THE EXCITEMENT OF BEING PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN

On the 15th March this year, I opened my email and found this:

Penguin Thanks

Is there anything more exciting than the iconic image of the penguin from Penguin Random House? Well yes, a publishing contract with them would be more exciting, but I digress! 

Now I'm not being greedy, I have a publisher, Accent Press, a fine publisher based in the United Kingdom, who I have just signed a second publishing contract with, but when you've grown up reading Penguin books, that little logo brings back so many happy memories.

A stack of penguins

I had written a short poem celebrating my beautiful mother, and Penguin had selected it for inclusion in their Mother's Day anthology, 'Thanks Mum', and I was so proud, and I couldn't tell anyone about it!

I'm not known for my secret keeping ability, I'd make an appalling spy, but I didn't want to tell anyone as I wanted to give Mum a copy of the anthology for Mother's Day, so this was a secret I kept. And it ate away at me. I told my husband, swearing him to secrecy. I told my hairdresser, and swore him to secrecy too. And that's it!

Finally Mother's Day brunch rolled around, and I presented Mum with her own copy. There were tears. So now I can share it all with you. And now I can also legitimately say that I have been published by Penguin...although they didn't use my surname...

Thanks Mum
Mums Poem

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE?

THE SEQUEL TO FIFTEEN POSTCARDS IS COMING.

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In late May I signed my second publishing contract with Accent Press, a publisher in the United Kingdom. The contract was for the sequel to Fifteen Postcards, titled The Last Letter. And now the work begins...

Now my manuscript is in the very capable hands of my editor, David Powell, and he'll massage it into something far better than what I sent him.

When I say he'll massage it, he'll make a few thousand notations down the sides of the pages, correcting grammatical errors, and querying a myriad of issues he'll no doubt discover in the 131,000 words I wrote.

Then we'll spend several weeks sending the document backwards and forwards across the Tasman Sea, via email, until we are both happy, and then the final product gets sent to the UK for my publisher to typeset, and massage into book form.

In the meantime, I'll also be sent a draft of the cover for approval, or comment. That may go back and forwards a couple of times. I suggested some concepts this time, and now I wait to see if those meet with favour on the other side of the world.

It's a scary thing putting your creative efforts into the hands of others, who then have the power, and the signed contract, to do with as they please! But this is the way of authors who have chosen not to self publish. There are pros and cons with both sides of the coin. I've chosen this side.

It's not a free ride, either way. Even authors with one of the big five publishers have to do their fair share of the marketing. Blog posts, guest posts, book signings, media articles, radio interviews, library visits, book club attendances, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, yes, even Google+. Don't forget LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. I've drawn the line at Snapchat - there is only so much time in the day, and my family would like me to speak to them at times. 

There's all this, and...you still need to write the next one!

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WHY WOULD YOU GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE?

There are thousands of blog posts on the subject. Q&As on Goodreads and Facebook, and on every other site purporting to help authors with their marketing. Long streams about the pros and cons of giving your books away for free on LinkedIn. Even Google+ has its share of posts relating to giving away eBooks on Amazon, and on the hundreds of other sites out there.

Book Stack

Each post talks up the benefits of giving away eBooks as a method of getting your name out there, of attracting a following, for marketing purposes, to generate reviews, to be the next Andy Weir. But does it work? Or are there millions of free unread eBooks mouldering away on Kindles, discarded and forgotten?

An Amazon search brings up 93,488 eBooks currently available for free. A plethora of erotic novellas, Game of Thrones-esque length fantasy books, fan-fiction, and self-help books feature heavily. The result of those 93,488 free eBooks? Readers expect more books to be free, and balk at paying less than the price of an average coffee for your average book.

There was a post recently detailing the circumstances where a reader, who’d enjoyed the eBooks they’d purchased on Amazon, had returned them, because, although they’d enjoyed them, they only wanted free books, and asked the author to list their books for free from here on in. They didn’t want to have to pay for them

Many people would be surprised to know you can return eBooks, or that such a facility exists on Amazon. Have you ever tried returning a book you’ve read to a bricks and mortar bookstore, and asking for your money back? There wouldn’t be many instances where they’d refund you after you’d read and returned a book you’d purchased. So why does Amazon allow it? The internet is littered with petitions asking Amazon to fix this, but nothing ever changes.

A book can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to write. Then, traditionally, authors have to find an agent, a publisher, followed by editing, cover design, marketing. Even self-published books need editing, formatting, a cover. It all takes time, and money.

I haven’t listed my book on Amazon for free. The eBook remains at the same price it was when it launched – $2.34. That’s about the price of half a cup of coffee but it’s still something. I put too much work into it to give it away for free. My book is in libraries. It’s in bookstores. I’ve done readings. I’m on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and yes, even Google+. I work hard, and damn it, I want to reap the rewards of that, in the form of quarterly and annual royalties from my publisher. You don’t get royalties from free eBooks.

In all the posts about the pros and cons of giving your work away for free, an overwhelming number of authors point out that giving their work away for free has not resulted in reviews, or increased exposure, or a stratospheric rise up the Amazon Best Selling Lists.

So my advice is: don’t do it. Put the effort in and do some old-fashioned leg-work. Make personal approaches to well-regarded book reviewers. Take a table at a local fair and talk to your potential audience. Approach your library.

Keep writing. Value the work you do. Because if you don’t value it, no one else will either.

Note: This post first appeared on The Spinoff : thespinoff.co.nz

6 July 2016

Setting Your Scene - How Much Research is Enough?

Today I welcome Historical Fiction author Tom Williams to my blog where he talks about how much research is too much, and goes into a nice little aside about how to forge bank notes...

Kirsten's background in the antiques business means that she is very aware of the historical artefacts that appear in her books. In fact, Fifteen Postcards is based around things that she might have found in her antique shop.

In writing historical novels, authors will be continually concerned about the items that their characters see, talk about, or use in their day-to-day activities. Getting them right is crucial, but continually shoehorning them into the plot to prove that you have "done your research" can lead to appallingly turgid writing.

Different novels, for different audiences, will emphasise different aspects of the past. Historical romances tend to dwell on clothing, often described in loving detail. I struggle with descriptions of clothes. I'm not generally that interested in what my characters are wearing, although I do usually check some images of people at the time so I have some idea of what they would have looked like. Of course, in my James Burke books, set in the Napoleonic wars, there are a lot of characters in military uniforms and these provide obvious descriptive opportunities. Still, I do try to avoid the trap that many specialists in military history seem to fall into when every uniform is described right down to the decoration stamped onto the buttons. I suppose, though, that this is again a case of who you are writing for – there are clearly people out there who love this sort of military minutiae and probably resent my failure to go into quite so much detail.

In many of my books there are some items that seem crucial to characters or plot or both. For me, getting these right can be central to the writing process. In Back Home the idea for the book came from accounts of 19th-century coiners and I decided that I wanted to be as accurate as possible in my depiction of their activities. I read a lot about coining in Mayhew, whose account of criminal life in London (in London Labour and the London Poor) gives a great deal of detail. I was lucky that while I was writing there was an exhibition on crime at the Museum of London and this included items that the police had confiscated from forgers, letting us see the actual tools they used in producing fake money. I read some modern accounts of electroplating, which was used to put the finish on the coins, and studied these until I was reasonably confident that I could make my own coinage using items I could readily have obtained in 1859. Most (but not all) of this information did make its way into the finished book, but, more importantly, it let me imagine the practical realities of turning out significant quantities of coinage in a basement workshop. With the core of my story firmly established in my mind, I was able to relax more with the tale built around it.

Writing about 19th-century London was relatively easy, because, living in London and with ready access to 19th-century prints and novels – let alone a plethora of television dramas – I, like many people, have a reasonable "feel" for the place and period. Even so, it's easy to find yourself completely lost. If somebody walks in to the lodgings of a poor person in 1859, what would they expect to see? Again, I often fell back on Mayhew. He provides masses of descriptive passages with street scenes, interiors and the characters who inhabit them. My loiterers in Seven Dials are unashamedly stolen from him and the back story of some minor characters is also taken from his book. I used contemporary maps to plot the paths of my characters’ walks around town and visited some of the locations myself so that I could imagine, from what they look like today, what they must have been like then. Imagining “then” was helped by descriptions in Dickens’ novels.

Most of my historical novels have included significant references to real people, but only one of the characters in Back Home is an actual historical figure – Karl Marx. As with other people I have included in my books, I read his letters to get a feel, not only for the facts of his life, but for the way that he talked about them. He is only a minor character in Back Home, but his dialogue reflects the way that he wrote. Of course, we can't know how he actually spoke, but I suspect it was like that.

Overall, then, I try to give my imagination a lot of space to move around a few fixed points, some of them defined by the objects in my characters’ lives, some of them by pictures and documents referencing them, some of them by place and, whenever possible, some of them in their own words.

There's a lot of real history in many historical novels, including mine. Part of the trick, though, is that this shouldn't be immediately obvious to the reader. A novel has to work firstly as a story – the items in the lives of our characters are the set dressing. It is our words that are the script.

BOOK LINKS

The White Rajah

Cawnpore

Back Home

The James Burke Series

Burke in the Land of Silver

Burke and the Bedouin

Burke at Waterloo

Bio:

Tom Williams used to write about boring things for money. If you wanted an analysis of complaints volumes in legal services or attitudes to diversity at the BBC, then he was your man. Now he writes much more interesting books about historical characters and earns in a year about what he could make in a day back then. (This, unfortunately, is absolutely true.) He also writes a blog (http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/) which is widely read all over the world and generates no income at all.

Besides making no money from writing, Tom makes no money out of occasionally teaching people to tango and then spends all the money he hasn’t made on going to dance in Argentina. 

Tom has a wife who, fortunately, has a well-paid job, and a grown-up son who has resolved that he is never, ever, going to write anything.

Tom's blog

Tom's Facebook

Tom on Twitter

What Should My Next Novel Be About?

A tricky question indeed!

Having written two books in the Old Curiosity Shop Series, I could just as easily work on Book #3...which will come as a surprise to those of you who thought I was only going to write two books in the series. I changed my mind. There will be three.  A trilogy. 

But should my next book be the third (and final) book in the trilogy, or should it be something else? I think it should be something else. My mind needs a break from Sarah Lester and Warden Price, and the poor Raja.

Last week I stumbled upon a snippet of information while researching our family trip to Italy later this year, and it stuck with me. I wrote it down, and today I visited my local library. Have I mentioned how much I love my local library? I do. I love it. I love my librarians. I love the building. I love its contents, and I love how welcoming they are. Anyway, I found a couple of books which will help with the background for my next book. My children checked out their books - Geronimo Stilton for my youngest daughter, Jacqueline Wilson for my eldest, and off we went.

The TBR (to be read) pile next to my bed is heaving with books set in Italy, through the ages. That should give you a hint... I'm excited. And tomorrow I'll start putting some words down, but only after going to see Antony & Cleopatra at the Pop-Up Globe in Auckland. Nothing could be more stimulating than seeing the work of Shakespeare on stage. 

TBR Pile

First Draft Is Off To The Editor

Today I emailed off the first draft of my second book, The Last Letter, to my editor.

  Happy Author Face!

Happy Author Face!

When I say I emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter, I actually mean I emailed a version of my manuscript where parts of it are version eight, other parts are version six. Some chapters, mainly the later ones, are versions three or four. Some sentences, nay, whole paragraphs, have gone through so many edits, they bear no resemblance to the very first draft I wrote.

So when I say I've emailed off my first draft of The Last Letter to my editor, what I really mean is that I emailed off the first version of my manuscript that someone other than myself will read. A scary thought. Exciting, and terrifying too.

About twenty minutes after I hit the send button, I started thinking about all the things I could have done to improve that first draft. What about the Raja? Will how I've left things at the Old Curiosity Shop make the readers happy? Thoughts tumbled over and over in my mind, querying my attention to detail, my historical accuracy. Did I have enough tantalising tidbits about antiques? Have I done justice to India? To New Zealand? To my characters and their hopes and dreams?

But, in the immortal words of Queen Elsa (from the Disney juggernaut Frozen), I have to let it go. It's out there now. My editor will tell me, in his gentle manner, whether what I've written is good enough, or whether I need to brood over it for a period of time before I send it back to him. And somewhere along the line we'll go through the manuscript page by page, line by line, where the annotated word document flies through the internet at various speeds, correcting comma's, tenses, removing Americanisms (which tend to creep in), and various other issues.

And so I wait. And in the time it will take my editor to read my 131,000 word manuscript I'll attend to my social media platforms, which I have left forgotten in the corner while I tried to fill plot holes and create characters who pushed their way off the page.

Thanks for your patience everyone. This will now very much be a case of watch this space!

The Last Letter
By Kirsten McKenzie

What Does Being A Full Time Author Mean?

This is the beginning of Week Four of being a full time author.

What does that mean? It means drinking a lot more coffee than I used to, and having a very tidy house for starters. It also means I've had to get pretty serious about my writing, my writing goals, and my personal writing habits.

What have I done so far? Well, number one, you're looking at it. A shiny new author website - www.kirstenmckenzie.com. Secondly, I've created the template through Mail Chimp for semi regular / semi sporadic author updates, to be emailed to those people who put their name down to receive it. You too can add your name to the list, via the handy form on this website.

I've written a schedule. It looks very much like my old school schedule, but without Double Maths (thank goodness), and no PE. Although looking back on it, I should have enjoyed PE way more than I did. I've allocated time for writing, naturally, and time for website updates, online marketing stuff (probably too much time), time for Goodreads surfing, and time for competition writing.

What is competition writing? On my list of personal goals, I've written down that I want to enter 12 writing competitions this year. It's good to give my brain a break from 1860s New Zealand, and the troubles in India in the 1800s, and the dastardly Benjamin Grey. I've already entered one, so only eleven more to go! I'll keep you posted about when I win some.

Future plans, from April I'll be posting guest blogs from other authors, but there will be a cohesive theme to their posts, complementary to what I write, so as to not throw you all. So keep watching, check in for more posts, and don't forget I'm on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and Instagram too. 

Author Q&A - What Does It Mean To Be A New Author?

On October 25 2015, I was kindly hosted on Maureen's Books for a Q&A. Here are the answers to those questions :

Q: Tell us a little more about who Kirsten McKenzie is?

A: I'm forty, and I've had two 'real' jobs in my life, the first as a Customs Officer for twelve years - both in England and in New Zealand. The second as an Antique Dealer in my family antique shop. I'm fortunate to be able to honestly say that I've loved both jobs. 
I don't see writing as being a job. Not yet anyway. I'd love to be able to say one day that writing is my third 'real' job. And I'm looking forward to that day.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to become an author and write your own book?

A: When my youngest daughter was about to start school. My family were all asking what I was going to do in my 'spare time'... Bearing in mind I was already working part time in the antique shop, and any parent can tell you that 'spare time' is quickly filled with household chores. But in this instance I announced that I was going to write a book. And so I sat down and started writing one.

Q: You are also an actor. Does being an actor help your work as an author?

A: You know, I believe it does. I can see a 'scene' in my head and can run through it as though a director is giving me directions. I think it's been very beneficial. Since reading your question, it’s the first time I've considered it that way! I've worked with some very talented directors, and it's their voices I hear in my head as I'm imagining my scenes. 

Q: Tell us more about your novel ‘Fifteen Postcards’? How did you come to the idea of writing this story?

A: It was a quiet day at work, we sometimes have those, it’s the way of the retail world, and I was sorting through some stock which had just come into the shop, including a pile of old postcards. In this particular lot there were a numbered series of postcards from a soldier in WWI, written to his mother. Although I don't write about WWI in my book, the concept of a series of postcards between two people, telling a story, was born.

Q: What is the best thing that happened since your book came out?

A: There are three things:

1/ Reviews. Even the bad ones. They make my heart sing. Someone has taken the time to read my book, and provide feedback.

2/ The love I've received from my local library. I will do everything in my power to support libraries. Such an essential service to humanity.

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3/ The absolute support from other authors. I've never known another industry where your competitors are also your biggest champions. It's been an amazing experience.

Q: Can you describe your writing process? Do you have any sort of ritual you follow?

A: I'm what they call a 'by the seat of your pants' writer. I've got no idea how it’s going to turn out or where it’s going to go until I've written it. I make notes when and where ideas come to me, but everything I write is entirely influenced by what I'm doing; what I've seen; or what I've stumbled across at the time. For example, I've just helped a customer at work find half a dozen old poison bottles,  ones with the words "Not To Be Taken" on them. Suddenly poison is appearing in the words I'm writing this week. I'd never planned on poisoning any of my characters, but it’s their bad luck that a jeweller in Auckland wanted poison bottles for a window display!

Q: Are you a reader yourself? And what is your favorite book(s)?

A: Yes! I love reading. It’s a family trait. I went through a period when my children were very little where I didn't read very much, and I felt empty. I'm making up for lost time now. My four favourite books, in no particular order, are: Gone With The Wind; Five People You Meet In Heaven; A Discovery Of Witches; A Suitable Boy. A very eclectic mix I know. Edward Rutherfurds books are a must have on my bookshelf - I've loved every single one of his epic tomes - Paris, London, Russka, Sarum.

Q: What are your future plans in writing?

A: I'm currently a third of the way through my next novel, the sequel to 'Fifteen Postcards'. Tentatively titled 'The Last Letter'. This is the story which involves poison...

Q: What would your advice be to new aspiring authors?

A: Two pieces of advice.

1/ Share your journey. One thing that kept me going was that I would periodically post a screenshot of my word count on Twitter and Facebook, and my friends and followers would encourage me to carry on. They were like my cheer squad.

2/ Just write. Initially I tried writing 1,000 words a day. But you know what? That number can be very daunting. So I reduced it to 500 words a day. When I sit down to write, which isn't every day - I have two young children remember, I just try to write 500 words. Sometimes I'll just walk away from my computer as soon as I hit that magical number, even if it’s in the middle of a sentence. Walking away mid-sentence gives me something meaty to start with next time I sit down at my laptop.

Here is the link to Maureen's website : http://maureensbooks.blogspot.co.nz/

Author Q&A - When Did You First Get Serious About Writing?

In January 2016, Richard Schiver hosted me for a Q&A session on his website for Fridays5. These are my answers:

1.) When did you first get serious about writing?
A.) When my youngest child was about to start school, and my family started harassing me about what I was going to do with my 'spare time'. Although I was already working part time in my family's antique shop, I'd always wanted to write a book, to leave a little piece of me behind so to speak (other than children), so I sat down and wrote a book.

2.) What is the hardest part for you about writing?
A.) Avoiding the Internet. I sit down at my laptop, fully intending to write until my fingers bleed, but then I get sucked down the Twitter rabbit hole, something interesting pops up on Facebook, or I find a fascinating article about writing on a website somewhere. 

3.) How did you feel upon publication of your first completed project?
A.) Surreal. It still feels surreal.

4.) What is more important to you, story, or character? Why?
A.) The story. The story has to be balanced between good and bad. There has to be a level of "Oh no!", and "Oh yes!" to keep the reader's attention. Of course the characters are equally important, but how can you fully love a character (or hate them), if the story doesn't grip you? A reader can overlook a clunky dialogue between characters every now and then, but they will never forgive you for writing a dire story, with no ebb and flow. Reader's want to be taken hold of, their faces glued to their pages or kindles.

5.) What is a typical day like in your world?
A.)  Get up. Make coffee. Get the children up and off to school. Come home. Have another coffee. Procrastinate on the Internet. Do some laundry or housework. Have another coffee. Realise its lunchtime. Eat lunch. Followed by coffee. Panic that its 1pm already. Actually start writing. Get into the writing mood, then in a really frustrated way, save all the work I've done, and  pick up the kids from school. Think about writing after they've gone to bed. Actually drink wine and procrastinate on the Internet.

Author Q&A - What Is Your Best Advice For Budding Authors?

On August 15 2015, Jim Vines hosted a Question and Answer session on his blog. Here are my answers:

Q: Kirsten...what made you become a writer?
A: When my youngest daughter was about to start school, my family were constantly asking me what I was going to do with my "spare time." I declared that I was going to write a book, as I'd always wanted to leave a piece of me behind when I'm gone. So I sat down and wrote one. 

Q: What is your typical writing day like?
A: Get up, kids off to school, coffee, procrastination, coffee, procrastination, frantic writing, pick the children up from school, family/household stuff, dinner, kids to bed, wine, casual and calm writing, astonishment that its bedtime already, bed. Really I should only write at night, and give up trying to write during the daytime!

Q: Do you outline? If so, how extensive are your outlines?

A: Ah, no. I've never outlined in my life. I've jotted down notes about things I need to resolve, but I've never outlined. My writing is influenced by what happens in my day. What I've seen, or experienced. 

Q: How many revisions will you typically do on a novel?

A: Two by me alone. Followed by however many revisions the editor needs.

Q: What is your best tip for editing a manuscript?

A: Start from the very beginning. One word at a time. Resolve any issues you come across straight away. Don't leave them till later as they will only bother you. 

Q: Which writing habits and/or tricks of the trade have made you a better writer?

A: Save in different places - hard drive, drop box, USB. Save, save, save. Always finish mid sentence - as it gives you something to come back to the next day. Do not create inflexible word count goals. If you only made 500 words, do not punish yourself for not making 1,000 words. Every word on the page is one word more than you had the day before. 

Q: Do you ever suffer through writer’s block? If so, how do you fight it?

A: Yes I do. I can go days without writing anything - although I still find time and inspiration for social media engagement. I deal with it by walking away from the computer, and reading something else. I read a lot. Since joining Goodreads, my reading list has grown out of control. I love seeing what other authors recommend. 

Q: What drew you to write your preferred genre(s)?

A: I don't think I consciously decided to write historical fiction, but its certainly turned out that way. And I love it. My day job is an antique dealer, so there is a tangibility about the things I'm writing about. I can feel them, or something like them. Every day at work I find inspiration from the things surrounding me.

Q: Do you utilize beta readers?

A: I did for a brief time - I used two, one was more forthcoming than the other. But now I prefer going it alone. I could use them, but I'd need to find the right one. I've been a beta reader for a fellow author, and I enjoyed the role. It is something I would consider doing again. 

Q: In your most recently published novel, what’s one scene you really enjoyed writing—and why?

A: I very much enjoyed the scene set in India, where my characters embark upon a tiger hunt (I certainly don't support hunting, but this is set circa 1860). I had a cast of servants, officers, older ladies, simpering young girls, Indian royalty, and rifles. And I had a ball moving them all around like chess pieces. 

Q: What makes the main character(s) of your most recent novel so special?

A: My main character in Fifteen Postcards, Sarah Lester, has semi-autobiographical hints to her. The others I've tried very hard to give faults to, even the good guys. No one is perfect, and it would be a very dull read if you just gave the readers cardboard good vs evil characters to read about. 

Q: What is your best advice for author self-promotion?

A: Engage, engage, engage, but do not spam. You want to make friends with your potential readers, but you don't want to be the equivalent of junk mail shoved under their front doors. And even if your book is months away from being finished, start your self-promotion now. People want to know who you are before you start trying to sell them your book.

Q: How do you deal with negative reviews?

A: Ignore the outliers. For middle tier reviews - take note of their feedback - and learn from them. And bask in the good and great reviews. 

Q: What is your favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: No one is telling me what to write, or how to write it. 

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an indie author?

A: Feeling like everyone is getting more support or help from some magic well that you haven't found yourself. 

Q: What is your current writing project?

A: The sequel to Fifteen Postcards. I never intended to write a novel with a cliff hanger, but it happened. So now I have to resolve it!

Q: What are three of your favorite novels?

A: Gone With The WindA Suitable Boy, and The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Q: If you could have lunch with any novelist, living or dead, who would it be? What would talk to them about?

A: Ernest Hemingway. What would I talk to him about? Paris. His life. His decisions. We'd drink a lot together I'm sure. I spent some time in Cuba, and really felt his vibe there. I think I am in historical love. 

Q: What is your best piece of advice for budding authors?

A: Just do it. And share your journey with others, everywhere. I'm on Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn. I am constantly posting pictures of my current word count, things I've researched, pictures that have inspired me, amusing images - but different things on different platforms. You'll find the general populace is very supportive of people following their dream. And engage, engage, engage. 

Q: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

A: "It is what it is." That's mine. I don't know if someone else said it before me, but its how I live my life.

The link to Jim Vines blog is here : http://jimvinespresents.blogspot.co.nz/ 

HOW TO HANDLE REJECTION AS AN AUTHOR

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On the 17th July 2014 I received my first rejection letter. It was from a small publisher in Scotland. I was surprised I wasn’t more upset, which may have been because even as I submitted my unsolicited manuscript, I was aware there were some factors against me being published by that firm. One being that I’m not Scottish, despite my surname. Two, I don’t reside in Scotland, or even near Scotland, not even in the same hemisphere. I presume publishers like their author’s to live nearby. Three, and perhaps the key point here, it was an unsolicited manuscript. 

Yes I had researched which publishers accepted unsolicited manuscripts, and the type of books they normally published before I picked them to send my manuscript to. The firm that rejected me only publishes a tiny number of books per year, and I don’t really blame them for not wanting to take a risk with a new author, who has written a cross between the Antique’s Roadshow meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, with a hint of The Far Pavilions, all wrapped up as a love story!

The rejection lead me to research famous authors who had been rejected before going on to literary success, and I found this amazing site:http://www.literaryrejections.com/best-sellers-initially-rejected/     

My all time favourite movie is Gone With The Wind. The fated love story between Rhett and Scarlett, and the inordinate amount of time she wastes on Ashley, tore me apart. I still want to give Scarlett a good slap for her stupidity. But I never knew that Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 38 publishers before she found one to publish Gone With The Wind, which went on to sell over 30 million copies.

What I am trying to say is, there is still hope! One rejection is one rejection closer to being published. If that makes sense!

Gone with the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell

17 July 2014

WHAT IS THE BEST WORD COUNT FOR A NOVEL?

George R.R. Martin, author of the fantasy series Game of Thrones to be more precise. I’ve never really been into fantasy books. My mother devours them. I’ve read a few. But I started reading this series a couple of summers ago on my Kindle, and I was catapulted head first, and whole heartedly, into the world Martin created. So much so that I now have the actual books, as well as the less satisfying electronic version.

I’ve written nearly 75,000 words for Fifteen Postcards to date, and I figure I’ll end up with a book which is about 90,000ish words. Martin’s word count is extraordinary:   

A Game of Thrones: 284,000

A Clash of kings: 326,000

A Storm of Swords: 404,000

A Feast for Crows: 300,000

But is it his word count or his words that make the books nigh on impossible to put down? As I’m rereading his massive tomes, I am struck by Martin’s ability to provide a visual feast through his words. He needs that word count to make it real. Even describing a soldiers tunic creates such a vivid picture for you as the reader that you can see Arya driving her sword into the stitching of the leather tunic, you can smell the blood seeping out once she withdraws her sword. And you feel joy on her behalf. Odd I know!

What does this mean for me? For Fifteen Postcards? I know that my newfound appreciation of the perfect descriptive verse will probably translate into extra words for the story I am creating, and I hope that in time you’ll feel that you can almost reach out and stroke the gleaming grains of the Georgian rosewood table.

28 April 2014

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I VISITED HEMINGWAY'S HOME IN CUBA?

In 2010 I had the good fortune to travel to Cuba. Whilst there we drank mojitos at Hemingway’s bar in Havana, and took a day trip to visit Hemingway's house - Finca Vigia, which translates to "lookout house".

Finca Vigia is located in the town of San Francisco de Paula, a small fishing village. Picture postcard perfect, apart from us, the hordes of tourists visiting Hemingway’s home. 

You may not go into the house, but the windows are ajar for you to peek into the life of a Nobel Prize for Literature winner. You can also meander through his gardens, view his boat, sit by his pool. And you may also view his study where he did his writing. 

For a small bribe, the attendant in the study, located at the top of a set of dubious concrete stairs, will use your camera to take a photo of his typewriter for you. One presumes that the attendants are all quite wealthy given the number of tourists prepared to surreptitiously hand over a few CUC’s to have a photo of the great author’s typewriter. I know I certainly did. 

Its here that Hemingway wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. A Movable Feast was written there as well. I certainly don’t profess to have the literary skills of Hemingway, but even just that brief touch of familiarity with Hemingway’s life has encouraged me to follow my dreams.

The Old Man and The Sea
By Ernest Hemingway

10 March 2014

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?

Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870), created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. (Thanks Wikipedia).

The Old Curiosity Shop

The catalyst for writing Fifteen Postcards can’t be narrowed down to one event. It is a combination of events over a number of years which lead me to sit down and to start seriously on tapping away at my computer keyboard.

I believe most people have an inner ego (and many people have an all-to-obvious outer ego), but my inner ego wanted to leave something of me behind. Something that says ‘She existed’. 

Its been argued that my children should be proof enough of my existence. It was my children who moved me away from my life path of being a dedicated Customs Officer, with a goal to work for the World Customs Organisation in Brussels, where I had planned to leave my mark on history. So once my life path was undeniably altered by the arrival of my daughters, and the unexpected death of my father, I spent seven years essentially treading water working at Antique Alley not really knowing where my life was going.

So once both my girls were at school, the question I was asked (and am still asked), by everyone in my family and circle of friends was “What are you going to do now?”. So my answer is this:

Now? Now I am going to do something for me. Something for my personal ego. Something which has bubbled inside me for the past seven years helping customers at Antique Alley, seeing the happiness on their faces when they find that perfect piece of china to add to their collection. Experiencing vicariously the joy of avid collectors as they fossick through the shop. I love it. And I want to write about it. Just as Charles Dickens wrote about ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ and the terribly sad tale of Nell and her grandfather.  So ‘that’ is what I am going to do ‘now’ that the girls are at school. I am going to publish a novel.

My novel may not be on the reading lists 150 years after its been published like the novels Dickens wrote, but I am happy that I am following a dream. Everyone in the world should be free to follow their dreams. And I want to encourage all of you to follow yours.

13 MARCH 2014

WHICH AUTHOR HAS IMPACTED ON SOCIETY THE MOST?

Has there ever been an author or has made such an impact on a segment of society in such a short space of time as J.K. Rowling?

Yes there are authors whose work is magnificent and timeless, and make it onto every list ever written detailing the most important books we should all read.

I would query whether any other author has made such an impact in such a short span of time. And I would hazard a guess that the answer is no. 

First published in 1997, and translated into 73 languages, the world of Harry Potter has made J.K. Rowling the world’s only billionaire author, and beloved by millions upon millions of readers. A whole generation of children (and adults), Western, Eastern, rich and poor, have followed Harry’s journey. Some readers, like me, wept through the books, and waited in queues for the release of the next instalment, such was the grasp of J.K. Rowling’s imagination. 

In my wildest dreams I cannot imagine achieving even a morsel of her success. But what I can achieve is that I can sit down for hour after hour and put words on a page. And just like Joanne Rowling, I can leverage my imagination, and put in the hard work to create a piece of work that someone somewhere will love. Whether this book moves or inspires a generation of readers is up to you to decide. I’d be happy if you just liked it.

21 MARCH 2014

MORE WRITING AND LESS CANDY CRUSH IS THE SECRET TO BEING AN AUTHOR

Fifteen Postcards is currently at 104,426 words as I embark on the hardest part to date, the ending. Whilst I’ve been writing this story I have at times been suffering from, what can only be described as, Writing Envy.

My Writing Space

Now Writing Envy is not the envy you feel when you read a particularly fantastic piece of prose, where you think to yourself “I’ll never be able to write anything that inspiring”. No, not at all. Writing Envy is all to do with being envious of the dedication other writers have! Envy of the space they use to do their writing in. Envy of the tools they use to write with.

At times, I have honestly felt that I am a lesser writer for drafting my manuscript solely on my MacBook. I vary from writing in the study, writing at the dining room table, writing on my lap in the lounge, and I’ve even been known to write on the deck in the sun.  

Should I have a writing space? My envy of other writers and their dedicated and inspiring writing spaces makes me think so. But then I also have an eight year old and a five year old, who clamour constantly for my attention, and if I hid myself away in the study, who knows what mischief would be created in my absence! 

I love typing on the computer, but I do feel bereft. Inside I feel that I am missing out on some fabulous writing secret that all the best authors know, but which they don’t share.

Tonight, whilst researching some minute detail for a tiny inconsequential plot point, I stumbled across this fabulous post on Flavorwire.com : The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors 

And there I found the secret. The secret is that there is no secret. At least twenty of the world’s most famous authors all did it differently. Pencils, ink pens, ballpoint pens, typewriters, note pads, computers. 

Of those, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used a Parker Duofold pen. That made me recall that for my first Valentines Day with my fiance (now husband), he gave me a standard Parker ballpoint pen and had it engraved with my name. For our fifteenth wedding anniversary last month, I received a sterling silver Tiffany’s ballpoint pen, and a notepad, and I’ve been using it. Its not a secret weapon, but it has made writing faster, as I’ve been jotting things down at work, for entering into the MacBook later. Better use of my time. And that is probably the secret to better writing too. More writing, and, well, to be honest, less Candy Crush..

11 September 2014

WHO WAS I KIDDING, THINKING MYSELF AN EXPERT?

This is a blog entry I originally wrote for the blog of Tom Williams, author of the Burke series, Cawnpore, and The White Raja. You can access his blog here: http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.nz

An Expert in Antiques?

Enamelled Coins

Fifteen Postcards has just been published by Accent Press. A novel incorporating three continents and traversing two centuries: historical fiction written from a modern perspective. I like to describe it as a blend of ‘The Far Pavilions’, with a touch of ‘The Time Traveler's Wife’, rolled together with a smidgeon of the ‘Antiques Roadshow’. But I haven’t always been an author.

Nine years ago I was working as a Chief Customs Officer with the New Zealand Customs Service. It was a career I adored, and one I appeared to be particularly good at, according to my performance reviews and peer feedback. Then unexpectedly my father died, leaving my mother a widow without an income.

My brother and I quit our jobs. Someone needed to run Antique Alley, the business my father started in 1971. My brother worked full time, whilst I went part time, as my first daughter was born six months after Dad died. The timing was brutal.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ states that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill requires practicing, correctly, for around 10,000 hours. I’ve roughly estimated that since my father died, I’ve worked in the shop for 5,616 hours. I don’t work full time, and I’ve had two children in the past nine years, but I do know that I now have roughly 5,000 hours of additional knowledge of antiques. With that, I thought I had enough knowledge to sit down and write a novel about a girl who works in an antique shop. So I did.

I sat down, with my MacBook one day, and started writing, with no idea of where to go, or how the story was going to evolve. Who it was going to involve, or what the future plan for my writing was. But damn it, I knew antiques, I liked writing, so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?

First off, I started writing about postcards. One of Dad’s passions. He collected them personally. We sell them at the shop. I know that real photo postcards are more collectable than others. That Tuck’s postcards are highly sought after. And that... That’s when I stumbled. What else did I know about postcards? Highly embarrassing, but I had to turn to Google, to the library, to the reference books at work. Those 5,000 hours may as well have been 5 hours, or five minutes watching the Antiques Roadshow for all I knew about postcards. Fortunately William Main had published an exquisite book titled ‘Send Me A Postcard’ which had somehow appeared on the bookshelf at home. Fate? Google is great, but nothing beats a beautifully illustrated piece of research. And so it continued.

Green stone adzes (axe heads), made by the early Maori in New Zealand? I’m a New Zealander, born and bred, albeit with a British passport as well, I know everything there is to know about Maori adzes. Ah, no. Just like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, I knew nothing. A research trip to Auckland’s world class War Memorial Museum proved how little I knew. These are just two tiny examples of the level of research I did for my novel - the one which was meant to be easy because I knew at least half of all I (thought) I needed to know about antiques.

I can hear your readers asking why I bothered with all that research. Surely ‘Fifteen Postcards’ is a fictional account of Sarah Lester’s life in her antique shop in London. It’s not an autobiographical account of Kirsten McKenzie’s life in an antique shop in Auckland. I’ll tell you why. Because my father would have known.

My father was a walking encyclopaedia of back stamps, and hall marks, of fakes and reproductions. He knew gemstones from glass with barely a flick of his eyepiece. He would have been mortified if I’d placed a Victorian dining chair in a Regency setting (I didn’t). I also expected that people who read historical fiction probably knew as much, if not more, about some of things I wrote about. Given that my father won’t ever read my book, I didn’t want to upset the readers who will. It was embarrassing enough when my editor David Powell highlighted that I’d used the wrong currency to describe when Sarah is counting her coins in her bedroom suite in the Savoy in London. His words are burnt into my brain when he gently pointed out that Sarah probably wouldn’t be using George V coins. But that’s what editors are for, and I am eternally grateful.

I wanted every description to not only be beautifully written, but I wanted them to be accurate. That ormolu on the edge of the table? I needed the reader to be able to see it as it was then - in 1860s India, not how its presented in some poorly funded TV commercial for tea bags.

So instead of pumping out an 80,000 word novel in a few months, I wrote a 130,000 word novel over a period of one and a half years, edited it, had it accepted for publication by Accent Press, where it was edited again (and again) and here we are. I’m writing a blog piece for another historical fiction author, one who understands and appreciates the quest for historical accuracy in his research for the Burke series.

I leave you now to carry on with my next manuscript, where I’m immersed in colonial New Zealand just prior to the outbreak of the Maori wars in the 1860s. Wish me luck.

16 July 2015

THE HAND OF PUBLISHING FATE

I was very pleased to be asked by UK author Jenny Kane to write a guest post for her blog. I wrote a post about the strange coincidence of fate:

My first book has just been published by Accent Press – ‘Fifteen Postcards’. A novel traversing three continents and two centuries. A blend of ‘The Far Pavilions’, with a touch of ‘The Time Travelers Wife’, rolled together with a smidgeon of the ‘Antique’s Roadshow’. If it wasn’t for my father dying, it would never have been written.

I had a pretty standard upbringing in New Zealand in the 70s. Dad had his own business – an antique shop, and worked long hours. Mum raised my younger brother and I. She was the one who went on all the school trips, picked us up after school, and took us to our after school activities. In the school holidays, my ideal day was helping Dad at the shop, Antique Alley – a literal treasure trove, and described as an Auckland icon. A shop heaving with stock, which invariably overflowed onto the floor, and filled the corridors, very much like how I described ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ in ‘Fifteen Postcards’.

Initially I was allowed to sit in the corner and sell postcards. As I got older I was promoted to serving behind the counter, helping customers choose gold bracelets for gifts, or give advice about which dinner service looked better. I worked off and on at the shop, and at antique fairs up and down the country, right through school and university. By osmosis I picked up a small amount of knowledge about a lot of things.

Then in 2005 Dad died.

My brother and I both quit our jobs (I was a Customs Officer), and started working at the shop. Ostensibly to provide our mother with an income, but it was also a job I had once loved, and although I’d never pursued it, I was more than happy to stand behind the shop counter and carry on where I’d left off in my late teens.

Working at the shop was a way to reconnect with my father. Antique Alley was such a part of his personality that walking into the shop became a way to keep his memory alive. Even today, nine years after his death, when I unlock the front door, and close the world off behind me as I sprint inside to turn off the alarm, I’ll murmur “Hello Dad”. Often followed by a little “Let this be a good day Dad!”. That may make me sound slightly nutty, but it gives me a sense of connectivity with my father, whom I miss everyday.

Writing ‘Fifteen Postcards’ in 2013 was part homage to my father, and part the realisation of a long held desire to write a book. Scattered throughout the book are snippets of his life and his quirks. My parents really did live above the shop before I came onto the scene, just like ‘Sarah’s parents in the book. My grandmother papered the lounge room upstairs in an appalling mixture of prints and floral paper (as described in the book), which Mum still detests to this day (there’s so much stock in that room now that it would be a marathon effort to strip it all back!). It was amusing remembering all of Dad’s foibles and fantastic sayings, weaving them into a plot worthy of his knowledge and expertise in the antique industry. It also became abundantly clear that my ‘small amount of knowledge about a lot of things’ wasn’t at all sufficient for a historical fiction novel, but that’s the basis of another blog post!

They say finding a publisher is one of the hardest parts of writing a book. I had rejections, five to be precise, but one of the publishers I submitted to, Accent Press, offered me a publishing contract. Which I signed. Why did I submit my manuscript to them? That was partly to do with Dad. He was born in Wales, moving to New Zealand when he was three. As an adult he returned to Wales to work and to reconnect with his extended family. I like to think Dad had a small part to play in me choosing Accent Press, who are based in Wales, and in them choosing me.

This is where it starts getting slightly more ‘Twilight Zone’. Bear with me as I talk you through it… David Powell was the incredible editor who worked on ‘Fifteen Postcards’. Without him, my book wouldn’t be anywhere near as awesome as it is. Weirdly, my father’s name was David. Fate? Coincidence? It keeps going. Accent Press released my book on the 21st of May, Mum’s birthday. Yes, yes, a strange collection of coincidences, but as someone still living with the grief of losing my father unexpectedly, these coincidences have given me some measure of solace, a belief that there has been a higher power at work, helping and guiding me.

The only time I haven’t felt Dad’s presence at work, was when I was held up at gunpoint in 2009. With a gun to my head, I was forced to sit on the ground whilst two men stole the jewellery from our cabinets. When Dad was alive, he’d always counseled that nothing in the shop was worth my life, and if anyone tried to rob the shop, I wasn’t to fight back. With that counsel firmly imprinted in my brain, I did just that. I sat there. I screamed a few times, hoping to attract the attention of someone outside, but stopped when they told me to stop screaming or they’d shoot me. I shut up after that. The armed robbery also made it into the pages of ‘Fifteen Postcards’. Writing that part of the manuscript was more difficult than I initially imagined, but also cathartic. I’ve never watched the CCTV footage of the robbery although I can give you a frame by frame playback, as the memory is still so vivid. Putting it down on paper has helped me get over it. Many, many bottles of red wine have also helped…

I am in the wonderful position of loving my job, as my father did, selling other people’s treasures. Everything in the shop was once loved and desired, all just waiting for their new home. It’s the ultimate in recycling. But isn’t that what writing is? The recycling of memories?

The writing of ‘Fifteen Postcards’ has captured some of my memories, hidden amongst the fictional plot and a cast of nefarious characters. And for that I am truly grateful to the hand of fate, or the confluence of coincidences.

22 July 2015

WHAT TO DO WHEN A GUN IS POINTED AT YOUR HEAD

How many bottles of red wine does it take to get over an armed robbery? I’ll let you know when I’ve finished drinking them.

On a September morning six years ago, I was at work in my antique shop on Dominion Road when a well-spoken young man entered the store, lifted the corner of his T-shirt, and took out a black pistol from the waistband of his trousers. He pointed it at my head, and ordered me to the ground. I was holding a handful of wristwatches in various states of repair. A customer was looking around down the back of the shop.

I said to the gunman, “You’ve got to be joking.”

He wasn’t joking.

When the police asked me how long the gunman and his accomplice were in the shop, I estimated four to five minutes. CCTV told a different story: 50 seconds. I’d had a gun pointed at my head for 50 seconds while another man helped himself to our antique jewellery, stuffing trays of gold rings into a bubblegum pink sports bag. I recall screaming at him not to take the men’s rings. Men’s rings were always so hard to get.

The last words the gunman spoke to me were, “You’re okay now.” Then he ran out of the shop. I ran out behind him, calling the police, the wristwatches still in one hand.

My memory is a little hazy after that. The neighbouring shopkeepers, undoubtedly alerted by my screaming, came out to help. It’d be interesting to hear the recording of my 111 call. I remember asking the woman from the Vodafone shop to check that the customer I’d left in the shop wasn’t stealing anything.

Hours later – after I’d relived the robbery second by second with the police – I was delivered home into the waiting arms of my first bottle of red wine. Victim Support rang to offer their assistance, but I had my mother, my husband, and my wine. I was fine.

Fine apart from the fact that after the robbery I never – and I mean never – sat down at work anymore. I was constantly on edge every time a customer entered the shop. I was always up and about, hovering by the newly installed panic button, calculating the intentions of everyone entering the shop.

I never watched the CCTV footage of the robbery. I didn’t need to. It played in technicolor glory over and over in my mind.

After my youngest daughter started school, I decided to write a book. They say write what you know, so I did. I wrote Fifteen Postcards, a novel about a girl who works in an antique shop. You could almost describe it as the back story behind the antiques in the shop – the journey those antiques had been on before languishing on the shelves. Before I knew it, without planning it, my protagonist was looking up the barrel of a gun.

I knew guns. I’d had a fair bit to do with rifles through the Air Training Corps – the Lee Enfield No 8 to be precise – and then the much lesser quality Norincos. I’d even passed my range safety officers course through the New Zealand Defence Force, and I’d qualified for my marksman badge. I used to seize the things when I worked for the New Zealand Customs Service. When I looked at the end of the gun pointing at me, I wondered whether it was real or a replica. But regardless of how familiar you are with weapons, when your whole world shrinks to the size of the barrel of a gun, you’re simply not in any position to make a rational judgement.

Writing about a traumatic experience can go two ways. It can act as a trigger to something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Or – and this was my experience – it can be cathartic. By writing about the robbery, it’s mostly ceased to be the big scary bogeyman that I’d allowed it to become since it happened. I allowed my protagonist to escape from the hold-up when I wrote about it in Fifteen Postcards, and it was as if I’d escaped too.

Trust me, though, when I say I much prefer my fictional ending. It remains the single most traumatic experience I’ve ever had.

As a tribute to my Welsh father, who started Antique Alley in 1971, Fifteen Postcards was published by Accent Press, based in Wales. Having the book published has done more for my recovery than the New Zealand Pinot Noir industry – although credit where credit’s due, their grape also helped immensely.

Note: This post first appeared on The Spinoff : http://thespinoff.co.nz/

29 September 2015

WHAT'S THE FIRST QUESTION A POLICEMAN ASKS?

A single comment from Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde has overshadowed everything about her memoir. In an interview with the Times, she said that she took the blame for being the victim of a sexual assault.

She describes the incident in her book. Hynde was 21, on Quaaludes, and alone with a biker gang in “a dark and noticeably empty house… it was a white slum that had ‘Jeffrey Dahmer’ written all over it”.

Hynde quite bluntly states that her story is a story of drug abuse. A series of unfortunate decisions put her in that room that night. Drugs make you do stupid things.

The response to her Times interview has been loud and angry and intensely critical. But the one thing no victim of sexual assault needs is for anyone to judge them for the assault – nor for how they handle it. Hynde simply stated that she went willingly. She was out of it. She knew them. She took the blame entirely. That was her personal choice.

Am I in a position to comment? Having been sexually assaulted walking home from work one sunny January afternoon along Auckland’s Sandringham Road, I can empathise.

The first question the policeman asked me was what I’d been wearing.

In other words: did I bring it upon myself? Absolutely not. I was wearing cargo shorts and a singlet, with a small backpack on my back and a bottle of water in one hand at five in the afternoon on a busy road. Is the question still valid if a girl is wearing a miniskirt, a boob tube, and is high on drugs in the city centre in the small hours of a Saturday morning?

If, like Hynde, a woman knowingly consumes illicit drugs, and then something bad happens to them, and they take responsibility for the outcome, let’s not then tar that victim with our own outrage that they’ve failed to tow the party line of it never being the victim’s fault. Let’s not victimise her all over again for not behaving the way we expect victims to behave. Victims all behave differently.

I was rescued by two strangers during my experience of sexual assault. I didn’t call the police until I got home, and after I’d showered. Having watched dozens of episodes of CSI. and SVU since, I now know that’s the last thing you should do, but washing away his touch was my first instinct. Will you judge me, too?

As for Hynde’s book – the first 40 pages are so exquisitely written that it’s like reading a weighty Man Booker prize-winning novel. Her description of growing up in Ohio evokes an Americana we all wished actually existed. She depicts it as a kind of utopia, but Hynde walked away from it because of her drug use, and into a nightmare that will never leave her.

And then she got famous. Sid Vicious, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lemmy, and Joan Jett feature in the book, as does Vivienne Westwood, who fired a young Chrissie Hynde back in the day. She took so many drugs that it’s a miracle she survived to tell her tale, let alone remember it. Reckless is the story of Hynde’s hard roads. There’s tragedy, rock’n’roll, and an earth shattering revelation on page 240. It’s simply a damn good read on either side of that page.

Note: This post first appeared on The Spinoff : http://thespinoff.co.nz/

 

20 October 2015