by Nikki Everts
A few random thoughts about how I came to be publishing my first novel at age 72.
I have always written – mostly for myself in journals where I bemoan my fate, rant against those closest to me and try to sort out the confusion of my life. These journals are confined to a dusty box and while I dread the thought of my children reading them when I’m dead, I cannot yet bring myself to throw them away. They are embarrassingly dull and depict a person going round and round the same mulberry bush of problems year after year. However, writing down my thoughts and feelings when I knew no one would be watching gave me a fluidity and freedom in writing that has been very helpful. So when the real authors advise us newbies to just keep writing, they are on to something.
I’d still be writing only for myself if it weren’t for writers’ groups, gatherings and workshops. The first one I dared to participate in was led by an off the wall, erudite bibliophile named Gord Jones who made me believe that my writing was worthy of being read by others. That gift of confidence gave me the impetus to actually write one of the two stories I’d been playing around with. A novel writing course offered at a local college was my next step. The teacher insisted at our first meeting that we break into groups based on genre. Naturally, I panicked – I had to choose between my two darlings: mystery or sci-fi? I simply could not decide. Then a woman burst into the classroom late. I immediately liked her and she sat down beside me. She had no qualms about choosing a genre – mystery it was. And there you are; my decision was made. There were three mystery writers and we persisted meeting together long after the course was over. Those monthly meetings motivated me to keep writing chapter after chapter, if only to have something to read to the group. Although I enjoy the process of writing I am not disciplined and need extrinsic motivation. So, know yourself and put in place whatever you need to keep walking, running, crawling or limping towards your writing goal.
I’d imagined the life of a writer in an ivory tower sort of way. Perhaps this works for some, but the encouragement, feedback and contributions of others have made my writing much better than it ever could’ve been had I gone it alone. The novel I just published with Arboretum Press, Evidence of Uncertain Origin, began thirty years ago when, for reasons I do not remember, I daydreamed a vivid scene that became the climax of the story. I spent a very long time figuring out who the people were in the scene and how they got there and what happened to them afterwards. The story shifted and morphed as I shared it with others and became a better story than the one I started with. I know it is terrifying to share your writing with others – it is a tender shoot of your very own tender soul – but taking the risk really is worth it.
Stay true to your story. Don’t take short cuts or try to be clever. Don’t fall in love with your own words. Integrity makes or breaks a story. If a sub plot or character or those well-crafted words do not harmonize with the whole, be ruthless and kill them off. You know the ones I mean.
I’m not sure I could’ve completed a novel any earlier in my life than I have now. I truly do believe that it is never too late to find out what you love to do and do it. So go for it!
Graduating in in 1969 from the University of California, Berkeley, Nikki travelled for several months, arriving in Montréal in April, 1970 where she lived until 1992. Nikki came of age in California during the sixties and held a sympathetic view of the Front de libération du Québec until the October Crisis. The events leading up to the FLQ’s kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte, the beauty of Montréal and the complexity of Québec politics inspired the setting and backdrop of Evidence of Uncertain Origin, Nikki’s first mystery novel.
Nikki lives and writes in Guelph, Ontario. She has self-published a book of poetry, connect dis connect with the help of Vocamus Press and developed writing workshops under the auspices of her small business, Scripted Images. She is working on a second mystery novel.
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