Lisa de Nikolits – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The Hungry Mirror (Inanna Poetry and Fiction), published by the Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series, Toronto. A review in the May issue of the Quill & Quire in Canada said: “Lisa de Nikolits’ first novel is an unconventional treatment of eating disorders, which are often presented in fiction as merely an adolescent phase. De Nikolits shows how such disorders can in fact continue into adulthood. The sufferer appears fully functioning, while in reality their body obsession permeates every facet of their lives.”

Doug O’Neill, Canadian Living Magazine commented; “In The Hungry Mirror, Lisa de Nikolits cuts straight to the bone and slices open the gut-wrenching hurts of a circle of self-conscious (and mostly self-critical) characters who are obsessed with weight and body image. De Nikolits takes us to the dark side of a Bridget Jones world where cliques of media-savvy women gather round the water cooler – but where real pain is exposed in broad daylight. The pages of The Hungry Mirror are a gluttony of references to bulimia, calorie counts, and binging, but de Nikolits’ real message is about cravings – cravings for self-acceptance, cravings for love.”

Tell us something about yourself.

Originally from South Africa, I have been a Canadian citizen since 2003. I have also lived and worked in the U.S.A., Sydney, Australia, and London, England. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and have contributed to various international anthologies. I have art directed on Vogue, Vogue Living, marie claire, and Cosmopolitan.

What inspired you to write this book?

This book started out as a short story 15 years ago and I have been working on it ever since. It seems to me that more and more women have concerns with body image and eating disorders, and these problems don’t vanish in adulthood. It appeared to me to be a little-addressed topic from an affected narrator’s perspective and I want to answer what I saw as a need.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

I took the book to Second Story Press in Toronto. They liked it but were looking for a more teen-based work. They recommended I take it to Inanna, which I did.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I have always written, from when I was very young. I have a number of first draft novels that I need to sculpt and fine-tune. The problem for me is not in finding interesting subjects or stories, its finding the time to make them into good books.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

The editing, sculpting, constant revisiting, the number of times one ends up reading and tweaking and editing a manuscript before its ready to go to press. I had no idea! It was immensely hard (but wonderful) work, getting this book from contract to print; working with my publisher, we polished and revised until we were both happy. This process took a good year, with constant work and attention. The hardest part was keeping a fresh eye when you have looked at something so often, and one does get tired. But then you say to yourself, this can be better, and you rewrite and fine-tune yet again.

How do you do research for your books?

I attend talks, I contact people from those talks, I read books, contact the authors, get permission to use their info, ask their advice, have them double check I have used the info correctly. I use online research, I go to the Toronto Reference Library, I scour magazines of all kinds, I ask figures such as doctors and physicians. If something looks interesting on TV, I follow up on that also.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

That the editing process is actually the start of really writing the book.

Beware of too much internal narrative and internal dialogue.

What are you reading now?

Butterfly Tears by Zoé S Roy
The Gospel Singer by Harry Crewes
Women’s Spirituality by Johanna H. Stuckey
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Where We Have To Go by Lauren Kirshner

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Stephen King, because he always writes a good yarn that pulls me in. I can taste the orange juice his characters drink at the local diner before the apocolypse falls.
Annie Proulx, for her characters, settings, storylines
Edeet Ravel for her imagery, her stories, how rounded and rich her characters are
John Steinbeck for the beauty of his words
Harry Crewes for his originality of thought

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I have two books that are finished to first draft.

West of Wawa is about a girl who emigrates from Australia in response to public humiliation and marital disaster. She finds a new life in Canada but before she can find any kind of happiness or security, she has to face a number of spiritual, romantic and psychological challenges. She travels across Canada on the Greyhound bus and whether she is running away or running to, she cannot know until the very end of her journey. A tale of modern heroism, with poisoned toads abounding.

The Corner of the Desert. This is a murder mystery set in Namibia. A busload of tourists traverse the harsh landscape and the intrigue builds as they respond to their isolated surroundings by indulging in their darkest fantasies. (A publisher in Toronto liked this but said it was too long – it is currently 800 000 words and needs to be cut in half.)

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

It’s incredibly hard work. In ways one cannot imagine. You have to have the endurance of a long-distance writer to stick it out. Lots of people say they do but they fall by the wayside. You need a certain kind of grit and determination.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

  • A book launch was held at York University, a good number of people attended, buying all the copies we had there.
  • I am doing a reading with a Women’s Group in Toronto on May 11
  • I keep people updated on reviews etc on Facebook and Linked In
  • The Quill & Quire reviewed the book – I am posting all reviews on my website:
  • In September I have a date booked to do a reading to Sheenas Group, a place of help and support for people with eating disorders
  • I am going to approach my local library to do a reading and signing
  • I have been checking local stores to see if the book is in stock (it can be ordered)
  • I am doing this blog tour with Women On Writing

And of course, if I come across any other opportunities, I will seize those – I am going to look for as many readings/signings as I can.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I update this constantly with reviews etc