Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Building Worlds with Words...and Miniatures by Anna J Stewart

Greetings all! I feel like it's been ages since I've posted on this page...good to be back. :)

When I decided to get super serious about my writing, I dived deep into paranormal and urban fantasy (it's still my main love--someday I'll get back to it). One of the aspects of this genre that I love so much and find so much frustrating fun, is world building.  Creating something out of nothing, getting to set my own boundaries of reality and seeing what clicks is addictive. Also, as a writer, it gives me incredible freedom from having to be "accurate" when it comes to those worlds--accuracy gives way to consistency (I just have to remember the rules I set in place).

Switching to contemporary romance came with a certain amount of challenges for me, and while I do get to world build (via small towns), it's not quite the same thing. This is where my side hobby (alas, it has taken a major hiatus lately) comes into play. My decompression coping mechanism: dollhouse miniatures.  Here's one of my favorite projects, called StarBooks:



When you work with miniatures, your brain sees things in entirely different ways. For instance, and you probably can't see it here, the coffee cups are actually tops to glue bottles and the smoothie cups are wire caps. The Espresso machine was made out of a plastic canister and all those little letters for the menu items? They're pasta letters (for soup!).

Small disclaimer--I made StarBooks for one of Brenda Novak's annual diabetes auctions (before I worked for her). The winner was a good friend of mine, author Allison Brennan, but she didn't have space to display it--so I got to keep it!  For now, anyway. Shhh...no one remind her!

Here's another of my favorites, a vampire pub called Dusk to Dawn:


Told you I used to write paranormal, LOL. Yes, that is a "coffin" table and the vampire cape is made out of one of grandmother's old leather gloves (I put something of hers in almost every project I do).  I carved the bookcase out of foam board before painting it and...if you look closely enough, you'll see the casks of "blood" for various types.


There have been times when my reading habits have inspired my miniature projects and that was definitely the case with this Greek cafe I called ACHERON'S after Sherrilyn Kenyon's iconic Dark Hunter character.




I've always had an affinity for Greece, so using the Acropolis as a backdrop was a detail I couldn't resist. I made the flowers out of streamer/crepe paper and the marble floor is  a special clay. The rock wall is just that...small landscaping rocks that I puzzled together. In case you're wondering, there's a bottle of Ouzo and feta cheese on one of those platters on the table. Can't go to Greece and not have Ouzo!

There's something so magical about creating these pieces and as my writing career has finally taken off, I haven't done a project in a very long time.  That's about to change, however. One of my best friend's daughter is about to have twin boys...so she's getting a nursery room box for her shower gift (shhhh....). All I have to do is turn in my first full-length Harlequin Heartwarming, THE BAD BOY FROM BUTTERFLY HARBOR and I can go world building again!  Oooh, my heroine runs a diner...I haven't done one of those in miniature before!

Do any of you have any decompression hobbies you like to dive into when you have some spare time? Please share in the comments! I'd love to know.  Until next time, happy reading!

P.S. If you'd like to see more detailed (and larger) photos of these and other projects, please hop over to my website.


USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart can't remember a time she didn't have a book in her hands or a story in her head. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family centric romances with happily ever afters for the independent heroines she writes for both Harlequin and Berkley. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Sherlock addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it's Snickers who tolerates her). Visit Anna online at www.authorannastewart.com.

30 comments:

  1. Anna, those are amazing! You are so talented. Since I have no glue skills and clumsy fingers, I stick to de-stressing-by-quilting.

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    1. Thanks, Kristine! I love quilts--I've tried my hand at them...my mother used to make beautiful ones. Alas, that was one ability I do not have a knack for, LOL.

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  2. Good morning, blogging buddy! I love this post!! All of your miniatures are wonderful, but my favorite is StarBooks. So clever. Hmmm. I'm trying to think of what I like to do when I'm not writing but, like yours, my hobbies have taken a back seat lately to deadlines. I have been searching my ancestry, though, and just started some spring gardening. Secret wish? I've always wanted to make a Victorian townhouse/dollhouse. And I will…someday. :)

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    1. Hi Leigh ! *waves*

      Ancestry research is on my someday to do list, too! I bet we all have one of those, LOL. And one of my dream mini projects...a Pride and Prejudice house--where I can live with Mr. Darcy

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  3. Anna, you are such a clever, talented lady. It shows in the art of the miniatures, and in your story building. How great that you can do both. My sis is a talented artist and I envy her. It was interesting to me when she said she envied my ability to craft a story out of thin air. Ha--it's never thin air. I grew up with doll houses. My dad made some neat ones for my sis, and me and our friends. We made furniture. Leigh, to make those Victorian houses is a labor of love. BTW when I read paranormal books I like it better if I feel the world is somewhat like the one we live in. I feel more connected. Does anyone else ever say that?

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    1. Hi Roz,

      Yay! Another mini-enthusiast. :)

      Absolutely on the connection to paranormal and other worlds. I tend to write "magical worlds in your own back yard", meaning the worlds I create are completely tied to our "real" one. Helps ground the reader, IMO.

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  4. I love your miniatures. What a fascinating hobby. So creative! And time consuming but they give so much joy to the receivers.

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    1. Thank you so much, Marion! I love doing them...and I miss it. :( looking forward to jumping back in in a few weeks. :) Thank you for stopping by!

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  5. Anna! You brilliant little detail demon! I can't imagine making miniatures to decompress. In about 1949 (scary, huh?) I had one of those old pressed-tin dollhouses with all of the details on the walls and floor painted on. The furniture was all dark brown plastic, and the figures were pink But I remember being on my stomach on the floor and looking into the living room and completely losing myself in what was inside - and more, what I SAW inside. Just like reading a book. Didn't realize until I rounded out this thought, how similar both crafts are. Huh! Good going, girl. Congratulations on your success!

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    1. I have a new nickname! Love it, Muriel! Sounds like you had the same dollhouse my mom did...and I've seen those houses at my local dollhouse store (where I used to work, actually). Walking through those little doors is definitely like walking into a story. Thanks for posting.

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  6. You created a lovely miniature reading room for me when my daughter was 9ish. She inhabited it with Polly Pockets. I envy your talent. My only down time is at the gym or walking the dogs nowadays.

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    1. Mel, I'd forgotten about that! Glad Polly and her friends (and your daughter) got to enjoy it. :)

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  7. Anna, you are so talented! These are just amazing. I have no artistic ability, and am in awe of those who do. I feel like I need to mention the mini-book pins you made for us all at RWA last year. LOVE that so much! Like Mel, my decompression is exercise--running, walking my dog, and PiYo! It's what keeps my "elevated anxiety" to a manageable level.

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    1. Aw, thanks, carol. <3 Glad you like the pins. :))

      I WISH I could get into exercise like that (and so does my butt!). Maybe I need to get a dog, LOL. That would help!

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  8. I have made a few pieces of miniature furniture and have how-to craft books somewhere around here. But I can't imagine making what you've made. Wow. You have hours and hours in yours.

    Now I knit or work with clay, either hand building or on the wheel, to destress.

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    1. Hi Patricia! I love reading the how-to craft books, too! I've tried knitting...I"m really good at really really long rows, LOL. Could never figure out how to turn around!

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  9. That is so beautiful and I'll say along with everyone else, You are so talented! I sew and for decompression. I'm not that good at it, but I love fabric.

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    1. Oooh, fabric! Right there with you. I still have a bunch my grandmother never used--what's that saying? She who dies with the most fabric wins. By the way...I flunked sewing in high school. Seriously like "F" flunked *snort*

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    2. LOL. I didn't flunk it, but it was only because the teacher felt sorry for me! I didn't like sewing until I was well into adulthood.

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  10. You are amazing, woman! What attention to detail. So incredible! It's funny because writing was what I did for my "ME" time before I decided to jump into publishing real books. I'd like to think it's still fun enough (even with deadlines) to be what keeps me centered. I used to scrapbook but I've fallen so behind, catching up seems more like a chore than a hobby!

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    1. Oh, I'm right there with you, Amy! Writing used to be my decompression. funny how that changes! I love scrapbooking, too...I use a lot of those supplies in my minis, but I can definitely see how it can feel more like a chore than a hobby. :) Thanks for posting!

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  11. I crochet, but haven't had time in over a year! I love your miniatures. Beautiful, especially all the books.

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    1. Thanks, Pam! I have about 3 afghans (uncompleted) around here somewhere, LOL. Thanks for posting!

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  12. Anna, your posts always make me smile. Clearly, you are a lady of many talents!

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  13. Anna, this is such an awesome hobby. I loved checking these out! I'm so glad you shared this talent with us. :)

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    1. Thanks, Cerella! I'm glad you enjoyed. :) Revisiting these old projects makes me antsy to do a new one!

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  14. Wow, Anna, quite exceptional! And now I know I've seen some of your work up close. Executive Editor Paula Eykelhof, Brenda Novak's editor, must have one of your miniatures in her office. I love that I've worked it back to you! Such a skill. (Of course, if you write it into a book, nobody will believe it!)

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    1. Yes, Victoria! Brenda asked me to done for Paula for a gift one year (I can't remember if it was birthday or Xmas, LOL). I'll have to put a dollhouse shop in Butterfly Harbor! Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  15. Anna, you're incredible! I LOVE the photos of your miniatures and have been waiting to see pics. They're amazing! Love the details and originality. I was doll/dollhouse and anything miniature (especially if it felt like a different world) obsessed growing up. You are uber talented!

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