Laura

I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts. I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

Upcoming Books & Book Haul

Viking, January 2019

New books, new books, oh how I love new books.

This my first book haul post of 2019 and the following is a list of books I am very much looking forward to reading.

The Last by Hanna Jameson is due for release on 31st January.
As a nuclear weapon detonates over Washington, historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland

As the reality of what’s happened unfolds, he wonders if his wife and children are still alive. Jon is also wishing he’d not ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel waiting and just trying to survive. One day, the body of a girl is found murdered. The killer is someone in the hotel. Jon decides to investigate but what justice can he hope for when society doesn’t exist anymore.

This book sounds so interesting and one I am so looking forward to reading.

 

Penguin, January 2019

Another book which was released this month was the latest by the brilliant Jane Fallon, Tell Me a Secret. I am so excited about reading this book.

Holly and Roz spend most of their time together. They share everything.
When Holly gets her chance at a dream job, she assumes Roz will be happy for her.

Something is off.

As Holly begins to look at Roz’s life beyond their friendship, things don’t add up. Was Holly wrong to trust Roz with her secrets?

 

One Minute Later by Susan Lewis is due to be released next month and again, the story sounds very intriguing. I am loving all the mysteries right now.

HarperCollins, February 2019

An overall description of this book is Vivienne is living the dream. She has a beautiful home, great friends and a successful job.

Then, on the afternoon of her twenty-seventh birthday, one minute changes everything.

Forced to move back to the small seaside town she grew up in, it doesn’t take long for her to remember the reasons she left.

Shelley’s family home has always been a special place until something bad happens.

As Viv and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment of truth to unravel all their lives.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Wishing

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

‘I am always wishing for.’

Starting with that line, write about someone (usually sad, cynical and bitter) who suddenly finds themselves with one wish.

However, the wish comes with a price and a choice that has to be made.

There will be a consequence.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Getting Started

Getting started. 

One of the things I obsess over too much is the first sentence. It is supposed to hook the reader.

Something to be remembered though…this is not something that is important with a first draft. Everything can be changed in editing (repeating this to myself like a mantra.)

Pick one of the following sentences as a starting point and then write for three minutes. 

Once you’ve done this, you could find one that applies to your book idea. 

‘I tried to leave the rabbit stopped me.’ 

‘When Lana opened the book, something took over.’ 

‘When he/she stepped into the attic, it was like stepping into the past.’ 

‘He/she wanted this moment to end. How was another matter.’ 

 

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Book Extract: Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

A big welcome to Emma Healey and the blog tour for her latest novel, Whistle in the Dark which was released by Viking on 10th January. 

Jen has finally got her daughter home.

But why does fifteen-year-old Lana still feel lost?

When Lana goes missing for four desperate days and returns refusing to speak of what happened, Jen fears the very worst. She thinks she’s failed as a mother, that her daughter is beyond reach and that she must do something – anything – to bring her back.

The family returns to London where everyone but Jen seems happy to carry on as normal. Jen’s husband Hugh thinks she’s going crazy – and their eldest daughter Meg is tired of Lana getting all the attention. But Jen knows Lana has changed, and can’t understand why.

Does the answer lie in those four missing days?

And how can Jen find out?

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, here is an extract. I hope you enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract.*****

 

‘This has been the worst week of my life,’ Jen said. Not what she had planned to say to her fifteen-year-old daughter after an ordeal that had actually covered four days.

‘Hi, Mum.’ Lana’s voice emerged from blue-tinged lips.
Jen could only snatch a hug, a press of her cheek against Lana’s ‒ soft and pale as a mushroom ‒ while the paramedics slammed the ambulance doors and wheeled Lana into the hospital. There was a gash on the ashen head, a scrape on the tender jaw, she was thin and cold and wrapped in tin foil, she smelled soggy and earthy and unclean, but it was okay: she was here, she was safe, she was alive. Nothing else mattered.

Cigarette smoke drifted over from the collection of dressing-gowned, IV‑attached witnesses huddled under the covered entrance, and a man’s voice came with it.

‘What’s going off? Is that the lass from London?’

‘Turned up, then,’ another voice answered. ‘Heard it said on the news.’

So the press had been told already. Jen supposed that was a good thing: they could cancel the search, stop asking the public to keep their eyes open, to report possible sightings, to contact the police if they had information. It was a happy ending to the story. Not the ending anyone had been expecting.
The call had come less than an hour ago, Hugh, wrapped in a hotel towel, just out of the shower (because it was important to keep going), Jen not dressed and unshowered (because she wasn’t convinced by Hugh’s argument). They had never given up hope, that’s what she would say in the weeks to come, talking to friends and relatives, but really her hope, that flimsy Meccano construction, had shaken its bolts loose and collapsed within minutes of finding Lana missing.

Even driving to the hospital, Jen had been full of doubt, assuming there’d been a mistake, imagining a different girl would meet them there, or a lifeless body. The liaison officer had tried to calm her with details: a farmer had spotted a teenager on sheep-grazing land, he’d identified her from the news and called the police, she was wearing the clothes Jen had guessed she’d be wearing, she’d been well enough to drink a cup of hot, sweet tea, well enough to speak, and had definitely answered to the name Lana.

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Cover Reveal: The Talisman – Molly’s Story by Eliza J. Scott

Happy Monday all. I’ve got a cover reveal today… The Talisman – Molly’s Story by Eliza J. Scott.

Molly’s dream of taking over her childhood home at Withrin Hill Farm with husband Pip and their three children has finally come true. And, as they settle into the stunning Georgian farmhouse, with their plans to diversify into glamping nicely taking shape, the family couldn’t be happier.

But tragedy suddenly strikes, and Molly’s world is turned upside down.
Heartbroken and devastated, she struggles to face each day. True to form, her fiercely loyal best friends, Kitty and Violet, rally round offering love and support, but Molly doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to smile again. Until the day a tall, dark stranger with twinkly eyes arrives…

Follow Molly’s story in book 2 of the Life on the Moors Series set in Lytell Stangdale, a picture-perfect village in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, where life is anything but quiet.

A heart-warming story of love, friendship and hope.

OK, so here comes the cover. Drum roll………

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NK Chats To: Jenni Keer

Hi Jenni, thank you for joining me today. Your novel is called The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

You are very welcome – it’s lovely to be here. Your virtual sofa is very comfy!

Hmm… how to sum up my book. I guess The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is a heart-warming story with a variety of themes. I set out to write a romance but the book became so much more and, in a way, is two love stories; Lucy and George, but also Lucy and Brenda. It was the powerful intergenerational friendship between these two women and how they deal very differently with Brenda’s dementia diagnosis, that became the central theme. For the romance, I was initially inspired by a locket of my mother’s and my working title was Lucy’s Locket until it was picked up by the publisher. This mysterious piece of jewellery leads to lots of mishaps and comedy moments for Lucy but also makes her reassess her romantic options in life. It was a fun book to write.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence?

I weave my writing around part-time work, care for my mum and the hectic taxi service I appear to be running for my four teenage sons. My most productive times are during the school day – when the house is silent, and evenings – when it is not. I also work at the weekends when I can. I’ve developed a cunning strategy that involves wearing enormous headphones as a signal that I’m writing. If there is a lot of noise, I play music (I have a playlist of familiar songs so I’m not distracted by them) but I also cheat and pretend I’ve got music on so the boys leave me alone. It’s coffee during the day, and wine or tonic water at night – although the wine is only for weekends. Interestingly, some of the best comedy scenes have been wine-fuelled.

The other thing I do, to combat the isolation and to spur me on, is to meet up with my writing buddy, Clare Marchant, in our “virtual” office. It means we check in throughout the day with wordcounts and this accountability helps us both to focus. I do hate it when she leaves the virtual biscuit tin empty though…

 

Do you have a certain place you like to write?

I have an office – which is actually a desk in the corridor between the living room and the downstairs loo. I’m lucky to have this permanent space as a lot of writers work on the kitchen table or on their laps. It’s a total mess, like Lucy’s desk, but it’s mine. I have two screens set up (invaluable for editing) so it’s tricky for me to move. Research and planning I can do anywhere.

 

What’s your writing process like from planning to editing?

Planning – ha ha ha. You are funny. I am such a pantser and every time I begin a new novel I’m determined to plan. My second book for Avon (out next summer) was the first time I’d had to write a synopsis before writing the book and boy was that hard – but I did it. I’d like to get better at planning, but my brain doesn’t work that way and I’m what I like to call “an onion writer” – I write in layers. I get a rough first draft down and then I go over and over and over it, perfecting, editing, adding description etc. until I’m happy. Luckily, I love editing and always see it as an opportunity to make the story even better. Some of my best ideas come right at the end of the process and then I have to go back and weave it all in. I honestly don’t know how people plan.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Radio GaGa

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Radio Gaga.

Turn on the radio and make a note of the first three songs you hear.

These are now the three themes that will make up your story.

Combine them all together, including any characters mentioned in the song. So for example, you have to include Loretta if you hear Get Back by the Beatles.

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Book Extract: When Polly Met Olly by Zoe May

I am happy to be welcoming Zoe May to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, When Polly Met Olly.

Polly might spend her days searching for eligible matches for her elite list of clients at her New York dating agency, but her own love life is starting to go up in smoke.

Even worse, she can’t stop thinking about the very person she’s meant to be setting her latest client up with… surely it can’t get any worse!

But then Polly bumps into oh-so-handsome Olly, who heads up a rival agency, and realizes that perhaps all really is fair in love and dating war…

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Zoe and HQ have shared an extract today. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Chapter One

Surely, I’m not qualified to be a matchmaker?!

You’d think getting a job at a dating agency might actually require you to have found love, or at least be good at dating, but apparently not. I’ve been single for three years and I haven’t had a date for six months, yet I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this interview.

‘So, what kind of message would you send Erica?’ Derek asks, handing me a print-out showing a dating profile of a pretty, tanned brunette. Derek is the boss of To the Moon & Back dating agency, although with his nicotine-stained teeth, lurid purple shirt stretching over his giant pot belly and cramped city office, he’s not exactly what I imagine when I think of Cupid.

What kind of message would I sent Erica? When Derek says ‘you’, he doesn’t mean me, as in Polly Wood. He means me pretending to be 34-year-old bachelor Andy Graham, because that’s what my job as a matchmaker would involve. While Andy, and the rest of the busy singletons on the agency’s books, are out earning the big bucks, too busy to trawl internet dating sites looking for love, I’ll be sitting here with Derek, firing off messages on their behalf in the hope of clinching dates. It’s a little morally questionable I suppose, since the women will be chatting to me beforehand, and will no doubt become enamoured with my witty repartee and effortless charm, but to be honest, I haven’t really given the moral side of it much thought. According to Derek, it’s what all dating agencies do, and anyway, ethics somehow stop being so important when you really need cash.

 I try to put myself in the mindset of Andy, while thinking up a message for Erica. I only know about him from reading a form he’s supposedly filled in, which Derek gave me to study five minutes earlier. According to the form, Andy is an ex-army officer turned property surveyor. He grew up in a small town in Ohio where his family still reside. His younger brother, aged 31, has already settled down with a wife and three kids, and reading in between the lines, I get the impression that Andy feels he’s beginning to lag behind. He works long hours, reads Second World War history books in his spare time, enjoys visiting aviation museums and likes to play tennis at the weekends. Oh, and he has a penchant for Thai food.

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NK Chats To… Rachel Burge

Hello Rachel. Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, The Twisted Tree?

Hi, thank you so much for having me.

The story is about a girl called Martha who can tell things about people just by touching their clothes, as if their thoughts and emotions have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin in Norway. The day she became blind in one eye.

Determined to find out why she has this strange ability, Martha returns to Norway, hoping that her grandma can give her answers. But when she gets there, she finds her grandma is dead and a peculiar boy is hiding out in her cabin. From then on, things start to get spooky!

 

What inspired you to write it?

The book is based on Norse mythology, in particular the story of Odin hanging from the world tree, Yggdrasil, and finding the runes in the well.

As I began to research the myths, I came across the Norns, three mythical women who dwell in Yggdrasil and weave fate. In Viking culture, magic was the preserve of women and associated with their work, predominantly spinning and weaving. Odin’s wife Frigg was a practitioner of magic and a weaver (of clouds), and is often depicted at a spinning wheel.

Putting the two ideas together – weaving cloth and magical ability, I came up with the idea of being able to tell things about people by touching their clothes. It was then a journey of discovery for me to figure out why my main character had this gift.

 

Which came first: character, theme, setting, etc?

I started out with the genre I wanted to write (a ghost story) and a theme that interested me (darkness) and brainstormed ideas from there. This led to me wanting to write about a blind/partially sighted character – which later happened to work beautifully with Norse mythology.

The story takes place in winter in the Lofoten Islands, when there is near-permanent darkness. The theme also influenced Martha’s character arc. She refuses to ‘see’ the truth about her mother and grandmother’s relationship, and her journey is about finding the courage to accept the darkness within her / the parts of herself that she doesn’t like.

The theme came first, but the story only clicked into place once I decided to use Norse myth.

 

What was your writing process like?

Once I was confident I had a ‘high concept’ idea and a strong character arc, I worked out a rough outline. That makes it sound like the process was straightforward, but I took numerous wrong turns and introduced and abandoned many story elements along the way.

 

How do you work: music or silence?

I prefer to write to music, or if there’s a really great storm outside, the howl of the wind.

There were a few pieces of music I listened to on a loop while writing The Twisted Tree, most of them by the Norwegian band Wardruna. If I’m working on a particularly scary scene, I will listen to a horror movie soundtrack and also light candles and burn incense – which has the added advantage of warning everyone in the house not to disturb me!

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Book Review: The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding

A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free . . .

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up . . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land.

All they have to do now is steal it . . .

 

Set in fantasy world with echoes of our own, The Ember Blade is part of the Darkwater Legacy and is one of the most enjoyable pieces of fantasy writing I have had the pleasure to read in some time. The story centres around Aren, a young man living in a country under occupation.

Raised to believe that the occupiers, the Krodans, are superior and that he should emulate them, he is in for a rude awakening when his Father’s past catches up with him.

He finds himself with a band of rebels seeking to regain control of their country’s most sacred relic; The Ember Blade.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Showing and Telling

Today in the writing room, I wanted to look at showing and telling.

As I am trying to write my first novel, I am finding out the hard way that it is very easy to tell and not show. It’s a very quick trap to fall into.

Convert the following sentences into something that is showing action rather than just telling.

She felt tired.

He came home drunk.

He loved her.

They hated each other.

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NK Chats To… Peter James

Hi Peter, thank you for joining me on Novel Kicks. When did you start writing?

I have been writing since I was seven years old – my original ambition was to be a scriptwriter. I find the world we live in very interesting and I enjoy observing human behaviour, and that’s really my approach. I’m constantly taking note of what’s happening around me as you never know where you might find inspiration for a character or piece of plot.

 

How did you get your big break?

My first ‘break’ was at age seventeen, when I won a national short story competition run by the BBC and got to read my story out on air. It was hugely exciting! However, my first professional writing job came along a few years later whilst I was living in Toronto and working on a children’s television series called Polka Dot Door. I was a gopher – it was my job to basically run errands. One day we were due to film an episode, but the writer hadn’t turned in the script. The producer asked if I could write one there and then, and I said ‘okay!’

 

How much research do you do for each novel?

My novels tend to be very research-driven. I first had the seed of an idea for Absolute Proof when I received a mysterious call from someone claiming to have proof of the existence of god – just like Ross does – thirty years ago. In the decades that followed I did a great deal of research, ranging from speaking to religious leaders about the consequences absolute proof would have for believers, to living as a monk for five days in the extraordinary monastic commune of Mount Athos. It’s been an extraordinary journey!

 

Who inspires you?

When I was 14, I read Graeme Greene’s Brighton Rock, and it totally changed my life. It’s the book that made me realise I wanted to be a writer, and also the reason that my Roy Grace series is based in Brighton. Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, which makes you feel you know them inside out, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable. Brighton Rock is for me an almost perfect novel. It has one of the most gripping opening lines ever written too – ‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to kill him.’

 

What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?

Reading extensively and intelligently is the most important thing – read books that have done well in the genre you want to write in and analyse what you like about the author’s style. Once you’ve started writing, make time to write every single day. Find a comfortable number of words to do each day and stick to that number. I am comfortable with 1,000 words. For some it might be 500, 200 or even 2,000 – as long as you are consistent, the number doesn’t matter.
And you must love your characters – or no one else will!

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My Writing Ramblings: My Reading Goals for 2019

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a fantastic New Year. 2019 has arrived. I will now spend at least the next month incorrectly writing 2018 instead of 2019.

I had a very lovely and quiet Christmas with family and friends. One of the things I love most around this time of year is that it’s an opportunity to start again; new challenges, new goals and a brand-new slate. I am in the middle of setting my new writing goals for the year and I endeavour to gain more ground with this than I did last year (I hope.)

One of the things that I did manage to do before midnight on 31st December was to finish my Goodreads reading challenge and believe me I did cut it fine. I think I had about an hour to go.

I like challenges like this because these days, with things like Netflix and the Internet, it’s very easy for me to slip into a routine where I will just sit and watch telly. Therefore things like the Goodreads challenge will mean I will decide to read a book rather than box set a TV series. I blame Netflix for my dry reading spells last year.

My challenge in 2018 was 52 books; roughly one a week. I felt that this was doable. However, it’s amazing how quickly life can get in the way and I realise that I did go little chunks of time without reading which is something that I want to change this year. Therefore, because I never learn, my target for this year is 54 books.

The good thing about the Goodreads challenge is that you can set your own goals.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

HQ, Sept 2018

I am excited to be picking the first Novel Kicks book club for 2019 and it’s a great one (in my humble opinion.) 

I have chosen ‘I Invited Her In’ by Adele Parks. 

I am looking forward to discussing this book and I hope you join me in the comments below. You can take part from the comfort of your own armchair.

As usual, I have posted a question to kick things off.

 

About I Invited Her In: 

‘I invited her in… and she took everything.’

When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay. Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different. Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben. Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence. Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her. Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it. So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal. And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

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NK Chats To… Gila Green

Hi Gila, thank you for joining me today. Your novel is called Passport Control. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

Passport Control is a coming of age novel about a twenty year old Canadian girl who feels forced to leave the home she shares with her father and, in her desire for revenge, goes to the one place he’s kept a secret all of his life, his home country Israel. Other than odds and ends, she doesn’t know anything about his past life there.

She finds herself in a dormitory with a range of Israelis from Jewish to Arab and struggles to navigate her way through the politics and culture around her. Along the road she falls in love, encounters murder, and discovers a shocking family secret.

The story was originally a short story written in a creative writing class with author Steve Stern. It was inspired by my own experience coming to Haifa University around the same age as my heroine, Miriam Gil and similarly struggling to navigate my various roommates, who all came from different cultures and backgrounds. At least that was the initial kernel behind my twelve-page short story. It evolved over time into a father-daughter story, and a family betrayal story with a side order of romance.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Do you have a certain place you like to write?

I have five children between the ages of 11 and 20. So my writing day has evolved over time with the ages of my children.

In the early days, I used to type a lot one-handed while nursing and later had to be done by 1 p.m. when nursery school closed.

Now, I have a lot more quiet during the day–which is vital for me to write–and yes, rivers of coffee. I write in my converted bomb shelter adjacent to the front door, so my writing is punctuated all day with, “Mom, is there any food?” as the kids come and go and the snoring of my dog.

 

What’s your writing process like from planning to editing?

My writing process has changed a lot over the years. I am much more of a planner these days.

I try to write at least two sentences for each chapter that explain the point of each one. At a certain point, I just write and usually the first three or four chapters are the first to go later on as I “write myself into the story.” But not always. Each novel is its own journey.

I don’t wait for perfection if that’s what you mean. You just have to dive in.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favorite word is balagan. That’s a Hebrew word with no single English translation.
It means mess, disorder, confusion but also problem and difficulty.

So, you could say, “today was a balagan,” or “my thoughts are a balagan” or “your room is a balagan!”
Try it! It’s a fun word to say.

 

Which song best describes you?

“Shout” by Tears for Fears.

 

What elements do you think make up a good novel?

Great novels are written by authors who excel at location in time and space.
If you feel as if you are really in Elizabethan England or in South Africa during Apartheid, or in downtown Toronto…you’ve got the elements of a great novel. I can’t think of a time when someone told me they loved a short story or novel and couldn’t tell me exactly where and when it was taking place.

Full disclosure: I teach an online Setting & Description course and I can’t believe how many new writers send me first drafts that take place Anywhere / Anytime. It’s not as intuitive as you might think.

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