In today's all about books interview, I had the pleasure of speaking with award-winning author and film documentarian Dr. Jocelyn Cullity about her book The Envy of Paradise, the sequel to Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons.
Click below to learn how Jocelyn's fascinating family history led to her interest in colonial, post-colonial, and contemporary India. And, how this connection influences her work.
Published by Inanna Publications.
In today's all about books interview, I was fortunate to speak with internationally-acclaimed, award-winning author Lisa de Nikolits about her novel The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution and can I just say...everyone should have an anarchist in their life! Here's what Lisa had to say...
If you'd like to learn more about Lisa de Nikolits and her anarchist or purchase a copy of her book
Published by Inanna Publications.
I love a great book. When an author shares insight about how their novel came together...even better. To celebrate authors and learn about what inspired them to write their books, on my all about books YouTube channel I've launched an ask the author segment. My first behind the scene interview was with Lucy E.M. Black.
Lucy Black is an educator and has published a collection of short stories—The Marzipan Fruit Basket and her debut novel Eleanor Courtown.
Eleanor Courtown is a historical fiction that takes place in 1870. It follows a young woman of privilege, who leaves Ireland—in secret, in search of her much loved widowed cousin in Orange Hill, Ontario. But when Eleanor arrives, things don’t go according to plan...
If you'd like to learn more about the people, places and things that inspire Lucy Black or purchase her novel,
I don't know where to start... I'm white. I'm privileged. I view the world from a white lens. I am ashamed. I can do better. And, so can the people who respond to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter. Yes, all lives do matter but all lives do not live in fear because of the colour of their skin. Black lives are undervalued and this is wrong. Black lives matter. Black people are trying to be heard. And, I am listening.
The comic below by kris straub does a great job illustrating why "All Lives Matter" as a response to the current race crisis is perhaps...not the best response.
Racism is not a problem exclusive to the US. We have racism in Canada. We can all do better, and we can start with acknowledging that we view the world from one of white privilege. We should be compassionate to those who are fighting to be heard and critical of those in power who are fighting to maintain a racist system.
Here's a link to Black Organizations and Anti-Racist Groups Canadians can support.
One of the most fun aspects of writing…besides spending the day in my imagination is the time I devote to character development. I LOVE this process. From finding the ‘perfect’ name, deciding what they look like to defining all the aspects of their personality.
It may be fun but it’s also important because it helps you develop interesting and compelling characters whose jobs are to help drive the plot of your novel. And, to do this as the novel’s creator you need to know what motivates your characters. You also need to have characters who are believable AND memorable. Characters who readers want to invest their time in so they will actually read beyond the first few pages of your book. Yes, character development is important.
Character Development Tools
If you google ‘novel character development’ you will be inundated with tips— 207,000,000 to be exact. There are templates, questionnaires, worksheets and charts—holy smokes—it’s OVERWHELMING. Bear in mind what works for one writer, may not work for another. There is no right or wrong process you need to find what works best for you.
Personally, I like to keep it simple and I’ve found that a character development chart works best. For each character, I brainstorm following elements.
If your brainstorming has come to a screeching halt, here is a link to tool that I think is great. WD Character Development Cheat Sheet
Upon completion of this process, you have a clear picture of who your characters are and how they will behave so you can write them accordingly.
The Good, The Bad & the Ugly
If I may add…to ensure your characters are memorable you should include the good, the bad and the ugly personality traits. You want your characters to be multi-dimensional; after all no one is perfect and besides perfect would be boring.
One of the most memorable characters I’ve had the pleasure to create was Isra from Beauty Beneath the Banyan. She is a strategic woman who was in prison for murdering her husband. Certainly, not close to my personality which was what made her so 'fun' to write.
Who was your favourite character to write?
Character Development at its Best
Alan Bradley is a master at character development. Here's an excerpt from his novel The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag:
Do you want to write a novel but have no idea what to write about? Not to worry, you are not alone. Look no further. You don't have to leave the comfort of your home, the answer is in your bookshelf.
It's All About You
Write the book you want to read. This is a natural fit. Writers are avid readers and our bookshelves are brimming with treasures that transport us into our imagination. In the era of decluttering, I'm willing to bet those shelves are now home to only your favourites; this reveals EVERYTHING about the type of book you can write.
What's on your bookshelf?
OK...now it's time for you to walk over to your bookshelf and have a peak at the genre(s) that fill those shelves. The rows of books gracing my shelves dip in the mystery genre. I adore the "Queen of Crime" Agatha Christie, Alan Bradly's Flavia De Luce, the precocious 11-year-old sleuth from Bishop Lacey and Canada's Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache who lives in the fictional village of Three Pines. (Can I just say, I'd love to live here and eat buttery croissants and drink steamy cups of cafe au lait at the local bistro).
My shelves are also stuffed with fiction novels set in exotic settings such as...
What are your interests? Make a list. Travel, history, human rights, yoga, cooking are a few of mine. As you can see from the previous section, these interests show up in the type of books I read. i.e. I love to travel therefore, most of my books take place on foreign soil. I also have a BA in History and many of my books are historical fiction. Do you see a pattern in your choice of books? You will, you read what interests you.
This is your starting point. Dig into these interest. You can transform them into a book. For example, my book Tears from the Sea is set in Thailand and off the coast of Myanmar (formerly Burma). My heroine is a sea gypsy whose family dies in the tsunami and she is swept up into the world of human trafficking. Notice how my interests lineup. Exotic setting (travel), tsunami (historical event), human trafficking (human rights violation).
Squash that Negative Voice
After inspiration has struck and you've concluded you would like to write a mystery book about gardening, if a little voice shows up and says, "You can't write a book about gardening, you've never had a garden." I'd like you to squash that little voice. I had too. The little voice came to me and it said, "What do you know about human trafficking? You can't write a book about that."
If I can do it, so can you. DO NOT let this little voice be a creative road block. What you do not know can be learned through research and consulting experts. Venture into the world of the unknown and immerse yourself in pleasure of learning something new. Besides, you never know what you will find, I'm sure you'll discover little gems of information that will help shape your novel's plot.
Your Soul Needs to Eat
Not convinced?! Here's why you should embrace your interests:
1. Writing a book is hard work and requires discipline. As a writer, you will be spending a lot of time alone and in your head. If you're going to embark on this journey you want to enjoy it. How do you do this? You write about something that feeds your soul and, the only way you're going to feed anything is if you're interested in what you are writing. I'll say it again...embrace your interests.
2. If you write about what you are interested in this will become VERY clear in your writing because your passion will shine through. When your creativity is ignited the quality of your work is elevated (Important!).
You've got an idea for a novel, click here for some tips to help you get started.
Happy Writing! What's on your bookshelf?
I'm Going to Write a Novel
After living in Indonesia for a year my teaching contract finished. Like so many other English as a Second Language instructors the world was now open for me to explore and explore, I did. I embarked on a six-month adventure which started in Singapore and I worked my way north up through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. I fell head over heels in love with this pocket of the world and its people.
During my travels I was one of many foreigners present in Southeast Asia when the December 26, 2004 tsunami struck. Thankfully, I was not adhering to a tight travel schedule and was not on Ko Phi Ph for Christmas as I had originally planned. But I had met other backpackers who were heading that way and wondered what became of them.
When I eventually landed in Bangkok, there were notice boards everywhere that had pictures of fellow backpackers who were missing. It was devastating to think of all the families who were trying to locate loved ones. Hence, I became inspired to write about the plight of the tsunami's victims—not from a tourist’s perspective, but a story about a local survivor and how the catastrophe had altered their life.
How to Create a Novel Outline
When I returned home and sat down to write my novel. I was very naive which as it turns was a good thing. I was not worried about how to get published or would the novel be good enough. I simply wrote because I wanted too and because I felt I had something important to say. Before I commenced, I developed an outline which was invaluable to the construction of the novel as it gave me a solid foundation to develop my work. It also helped to break the novel into pieces so the prospect of writing it was not as daunting.
To assist with the development your novel, please find below 5 tips to get you going on your novel's outline:
This is the fun part. You have an idea for a novel so roughly sketch out all your ideas regardless of how random they may seem—you don’t have to use all of them but get them down because you never know…I suspect there will be a little gem or two in there. Consider: characters--Who is the protagonist? Antagonist? Where's the setting? What's the conflict? How does it resolve?
2. Step back.
and examine all your brilliant ideas. At this stage, I like to group my ideas into three sections. Keep it broad, for example what content would you like to include in the beginning of novel (conflict & rising action), middle (climax and falling action) and end (resolution).
3. Refine and Brainstorm again.
Look at your sections and further divide them into chapters. For each chapter, include a list of ideas in bullet point form of all the content you want to include in that chapter. Again, the idea is to put everything down, do not limit your brain power.
4. Dig a little deeper.
Each chapter has a job and that being to build and advance your plot. Examine your outline for each chapter and identify for each:
a.) What is the purpose of this chapter?
b.) Did you accomplish it?
If your chapter does not do its job, rework so that the chapter serves a purpose.
As you write your novel, refer to the outline as it will be instrumental in the construction and flow of your work.
5. Be flexible.
Much like my travel schedule, my plot outline was flexible. I found that as my acquaintance with my heroine deepened, I discovered she might not respond to a situation as I had originally planned therefore, I needed to tweak a chapter. And, as my research was ongoing, I would often uncover something interesting and want to work it into the plot. This flexibility allowed me to develop a stronger and more interesting novel.
Your outline is done...GO FOR IT! DON’T WORRY what you’re going to do with the end-product and enjoy the journey of getting there.
Next step, your characters. Please check out my post that tackles character development.
Image Source: phys.org and google
Don't Worry About What People Will Think
One of the most important lessons I've learned about writing is to be true to my character’s voice AND, not to worry about what 'people' will think. When I was writing Beauty Beneath the Banyan (BBTB) one of my biggest regrets was my inexperience lead me to compromise this principle.
Be True to Your Character
One of my male narrators was an American Raven fighter pilot stationed in Laos during the Vietnam War. These pilots flew clandestine missions in America’s Secret War and unlike Vietnam where the pilots had to adhere to strict ‘Rules of Engagement,’ the Ravens were the cowboys of the airways where no such rules existed.
I had a fantastic time writing this mavericks storyline. He was a faded jean, untucked loosely buttoned Bermuda shirt, cowboy boots wearing kinda guy who was shall we say…was a little rough around the edges. In line with his personality, his language would be just as rough. Raven was the character who provided me with an opportunity to use all the bad words I had collected over my life time.
Embrace the F-Word
I did play with the ‘naughty’ words to a certain extent, but I could not bring myself to incorporate the F-word into Raven’s vocabulary. This was unfortunate because Raven would have used it and, he would have used it A LOT—especially given the war time setting.
When I was constructing Raven’s dialogue the F-word did make an appearance on more than one occasion in my head, but it never made its way to the computer screen. Can I just say…for me it was one thing to say the F-word out loud and quite another, to actually bring myself to write it. I couldn’t do it. Recollections of being a little girl who learned this was a VERY bad word and it should never be said, played through my mind as did…OMG! what will my Mom and her book club have to say about this? Sooooo my censor won, and Raven’s vocabulary did not include the F-word. For more information about how to turn-off your internal censor, please click here.
Don't Ignore Your Character's Voice
My advice to writers is to turn off the filter and write your character true to their voice. Do not let your censor get in the way of developing your character's voice. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, do what I did to Raven—I regret not having the confidence to have written Raven dropping an F-bomb when he felt like it.
Have you ever ignored your character's voice?
Don't Use Your Words
As writers, we love our words. We spend our days with words and we love playing with them. We also become very attached to words—I know I do. Often, when I'm reviewing a passage, I find myself thinking geez, that's a great word and I'll give myself a little pat on the back. But this is where I need to put on the brakes and consider...just because I love a word, it doesn't mean that my character would use it.
During the editing process, watch out for vocabulary or phrasing the jumps out at you as being 'your word(s).' Ask yourself...is that a word my character would say? If it's not, you have to replace it with a word your character would have in their vocabulary. This is critical for the authenticity of your characters voice.
I love it when artists share their behind the scene stories about how a song came together or provide a peak into what inspired them to write their novel. Because I love it so much I wanted to do the same. Along with a daily reading from Beauty Beneath the Banyan (BBTB) on my YouTube Channel, I will also give a glimpse of what ignited my creativity when the novel was coming together.
#stayathome, #washyourhands and #staysafe.
I made SO many newbie mistakes when I was writing my novels. Therefore, every Tuesday, I will post author tips and share these lessons so you don't make the same mistakes as me.
What happens when we're not paying attention?
I have been glued to the news for COVID-19 updates. While I have been immersed in getting through the day during these challenging times, I have been missing issues that are important to me.
Before COVID-19, the Indigenous people were in a battle to be heard. To keep me informed, I get updates from Unist'ot'en Solidarity Bridge in BC. You can sign-up for their newsletter too, please click here.
So, what's happening on that front? Despite the urgency of this crisis, TC energy (formally Trans Canada) is still going ahead with the Coastal GasLink pipeline. This infuriates me. As Canadians are being told to stay at home to prevent transmission, the company is sending more workers and federal police officers onto Wet'suwet'en territories. Why on earth are they putting these communities at risk? They're already vulnerable and not equipped to handle a pandemic. AND, they DO NOT have the heredity chiefs permission so why are they in there in the first place?
Today I learned, KKR is a US based equity firm that has expressed an interest in purchasing 65% of the Coastal GasLink pipeline with Alberta Investment Management Corp (AIMCo). Today, Rising Tide North America has organized a digital communications blockade to flood KKR executives with calls, emails, and tweets, in request that they back away from financing such a destructive project.
I have offered my support. Here’s what you can do to join the KKR communications blockade TODAY and #ShutDownKKR:
The War on Wolves Just Got Bigger
This one almost slipped under my radar, on March 17 another wolf cull began, this time in the Northwest Territories. The intent is to wipe out 80% of wolf population. Now, I am all for saving the caribou, but I question doing it at the expense of another species; wolves also play an important part in an ecosystem. Here's an interesting article about what happened to the ecosystem at Yellowstone Park when humans interfered with it. What I'd really like to know is this...if we're killing wolves to help the caribou population...how is human behaviour being curbed to prevent the caribou extinction?