Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Hindustan Contessa

Why Do Authors Do What They Do? ~ A Living Example . . .


Unless you’re a writer/author (and, you can be an author without publishing) you may not know about all the weird and wonderful decisions we make during the process of turning ourselves inside-out onto the page

This is a special Friday Behind The Scenes post about the short novel Notes from An Alien which is still for sale and still free :-)

If you’re a person who can’t stand spoilers of any kind (some of these Friday posts have Hard spoilers {plot reveals} and some have Soft “spoilers” {background info}) I recommend you grab a free copy and spend a weekend (or, less) reading it.

This post has some very Soft “spoilers”

There are two reasons I make that recommendation:

— you’ll get more out of these Behind The Scenes posts and learn more about the writing process

— you’ll be able to ask Any questions you like about the book in Any of these Friday posts, in the Comments or by sending me an email

And, there’s a certain reader of this blog who happens to have read Notes from an Alien and happens to have written a review and happens to have already asked a number of questions in these Friday posts and just happens to be my Best Friend :-)

Her name is Jane Watson and I recommend you read her latest novel, Hindustan Contessa

Jane has given me a number of additional questions about my book so let’s get on with answering them:

* How did you prepare to write this book? ( you may have already touched upon this as a general explanation of your writing practice but perhaps you’d like to go into more detail regarding this book?)

I want to start my answer, Jane, with two quotes from my favorite secular writer, C. J. Cherryh:

“Where do you get your ideas? You inhale them, breath by breath, and stale air is just not good for creativity.”

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency–and don’t complain about the heat.”

The first quote covers the 20+ years of experience I suffered through to arrive at an awareness that I needed to write this particular book—mostly, time dealing with religion and spirituality and doing massive experiments to see what works

The second quote deals with the roughly two years from a clear conception of what Notes From An Alien should Do and the finished manuscript.

Notes deals with three Worlds’ journey to enduring Peace and the 20+ years of inhaling the ideas for the book taught me that the primary barrier to Peace is what Fundamentalists might call Sin, what sincere followers of organized religion might call Straying from The Path, and what New Agers might call Accumulating Bad Karma

So, I couldn’t ignore the Dealing with the Devil that “modern” culture shoves down our throats and there was ample evidence of many large Constituencies; therefore, I had to conceive a plan for the book that translated Earth Concerns into my Aliens’ Concerns—plotting and outlining

* Did the writing develop organically in a freeform manner or did you plan it?

Actually, Jane, both—I had a scene by scene outline but, by chapter four, the poor plan was bleeding liberally from the many small cuts made but a growing surge of organic writing

* You’ve spoken about some of the symbols and metaphors used in the book. Tell us a little about your choice of Point Of View and Voice.

Well, Voice just “happened” but came from the 20+ and 2 years of experiment and planning.

Point of View does tend to vary in the book—usually third person omniscient but sometimes third person limited and, for the most documentary segments, what I call third person formal. There’s also a bit of first person in some of the more dreamy scenes.

Again, though, the shifts in View just “happened”—driven by all the Inhaling of experience and the fevered planning

* I feel that some of the book has a very lyrical descriptive nature and some has a more pared back expository nature. Why do you, the author, think this dichotomy of style evolved? Does it serve a planned purpose or did the subject matter just lend itself to this?

Once again, Jane, the difference between lyrical and expository “got planned” in my unconscious during all the preparation then “just happened” during the frenzy of writing

* You cover a great many years in the book in a short space. Why did you not let it run out into a longer more epic work? Did brevity serve a purpose?

I didn’t realize the purpose of the brevity until the book was finished.

I just wrote what my Muse urged me to write

Then, after a few reviews, my previous knowledge that the book was, definitely, niche and would only appeal to a fraction of the ocean of readers became expanded from the awareness that the brevity or condensed nature of the book could facilitate a possible increase in readership.

It’s one thing to read a niche book, it’s quite another to have to slog through a long one

After Notes from An Alien was finished, I, the guy who’s somewhat like other folks, wanted it to be longer and more complex.

But, I, the guy who was the author, knew it was just as it needed to be

Of course, there was the aborted plan to write a collection of short stories that paralleled the novel but the post A Writer Discovers How To Say “No!” To Himself . . . explains how I dumped that project and began the series we are now experiencing, Behind The Scenes . . . :-)

Thank you, Jane, for posing those questions!

So

Anyone else want to ask any other questions in the Comments?
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Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

GRAB A FREE COPY of Notes from An Alien

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Author Interview ~ Jane Watson – Part Two


Jane Watson visited this blog back in November of 2011, gave us a great interview, and made us want to read her first novel, Hindustan Contessa.

Today, I’m proud to welcome Jane back for an interview that gets deeper into her writer’s mind and sheds light on the Process of Writing

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Jane, what are you working on now?

I’m working on a novel about literary theft—at least that’s what I tell myself it’s about,  but often, as I write, it does seem to me that the story I am making can often develop into something else.  I believe in a process of gradual linking of relevant parts of a story until the real story takes shape. OK, this is arduous, but what I’m trying to do in this process is to find the real story I want to tell, the authentic one if you like, which I may be doing my best to cover up.

It’s my experience that many writers have a wonderful story that they could tell but they go out of their way NOT to tell that story. I believe this is because we are often fearful of recognising our own true authentic self that the story contains; i.e., we are fearful of accessing our own Inner Worlds.

I’m telling this story of literary theft because I actually went through the experience of having an idea of mine—an image, specifically, in a photograph—used by someone else. There is no copyright of ideas but it was a betrayal of trust. In releasing this story, I am hoping that I’m accessing my inner fears and thoughts about this experience.

In my two readings of  Hindustan Contessa, I realized you go deeply into the different states of mind of your characters. What about the different states of mind you visit when you’re preparing to write and during the actual writing?

Interesting question. I do not think my grasp of words has changed much since I was about thirteen, (and, I suspect this is the same for most people) but I truly believe the *way* I think about those words has changed dramatically. Many people believe that writing is about getting down the right words I disagree. For me it’s about getting the right thinking going, specifically about accessing the Inner Worlds I mentioned before. To go into those worlds the writer has to be fearless and determined; but, above all, at peace with oneself in that moment. I believe anything a writer can do to help them leave the real world behind and make that peaceful meditative journey is beneficial—listen to music, meditate, drink tea, you name it… :-)

Please, Jane, tell us more about your conception of the Inner Worlds of the writer?

Well, I believe the most important task facing a writer is to access those worlds.  In his book, The Craft Of The Novel, the writer Colin Wilson says: “A story or a novel is a writer’s attempt to create a clear self-image” He also says “Socrates argues that each human soul already contains the knowledge of all things.” In other words, a writer, when they attempt to access those Inner Worlds, is also attempting to access their own true self and to explore that. This is probably why some writing teachers say: write about the thing that you would most like *not to reveal *—because in that process you will probably have to look inside in a deep and meaningful way :-)

Jane, your novel certainly used symbols in highly creative ways. Would you share your view of symbolism in your writing and, especially, in your preparations for writing?

To me writing, the telling of a story or narrative, is held together not by “plot” but by a network of images and metaphors. These provide the underlying emotional and organic structure of my ideal work. I suppose this is a rather architectural approach to story. My preparation for writing often involves pages and pages of mind maps of connected  images and lists of events with their corresponding symbols and images.

What’s your process of revision like?

Read it, throw some out, read it, throw some out Read it again, put some back, read it again, put some back You get the idea, lol. But seriously, for me, revision is about finding where the story connects with the underlying symbolism. I look for areas where I’ve been too general in my description, to improve it, and areas where I have no underlying image or symbolic connections. I do a lot of restructuring—juxtaposition of various parts of the text are critical. The work is like a collage in motion and it’s the connections in the collage I’m trying to create. E.M.Forster himself once said: ‘Only connect

Care to share some of your current feelings about publishing?

Probably unprintable But, I truly believe that if many of the famous names in the history of writing were trying to get published today [by traditional publishers] they would be ignored. Nowadays, the process of putting out a work of art, which may be a novel,  seems to have become less and less nurturing and more and more commercial and yet creative projects often have to go through a lengthy process before they are ready to be born—I think there’s a contradiction there. Initially, novels are not commercial products, they are creations, which are then merchandised. However, nowadays, I feel the first stage is often not encouraged because the conveyor belt is waiting for the product ;-)

You give us much to ponder………

Jane, thanks, so much, for coming back and sharing your hard-won writer’s wisdom—looking forward to your next book :-)

Synopsis of Hindustan Contessa

An Australian couple, Milan and Tillie, travel to India. Kidnapped by robbers and incarcerated in a cave, Tillie tells their story. Captured by her sexual jealousy and suspicions of Milan, Tillie nevertheless endeavours to help him come to terms with his own childhood spent with grandparents who held him hostage while his parents travelled overseas. Family intrigue and crises of identity follow the couple as they travel across India. Against the colourful backdrop of India and Venice, this novel tells a story of loss and rediscovered identity amidst magic, obsessions, goddesses and misconceptions in a land where reality and illusion seem to merge. Not just a tale of India but a story of people who try to exist in the global melting pot and for everyone who lives on the edge.

Jane’s WebSite
Jane’s Novel at Amazon US
At Amazon UK
At Booktopia
At Biblio
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
* Google Author Page

Some Reviews Feel Better Than Others


There are reviews and there are REVIEWS.

Even amongst all the good ones, there are those that make a deeper impression on the author.

And, there can be reviews that are good for the book but don’t make the author feel good

It’s even possible to like bad reviews, as was indicated in our post, Bad Reviews Are Good ?

As far as Notes from An Alien goes, the post, “Almost” “Reviews”, had me saying about a particular review, from a humble reader who struggles with the English language, that, “No writer could ask for anything more………

Still, a treasured review from a humble reader is different than a treasured review from another author—cherished in different ways.

There are a few reviews from authors on our Review Page but one was just released that has special reverberations

Jane Watson is the Australian author who wrote Hindustan Contessa.

You can read an interview with her here.

She is my best friend

Some may think that last comment “invalidates” a review of my book from Jane.

But Jane knows me, perhaps better than anyone; and, knowing something about the author can infuse a review with special insights.

I’m including her review here but also giving you the link to it at Amazon since it could help sales a bit if you went to the site and rated or commented on Jane’s review :-)

The Thinking Person’s sci-fi

“I loved this book. Notes From An Alien is a deep epic with many voices, which work together to create a concert of meaning, which is both instructive and profound. The book is quite ‘documentary’ in style and structure, yet the writing has intense lyrical moments which draw the reader in.

“The story, told through science fiction, expresses the belief that world peace is possible and can be everlasting. The writer uses a clever technique of telling the story as a history of a distant planet. Soon however the reader comes to realize that this struggle could be the history of Earth itself in the future.

“The plot turns in many remarkable ways but mostly the book seeds in the mind a desire to think about the worlds it describes and how they may have come about. The characters are finely drawn, not the least is the narrator, Sena, whose voice begins the narration in a most intriguing way. She has a poised intimate voice and her method of addressing the reader is arresting:

“‘I am a woman from a star system about twelve light-years from Earth. If you choose to believe me, my story might be considered a history lesson—how to achieve unity and peace—a lesson that Earth desperately needs. If you choose to not believe I’m real, my tale might be considered a science fiction story about how to achieve unity and peace—a lesson that Earth desperately needs… I’ll proceed on the premise that I am real.’

“How can we resist such an invitation to listen?

“She goes on to make the observation:

“‘And, even though I’m speaking to you now in what’s called first-person point of view, most of the story will be told in what writers call third-person omniscient, which means that the other people in this tale won’t be the storytellers. This is what writers on Earth use to give them more freedom of expression—jumping from an overall point of view to very personal views and back out, much like what a camera does in a movie.’

“Which is apt because, for most of the book, I felt the reader was watching the stories unfold in a cinematic fashion, so much so that I am hoping that someone does make this into a movie! This is Dune without spice but with plasma as a far more potent symbol of connection. In fact as I read on I realized that Plasma was one of the most important ‘characters’ in the book. The concept of plasma as a connecting force or medium is fascinating. I found myself on several occasions looking up the index of science-based books in bookshops looking for the word.

“This is the Thinking Person’s sci-fi, which is more speculative in nature than fantastical. The philosophy is about understanding the self as a part of a broader connected universal family. You are left with the conviction that the events it describes could happen and by the end Sena’s words seem like a prophecy and a warning. Go read it!”
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Author Interview ~ Jane Watson


[ Admin Note: Since this was written, Jane has moved on from Second Life and is creating new Worlds in Kitely]

When I first met Jane Watson, her name was Arton Tripsa. Well It still is and she’s still Jane Watson but Arton isn’t a pen name. It’s her virtual name on Book Island in Second Life.

Jane is the author and Arton is the manager of the Island. As an author, I greatly admire her. As a manager, she’s my boss.

I first spoke about my work as Events Manager in the post, A Virtual World, A Writer’s Mind, And Serious Business That’s Always Fun!, but since then, I’ve made more time for Book Island and Arton has become more than a boss—she’s a confidant And Jane? She’s still the author who’s book I carry wherever I go

[ Since we did this interview, Jane has returned for another interview :-) ]

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So, Arton, who is Jane Watson?

I am an Australian writer. My first novel, Hindustan Contessa, was published by Picador in 2002.

Jane, why do you write?

To find out, to access an inner world, to explore the possibilities of an image (because I think am a very visual writer), to process my experience.

When did you start writing?

When I was nine I wrote a ten page novel. It was called, very originally, Kidnapped.

So, this first book of yours

My first novel was published after Picador discovered it at a writers’ conference and gave me a contract on the basis of the first one hundred pages. Then I had to finish it in the next eleven months :-)

That kind of deadline makes me want to ask about your “writing habits”.

I try and write every day. Sometimes I don’t succeed but even when I am not writing I am thinking. I often use reading to inspire me. The writing life is an isolated life. It’s quite hard to arrange contact with other writers  to talk about writing at a time that does not interrupt your own writing schedule. For this purpose, I go into Second Life. It has become part of my writing habit.

Jane, please tell us about the book.

Hindustan Contessa is a novel set in Australia and India which follows the journey of an Australian couple, as they travel in an Indian car to meet the husband’s Indian grandmother for the first time, in his family’s ancestral village. The novel’s title comes from a particular car once manufactured in India, the Hindustan Contessa, which the couple travels in,  and which seemed to me a fitting image of a dual culture. This car, once made by Hero motors of India, was an imitation of a modern Western style car with a dash of Indian style. It attempted, I felt, to have a foot in both cultures. I wanted it to symbolise the cultural identity crisis that the main characters face.

What’s the source of your inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. Someone once said that a writer’s own life experience is like the piece of grit in an oyster, which the writer’s art and skill then transforms into a completely different and wonderful pearl. Then again, on a more sombre note, I have also heard it said that writing a novel is like driving a car without the headlights on!

Very apt analogy, Jane :-)

What’s your take on the literary community in Second Life?

Very similar actually to the real life one, because, after all, behind every avatar is a real person. I do feel that folks in Second Life are kinder and more generous in the way they receive a piece of work at reading/critique events. The other real difference of course is that the literary community in SL is more cosmopolitan and can provide many cultural perspectives.

What is the Writer’s Studio?

The Writer’s Studio is my office/shop on Book Island. On the lower level, information about my writing is displayed and, on the second, I can often be found writing at my desk. Folks often drop by there to chat with me and everyone is welcome.

[The link for “Book Island”, at the top of this post, will help you get to Arton’s Writer’s Studio]

Jane, what’s next?

I am finishing my second novel at the moment. It is about literary theft.

Thank you, ever so much, for taking time from your writing to give us some insight into your life :-)

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Synopsis of Hindustan Contessa

An Australian couple, Milan and Tillie, travel to India. Kidnapped by robbers and incarcerated in a cave, Tillie tells their story. Captured by her sexual jealousy and suspicions of Milan, Tillie nevertheless endeavours to help him come to terms with his own childhood spent with grandparents who held him hostage while his parents travelled overseas. Family intrigue and crises of identity follow the couple as they travel across India. Against the colourful backdrop of India and Venice, this novel tells a story of loss and rediscovered identity amidst magic, obsessions, goddesses and misconceptions in a land where reality and illusion seem to merge. Not just a tale of India but a story of people who try to exist in the global melting pot and for everyone who lives on the edge.

Jane’s WebSite
Jane’s Novel at Amazon US
At Amazon UK
At Booktopia
At Biblio
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com