An Australian author living in Norway

Tag: novels

NaNoWriMo. Again.

It’s November again, and for the second year running, I’m attempting NaNoWriMo. That’s the thing where you write a whole novel draft in thirty days. Okay, technically you only need to get to 50k words to “win”, but we call it a novel. Last year I wrote daily throughout November and December and completed the fourth book in my Eidolon series, but this time I’m attempting something completely new. And something I’m keeping completely under wraps until it’s finished, my agent has had a look, and we decide what to do with it. All I can tell you is that it’s contemporary (i.e. no dead people walking among us like those cheeky eidolons), and that I’m very excited about what it might become. For the first time, I’ve decided to write about something I’m personally passionate about—which is kind of terrifying.

Continue reading

Book slump

I have been so involved lately in the process of creating books, talking books, promoting books and so on, that I’ve suddenly began to flounder when it comes to choosing something to read for pure pleasure. With more books than ever flooding the marketplace, I’ve become overwhelmed by choice. There are so many books, being promoted by so many anxious authors trying to get theirs to the top of teetering reading lists, it’s harder than ever to find that gem in the rubble. I’ve been burned a few times lately by disappointing books, and it’s come to the point where it’s now really hard to make a decision to buy something, even after reading the sample. I have relatively little time for pleasure reading these days, and so obviously I want to spend that time reading great books.

So I throw the gauntlet to you, dear readers. Find my next book! I will purchase the book for my Kindle, read it and post my thoughts in a future post.

To help you, here is a selection of books I love, in no particular order:

  • The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • The Neverending Story – Michael Ende
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • Lovesong – Nikki Gemmell
  • Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • The Kitchen God’s Wife – Amy Tan

Of course there are millions of others, but this cross-section of my book collection might give you an idea of what I’d enjoy. By all means, if you are an author, recommend your own book. But tell me what it’s about and why I might like it. Leave your recommendations in the comments, and I’ll blog about any books I end up reading from the list, including why I chose them and what I thought of them – I’ll also post a review on Amazon.

Just so you know, I’m really not into horror, and not particularly fond of romance, though I don’t preclude books with these elements – I’m just not overly fond of the formulaic or gratuitous use of either.

Also, this little experiment doesn’t mean I’m going to turn this into a book review blog, I’m simply looking to get out of my current reading slump and will hopefully find something fantastic to entertain myself with, and subsequently tell everyone about. Vær så god, as we say in Norwegian (in this case, meaning off you go):

Sweet, complete

Last week I finished the first draft of my second novel, Sweet Alyssum. It was quite an exciting achievement, not least because I had been aiming to get to this point by the end of October and actually reached by goal two weeks ahead of schedule. On my final day of writing, I wrote 9500 words earning a lot of self-congratulation, followed by a painful bout of tendonitis. But it was so satisfying to be done, especially since the series is now two thirds complete (unless I decide to go for that fourth book that’s been niggling around in my head lately, insisting that it should exist).

Sweet Alyssum is the second book I have written for my series The Eidolon Cycle, but it is not the second book in the series. Why? Because there is no second book. There is no first book and no last book. The Eidolon Cycle is a non-sequential series telling the individual stories of three different young women whose lives are inexorably intertwined, even though each book is set in a different time period.

My hope for the series is that readers will be able to start with whichever of the books appeals to them most. From that point, each additional book enriches the others until the reader eventually has the whole picture. Additionally, readers will get a different experience of the world and its characters depending on the order in which the books are read. Loyalties may arise for some readers where others are firmly opposed to certain characters, depending on how much they know about each of them before their story arcs are complete.

I will now let the draft rest for a couple of weeks before rolling up my sleeves and getting down to tightening and polishing it up before sending it to my agent. In the meantime I’m working on two short stories for the Oslo International Writers’ Group anthology, and I will then begin work on the third, and perhaps final, Eidolon book, aiming to have it complete by April 2013.

As a little good news aside, I won the Bookkus Water, Danger, Humour short story competition last week. My story was chosen as the winner by voters visiting the site, who scored the stories out of ten on a star-rating chart. Overall, my story, Rocks in his Socks, scored an average of 9 out of 10. I couldn’t be happier with the result, and am looking forward to seeing the result in print early in 2013.

Genre matters

As long as there has been literature, there has been a desire and need to group it into categories. There is no officially agreed set of literary genres, and the more I become involved in the publishing industry, the more I realise that these days genre is as much about target audience and marketing strategy as it is about stylistic categorisation or plot type.

It seems that many publishing houses and literary agents are increasingly focused on categorising books by what they believe a given demographic will buy and read, rather than the contents of the books themselves. This makes it incredibly difficult for writers whose work crosses age, gender or racial boundaries and has potential appeal to a wider audience. You’d think wider appeal would mean a more saleable book, right? Not according to the experts.

Let’s take the genre currently known as Young Adult, for example. (Note: to me this has always been a ridiculous name for the age-group spanning the years between 12 and 18: since when is a twelve-year-old ANY kind of adult? But that’s a rant for another day.) The basic requirement for a Young Adult novel is that its protagonist is between the ages of 12 and 18 years (though 13 to 17 seems to be the best bet), and deals with the sorts of issues kids in this age range are interested in and go through themselves (or, if we’re going to be totally cynical, what older people think kids in this age range are interested in). While I believe there’s a very appropriate safety-net involved in this categorisation, (you can at least be fairly confident they’re not going to contain a lot of gratuitous sex, swearing or violence), to suggest that all people this age like the same kind of books is ludicrous. Do all people between 30 and 50 like the same books? So then a sub-genre system is employed; we have YA Contemporary, YA Fantasy, YA Sci Fi… and so on.

So what’s wrong with that? you ask. Nothing. Except that it pigeonholes both the books and the people who might read them. If you categorise books by life-stage, you’re saying that once you’ve completed a life-stage, you no longer have any interest in it, even for nostalgia’s sake. Or if you haven’t reached a certain life-stage, you can’t be interested in it yet.

Have you ever felt embarrassed because you enjoyed a Young Adult title, even though you’re in your twenties, thirties or older? I know plenty of people who were embarrassed to admit they’d read and loved The Hunger Games trilogy simply because it was classified YA. And yet, had the protagonist been just a couple of years older, it would have been marketed as Adult Dystopian, and those people would have been able to proudly proclaim how much they enjoyed it.

Then there is the lost genre, dubbed ‘New Adult’ by St. Martin’s Press in 2011. A ‘New Adult’ is someone in the approximate age range of 18-25, dealing with the pressures of becoming responsible for his or her own life for the first time. It’s a period in anyone’s life fraught with change, stress, excitement, adventure… all the ingredients for a great story. And yet, this genre is a black-hole according to a vast number of agents and publishers. Why? Because apparently 18-25 year olds don’t read.

Interview with Barefoot Basics

I recently got in touch with Rochelle Stone of Barefoot Basics, an Australian-based marketing company working to assist authors entering the publishing industry for the first time. She requested an interview about my novel, Amaranth, which has today been published on the Barefoot Basics website. I talked to Rochelle about the book itself as well as how I manage my time between writing, self-promotion and holding down a day job.

Vocal challenges

My current work in progress is proving quite a challenge, and one of the key reasons for this is voice. When I mentioned my struggles to a friend recently, he said he could always recognise my voice in my writing, and that when he reads my work, he hears my voice in his head. I tried to explain this wasn’t quite what I meant, but I realised he had a point. I began to wonder if it is actually possible to separate the writer from the writing.

Amaranth is written in the first person, and the narrator is a nineteen year old girl named Eva. If I’m honest with myself, Eva’s narrative voice is very close to my own internal narrative; I wrote her much the same way I would write myself. She has a dry, dark sense of humour, is given to pessimism (and melodrama) and can be quite caustic. It was quite easy to write from her perspective.

However, the next book in the series is written from a different character’s perspective, and though she is also a girl in her late teens, she is a very different character to Eva. She’s bright, bubbly, mischievous and though she has a dark past, she refuses to let it get her down. It was a complete shift in gears for me, and I’m glad I took the time to write some short stories in between novels so that I could cleanse my palate of Eva, as much as is possible anyway, given the points I made above.

The interesting part is that two chapters in, though I’m struggling to keep the new voice authentic through word choice and structure, I’m finding the best thing I can do is to adopt her mindset. Method writing, perhaps? In order to know instinctively how she would react and what she would say in any given situation, I need to think like she would. I’ve found it rather therapeutic to shift my brain into nothing-gets-me-down girl; I’ve stopped for a break a number of times and found that I’ve been unconsciously smiling.

Reading back through the chapters I’ve written so far, I have managed to create a distinctly different voice for this novel, and yet my writing voice is still in there. Perhaps there are writers in the world who are true chameleons and can write in a completely different voice from book to book, but I am not quite there yet. And yet… I’m not sure I want to be. Not entirely. When I pick up a book by a favourite author, I want to hear his or her voice in there somewhere. It’s like a trademark. No, on second thoughts, it’s more subtle than that. It’s more of a watermark. Something at the nucleus of the writing that stamps it as theirs, and without it, I wouldn’t be able to trust the unfamiliar book to deliver what I liked about previous works.

Ideally, I want to find a balance. I hope that at some point my work will have fans who don’t know me personally, and don’t know what my real-life voice sounds like. For those people, I would hope to create something new and engaging each time, but with an intangible familiarity that allows them to trust that they’re going to get a healthy dose of what I do, no matter who the characters are, what they achieve or where I take them.

© 2024 Zoë Writes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑