Recently I was honored to be asked to be a guest on the Live Happy podcast. They wanted me to talk about Creativity and how / where it fits into life, and furthermore, how it contributes to happiness. Luckily, that's sort of my mantra - I'm happiest when I'm writing. And now that I've made it firmly part of my life, balanced between kids, work, husband, dog, house, friends (not necessarily in that order), etc. I'm not letting go. Making time for myself and my creativity is key to the rest of my life. If you have a few minutes, check out the podcast!
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A week ago I had my first visit - as an author - at a book club in my town. Having been a member of book groups, I know generally what to expect: conversation, laughter, wine, apps or sweets, and a book discussion. Sometimes people read it, sometimes they don't. Either way, members return for the group camaraderie. And the wine doesn't hurt. I didn't know anyone, only that they lived nearby and I'd likely passed them at Whole Foods. I felt like I was dressing for a date. I rang the bell. The door opened and I was welcomed by a welcoming, warm group of nine women.
I felt like I was on stage when I first walked in, but their smiles diffused my nerves and as soon as I sat in their circle it was as if this was my own book club. We laughed. Talked about kids. And then discussed Nation of Enemies. I loved hearing their thoughts and answering their questions. They asked about my writing experience and the process of getting published. We talked about the state of the world (the Paris attacks had just happened), and the refugee crisis. About how my book has an eerie, prescient quality, that makes the "near future" of 2032 feel too close for comfort. One of the women told me about how her fourteen year-old son had read and loved Nation of Enemies. Many of them said their husbands would like it and they planned to share it with them. All this news was heartening. I love learning that I've written something that appeals to a broad age range and to both sexes. I wrote a book I loved, without thought to my future readers, so this is sheer luck.
Evidently, their group often has authors visit with them. Feeling flattered by all their positive feedback, I asked if they always say that they love the book to make the author feel good. They swore they don't, and that they simply don't "gush over" the novel if it wasn't a good fit for them. One of the women said that it was the first time in eleven years they've all agreed on and loved a book. I was on a serious high.
Warmed by wine and chocolate cake, we wrapped up the evening by taking a selfie (don't you want to join this group?!). I left buoyed by the experience, smiling all the way home. And I wanted to do it again. Now I'm on a mission to find other book clubs to visit. If you have one and are interested in reading Nation of Enemies, please let me know! If I'm not local, I'm happy to Skype or FaceTime in to your meeting. I can't think of a nicer way to interact with readers.
When I began writing Nation of Enemies (NOE), I asked myself, where do I like to go? What do I most like to do? And what would make me STOP going to those places? This was pure imagination. Creativity. These are not questions I want to contemplate in reality. And yet.
I'm not psychic. But evidently I have an overactive (and frightening) imagination. In NOE. schools are used as weapons until the government moves them to an online system. Concert venues, restaurants and stadiums are attacked. People shut themselves away in fear. It's understandable, isn't it? We walk out the door and enjoy the fresh air, laugh and dance with friends. And shouldn't we be able to? Yes, we should. And yet.
Have you read that ISIS used a game within PlayStation 4 to communicate and plan their attacks? This made it difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to decode their messages and track their movements. In NOE, BASIA, the main terrorist group, uses an online game constructed just for that same purpose. I wrote that three to four years ago now. It gives me chills. Makes me nauseas to think about. Yet it is reality, and painfully so.
My heart is in Paris and with everyone around the world affected by the recent attacks. It's unimaginable. And yet. May the men and women who fight for our right to dance and celebrate life in the light of day have more creativity and more imagination than our enemies. Peace to all.
As a debut novelist I've had to embrace twitter in the search for potential readers. It's *amazing* how many people are on there, in case you haven't heard. Recently I received notice that I had a new follower. The handle was @dacadoo and the tagline was "the Health Score and Life Style Navigation company. Helping people lead healthier, more active lives." Curious, I visited the site. Well. Clearly THEY don't think that using a number system to rate people is dangerous - they even have a Corporate section, and I can only imagine corporations embracing the system. Who doesn't want healthier workers? Healthy = profit. When I first started writing Nation of Enemies nothing like this existed, just the VeriChip, which is one of the seeds that helped me to "see" the future I was creating. Now, not so many years later, the rating has begun. I don't know about you, but I don't want anything to do with a number that categorizes my health. Do you? I'm afraid my MedID number would be under 75 and I would be on a ship to London...
Though my book signing caused a hand cramp, I'm not complaining. I'm proud and excited to say that Newtonville Books sold out all their copies of Nation of Enemies by the end of my release party. At first, I was nervous when the owner of the bookstore, Mary, introduced me and I stepped behind the podium. There was standing room only and I recognized many in the sea of faces. How lucky I am to have such supportive friends and family. Speaking of which, my mother-in-law helped to break the ice when her phone went off (loudly) when I began to speak. Who knew all I needed was an inappropriately-timed cell call to break the ice?!
For this blog post, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking. Most are from the party and a few are selfies sent to me when readers' books arrived. Until next time...
Happy Thursday! Today will mark a milestone for me. After years of writing - a seriously committed relationship with my laptop - I will step in front of a crowd of people in a public place and read from Nation of Enemies. I'm working hard to concentrate on being excited rather than nervous. Right now I'm blocking out the construction workers hammering and sawing around me in my house that's being renovated. Also ignoring how I threw out my back yesterday after sleeping on it wrong (yes, sleeping). So I'm smiling to myself (=endorphins) all day and I'm going to play that old song with Fergie in it "I got a feeling" that will pump me up before I take the stage. It's all good. Now if I only knew what to wear...
As Nation of Enemies hits the shelves (that was fun to write!) please send me selfies with the book! I LOVE to see them and I want to start a collection. Thinking a wall of selfies would make a great background for my site. :)
As always, thanks for reading! Remember to send me your selfies. And if you're anywhere near Newton tonight, please drop by Newtonville Books at 7pm (10 Langley Road, Newton Centre 02459). Happy reading people!!!
Along this circuitous publishing journey, I've been doing Q&A sessions with book bloggers. Sometimes the questions are about me and my writing process, sometimes the book. And sometimes they have nothing to do with anything, but are just plain fun. So...in the name of fun I'm sharing some of these questions:
What are three things people may not know about you?
1. I once played spin the bottle with Nicolas Cage and Roman Coppola.
2. Because of a near drowning incident when I was a child, I didn't learn to swim until I was 34.
3. I've driven cross-country twice. Three times if you count the time my whole family moved from Massachusetts to California on a Greyhound bus when I was six.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An actress. My parents were very encouraging, despite my early performances in musicals and I can tell you right now that I have no business being in musicals. Oh, but I loved them. So when I actually did grow up and attempted acting (2 years in L.A., acting on rare occasion, waitressing all the time), I quickly learned I had no desire to be judged on my appearance the second I walked through a door. Also, turns out I don’t like to be in the spotlight. It was a childhood dream gone awry! But I have no regrets.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
It was a process, actually. In fifth grade I had this amazing creative writing teacher who I remember vividly. Long hair, wire rim glasses, lanky. He had us call him Victor. Through him, my interest in writing was sparked. But it wasn’t until years later, after writing only journal entries, that I began to think of stories. When I was 28 I wrote a screenplay, which was a finalist in the Massachusetts Screenwriting Competition. That boosted my confidence and I started thinking of writing novels. I took a class at GrubStreet (a great writing organization here in Boston), and one thing lead to another. Before long I was writing a novel (my first, still on my hard drive!). It’s hard to say exactly when I knew. Perhaps it was fifth grade. Or maybe it was later, when I couldn’t stay away from my computer.
What inspired you to write "Nation of Enemies"?
My inspiration was a five foot tall, white haired eighty year-old named Beatrice. About ten years ago we were talking and she was recounting the story of her family fleeing Poland during WWII. Everything and everyone she knew was suddenly gone. The houses and streets were empty. Regardless of their hopes and fears they had to escape. In what must’ve been a whirlwind, they emigrated to the United States. Now, I’ve heard stories about WWII, seen the movies, as we all have. But something about her story resonated with me. She looked directly into my eyes that day and asked, “Imagine that? Everything you know, just gone one day?” And I did. I brought the war home to the United States. Imagined people emigrating en masse from this powerful, “safe” country of ours. And Nation of Enemies was born.
What is your editing process like?
I try (desperately!) not to go back and revise until I have a first draft. Sometimes I will, but only if it’s something major that has a ripple effect in the book. I’m in an amazingly supportive and highly critical writers group. I submit about 25 pages to them every month, and when I’m finished they read the entire manuscript. Once I receive all the feedback (along with my own notes I keep throughout writing, things to go back and check/fix), I begin revising a second draft, working out the kinks in the structure and refining plot as well as characters. My writers group gives it a last once-over to catch any major issues. Then after a final revision and read-through, it’s ready to be sent out!
Who is your favorite character from your book?
This is a tough question. I actually started out writing the book from the perspective of Hannah, who now is more of a background character. But I knew her voice right away and I feel deeply for her. I also love Jonathan. And Cole. And Sebastian. And Steven. I don’t think I can commit to one!
Tell us more about your book.
It was a three-year love affair with that manuscript. I never got bored, I loved my characters and both lead and followed them on the journey. Living in the U.S., we watch war on TV, on the internet, read about it on different formats. But we’re all so far-removed. We truly can’t relate. When an act of terror does hit our soil we feel so shocked, so violated. But imagine if this were normal. Imagine we lived in countless other countries where they wake up and simply live amidst the death and destruction because they must. I imagined this for us, made the setting my hometown of Boston. It scared me. And I thought of the situation from all sides. How would the government react to war on our soil? A regular family? A teenager? The questions kept coming, and I didn’t stop answering until Nation of Enemies was complete.
How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
Since I work part-time and have young kids, I have to set aside time for myself to write. And I have to be very regimented about it. I write on Fridays while the kids are at school, plus two hours on both Saturday and Sunday every weekend. During that time, I don’t answer the phone or emails. I always hope that wifi goes down to ensure no distractions!
Why did you choose suspense/thriller as genre to write in?
I didn’t. I’m sort of an equal opportunity writer and reader. At the heart of any book I love, there’s a good story with good characters, people you root for. I started out writing about a young girl caught up in a war in the United States. I ended up with a thriller, the center of which is the girl and the war.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Make time. No one will give it to you. It should be a priority so be sure and schedule it on your calendar. Don’t answer your emails or phone calls or texts. Even if it’s just an hour or two once or twice a week. Be devoted to your craft during that time. Even if it’s research or playing around with an idea, it will open your imagination and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what happens.
Do you have a dream cast for your book?
Oh, fun question. I couldn’t choose for some and had to list two! Here goes:
Dr. Cole Fitzgerald: Matt Damon
Lily Fitzgerald: Amy Adams
FBI Agent Sebastian Diaz: William Levy
Taylor Hensley: Jennifer Lawrence
Richard Hensley: Gary Oldman or Ralph Fiennes
Jonathan Hudson: Logan Lerman or Dylan O’Brien
Steven Hudson: Edward Norton or Robert Downey, Jr.
What has been your greatest pleasure in writing Nation of Enemies?
My writing life has been very private, almost secretive for years. People I’ve known for ages had no idea I write. I was apprehensive about sharing my work initially - writing is so personal, you really are exposing yourself when you share it, like any art. I think my greatest pleasure so far is the overwhelming support I’ve received since the release of Nation of Enemies. Friends, family and strangers have reached out and expressed their love for the book. The feedback has been consistently positive and it’s been a great pleasure to finally be recognized my writing.
Yes, you. I am not holding a gun to your head, nor am I threatening you. But I did think this pic of Rick might get your attention. So, evidently there are millions of books out there. No, seriously. Between traditionally published and self-published books there are almost too many to wade through. And as a debut novelist I'm like a guppy. A baby guppy. Or a salmon, swimming upstream. (I think my husband's fishing is having an impact here.) Anyway, my point is, getting Nation of Enemies to be "seen" in the world is quite literally up to you.
It turns out that reviews are *everything*. Of course it's true - if I see a book with several great reviews, I'll give it a chance. Apparently Amazon will "recognize" my book when I have 35 reviews posted...so that's my goal. If and and when that happens, they will start to suggest Nation of Enemies in that space they say, "If you liked [INSERT TITLE] you may like Nation of Enemies."
So back to you. If you've read Nation of Enemies, please (please!) leave me a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Even if you give it one star, oddly, it will still be "recognized" in the Amazon algorithm. And you will help this guppy/salmon make it a little farther down/up the stream. Here are some helpful links on how to leave reviews:
amazon how-to link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201145120
goodreads how-to link:
Thank you in advance, people. It is greatly appreciated.