Sunday, 26 October 2014

Guest post by Liesel Schmidt - author of Coming Home to You

I am delighted that Liesel Schmidt, author of Coming Home to You has written a guest post about her experience of writing her debut novel. Thank you to Liesel for taking the time to write this. I often wonder what it is like to be on the other side as the person creating the characters and the storyline, This has really given me a feel for it. Perhaps one day I may be brave enough to have a go at writing something myself!

If you haven't already read her book I would highly recommend it. My review is here

Can You Feel It?

Liesel Schmidt

I’m going to be perfectly candid and admit that this whole experience has been quite surreal. I feel a but as if I might be using that word far too often these days, but I don’t know quite how else to describe it. It’s surreal to know that you’ve written a book––from start to finish––and that people are actually willing to read it. It’s surreal to know that it’s been published, that it’s out there for the whole world to see and experience. It’s surreal to realize that a goal and a dream have finally come to fruition. Maybe one of these days, I’ll have another word to pull out of my hat, but right now, this is all I have.

That, and honored, simply for the fact that I’m grateful that someone saw beauty in the story I told and that they took the risk and the time to put it out there. You reach a point in this whole process of book writing that one more letter or email from an agent couldn’t possibly be anything other than a rejection, a one-lined, canned assassination of your work. You dismiss them before they’ve even been opened, so accustomed to that rejection are you that you’ve grown past the point of allowing yourself to hope that this one might actually be THE ONE!

I think, for any author who truly connects with their work, that writing a book––even if it’s non-fiction––is extremely emotional, so this whole process is actually one that puts them in a vulnerable position. The characters you create are part of you, even if it’s only in some small way. I think they all represent different facets of your personality and your history. Their story is your story, reimagined and divided into these people who live only on the page. You have to be able to imagine them and breathe dimension and life into them, so as you write, you feel. It’s taxing, sometimes, the way that writing some of the characters effects your mood. If they hurt, you hurt. If they’re afraid or overwhelmed or joyous, you feel all of those things. You have to. There’s no other choice––because if you can’t feel it, your readers won’t be able to, either.

By the same token, for a character to be more real and relatable, you have to let them lead. If it doesn’t seem to happen naturally, the writing suffers and the characters seem too contrived. Real people and real life are unpredictable, so even when you’re the writer, I think it’s important to be surprised by some of the things your characters do. There must be a certain concept in place, yes––but it shouldn’t be so rigid that they never stray from the straight line of “the plan.” You have to let them inspire you and surprise you; you have to be interested in knowing them more––otherwise, your readers will never experience any of that, either.

I think it’s that true connection that makes a book successful. No one wants to read a story that feels flat and formulaic. No one wants to be able to predict, step-by-step, the outcome from the very first page to the last. Life isn’t like that, so neither should a book be like that.

These were all things I learned as I wrote Coming Home to You. I found myself lost in the lives of my characters, surprised and angered and excited at things as they unfolded. There were days of exhaustive grief as I wrote portions of it, days when I felt some unexplainable sense of hope. My emotions poured out through my fingers as I typed creating a world that seemed so real to me that, as I neared the end of the story, I began to miss.

I hope that the book is one that readers will love and embrace whole heartedly. That they will see bits of themselves in the characters and that they will realize the ultimate message of the story––that unimaginable gifts can come from grief, and that life is full of  purpose.

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