Interview with Kerrie Noor

kerrie

Kerrie Noor is an Australian writer who lives in Scotland  and teaches belly dancing. She’s written a series based on that and has recently branched out into science fiction. She agreed to let me quiz her about her books, her writing style, and her process.

You write in diverse genres. Do you think about genre before you start writing? Do you write for different audiences?

Comedy is always the background; for me it seems to be part of my bones. A story starts with a funny scene or dialogue usually from a real-life situation or a cheesy film.  There is a reader I have in my head who I write for, she or he is usually listening with a drink at the bar laughing in the right places. I imagine myself telling him or her the story.

What kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night?

I write best in the morning. I often go to bed early, wake at five and that’s when the words flow and the problems melt away. I don’t do a daily word count except at the very beginning when I will try to write 1,000-1,500 words a day. I wake up and just write scenes and dialogue until 1,000-1,500 is done once. When I am at 30,000-40,000 words I stop and try to make sense of it all. I can write anywhere. Sometimes, I like to play meditation new age type music (from Youtube) while writing. 

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Sleep on it, do something else, usually clean, walk, write a blog, cry, drink, keep going (don’t really cry). I am used to getting stuck. But the best thing is to wake up early and write, it really is so easy to write first thing. Right now, I am at the end of a novel and I am quite stuck so I have printed it out and will read through it all. Actually, when I think about it, the ending is always the hardest for me. I think the ending I am working on just now is quite a painful piece, which is weird as it is a comedy book.

 Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

I had two agents when I started but nothing came of either. So I gave up and self-published my first book which sat on Smashwords and Amazon. I then spent time trying to promote by becoming a story teller/ stand-up comedian, and did a small show in the Edinburgh festival. None of which helped in any way, but was a lot of fun and I still have exaggerated stories in my head to write. It was only when I started Nick Stevenson’s course I began to understand digital marketing.

Talk a bit about your belly dancing books. How much is based on your life? Will there be more to the series?

More is based on my life than I first realised. I started to teach belly dancing at the end of a bad marriage. I was quite depressed and lonely at the time and terrified of leaving him and being even more lonely. I was also quite chubby and felt bad about my body, etc. Belly dancing changed my life. I was so passionate about it and I wanted other women to feel as I did. Sheryl’s Last Stand came from all those feelings.

The Downfall of a Belly Dancer, is more about living in a small place and how we as women relate to each other, and the loss of an ego.  I found when I first discovered belly dancing I became quite full of myself, my ego at times took some knocking and I wanted to write about that and used Nefertiti to express it, I hope with humour.

I have almost finished the third book in the series, Four Takeaways and a Funeral. Nefertiti narrates the story which is all about her pal Mavis. The story is about friendship, sibling rivalry, with a hint of curry…

I have plans for a fourth all about Sheryl again, she wants to become mum.

I have also just published the first in a Sci-Fi comedy series called Rebel Without a Clue. Lots of older women from another planet (Planet Hy Man) behaving badly.  It’s all about power, and what we will do to keep it.

And also, being the odd one out in a world you don’t understand even though you have learnt about it.

To learn more about Kerrie Noor, check out her website. The first book in the Belly dancer series is free on Amazon.

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18 Tips for Memoir Authors

memoirI’ve been writing a series over on my ‘other’ writing blog about genres. So far I have:

Today, let’s talk about memoirs. What is a ‘memoir’. According to Google, a memoir is:

…a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. An essay on a learned subject.

A lot of people confuse ‘memoir’ with ‘autobiography’. Sure, they’re similar, but with big differences. According to Linton Weeks (“It’s the ‘Me’ that Makes a Memoir an Incomplete Tale”):

“A real autobiography traffics in facts: a memoir relies on memory.”

That’s the core of it: If you write an autobiography, you must be accurate. You can’t claim you took the plane to NYC when no such plane existed. Autobiographers must fact check. A ‘memoir’–that’s based on your memory. You rely on that imperfect nine pounds north of your shoulders for data. Everyone understands the story may or may not be accurate, but it’s as you remember it. ‘Facts’ are as you remember them, which may be at odds with reality. There is no apology for that and much value in it.

Another form of writing that memoirs are NOT is journaling. According to those who journal (which doesn’t include me), these chronicle a life where memoirs often focus on one event of note in that life.

Some famous memoirs–

  • Elie Wiesel’s Night (true stories of fellow concentration camp sufferers during the Holocaust)
  • Irene Spencer’s Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamists’s Wife

Do you get the trend here? As a reader, we are less concerned about historic accuracy than how the person starring in the memoir handled events. What is it like to live in a concentration camp? How could anyone agree to wed a polygamist?

If you decide to take up this writing genre, here are some tips to help you excel:

  1. Make sure the topic of your memoir is interesting. Most people’s lives aren’t. True, the writer’s skill can make it so, but what will inspire readers to pick up the tome? You need a hook–maybe you’re Octo Mom. Maybe you raised George Will. The theme must generate enough interest to make people turn the first page.
  2. Write in first person, from the author’s POV
  3. The unique voice of the person telling the story should be human, approachable, and not sound like a ‘writer’.
  4. Write narrative non-fiction, but in story form. This is similar to creative non-fiction which uses the characteristics of fiction to make nonfiction more interesting.
  5. NPR’s William Zinsser says memoir authors should “think small” (you don’t have to provide all the details) and make a series of “reducing decisions” (same idea). And–‘be yourself’, ‘think freely’.
  6. Memoirs can be written at any time in your life, about any corner of your world. It need not sum up your existence, just that event.
  7. According to literary agent Barbara Doyen, a memoir questions “what happened and come(s) to some kind of new understanding or lesson learned by it. The author shows us how he or she was affected by this experience, how it has profoundly changed the way (s/)he sees the world. And by extension, reading the book will change the way the reader sees the world.”
  8. Sometimes memories are difficult to uncover. Heather Sellers, author of You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know, suggests you just start writing. It’ll come.
  9. Don’t worry about gaps in the history. That doesn’t matter in a memoir. Just get to the next part that deals with your theme.
  10. Understand that when you write a memoir, you will hurt people. It can’t be avoided. They’ll disagree with your memory and that’ll upset them. Be prepared.
  11. Can you get sued for writing your memories? Maybe you’re writing about abuse and the perpetrator’s identity will surprise readers. Yes, there are topics and reasons that could generate a law suit. Consider what you’re writing, your purpose, before publishing. Consider consequences and if you’re willing to face them. Consider whether you’d prefer to hide real names and focus on the event.
  12. In memoirs, ’emotional truth’ is more important than ‘factual truth’. Understand the difference.
  13. For many people, the one book they have inside of them is a memoir.
  14. Readers don’t connect with whining. Be substantive.
  15. You are the protagonist in your memoir, what William Zinnser calls the ‘tour guide’.
  16. Be honest. Don’t sugar coat, don’t tweak. Represent your memories honestly, in the raw. See what comes out.
  17. Know how to tell a story. Don’t include the boring stuff readers will skip. Only include the meat.
  18. Pearlsong Press’s Linda Wisniewski suggests using props to jog your memories.

What do you suggest? What works best for you when writing a memoir?

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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