite of her posted artwork.


I got rid of the gold foil at the bottom and added some gradients with Photoshop, to help the title stand out better. Kicked up the saturation.


For the typography, I thought old letterpress, metal type blocks would be perfect. I made those in Photoshop from a cool tutorial (I’m sorry, I can’t find it now), then went off on my own tangent, as always.


I was pleased that their worn appearance ended up looking great with the crumbling brick shack in the painting. Plus, so much of the book had to do with the geographical setting of the story, mountains and caves, rivers and canyons. Rock.

The more I thought about it, actually…the better that new cover was starting to feel for The Tramp…

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since that painting had sprouted from the same deep well of creative juices that had spawned the novel, and the entire epic story behind the series, with equal measures of nurturing, investigation and passion. Candy’s painting is part of a series that I began several years ago, “40 Paintings.” It was my first foray into the art of blogging; I was attempting to create an online painting course based on understanding the potential of a white page.

I was a baby mama at the time, cooling my heals, and I became distressed at the comments I was hearing from other mothers watching their kids paint and draw and create.

“I used to do that stuff too, when I was little. But I just can’t anymore.”

“Geez, kids are so creative,” (with an astounded shake of the head).

I called the series “Making Art: A Course in Allowing Your Creativity to Flourish.” How cute is that? I was posting stuff like this…

(in paraphrase) “Let it happen, have a lot of stuff on hand and let yourself go!!!”

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making art 3

All you needed were the right materials, lots of blank white space, and the desire to get it out, and get messy!

making art 2

making art 1

I really wanted to dispel the mystery of how paintings were made, and make the idea of expressing oneself with art more accessible to the average person (especially the tired moms I was meeting, in sore need of expressing themselves in a healthy manner!).  I cared about the project a lot, and I still deluded myself that art meant as much to others as it did to me.




And oh look, this last one is Candy’s painting in its infancy!

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Though I didn’t finish the online series, I probably will some day. I still believe in it. I put my heart and soul into writing a course to get others to see their creative potential and I adore the paintings I made while doing it. Candy has “made” some of them and posted them on her blog, and readers will probably see more popping up.

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Candy is actually already using the paining below for her next creation (yes, I know I’m crazy)…

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After “40 Paintings,” I moved onto something else, but similar. And later, the same soul stuff came pouring out when I decided to start writing The Tramp. So, though the second cover wasn’t as “planned” as the first, I was examining the same issues, visiting the same dark places and seeking the same light, making that painting, as I was while writing my first novel. My main character reflects myself in so many ways. Of course her art would be close to my heart. And of course her painting is perfect for the cover art of her story.

And mine.

Heads Up, Ya’ll: Candy Vale Is Fallin’ In Love

When does that love thing actually happen? It’s so hard to find the root that tripped you, after the fall, with those misty rose-colored glasses securely fixed on the bridge of your nose. Candy’s most recent Tumblr post (click here) might highlight that moment, even if she herself doesn’t recognize the trouble she’s in yet. She’s currently posting about a “collaborative art” project underway between her and her new friend, Sam; the two of them are taking turns painting and drawing on the walls of an old cabin in the woods.

When the novel, The Tramp, actually begins (right before school starts, Fall 2014), Candy is more than familiar with the power Sam Castle wields over her. By that time, she is looking back, remembering when she first met Sam at the beginning of the summer. Read how she thinks about the dilapidated shack then, the walls of which are the canvas where Candy and Sam are “battling with paint”:


Candy met Sam earlier that summer, right after school let out. He was part of the painting crew that her dad had hired to spiff up their family shop’s interior…She had wandered into the shop one day and saw Sam lying on his side, one elbow on the floor, his head turned nearly upside down so that his earring lay against his cheek, with one arm arching over his head to pull out a delicate, unwavering corner edge of paint…He was concentrating hard, chomping gum and rocking out wearing headphones, so he didn’t know she was there.

But she had made sure to hang around acting busy when she knew the paint guys were finishing up for the day. When she sidled over and casually asked Sam if he ever painted anything else, he had turned adorably shy, admitting to drawing some. Candy recognized a budding artist when she saw one, and she encouraged him to talk about his drawings, but he simply smiled and asked her for her phone number. She was confused, yet happy to supply it.

Later that night, she received his text, “Some of my stuff.”

She gasped as she clicked through the attached files–half a dozen photos of his bedroom wall, adorned with some of the most passionate, honest, horribly beautiful drawings she had ever seen.

The next day, she presented him with a gift box of charcoals, and after work she led him to the old cabin about a twenty-minute walk in the mountains south of the shop, where her brothers used to party in high school. It was an ancient, tiny, rotting one-room cabin that the twins, Drew and Simon, had found in their Sophomore year of high school. They had used it as a secret hideout and upon leaving for college had passed it on to their younger brother Max. Max, in turn, initiated Candy with great fanfare the previous summer, right before he took off himself. Candy used it for a place to get away and write poetry or read, normally preferring solitude more than a party.

She had led Sam in through the sagging doorway, sweeping her arm wide and grinning, “I would be honored if you’d decorate my walls in the artistic tradition of your bedroom.”

He had stepped in behind her, ducking under the low arch and investigating the moldering room with a wry smile.

“This palace is all yours?”

“Honestly, I think it belongs to the forest now,” she had said, motioning to an oak tree branch growing through a gaping hole towards the ceiling. “But they let me stay here a lot.”

Sam sat down on the old resident love seat and leaned back comfortably, crossing his ankles in front of him, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “You know what that’s gonna cost you? Hiring a master artist like myself?”

“I’ll be happy to pay it.”

Her brothers always called their hideout The Shack, but she and Sam called it The Palace.


–excerpted from The Tramp, by Sarah Wathen


Candy’s first Tumblr post about the collaborative painting she and Sam produce on the walls of The Palace is scholarly and detached. Click here for Candy’s Tumblr blog.

She catalogues the developing work, “Me: blue stain. Sam: charcoal.” ; “Me: blue and red glazes to push the “caverns” that seemed to be developing backward and forward with the grain of the wood…Then, Sam just found all these shapes developing and ran with it.”

But, her next post which she calls “Is it really collaboration when you feel exactly the same thing?” speaks volumes about the way things are turning. She’s beginning to admire him and feel a deep connection between them. She can find few words for the first image (shown below), a drawing of bright red flames. “It’s almost like I made this myself, its so close to my mind,” she writes.




When she creates the sunrise and shows it to Sam…



…she writes, “I think Sam almost kissed me when he saw it.”

If he had, do you think she would have stopped him?


Candy and Sam, in Artistic Collaboration

At the beginning of The Tramp, our heroine Candy is already quite involved with the alluring and mysterious new guy in town, Sam Castle. Candy’s Tumblr page fills in the gaps of understanding–what is going on between these two, and why is she so weird about him? Keeping abreast of Candy’s posts over the summer (before The Tramp begins) will help a reader to trace the path of their relationship.

And that’s all I’ll commit to. I’ve left breadcrumbs–you follow them!

(Follow Candy on Tumblr at

For example, I’ve just posted on Tumblr (as Candy, of course), about the collaborative artwork that she and Sam have been creating on the walls of an old dilapidated shack deep in the woods, which readers will be familiar with in The Tramp as “The Palace.”


Me and my friend Sam started battling with paint on the old wooden walls of this place I know. So fun.

First, I stained some sections that were nice and gnarled with different colors, then we used charcoal, chalk, paint or whatever, in turns.

Always surprised when I walked in.


She posts photos that she’s taken of the works-in-progress, and she comments on what she or Sam has added.

Thus, wood goes from pretty and familiar to oddly animate…




to cavernous…




to curiously inexplicable.




A reader might ask, “Who is this person, seeing such strange visions and bringing them to life out of sheer will?” And within that question, I refer to both Sam and Candy.

Candy doesn’t see the ghouls, until Sam shows them to her. This next example is perfect.






Wood knots become staring eyeballs and yawning, screaming mouths. Almost chilling, but more like fascinating, (says Candy on her blog).


Who is kidding who?