I’m pleased to be welcoming Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus to the blog today and the blog tour for their new book, The Book Ninja. Hello to you both. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Book Ninja (I love the title.) Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?
The Book Ninja is a quirky, romantic, comedic love letter to friendship, soulmates and books! The protagonist of the story, Frankie, is desperate to shake things up – she is frustrated in life and in love.
An author, with a serious case of writer’s block and post-horrifically-bad-reviews blues, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment. Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams. Her journey leads her to stumble across some very wacky dates, some astonishing discoveries, some great literature and, overall, leads her to find herself.
The story is inspired by our community initiative, Books on the Rail, which we co-founded in April 2016 after Ali lived in London and became friends with the co-founder of Books on the Underground, Hollie Fraser. As part of this project, we set books loose on public transport around Australia for people to find, read and then return for somebody else to enjoy. Thanks to our growing team of some 1000 Book Ninjas, who place their own books on their local trains, trams and buses, with a Books on the Rail sticker attached to it, we have over 5000 books traveling around Australia.
What’s your step by step process when planning a novel? How do you separate the workload and what are the challenges of co-writing a novel?
At first we started writing side by side, piano style. Then we realised how difficult that was! We discovered that the best way to write was to, in the words of one of our favourite authors, Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project), become plotters, not pantsers (writing by the seat of ones pants). Before we started writing anything, we came together for huge plotting sessions, during which we would map everything that would take place in each chapter down to a tee. Then, we simply divided the chapters up between us and wrote one each. We passed the chapters back and forth between us to edit and put our writing style into each chapter. We’ve written so closely together that now our tone is basically a blend of the both of us! So much so, when reading back over the book, we often find it difficult to pinpoint who wrote what!
One of the biggest challenges of co-writing? Well, Ali always used to be a pantser (writing by the seat of her pants). She let the characters lead the story and the plot line, and she discovered what would happen as she went. With two people – it’s a bit tricky to do that. So her writing style has definitely changed quite a lot, from being a pantser to a plotter. We also had slightly different tones when we started writing (Ali is more dialogue heavy, Michelle more descriptive)! But now we’ve found a happy medium and we absolutely love writing this way.
What’s your approach to editing?
Do it. And do it often! Being co-authors, we’re lucky, because whatever we write, it always gets edited by the other person. This means we’re constantly in editing mode. When Ali writes something, Mich will edit it, and visa versa. The problem is, we can’t stop editing – we constantly think we can keep making our work better and better, which makes it hard to let go and finally submit our manuscript!
What is your favourite word and why?
Mellifluous – because it literally means a pleasant sounding word, which is what it is! We love the sound of it.
Do you have any advice to someone going through writer’s block?
Just write. Even if it’s terrible. Even if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever written. You can always go back and fix what you’ve done when you’re in a better headspace. You can’t go back and fix a blank page.
Which fictional character would you like to meet?
Definitely Harry Potter. He’s been our crush since we were 9 years old.
Which song best describes you? What do you think Frankie would pick?
For all of us (Frankie included), we’d have to say – Paperback Writer by The Beatles…
NK: great choice, ladies.
What common mistakes do new writers make?
Telling instead of showing! We did this a lot in our first draft and then tried to change as much of the ‘telling’ to ‘showing’ as we could.
Do you have any other advice for new writers?
It sounds corny, but follow your dreams and just keep going! Never in our wildest dreams did we think we could have a published novel – but dreams really do come true if you keep persevering 🙂
About Ali and Michelle:
Ali and Michelle are the co-authors, founders of Books on the Rail, professional Book Ninjas and best friends since primary school.
In 2017, they signed a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster. The Book Ninja was released in June 2018 and has already been sold to over 10 countries. Their second book will be published in June 2019.
Both Melbourne-based, Ali is the Creative Director and co-founder of Hedgehog Agency and Michelle is a primary school teacher at Camberwell Girls Grammar School.
About The Book Ninja:
Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person. It’s not that she hasn’t tried – Frankie is the queen of online dating. But she has had enough.
With the help of her best friend and colleague Cat, Frankie decides to embark on the ultimate dating experiment. Inspired by her surroundings at The Little Brunswick Bookshop where she works, Frankie places her hope in her favourite books to find her the perfect man… Secretly planting copies on trains, trams and buses, Frankie hopes to find the man of her dreams through a mutual love of good books. The only flaw to the plan? That she may never get her books back!
But that turns out to be the least of her worries… In between crazy dates and writing them up on her blog, Frankie stumbles upon her perfect man. There’s just one problem…Frankie is strictly a Jane Austen kind of woman and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Seriously, obsessively into it…
Can Frankie overcome her book snobbery for the man of her dreams? Or will she be left searching the trains for her modern-day Mr Darcy forever?
The Book Ninja is due to be released by Simon and Schuster on 9th August 2018.