Thursday, 16 February 2012

Oliver Twisted Blog Tour: Author J.D. Sharpe on how to write a mash up!

Please welcome author J.D. Sharpe to the blog today as part of the Oliver Twisted blog tour. J.D. has written a great guest post on how to write a mash up!

Oliver Twisted is out now, and Jen will be reviewing it soon on the blog. Can't wait to see what she thinks. Until then, over to J.D...

Oliver Twisted by J.D. Sharpe
Publisher: Egmont
Release date: February 6th 2012.

“FLESH, the woe-begotten moaned at Oliver, baring teeth which were ragged and black.

“FLESH,” came another moan, and he turned to see two more woe-begottens behind. They began to shuffle towards him, barefoot – toes blue from cold, arms outstretched.

The world according to Oliver Twisted is simple. Vampyres feed on the defenceless. Orphans are sacrificed to hungry gods. And if a woe-begotten catches your scent it will hunt you for ever. When a talking corpse reveals that Oliver will find his destiny in London, he sets out to seek the truth. Even if it means losing his soul.

Guest Post: Author J.D. Sharpe on how to write a mash up. 
Hi and welcome to my blog post about how to write a mash up.
 I’ll say straight away that I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do this – it is matter of feeling things out and experimenting.
However, there are some things you might want to think about before starting your own mash up adventure and in the true tradition of mash up, I am going to try and compose my advice from various pieces of useful material that I have found and blend with my own words!

First off what is a mash up?

According to a mash up is recombinant art, derived art. Some may call it type of plagiarism resulting from the impulse to create paired with a lack of imagination. Others will contend that this process of remixing source materials, whether they be "found sounds", literature or pop music has great artistic merit.

I think I prefer the second the part of this definition [obviously] because it recognizes that there is some skill in trying to blend your vision with somebody else’s!  For whole chapters of Oliver Twisted I create brand new text and plot points that deviate massively from the original narrative. Yet, in other sections, I keep Dickens’s words – especially his descriptions of London which in my opinion are just sublime.
What remains and what changes is part of the creative process of writing a mash up and indeed any kind of reinterpretation of a classic. It is all part of the craft and I suppose appeals to the editor in me which is what I do as my day job!
Oliver Twisted was not easy to write but it was wonderful to write. I feel like I really got beneath the skin of Oliver Twist and because Dickens’s characters are so well known it really threw down the gauntlet in terms of trying to find ways to surprise and, hopefully, delight.

The New York Times provides some food for thought before tackling a mash up:

          What do you think of using somebody else’s ideas, words or images as an inspiration for art?
          What, if anything, are the differences between a remake and a reinvention (including a mash-up)?
          What is your goal in recombining elements from your chosen work?
          How will you go beyond imitation?
          How will you play with conventions of the genre?
          What tone are you trying to achieve? Is it serious or playful? Do you want your audience to think, laugh or do both? What other emotions or reactions might your work evoke?  

This is a great list of questions because it is getting you to challenge your own thoughts on mash ups and to think about what it is you really want to say if you do decide to write one.

Right, so you’ve thought about why you are writing a mash up and what tone you want your mash up to be, so how do you actually write one?
 Sherrie Brown Erwin who has written a mash up called Jane Slayre based on Jane Erye shares how she wrote her mash up.
First, choose a classic in the public domain. Public Domain means the work in question is no longer protected by copyright, and free to be mashed. Anything copyrighted prior to 1923 is in the public domain. If a novel is available to download for free at a site like Project Gutenberg, it’s probably in the public domain.
Next, get to know the classic work extremely well, with several readings so that you identify with the scenes and the mechanics as if you’d actually written them. This gives you a feel for the original author’s voice and tone, as well as helping you figure out what you would like to change and where you would change it.
Finally, start making changes.
My process? I copy the original work into a file, and start layering the changes into the original manuscript. I delete sentences, rewrite sentences, and add new ones of my own creation. I go over the manuscript four to six times or more, saving several different versions as I go along so that I can retrace my steps if I go too far. Though, can you ever go far enough?
Feel free to go wild! Add new scenes, new characters. Once you have been through it a few times, you find that changes feel more organic, and more like your own.
Key to remember, though, that classics beloved and well-read through time are very familiar to readers, and dear to hearts. Not all changes are well-received. Readers have an expectation of their favorite books that they still crave in mashups, if they are adventurous enough to give one a try.

I didn’t write Oliver Twisted like this – I highlighted words and lines I wanted to keep from Dickens’s Oliver Twist but only once I knew what the spine of my story was going to be and the journey I was taking Oliver on. However, like I said at the top of the piece, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to create a mash up or reimagine a story, and Sherrie’s method may be more helpful to you. Get stuck in.
Thanks for reading and good luck writing your own mash up!


  1. Wow, what a great write-up! That's an interesting analysis/how-to, thanks so much for taking the time to share.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  2. Really interesting post! I enjoyed spotting all the familiar passages in Oliver Twisted, and was very impressed by the way they fitted into the supernatural story so well.

  3. Ooh! Great post - really interesting to see ways of creating a mashup.

    P.S I love the idea of Oliver Twisted and I can't wait to read :)

  4. Oliver Twisted arrived yesterday and I'm already on Chapter 2!!!! The only problem is that my daughter keeps trying to steal it from me :-) I can't wait to write the review!!!


  5. Cool stuff - I'm seeing more and more mashups about the place. Really exciting when done right. Having just read Oliver Twist I think I might have to give this one a go!


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