In November, my UK publisher and I broke up. Which explains the delay in the publication of Telegram Home. All three books are now with a new publisher. Fifteen Postcards will be rereleased in May, The Last Letter in June, and then Telegram Home in July.Read More
I didn’t imagine I’d write any more historical time slip novels after writing The Old Curiosity Shop series… but here I am. 21,000 words into my first YA (young adult) novel, a serious time slip novel set alongside Hadrian’s Wall in England.
Our heroine, Lillian Ward, along with her mother, Lucia, are returning their farmland to nature. Ithaca Farm has previously undiscovered ancient Roman ruins lurking under its malnourished pasture. The discovery of those ruins leads to all manner of shenanigans.
We’ve got archaeologists, reporters, metal detectorists, high school kids, an albino, and a librarian (every book should have a librarian). Add in some Roman centurions, a brothel keeper, a pair of thieves, and the ability to slip through time, and hopefully I’m writing an adventure-filled novel. There will of course be a handful of deaths, with a smattering of not-too-much blood.
Ithaca Bound was dreamt up during a rainy walk along Hadrian’s Wall in 2018. Ithaca Farm (and Ithaca Fort) is a figment of my imagination. So please indulge me in a little shuffling of the known forts and fortlets alongside Hadrian’s Wall. Is it here that I mention walls don’t work? Just ask Hadrian, or Berlin…
The release date is a little hazy, but I’m planning for 19th June 2019.
I have a wonderful team of Beta readers, who are walking with me chapter by chapter, firing their constructive feedback as they go. And I’m eternally grateful for their help.
The photos above are from that very walk, in 2018, and are essentially where the story began, in my head. Poor Dr Andrew Birley had to then endure my thousands of questions for the rest of the ten mile walk we did… inspiration can strike at any time, even in the rain.
I’m working on the blurb now, and will release that over on my Facebook page this week. Please join me over there for more peeks into the process of delivering my new novel in the coming weeks:
So… what do you think? If you are excited about reading Ithaca Bound, click on the link below to join my very, very sporadic mailing list, so I can let you know straight away when it’s live. It will be available across all digital platforms. I promise.
It seems crazy that another year is almost over.
I’ve now been a published author for three and a half years. With four books under my belt, and another two almost ready for publication in the new year, it feels a whole lot longer!
This year I was asked to join the organising committee for the NZ Book Festival, which came with its own challenges and excitement. The Festival turned out to be my best one yet, sales wise. Due to another exhibitor pulling out at the last minute, I had to lengthen my stand to fill their space in addition to mine. I’m pretty sure that worked in my favour. I’m also a firm believer in engaging with the public when they walk through the door. That might have helped too.
The week before the NZ Book Festival, the NZ Herald ran a great article about the Festival and the independent author scene in New Zealand.
And I didn’t just appear in the NZ Herald this year. The New Zealand Society of Authors interviewed me about being more nimble, as an independent author, for this magazine. The article was a wonderful piece detailing the ability of independent authors to take control of their careers, and finances.
After the Christmas break, and before school goes back in February, I’m also attending New Zealand’s first crime writing festival - Rotorua Noir. And I was honoured to be asked to sit on a panel at the festival - Genre Blenders. So I’ll be spending some of my beach time thinking about that panel and the extraordinary authors I’m appearing with. What an honour!
So although 2018 has been hectic, with the release of Doctor Perry, which hit #1 in the Horror Charts overseas; and appearing as a panellist at Murder In The Library; and helping with the arrangements for the NZ Book Festival; and still being a mother and a wife, and a volunteer at school, it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down in the new year!
Adding to my plate this year, was the excitement of helping my husband launch his first non fiction book - 81 Lessons From The Sky. We quickly followed that with 101 Lessons From The Sky, and just last week, we launched 51 Lessons From The Sky. So he now has three books out, helping to ensure pilots make it home to their loved ones. I’m so proud to be able to help him launch these incredibly valuable resources.
So now I really just want to say, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all.
Take care. Drive safely. Exercise. Eat well. Read lots.
Love Kirsten xxx
Eighteen days remain before my horror PAINTED hits Amazon. Eighteen long angst filled days left to do the hundreds of things on my to do list. It could be more. It feels like more!
What I have been doing every morning, is taking myself out for a long walk around the park, listening to Mark Dawson's SPF Podcasts, which are incredibly insightful. If you are an author, I recommend you listen to them. Although, when I get home from my walk, after listening to Mark's podcasts, I'll invariably add another dozen things to my already heaving to do list! At least I feel fitter, and am sleeping better.
At the beginning of June I created an official PAINTED Launch Team over on Facebook, for people interested in helping with the online launch of PAINTED. Thirty three people are now part of my team, and their assistance has been invaluable. It's a place where I ask the team members to share posts, or tweets, or to add PAINTED to their own Goodreads lists, etc. You are welcome to join (there is no obligation to read the book if horror isn't your cup of tea!).
A week ago, a Goodreads giveaway for three signed copies of PAINTED went live, as a way to increase the profile of the book, to create a little bit of buzz, and to get it onto readers To Be Read lists (TBR). So far 442 people have entered the competition for one of three signed paperbacks. The competition ends on June 30th. Have you entered yet?
I've approached a small number of horror book reviewers, pitching PAINTED to them for review. Some have replied positively, which is fantastic news. This week I'll be approaching more. If you have any great blogging contacts, or book reviewer contacts, and are happy to introduce me to them, I would be eternally grateful! Please drop me a line through the contact page and we can go from there.
The members of the official PAINTED Launch Team have all been sent ARC copies of PAINTED for their reading pleasure. They've picked up some minor errors, which is fabulous! Better that they pick them up than readers on June 30th. Their feedback has been invaluable.
PAINTED was formatted using Vellum, which is the most amazing tool every designed. I love it. I have it open on my desktop now and can add, amend, delete, rewrite at any stage, and those changes are shown live on the kindle view to the side of the manuscript. VELLUM IS AMAZING. I can't shout that loud enough, not even using my old Air Training Corps Warrant Officer voice. It was a breeze generating all the different files formats I need for the different platforms.
On a completely unrelated note, I've started work on my next novel, and have managed 4,548 words already, in between editing, formatting, marketing, walking and mothering. Oh, and having my daughter in hospital as her appendix was whipped out! She's all recovered now, but that was certainly a speed bump in the month of May!
Don't forget to join my mailing list for updates about the launch of PAINTED, and where you can get your copies, and the official IRL launch party later this year.
THANK YOU EVERYONE xxx
The feeling of happiness after you've finished writing a book!
Today I typed the words "The End". They were words number 77,070 and 77,071 respectively. And whilst those words are there, at the end of my manuscript, this is not the end of the road.
I will toast the completion of PAINTED, with a glass of Pinot Noir, and the smug satisfaction that it all came together nicely in the end, over seven months. Before 11.30pm last night, I had no idea how it was going to end, not properly. I'd mulled over some ideas in the shower, like always. Some ideas had come half formed as I drifted off to sleep. Walking round Cornwall Park listening to podcasts delivered others. But the end, the last few paragraphs, were as elusive as the winning lottery numbers.
But at 11.30pm last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, with my rescue cat sleeping awkwardly on my shoulder (I know, she shouldn't be on the bed, but she doesn't know that), the ending came to me as clear as my newly installed double glazing. I turfed the cat off, turned on the lights, and wrote a page of notes. Today, the paragraphs appeared on my laptop as though someone else were writing them.
And so now I'm done. But not really. Not by a long shot.
Today the final chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #1 - an English friend living in Australia. Three of the earlier chapters were emailed off to Beta Reader #2 - my American friend residing in Washington D.C. Between them, they make sure I don't fill the book with adverbs or colloquialisms only Kiwi's understand.
Also, the first 5,000 words were sent off to a proof reader, with a request for her to quote on proofreading the whole 77,071 words.
Tomorrow I will read PAINTED through, from start to finish, to pick up any inconsistencies, or loose ends.
And then there's the formatting to do, the book to load, and the launch to prepare for.
I think I'm going to need more than one glass of wine.
So, if you would like to be part of the launch team, please message me, and we'll arrange some arc copies to come out to you for review, and as a thank you for your assistance in spreading the word. Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for all your support so far. x
Last week Fifteen Postcards hit #2 on Amazon. Not just in one category, but in two.
Before that happened, I woke up to Fifteen Postcards being #36. And boy was I happy! Next time I looked it was #10. Then, when I was at the supermarket, it hit #4. By the next morning, it had hit #2.
For someone who was happy with her book bubbling consistently around 300, what did that do to me?
As a starter, I broke out the champagne. Then we broke out the really, really good wine. The wine we'd been cellaring for years. The sort of wine you want to drink before you die, and before it goes off, but the occasion normally never presents itself.
We know someone who died before they could drink all the good wine in their cellar, so we invited friends over, and celebrated the hell out of that #2 ranking!
How did I get there - to the dizzying heights of #2? To start with I was perplexed, but then a number of ducks came home to roost. My publisher had changed my Amazon categories. They'd also asked me to give some love to my blurb. Remember, Fifteen Postcards was published in May 2015, and it hasn't had much love since then. So the blurb was updated, and I updated all the Amazon Author Central platforms, and there are many. Why Amazon doesn't extrapolate that out automatically is a mystery to me.
But my publisher did one other thing. They promoted me to readers of Jodi Taylor's books.
Jodi is with the same publisher as I am, Accent Press in the United Kingdom. I haven't met Jodie yet, but I know her fans are incredibly loyal, and it was through their love and support, that my books almost hit #1. And what a ride. And I am grateful. If it wasn't for Jodi's incredible writing, and her loyal fans, I wouldn't have hit the highs I hit. Sure, changing the categories, and giving my blurb some love helped, but Jodi helped more.
So, if your books are languishing, have you thought about your relationships with other authors? Maybe not someone with the clout of Jodi Taylor, but maybe link up with someone else, cross pollinate, share the love, and the workload, and that may just be the key.
Be Atlas and shoulder the load. Go out to bat for one of your author friends. Help each other.
And thank you Jodi, and Accent Press. Last week was a wild ride. xxx
Just typing those words is pretty amazing in itself!
On the 18th March I teamed up with the hilarious Hawkes Bay author Andrene Low, and we spent the evening sitting in the window of a shop... Not that sort of shop! We were perched in the window of Antique Alley on Dominion Road as part of the Auckland Arts Festival White Night.
Between the two of us we did live readings from our books, and ran Q&A sessions about writing, publishing and the inspiration behind our books.
People came and people went, and at one stage we had a full house.
The tables were prepped during the day with darling silver trays from Antique Alley, and decanters filled with Lipton's Iced Tea. An abundance of antique sherry glasses were washed, dried, and lined up next to the decanters. Up on the stage we had the real stuff in our decanter to moisten our throats for the four hours we were performing. I think if you were one of the attendees who turned up much later in the evening, you may have seen some evidence of that!
And what a buzz it was. Next year though we might add in a couple of other authors, because four hours is a long time for two authors to bounce off each other.
We also had crystal bowls of popcorn for the punters, newsletter sign up sheets, and piles of postcards and bookmarks showcasing all our books. Huge signs in the window too, as well as numerous copies of our books, on the off chance someone wanted to buy any, which they did. And for their benefit, we had EFTPOS available. Perfect.
There was a real buzz along Dominion Road that night. We had a couple of performance artists outside the shop as well, which really helped. We can only expect the White Night event to get bigger and bigger in the coming years.
Thanks to the Dominion Road Business Association for all their assistance, and to the Eden Albert Board, and of course thanks to the Auckland Arts Festival for putting on such a spectacular event for all of Auckland to enjoy.
Your taxi drivers are very polite.
Your streets are bustling.
You love books.
Thanks for having me.
Kirsten McKenzie, Author
On the 18th February, I flew down to Wellington for the inaugural Kiwi Book Feast with six other New Zealand authors. The concept being that sharing the costs involved with a launch, and sharing the publicity, and the work load, would make all the more impact. And it did.
Having seven diverse authors all marketing the Kiwi Book Feast to their own networks was far more effective that slathering the city with posters and tweeting into the ether...
For an inaugural event, it was a learning curve, deciding on the run sheet, the catering, the venue, the date, the time, the authors, the layout. A hundred different decisions. For an event we hope to repeat around the country - with future books, some new authors possibly, who knows, it's a fluid thing.
Potentially a library or a bookstore may have been a better location, although holding it in a bar ensured fantastic food, a flow of beverages, and a dedicated sound guy, and a stage. So there were plenty of pluses!
We had a lovely bookish Wellington crowd, and plenty of Twitter personalities turned up to support us, which was fabulous. And I was blessed by two friends flying down from Auckland to surprise me. I should have worn waterproof mascara...
We were also all very grateful to the support given to us by the New Zealand Book Council. They've just launched their beautiful new website. You should go and have a look at it - NZ Book Council Website
Ten things you need to know for a book launch, anywhere in the world:
Sensible shoes. I sat down once, for about 10 minutes, over the four hours of the event.
Cash - have a float. $10 notes, $5 notes. Just enough to provide change if everyone only pays with $20 notes.
Have a display which is sympathetic with the content of your books. Historical? Have a couple of vintage props. Western themed? Horsey type props. Science Fiction? Not sure where you'd get your hands on some space junk, but maybe cobble something together!
Extension cord... I have battery powered lights which I tuck in the side of my suitcases, but I did note that one of our authors came prepared with a multi plug and an extension cord. Pack it.
Mailing List Sign Up Sheet. I've put that in bold, because I didn't have one. I must pack this into my book display suit case. That's this weeks job. Pack some pens too. Practice signing your book.
Price List - People don't like to ask the price of your books. They like to see clear signage showing the price of one book, two books, or the complete set. Make it easy for them.
Books. Self explanatory. But also book type things that can be slipped into your books, or into handbags. Nothing bulky. A bookmark, a postcard, all with your book and contact information printed on them.
Don't sit behind your table. I know lots of people feel more comfortable doing this, but I'm more a stand to the side, or stand to the side in front of the display. Its easier to engage. Easier to pass the book to a prospective customer. And on the topic of your table. Buy a table cloth. If you can't afford a table cloth, use your top sheet and iron it first.
Dress to impress: You're trying to portray that you are a professional, that you're serious about your writing. You don't have to go all Annie Hall, but maybe think beyond your usual old jeans and t-shirt. At the first two NZ Book Festivals I went with a long skirt and a velvet jacket. At the Kiwi Book Feast I wore smart jeans and a white cotton shirt, with a brooch. I felt smart and comfortable. The brooch was a nod towards the vintage theme of my books. Something to think about.
Smile. Smile and engage. Ask the people at your table about the weather outside. Ask if it's improved, or if the rain has finally arrived. Weather is a very safe topic. It's an easy opener. Even if you're shy you can say "Has it stopped raining today?" or "Isn't it a lovely day for being out and about". Give it a go. Relax and have confidence in your work. That'll flow through to your own personal confidence. Good luck.
Watch out for the crowds hurrying behind you, but they're in a hurry to come and see me at a couple of public events in New Zealand in the next two months.
Back in December I received an email inviting me to be part of a group of New Zealand authors who were planning a large joint book launch. That launch has now taken on a life of its own, and will see me flying to Wellington on the 18th February for a three hour event at Meow Cafe with six other amazing New Zealand authors for the first Kiwi Book Feast.
I know that through Facebook and Twitter, there are many of you I've interacted with online, but which I have yet to meet. I would love to finally meet you at Meow on the 18th February. We're providing nibbles, naturally, and there will be live readings, prizes and our books will be available to purchase, which we will of course sign for you.
And now I have a booking for March. As part of the Auckland Arts Festival, the Eden/Albert Board invited local artists to be part of the White Night on the 18th March. They specifically mentioned involving the iconic Dominion Road. I was all over that invite like a non contagious rash.
I'm happy to announce that Antique Alley will be open the evening of the 18th March, from 6pm to 11.30pm, and I'll be there, in the shop, doing live readings from my books and book signings. Both sides of the shop will be open, with my brother manning the business side of things.
What will April bring?! Should I pencil in April the 18th for some future event?!
So...who is going to come and see me in action in Wellington on the 18th February, or in Auckland on the 18th March?
Eat your heart out Disneyland and Universal Studios, you have nothing on the stomach churning rollercoaster of Amazon rankings...
Every author does it. Everyone tells us not to do it but we still do. We can't help it. It's like a drug. A legal high. It's either an adrenaline rush or a crushing debilitating blow, but we go back the next day, and the next and the next. We hit the refresh button with the same frenzy a gambling addict pulls the arm on a slot machine in Vegas. We check our rankings on Amazon.
Yes. We hit that refresh button so often that we wear the feet off our poor little mice.
Sometimes our rankings are up. And sometimes they're down. And sometimes there's such a tiny change that we'd rather see a noticeable drop than no change at all.
And the worst of it is that most of the time, we have no idea why our rankings change. That's right. We, the authors, have almost no idea why they change. Sometimes we can pinpoint an upswing because we spent $28 on Facebook marketing (yes, Facebook marketing really worked for me!) or sometimes it's because a well connected book blogger raved about our book. Sometimes it's just because it's sunny, or the moon is in Jupiter, or the History channel is running its tenth repeat of a documentary about the gold rush and suddenly people are interested in everything that glitters.
I'm not going to go into the mechanics of how the Amazon algorithms work, many minds greater than mine have done that all over the internet, and you can read some fascinating pieces of research without having to search too far. I just know that over the last couple of months I've seen a lovely upwards trend in the sales rankings for Fifteen Postcards and The Last Letter, and I am eternally grateful to the people who have bought and read my books. What an honour it is you've placed your trust in me to write something which will entertain you.
Last year I set a goal of making the Top 100 for Historical Fiction on Amazon. It was part of a longer list I had laminated and had stuck to the wall of my shower so I could read it everyday. I can categorically confirm that writing your goals down and keeping them visible is as effective as everyone says it is. First I hit #91 on the Historical Fiction list, and I thought all my dreams had come true. THEN I HIT #56. WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I'm not too concerned about the why's and how's of the Amazon algorithms, I'm purely in the camp of "selling more equals a higher ranking". Simple really. I'm sure I could be a lot more pedantic about tracking my social media activity against the subtle changes in my sales ranking, but I'm not that sort of person. I've got a family I need to interact meaningfully with, and more books I should be writing, and reading, so I'm happy just celebrating these milestones when I notice them.
Thank you for reading my books. Here's to slowly creeping up the rankings as the new year kicks into gear.
I've just returned from exhibiting at the 3rd Annual New Zealand Book Festival, which was held in Auckland on the 5th November. It is a showcase for independently published authors (formerly known as self published authors). They graciously let me join them because my publisher is based in the United Kingdom, and I'm all on my own down here in New Zealand.
While my goal at the festival was to interact with potential readers, and sell signed copies of my books, I also had an opportunity to look around, to see what everyone else was selling, and how they were doing it. And it was clear that not all authors have the same level of expertise of selling direct to their potential readers.
Some of my clearest childhood memories revolve around being carted around the North Island of New Zealand while my parents exhibited at numerous small town antique fairs - Taupo, Cambridge, Tauranga, Rotorua, and at the big fairs in Auckland. I've carted so many boxes and pieces of furniture, and valuable antiques, that it's second nature. As is setting up an attractive stand, and selling to the public. My father would set it all up, while Mum, my brother, and I would unpack all the crates. Dad would go outside for a cigarette, and Mum would rearrange everything until it looked perfect. As I got older, I was allowed to help serve. Setting me up with valuable life skills.
It was with that background that I planned my stand for the New Zealand Book Festival. I marked out the dimensions of my stand in the garage, gathered together my props, paid for professional signage, and fiddled with it until it looked right.
The photos above show the mock up in the garage. The signage was from last year's festival - I still had to pick up the new signage from the printing company, and the "table" is the old gas heater, standing in for the larger card table I was picking up the next day from Antique Alley. I was fortunate to be allocated a corner stand.
The photographs below are from the 2016 New Zealand Book Festival. This is my finalised stand in all its glory. The only downside being that copies of 'The Last Letter' didn't arrive in time for the festival... Antique rug, bowl of flowers, clear signage, props, books on display, postcards to hand out, professionally presented author with smiling face.
Note the complete absence of a chair. Last year I had a chair behind my little card table, a nice chair mind you, but I sat on it, behind my table, seemingly unapproachable to potential readers. This year I ditched the chair, wore flat (gold) brogues, and had a far more successful festival. I engaged with people walking in the door, I handed them postcards for my two books (designed by my publisher, and printed in Auckland). I also sold books. Lots more than I did last year.
And I blame that success on my parents. They showed me the benefits of having a beautifully presented stand. They demonstrated how it made a difference if you dressed nicely, instead of wearing grubby jeans and a polo shirt. They taught me invaluable customer service skills - smile, and don't play on your cellphone. You're there to work, to interact, to make connections.
The NZ Book Festival committee worked hard to make the festival a success, and for those of us who put in the effort at our end, it was a success. For those stall holders with hand written signs, and big scary trestle tables at the front of their stands, and half a dozen chairs behind it, filled with authors reading the newspaper or playing on their cellphones, it wasn't a success. There are learning points in all things, and hopefully those authors will learn for next time. I didn't have the right point of sale signage. It sent mixed signals. So after half a day I took it down. Sales took off. I won't make that mistake again. Another author, Andrene Low, had very clear point of sale signage showing the deals she was offering on her books at the book festival. I'm stealing her ideas for next year!
We all learn, and independent authors need to learn faster - if they want to shake off the yoke of their work being considered less than professional. If you look unprofessional or your stand looks unprofessional, sadly people will judge your book to be unprofessional too. I'm sure their work is excellent, but as much as we all say 'don't judge a book by its cover' (about books and people), humans invariably do. Especially in a cavernous hall with eighty other authors competing for the finite amount of money in the pockets of the attendees.
On the plus side, not only did I sell books at the festival, but I bought one as well - 'The Psychology Workbook For Writers' by Darian Smith. He had great signage, was standing up, and was engaged with the attendees. I've started reading it. The chapter which starts on page four is titled: Blame The Parents... #fate
I'm excited about next years New Zealand Book Festival. I think it will go from strength to strength, and I'm honoured to be part of it.
This is a blog post about how to sell books at a book festival. I'm going to break it down into seven easy steps:
1. Book a stall. You'd think this was obvious, but last year, one errant author stomped around the NZ Book Festival asking if he could join someone else's table, anyone's table, as he hadn't organised himself a stand (and didn't want to pay for one). Don't be that person.
2. Have copies of your book available for sale. Fairly self explanatory. But, some people don't... I'm a firm believer that people go to book festivals/fairs to meet authors, and to buy copies of their books, which they then see the author sign - usually with a dedication. I know that's why I buy books direct from authors at festivals, or am happy to stand in a queue for two hours for a signature & photo (David Walliams!)
3. Unless you ARE David Walliams, you are going to need more than just a trestle table. A simple white sheet works wonders. No one wants to see the cartons under your table. A vase of flowers perhaps? A professionally printed sign saying who you are and what your book is. Something on an artists easel behind you? BUSINESS CARDS. You want to draw in the eye of the passersby. You have to make it easy for them. Most people are shy, and won't necessarily ask you what your book is about, or even how much it is. Signage is an easy fix. Invest in something professional.
4. Money matters. Have you got change? Lots of change? Do you have an EFTPOS machine (or another electronic payment system). How often do you carry cash? Do you think the attendees at the book festival will all be carrying cash? They might have $30, enough for one book maybe, but probably not. Make it easy for them, and you.
5. Gift with purchase. Ah, those are three lovely words aren't they? What can you give away with your book to make the purchase of it that much more enticing? A bookmark? A free novella? A book bag? Sweets? The list is endless, and should align somewhat with your book - if you can.
6. The right attitude. And yes, this includes dressing the part, and I don't mean dress ups. Are you schlepping around the festival in jeans and a singlet? Or are you wearing smart trousers or a skirt. Have you brushed your hair/done your teeth? All fairly benign things, but gosh it makes a difference to how you are perceived by people who don't know you or your book. You know how we all judge a book by its cover? You will be judged by your personal presentation. Make an effort. You're there as a serious author, selling your books, trying to gain traction in a market full of other authors doing the exact same thing.
7. Smile. Also self explanatory. A smile goes a lot further than you think.
I will be selling my books at the New Zealand Book Festival on Saturday 5th November from 10am-4.30pm at the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall, 487 Dominion Road, Mt Eden (across the road from Potters Park).
I would love to see you there, sell you a book or two, and sign them for you. xxx
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.
10 March 2014
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.
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
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