|LISA DE NIKOLITS, AUTHOR|
Please welcome Lisa de Nikolits to the blog.
Caroline: Where did you grow up? Siblings? Locale?
Lisa: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. We lived an hour north of the city and had four hectares with horses and I enjoyed a wonderful time growing up.
I have one sister and she suffered the consequences of my book-wormish tendencies more than anyone – she was (is) very sporty and she was always begging me to play netball with her (she was captain of the A-team, while I hid under the bleachers and read). She recently sent me a photograph of the two of us when we were kids – she’s sitting chewing on a finger, looking bored and miserable, looking into the distance, and I’ve got my head down, nose in a book, happily reading, ignoring her entirely. I feel awfully bad about this now – now that we live so far apart (she’s in Australia and I live in Canada), I wish I’d played with her more even if I was bad at sports and hated them.
And now that I think about it, I wasn’t bad at all sports, just school ball-sports like tennis, hockey and netball. I loved swimming, and I did very well at show-jumping and I have my brown belt in karate (although that’s a skill sadly long-unused).
Caroline: It sounds as if you had a lovely childhood but were probably you considered a “bookworm.” Married, single? Children?
Lisa: I am a married bookworm without any children. I knew my husband and I were a match when he took me home to see his apartment and he opened the door to one entire room filled with books – and I do mean filled! It was amazing.
He and I sometimes take a day on a weekend to just lie in bed and read – it’s really great! Of course we don’t get to do it too often but when we do, it’s such a treat. Or we’ll read late into Saturday nights and into the early hours of Sunday morning and there’ve been times when we’ve gone out to all-night doughnut shops for just that right hit of carbs and sugar to see us through to the end of our books!
Caroline: My husband is a bookworm also, which is wonderful for me. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Lisa: I read a huge variety of books. Huge. Here are just a few that I’ve read (and reread) in the past few months…. THE WITCH OF BABYLON by D.J. McIntosh; THE ANTOGONIST by Lynn Coady; MY SISTER, MY LOVE, by Joyce Carol Oates; HALF-BLOOD BLUES by Esi Edugyan; A CENTURY OF SOUTH AFRICAN SHORT STORIES; THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM; COLD STONE JUG by Herman Charles Bosman. I read poetry, the classics, the dictionary, a book on synonyms – you name it, I read it!
As for all-time favourites; John Steinbeck, Annie Proulx, Charles Bukowski, Harry Crews, Mordecai Richler, Edeet Ravel.
I also love short story collections – I have such great respect for short story writers; they hone their craft like sculptors – not a single excess word. I strive to achieve that.
Caroline: One of my friends, Earl Staggs, has a great short story collection on Amazon, but I have trouble condensing what I want to say. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Lisa: I read, walk, knit, play the classical guitar, window-shop, daydream, make spirit sticks, celebrate the seasons and the various celebrations that come with them; I plant tulip bulbs, tend to my garden, ride my bike, paint Easter Eggs, decorate Christmas trees, hang Valentine decorations, celebration full moons (I just love a glorious full moon). I ruminate on new moons, I value the beauty that each season brings. I talk to my friends a lot, I eat Ethiopian food, I play with my cat, my Mom and I email a couple of times daily (she’s also in Australia)… I have an endless list really! I love taking long baths and a new bar of special soap is a joy as are scented lotions and candles. I love chocolate and make sure I treat myself well in this regard – not that I have to worry, my husband keeps me well-stocked!
And I just love every moment I get to spend with him. One of our greatest pleasures is heading out into the countryside in summer on road trips where we stop to photograph things and there was a while there where I felt the need for us to veer for every yard-sale and he obliged! I also do yoga and I recently discovered Bollyfit was just about the most fun ever!
Caroline: You definitely stay busy, and that’s good. I don’t understand people who are “bored” when there are so many choices. Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?
Lisa: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
Caroline: I love that quote and it's also one of my favorites! How long have you been writing?
Lisa: All my life. Really! I can’t remember not writing. Or not thinking about writing. I suffered from terrible insomnia as a child and so my Mom taught me to read from a very early age. I can’t remember not being able to read. Words were my friends when everyone else had gone to bed.
Caroline: My youngest daughter suffers from insomnia, and she reads a lot. Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
Lisa: My fantastic Apple laptop (MacBook Pro) is my writing partner. That, along with my Magic Mouse. They both help me to be super-speedy – they’re incredible time-savers and it’s like driving the very best BMW – smooth and fast! I’ve been working on Apples since their incarnation in the late 80’s (yes, I’m that old) in the design field and so I work on my writing on an Apple too, I simply can’t bear the clumsy contraption that is a PC! And yes, I offer my apologies to PC fans – I’ve just loved Apple for too long!
I definitely need quiet unless I am inputting corrections that I’ve made to hard copy. Then I need music and lots of it. And chocolate-covered peanuts.
I love a laptop because I move around the house to write. In summer I write in the sun-room or the living room during winter. I must edit in my study. Sometimes I write in bed. My laptop (covered in swirling glittery paisley decals) moves a lot! Her name is Uber Isis and she’s my ally!
Caroline: I do like my laptop, but I’m more a PC person in my study. Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Lisa: I’m both! I’m a panzer when I’m at my computer and I’m a plotter when I’m not! I plot on the subway, in the bathtub, on walks, while watching TV and then I get to my computer and I fire away!
Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?
Lisa: I definitely use real life as my starting point for my writing – but only as a starting point. Jeffrey Eugenides (THE MARRIAGE PLOT and THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) said (in a talk in Toronto) that real life is messy, and not dictated by dramatic events in the same way that fiction is. I take the shapeless messy clay of life around me, and life as I imagine it could or would be, and I use it as a medium from which to create a sculpture that bears no true resemblance to that from which it was plucked.
I think that this practice makes me a super-vigilant observer in life; I’m always on the lookout for some scrap or gem that I can take home and build a story out of.
Caroline: Yes, I think writers always collect kernels that could become stories. Do you set daily writing goals? Word count? Number of chapters? Do you get a chance to write every day?
Lisa: I make sure that I write every day. And even if that’s just a paragraph, I try to stick to it. Just one small bit, every day. I don’t worry about word count – I always write too long anyway! The main goal is to keep myself active by writing something, no matter how small.
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Lisa: Ah, many things. I hope they enjoy the read. I hope they relate to the characters. I hope they learn something about themselves and I hope that my books help them to like themselves more and forgive themselves for the times in life when things haven’t gone so swimmingly well. I hope that they like my style of writing and I hope that they think my books have value in this world.
Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?
Lisa: I’ve never been big on long-term planning. I’ve always thought that I just need to keep putting my one foot in front of the other, and working hard today, in this day and doing the very best I can, and hoping that God will smile upon me and that my efforts and my work will bear a fruitful harvest. I can’t really imagine thinking beyond that, nor do I think that it’s my job to think beyond that – I tell myself this daily; “just do your job today, do what’s needed today,” and if that means just writing a paragraph or doing a seven hour stretch on a weekend or staying up all night, or going back over my research – well that’s all I have to do – keep my chin up when the knocks come and keep doing my job. I have faith that the rest will take care of itself down the line. I really think that life is all about finding joy and gratitude in today. It’s hard because we are so encouraged to think about ‘when’ things are truly fantastic – meanwhile they’re really rather wonderful right now! And you know, when I started out as a layout artist creating real estate ads for a free brochure, I never dreamt I’d end up working for Vogue (Australia) but I did – and I attribute that to my just doing the best job I could, every single day, no matter how small or insignificant the task.
Caroline: That’s a terrific philosophy, and one that obviously works for you. Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?
Lisa: I’m in the process of rewriting and cutting my murder mystery novel. My wonderful publisher evaluated the book and they think it has potential, and have mentioned a 2013 publishing date IF I can make the grade of doing what’s needed to reshape it. So that’s what I’m working on right now – and I’ve been working on this novel for four years; I’m heading into my fifth year on it. I also have to find a new title and I’m stuck between a few options – maybe your readers can weigh in on the choices? That would be great!
Some background info: it’s an Agatha Christie type of novel, very long, with over twenty characters all told – they go on a trip across the Namibian desert and all kinds of mayhem unfolds…
Here are my (current) prospective titles:
UNDER THE SPELL OF AN AFRICAN MOON
THE WITCHDOCTOR'S HAT TRICK
AN ACCIDENTAL MADNESS
BACK AGAINST THE SUN
I hope your readers will tell me which one they like best!
Caroline: Each sounds intriguing. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Lisa: Never give up. Hone your craft. Take criticism with good cheer and think about what you can learn from rejection. There IS a hidden lining to every dark cloud and what looks like a blow can really make you stronger and can help you in the long run. Trust your creativity – if you need to rework something, don’t worry, the creativity will be there for you.
Caroline: Sage advice. Where can readers find your books?
Lisa: Amazon.ca – http://amzn.to/xY4d0B
Indigo.ca – http://amzn.to/w62lEB
Caroline: A fun fact that readers wouldn’t know about you.
Lisa: I always keep chocolate next to my bed in readiness for midnight ‘emergencies’!
Caroline: Clever girl! Something about you that would surprise readers.
Lisa: I was expelled from Catholic school – but I had to be reinstated!
The headmistress was having a ‘bad day’.
Caroline: Now there’s a story I’d love to hear! How can readers learn more about you?
Lisa: I have a website; http://www.lisadenikolitswriter.com/.
I’m also very active on Facebook and I post a daily quote on Twitter – I post the quotes in the morning and then say who said it in the afternoon. I love researching my quotes, I learn a lot.
Friend me on Facebook (I love connecting with fellow writers) or find me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/lisadenikolits
Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Lisa.
Readers, please return on the 7th for a review of Lisa’s current release, WEST OF WAWA (Wawa is a town in Canada). In the meantime, please tell her which title you think is most engaging for her mystery in progress.
Thanks for stopping by!