Ask Nichole Bernier - Wednesday, March 13th! discussion

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Ask Nichole!

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message 1: by Margo (last edited Feb 26, 2013 03:04PM) (new)

Margo (maothrockmorton) | 2 comments Mod
Welcome to the group! Nichole will be answering questions on Wednesday, March 13th! . In the meantime if you have a question for Nichole or just want to introduce yourself feel free to do so in this thread.


message 2: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Thanks for inviting me, Goodreads! I'm looking forward to our chat. Since the book came out last June, I've enjoyed email and Skype exchanges with readers in addition to travels to events in person. And now I'm looking forward to a new look for the paperback, and new essays and questions in the back to spur conversation.

If you'd like to read a bit about the inspiration for the book, which grew out of 9/11 without being about 9/11, you can find thoughts about it on my website here:

http://www.nicholebernier.com/2012/06...

And if you want to know what it's like to be a mom of 5 on book tour — o the glamour! the life transformation! — you might enjoy the candor of this:

http://www.nicholebernier.com/2012/09...

Looking forward to the 12th! Chat with you then.


message 3: by Becca (new)

Becca | 1 comments I loved this book and have recommended it to others. How did you develop the personalities of the characters? Your plot was wonderful; just when I thought I could predict what was happening, it turned out realistically that something else was the case. I can't wait to read your next book? Can you give a hint as to what it might be about?


message 4: by Kim (new)

Kim Galli | 1 comments I recently finished this book and really enjoyed it. It was a book club pick and we just had our book club meeting to discuss it. Can you please explain the character Michael? There are many mentions of Michael are they all one in the same. Is Michael form Aura Institute the same Michael that she dated in her Senior year of HS? Is he the same Michael she was sitting on the blanket with in Central Park in 2011? Is he the same Michael that asked her to pass the note in class? Is he the same Michael that sent her a note when her father died? Is he the same Michael that she met for a drinK? Our book club all had a different take on who Michael from Aura is.


message 5: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Becca wrote: "I loved this book and have recommended it to others. How did you develop the personalities of the characters? Your plot was wonderful; just when I thought I could predict what was happening, it tur..."

Thank you, Becca! Honestly, the characters developed out of my own curiosity a) about how well an obituary really represents anyone—all the invisible frustrations and fears and dreams that went unacknowledged; and b) the emotional environment of 2002, when it felt that after the terrorist attacks and anthrax and sneaker bombs and mad cow disease, anything was possible. Most of us moved on from that place of paralysis. But I was fascinated by creating the portrait of someone who could not.

My next project is about a woman who, obsessed with the truth about a missing child, travels to 1989 Moscow on a tour group that goes horribly wrong.

Thanks for joining the chat!


message 6: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (last edited Mar 14, 2013 07:38AM) (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "I recently finished this book and really enjoyed it. It was a book club pick and we just had our book club meeting to discuss it. Can you please explain the character Michael? There are many men..."

Great questions, and I'm entirely happy to answer them — but I'm a little concerned it might give away some things for folks who stumbled in here without having finished the book yet. So, I've sent you a private message — an am happy to do the same for anyone else who has specific questions about the end of the book. Fair 'nuff?

Note: After I posted this, Goodreads kindly taught me how to write and hide a spoiler. So here goes:

(view spoiler)


message 7: by Kerri (new)

Kerri | 1 comments Loved your book. I'm curious to know more about your writing routine. Do you set aside time each day to write? With small children, how do you balance motherhood and writing? Do you get preoccupied with needing to write even when time doesn't allow, or is it easy enough to carve out a chunk of time to write and then finish and go back to other things? Is there a special place you write- an office for example, or anywhere/anytime? Do you share your writing with your family/others as you go, or wait until it's completely finished? Thanks!


message 8: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Kerri wrote: "Loved your book. I'm curious to know more about your writing routine. Do you set aside time each day to write? With small children, how do you balance motherhood and writing? Do you get preoccupied..."

You hit it, Kerri....this is the million-dollar question for writers juggling kids and/or other work. Everyone I know is just trying to find a way to find the balance. I started the novel shortly after my third child was born, and in the beginning I’d write at night and in scraps of time while the kids were napping. I was a freelance magazine writer and didn’t feel right putting those work/babysitter hours toward something no one was paying me to write and might never see the light of day. Almost all my “free” time drifted toward the novel, and most of my other hobbies fell by the wayside. In a way, it was a good reality check on what really mattered to me. I learned I could live without ever running a marathon or having a gorgeous garden or being on top of the most fun TV shows, but I couldn’t not write.

I don’t necessarily write every day, because my habits are constantly changing as my five kids grow and their needs evolve. I aim more for a rough word count per week, something reasonable like 2,000 words, so I won’t be beating myself up constantly for falling short. I have some sitter time, but that also has to be used to drive my kids around to where they need to go. I have a desk at home, but I could hide inside the basement furnace and the kids would still find me to chat about dust motes. So I do most of my writing in a coffeeshop or in the library. Every few months my wonderful husband says “go” and I sneak off to a hotel for a night or a weekend, and write around the clock. And yes, if I were to show my early work to anyone, it’s him — and when I’m in far enough, to my invaluable writing group. No one else.


message 9: by Caron (new)

Caron | 2 comments Enjoyed your book and am looking forward to the next one about the missing child! I am part of the same book club as Kim and I am looking forward to your response about Michael!


message 10: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (last edited Mar 14, 2013 07:39AM) (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Caron wrote: "Enjoyed your book and am looking forward to the next one about the missing child! I am part of the same book club as Kim and I am looking forward to your response about Michael!"

Hi Caron! Here's the thoughts on Michael.

(view spoiler)

Thanks for joining the chat! It's a great and fun lead-up to the paperback release on Tuesday.


message 11: by Dolly (new)

Dolly | 1 comments I loved the book. One question: Is Michael (the Aura Institute Michael) the same Michael that Elizabeth knew in high school? Or was the name just used to make us think it was, until the end?


message 12: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (last edited Mar 14, 2013 07:40AM) (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Dolly wrote: "I loved the book. One question: Is Michael (the Aura Institute Michael) the same Michael that Elizabeth knew in high school? Or was the name just used to make us think it was, until the end?"

Hi Dolly,

Re. Michael:

(view spoiler)

Thanks for participating in the chat!
Nichole


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael (mtw1tter) I read the book in hardback last year and was impressed by it. Now that D's work is done, would there be any attempt to tell the story of her suffering friend burdened with the responsibility?


message 14: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "I read the book in hardback last year and was impressed by it. Now that D's work is done, would there be any attempt to tell the story of her suffering friend burdened with the responsibility?"

Thanks, Michael! Glad you enjoyed it. Do you mean, telling the story of Kate beyond the scope of the summer she spends reading Elizabeth's journals?

Many authors enjoy revisiting a character in a sequel or prequel, though I don't have plans for that. I did want to end Kate's story on a note of optimism for her, and for her relationship with her husband Chris, and for her thoughts about the responsibility that goes with friendship — being a more attuned listener.

I do have some extra chapters and scenes that got left on the cutting room floor. It might be fun put those up on my website at some point.


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael (mtw1tter) Please do put in the "unfinished work" of Kate on your website. I feel for Kate, given the literary device she had been labouring under, being the narrator and voice of a missing character.


message 16: by Holloway (new)

Holloway McCandless (hollowaymcc) | 1 comments Hi Nichole,
Congrats on the beautiful new paperback! I'd be hard pressed to choose between the hardback's twine and the new green dress, but the paperback cover is lovely (& trendy).
I, too, would like to know the answer to the Michael/Michael question (off-thread for spoiler reasons).
New question: has your writing process changed now that you're working on a second novel?


message 17: by Anna (new)

Anna | 2 comments Hey Nichole! Thanks so much for doing this! I read the book shortly after it came out in the summer. I have another question about writing process. Do you start at the beginning of the story and write straight through? Or do you skip around writing whichever part comes to you? Do you know how the story is going to end before you start?

Also, I've read that it took you 6 years to write Elizabeth D. How did you stay motivated to keep going without feeling like you were wasting your time? (I'm drafting a novel right now and fear I'm losing steam.)

Thank you! Can't wait for your next book!


message 18: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Holloway wrote: "Hi Nichole,
Congrats on the beautiful new paperback! I'd be hard pressed to choose between the hardback's twine and the new green dress, but the paperback cover is lovely (& trendy).
I, too, would ..."


Holloway, covers are so fascinating to me...I'm actually writing an article on them right now, and the role of the paperback in an age where a book has likely already come out in HC, audio, and E. I loved the twine cover too, but this new one pulls me (and, I suppose Crown intends, the reader) into Kate's bungalow loft. In fact, that loft haunts me so much now that I'm determined to build one in vacation house somehow, someday.

The process for my second novel is very different, because it takes place in 1989 Moscow and requires research, as well as tapping into my old journals and photographs from my time there. But like ELIZABETH D, it also involves alternating story lines — in this case, two time periods for the same person, and much more forward momentum of a suspenseful plot (less introspection).

But the core sensation is the same: writing about a passion. In this case, it's a woman who is driven by an obsession about a missing child to go on a tour group to the shaky terrain of 1989 Moscow.


message 19: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Please do put in the "unfinished work" of Kate on your website. I feel for Kate, given the literary device she had been labouring under, being the narrator and voice of a missing character."

Will do! Keep an eye on the blog on my author site. I'll probably do it in the next week or two. http://www.nicholebernier.com/blog/


message 20: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Anna wrote: "Hey Nichole! Thanks so much for doing this! I read the book shortly after it came out in the summer. I have another question about writing process. Do you start at the beginning of the story and wr..."

I could write about these topics all day. But the kids would never get picked up from their schools.

1) I had an odd way of writing this book; I knew I had to know who the Elizabeth character was, though she'd never appear in the book's pages in real time (just journals and flashbacks) because she's already gone at the time the novel begins. So I sat down and began writing her journals starting at age 12, and just never stopped. I wrote for months, hundreds of pages, before I wrote the backbone of the actual book, the story of Kate reading these journals to discover the surprising portrait of the friend she thought she'd known. Then I wrote the Kate story, weaving in the journal entries where appropriate — making the two stories dovetail with one another by subject matter and life experience and other relevant transitions. I tried to pick scenes and anecdotes that would show the ways they experienced similar events differently, but also the ways they had more in common than they'd thought but didn't realize it, making them like friendship ships passing in the night. Oh, and I only used a small fraction of those hundreds of pages of Elizabeth's journals. Because I needed to know all the tedious details that make up a life in order to frame her believably. But the reader doesn't need to.

2) The time it took to write the book. It was 7 years from beginning to publication; 1.5 years for the first draft, and then about another 3 years of revisions, both with my literary agent and then with Random House. There were absolutely times I got discouraged or blocked, and I did take 6 months away from it all after I had my fourth child. That time gave me the fresh perspective I needed to make the revisions necessary before getting a literary agent — interestingly, what broke me out of my stupor was a great and thoughtful rejection letter from a different agent. In case you're interested, I wrote about that here:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/o...

Thanks for the great questions, Anna, and good luck with your manuscript!


message 21: by P. (new)

P. Jo Anne Burgh | 2 comments Hi, Nichole!

I read your response to Anna, and I'm awed by the way you wrote Elizabeth D. It makes absolute sense when you set it out like that; in essence, you created your own body of research.

As an aspiring novelist struggling with structure, I'd appreciate your sharing how you chose to structure your book. Did you outline (before or after you wrote the journals)? Did you know at the beginning how you were going to weave everything together? Did you have a "goal" scene, or did you write until that scene revealed itself?

Thanks!


message 22: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Jo wrote: "Hi, Nichole!

I read your response to Anna, and I'm awed by the way you wrote Elizabeth D. It makes absolute sense when you set it out like that; in essence, you created your own body of research...."


Hmmm.... I'd have to say I didn't outline so much as timeline. I drew two parallel lines on a whiteboard to show a) the major life events of Eliz in her journals, and b) the timeline of Kate's stay on the island, what she'd experience there, and where Eliz's entries should "break in" to her narrative.

Originally, the book was structured in alternating chapters, as many dual POV books are: Kate, Elizabeth's journals, Kate, Elizabeth's journals. But my brilliant literary agent Julie Barer encouraged me to weave the whole story together to show the way Kate was responding to what she was reading. It was more than a little scary ripping the whole thing apart. Like leaving a half-finished 57,654-piece jigsaw puzzle and in a room with all the windows open during a hurricane. But I survived, and I don't think I lost anything that was irreplaceable.

As for how it would end, and "goal" scenes: Through all the revisions the novel always opened in the same scene (though my initial melodrama describing the bridge toned down), and the end changed hardly a bit through any of the revisions. About 3/4 through I knew how it would end, if not in exact words and setting, in tone. I don't tend to like endings that tie everything up in a bow, but I knew I wanted a sense of optimism for Kate.

Good luck gnawing on structure! I'm still getting it right in book #2, playing with POV and timelines. It's a fascinating topic that fills many a workshop, for sure.


message 23: by P. (new)

P. Jo Anne Burgh | 2 comments Nichole wrote: "Jo wrote: "Hi, Nichole!

I read your response to Anna, and I'm awed by the way you wrote Elizabeth D. It makes absolute sense when you set it out like that; in essence, you created your own body o..."


Fascinating! Thanks so much!


message 24: by Margo (last edited Mar 13, 2013 09:51AM) (new)

Margo (maothrockmorton) | 2 comments Mod
Hi Nicole! You can use the HTML to hide a spoiler but keep it within a chat. Just use < spoiler > write whatever you want hidden < /spoiler >. Using no spaces so it actually works. thanks!

(view spoiler)


message 25: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Ahhhh....very interesting! Let's try it here. Here's my spoiler answer to "was Michael at the end the same Michael Elizabeth dated in high school?"

(view spoiler)

If this worked correctly, all the spoiler information is included in the link above. What did you think, folks? Same or different Michael? Did you think Elizabeth was having an affair? Feel free to use Margo's spoiler trick to hide giveaways.


message 26: by Anna (new)

Anna | 2 comments Thanks for linking that article, Nichole! That was so sweet for that agent to share her thoughts with you. I'd like to think it happens more than we hear about. What was the process like when you got your current agent?

Also, totally unrelated, do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? What are your thoughts on that can of worms?


message 27: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Anna wrote: "Thanks for linking that article, Nichole! That was so sweet for that agent to share her thoughts with you. I'd like to think it happens more than we hear about. What was the process like when yo..."

She's a very hands-on agent — sinks her teeth into your work, helps revise it before making it available to eds at various publishing houses, which not all agents do. She's a whip-smart reader, so I appreciated her suggestions tremendously.

I own an ipad, but I prefer paper books by far, and rarely read e-book versions. I actually don't think e-readers are a can of worms: the more ways to read, the more readers and the more ways folks can read to accommodate their lifestyles (e.g. travel, economy of shelves in a home, etc).

The problem to me comes with the intellectual property and re-use of digital files. I need to read up on Amazon's new technology for selling "used" ebooks....To me that's nonsense, because a digital file doesn't degrade (dog-eared etc) the way a paper book does. And seems a sure-fire way to give publishers and writers a smaller piece of the pie, and a reduced way to make a living.


message 28: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Hey Nichole-
First, I loved ElizD- but I think I made that clear on Twitter :)

What I always thought about Eliz D- was how freeing it was to be able to write your thoughts, to have that kind of place you could be the real you?
But it always brings me back to the thought was "ElizD selfish in a way giving Kate the diaries? Knowing it could alter the way that Kate thought of her, remembered her- and with no way to understand/talk about more details than what is in the diary? Or was it the ultimate sign of a friendship- saying I trust you to read this, my thoughts, knowing that you'll know the right thing to do- and knowing that even if I reveal things you wouldn't have thought- you'll still love me, think fondly of me and still know ultimately what to do?"


message 29: by Nichole, Author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. (last edited Mar 13, 2013 08:14PM) (new)

Nichole (nicholebernier) | 14 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "Hey Nichole-
First, I loved ElizD- but I think I made that clear on Twitter :)

What I always thought about Eliz D- was how freeing it was to be able to write your thoughts, to have that kind of pl..."


Thanks for your sweet enthusiasm on twitter, Tamara!

That was one of the central notions that intrigued me — the push-pull of what it means to withhold information from those closest to us.

Is it the least or most selfish thing we can do to withhold burdens that will make other people uncomfortable, or sad? If you choose not to ask for help, are you shouldering things yourself so it doesn't weigh them down — or are you not trusting them to be of help?

Small spoiler insert here (because I just love this new text-hiding toy): (view spoiler)

Emotion aside, it's a fascinating human see-saw of giving, getting, and trusting and holding back.


message 30: by Caron (new)

Caron | 2 comments Hi Nichole,
Thank you for the two links!! Looking forward to reading them.


message 31: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Nichole wrote: "Tamara wrote: "Hey Nichole-
First, I loved ElizD- but I think I made that clear on Twitter :)

What I always thought about Eliz D- was how freeing it was to be able to write your thoughts, to have ..."


Exactly. Exactly what you wrote is so true! I'm wanting our book club to read Eliz D because I want to know what they think about the situation!

Thanks for responding!


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