I’m so excited to be back on Expat Bookshop with the launch of my first novel, Mental Pause. After dipping my toe in the fiction pool I have to say I really like it. I guess you could say I took to it like a duck to water. I even started dreaming about my characters and my best plot twist (in my opinion) came in a dream.

I totally get why people tend to stick to the same genre. My first book, @Home in Dubai (Summertime Publishing 2011), was a non-fiction and even though there are some commonalities between genres, there are definitely different strategies when approaching the writing of each one.

A Structured Approach

Writing @Home in Dubai was a more prescribed approach, which I love when it fits the project (and my mood). I started with a chapter outline, a flow of the elements for each chapter and a survey that was sent out to expats living in Dubai to gather quotes and anecdotes for the case studies that would be included at the end of each chapter. Then came online research, gathering online references and resources and writing about my own experiences that related to each chapter topic.

Even when I start with a very structured approach it’s not long before my thoughts are jumping all over the place. For someone like me, it’s a real relief when you start with an outline, because if your mind jumps ahead you can simply turn to that particular part of the outline, dump your thoughts and then not worry about losing them when it’s time to flesh it out. It really keeps you on track, especially if you have a deadline.

Lessons Learned

Writing @Home in Dubai helped prepare me for writing my novel. First, it showed me I could write a full-length book and how critical it is to have an outline, even if it’s sketched out on a napkin or on sticky notes all over your walls and also how important it is to have a writing schedule. If you slot it in on your calendar and stick to it, progress will be made, I promise.

We had just moved to Thailand and I had time on my hands (in between promoting @Home in Dubai) and it just so happened to be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I decided it would be fun to turn what began as just my peri-menopausal mad ramblings that were helping me cope with my ‘change’, into fiction and have some fun with it. Initially, it was just random thoughts but then I realized if it were ever going to take shape and if I was going to meet the NaNoWriMo deadline, I would need some type of outline and storyline. I took a deep breath and laid out a tentative plotline. It helped tremendously but it did change as the writing progressed and my characters wanted things to go in a different direction!

Another really important lesson I learned is that even when writing fiction, research plays a role. In order to make your story believable, you must base it on fact. I researched the medical side of extreme menopause as well as courtroom procedures in the US (as the book is based in Massachusetts and revolves around a murder trial).

Switching Voice, Style and Perspective

I believe one of my strengths as a writer is being able to adapt my writing style to the situation, the audience and the communications vehicle. As a freelancer I switch from writing travel articles to developing social media messages to writing web content and maybe a character description for my next novel. It’s almost addictive and works well for me. I think my brain clicks onto another gear, like a mountain bike, sometimes naturally as needed and sometimes forced. Some people don’t like to switch gears at all but my mind can tend to wander when I’ve been working on one particular piece for a while. The only way to deal with it is just to give in, work on something totally different for a bit; or go for a walk, do some yoga, read for pleasure, and then come back refreshed!

Switching genres is not for everyone but every writer has to find their own rhythm and roll with it. I love my clients and I love my characters (now that I’ve been bitten by the fiction bug) and I’m not ready to give up either one.

Mental Pause Final Cover 72About Mental Pause: Abbie Slocum, a forty-something, average, middle of the road, housewife and mother of teenage twin boys, tries desperately to keep her outwardly idyllic life together while spiraling into a dark pit of menopausal insanity. Her mind races with suicidal, murderous thoughts so outside of her normal character that it frightens her. The only person she can share the graphic images from her hormonally addled mind with is her best friend, Rachel, recently separated, and the mysterious and titillating Joan, a new friend from Rachel’s singles support group. Women have survived this female passage of life since the beginning of time! Why was Abbie having so much trouble handling it? As the battle to maintain her sanity rages on, Abbie, Rachel and Joan stumble into unfortunate, borderline comical, circumstances that lead to wild nights, experimenting with drugs and two suspicious deaths. Abbie’s cop husband, Conrad, tries desperately to understand what’s happening to his normally sweet wife. While vying for promotion, his family gets embroiled in a media frenzy that swirls around a murder trial in which Abbie is the primary suspect. Abbie takes the reader on an old jalopy ride of uncharacteristic outbursts and wild escapism that leads to tragedy and finally, into court where she just might have to plead ‘temporary insanity’.

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