[GUEST POST] Jonathan Wood on Pictures That are Worth 1000 words (+ Giveaway for NO HERO!)

Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. There’s a story in there involving falling in love and flunking out of med school, but in the end it all worked out all right, and, quite frankly, the medical community is far better off without him, so we won’t go into it here. His debut novel, No Hero was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a funny, dark, rip-roaring adventure with a lot of heart, highly recommended for urban fantasy and light science fiction readers alike.” Barnesandnoble.com listed it has one of the 20 best paranormal fantasies of the past decade, and Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels described it as, “so funny I laughed out loud.” His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Chizine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, as well as anthologies such as The Book of Cthulhu 2 and The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year One. His next novel, a sequel to No Hero, is called Yesterday’s Hero and is due out in September 2014. Follow Jonathan on Twitter as @thexmedic.

Worth a 1000 words

by Jonathan Wood

Whenever I want to start writing something new, the first thing I do is look for a picture. It’s become a ritualized part of my writing process. When I’m first starting to plan out a novel, I move like a magpie from tumblr to DeviantArt to Lost at E Minor, looking for fresh sources of inspiration that I can add to my stockpile. Then when it’s time to flesh out an idea from nascent impression into an actual plot, I crack open my art file and start digging. Soon, I’ll find a piece that feels like it’s somehow part of the nascent story in my head, so I’ll stop and use the picture as a springboard for a scene. Just a few hundred words, but enough to generate an idea, a moment of wonder, a potential conflict that will make its way into the novel.

I started this process with my first novel No Hero, and I’ve repeated it a number of times now. Over that course of time, a couple of favorite artists have risen to the fore, old faithfuls that I can always rely on to spark new ideas.


James Jean
Cover Illustration for Fables Covers
Cover Illustration for Fables Deluxe Edition, Book 1

James Jean came to prominence doing the covers for the Fables comic, and for my money it’s still some of his best work. There is an ethereal quality to his illustrations, a sense of not-quite-here, everything is recognizable and yet also changed.

Cover Illustration for Fables 46
Cover Illustration for Rift

There’s also a tremendous narrative quality to a lot of his Fables work. You truly get the sense that you’ve stumbled into middle of something bizarre and dark. Why does that man girl a gun? Is that a devil or an angel hiding in the shadows? Is the I can’t help but want to explore what might have been.


Joao Ruas
Cover Illustration for Fables 97
Cover Illustration for Fables Vol 17: Inherit the Wind

When James Jean gave up the Fables gig, he was replaced by Brazilian artist, Joao Ruas. Jean had set the bar absurdly high, and yet somehow Ruas was able to meet it. His art shares the same otherworldly quality as Jean’s, but the immersion is deeper. What’s going on behind that slice of bangs? Where is she? Ruas shows us snatches of a dark fairyland. The funhouse mirror isn’t so fun anymore. And if you keep staring into it, what will you see?

Gorgon III

Tomer Hanuka

Tomer Hanuka’s work takes the pop sensibility of the modern world and somehow makes it beautiful. At first glance, his art appears to celebrate the trashy, to revel in the over-saturated palette of the modern. But a strain of dark humor infects his work, corrupting the bright banter of the everyday. This is a darker place, and the longer you stare, the more questions you’ll have.


Camilla D’Errico
Blueberry Candy Sucker

Have a hankering for anime girls with giant helmets and animals balanced on their heads? Well, that’s bizarrely specific of you. But I do to, so welcome to the crowd.

In Camilla D’Errico’s art, the base meets with the sublime, corruption with innocence. But instead of jarring against each other, they create a curious, homogenous blend. Her young girls seem perfectly at home in inhuman environments. How did they get there? How will they survive? It was exactly these questions, posed by one of D’Errico’s pieces, that led me to create the Twins in my novel No Hero.


Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen’s clothing is so outlandish, so impractical, and yet so confident, that it almost insists another reality. There must be a place where this clothing is worn. But where exactly? Who wears it? What terrifying corridors of power do they slink down? And what are the odds they make it to the ends of those corridors?

These artists are always the starting point for me. They open up the doors of my imagination. Hopefully they’ve done the same for you.


GIVEAWAY (U.S. Only): Win a Copy of NO HERO by Jonathan Wood

Jonathan’s latest book is No Hero from Titan Books, featuring an cover designed by Amazing15.

Would you like to win a copy?

SF Signal has 5 paperback copies of Jonathan Wood’s No Hero to give away to 5 lucky SF Signal readers!

Here’s what the book is about:

Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace is no hero. He’s a good cop, but prefers for action and heroics remain on the screen, safely performed by professionals. But then, secretive government agency MI37 comes calling, hoping to recruit Arthur in their struggle against horrors from another dimension known as the Progeny. Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?

Here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter “No Hero
  3. Please provide a mailing address in the email so the books can be sent as soon as possible. (The winning address is used only to mail the prize. All other address info will be purged once the giveaway ends.)
  4. Geographic restrictions: This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S.
  5. The giveaway will end Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 (9:00 PM U.S. Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

3 thoughts on “[GUEST POST] Jonathan Wood on Pictures That are Worth 1000 words (+ Giveaway for NO HERO!)”

  1. How cool that you find inspiration for your writing in artistic images. These are great. I’ve long been a fan of James Jean and was so disappointed when he stopped doing the Fables covers, despite how much I’ve enjoyed the work of Joao Ruas and others who have been on the book since.

  2. Hey Carl – thanks. Glad you liked the post. James Jean has been a favorite of mine for years, though, personally I prefer his older more illustrative stuff. Bill Willingham seems to be bless by gorgeous covers wherever he goes. House of Mystery also had some great stuff as I recall.

    1. I much prefer the work he was doing around the time he was doing Fables than newer work I’ve seen.

      I am excited I’ll be able to meet Camilla D’Errico and see some of her original work at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 in May.

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