Newsletter #August

Pamela Powers and the Thrill (er) of writing

Pamela’s journey to novelist started with an honours in drama studies from UKZN. It has taken her via Aids counselling, educational theatre, stand-up comedy, university teaching, TV directing and script-writing, to a masters in creative writing which she earned in 2006. Her first book, Ms Conception, began as part of her masters’ report and was published by Penguin in 2015.

Pamela is currently a script writer and editor for the popular SABC 2 soapie Muvhango. She jokes that she ‘fell’ into TV writing after her son’s music teacher watched a musical she wrote.

Pamela lives in Joburg with her husband and two children. Things Unseen is her second novel.

Clockwork: Things Unseen is quite a departure from your debut novel, Ms Conception. What made you change direction for your second book?

Pamela: I actually started with a kind of funny take on Fifty Shades, but ran out of steam after about 20 000 words. The problem with chicklit is that you need to have a fresh idea or it feels like you’re writing the same novel over and over.

I love reading psychological thrillers, so I thought I would give one a try. I started writing it in 2010. My mom had just died, then six weeks later my nephew contracted cerebral malaria and was in a coma. In times of crisis I write! I wrote about 10 000 words before it also got abandoned.

In 2014 Gail Schimmel, Casey B Dolan and I did something called Writers’ Gym – we would check up on each other every Sunday night to see how we were progressing and give each other a little push. It was a great exercise, and I finished the rest of the book then.

Clockwork: Give us a little idea of how you’ve gone about spreading the word about your books.

Pamela: Oh, you mean my brilliant marketing spiel: “I’ve written a book, but I don’t think you’ll like it,”? [Laughs]

I’m not particularly good about spreading the word about my own books. I love writing books, but it actually freaks me out that people are going to read them and see into my twisted little mind!

What I am good at is talking about other people’s books and movies and projects. And I think people have got to know about my own books from that.

I’m also a complete and utter Twitter addict! I reward myself with Twitter: edit one script, spend ten minutes on Twitter. Okay, okay! Edit half a script, spend two hours on Twitter!

Clockwork: What has been your absolute favourite part of becoming a published author (aside from holding the physical book in your hands …)?

Pamela: I’ve found my tribe.

I just adore the book community … the writers, obviously, but also the editors, the book sellers, the marketing peeps (especially my work husband!), the bloggers, the publishers … I think I’m in love with the whole lot of you…

Clockwork Books Recommends:

Fourth of July Creek
by Smith Henderson

Gripped to help an undernourished boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow encounters the boy’s deeply disturbed father. Gradually, he earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the impending ‘End Times’. As these trying times unravel, Pete’s own family spins out of control and the FBI gets wind of the disturbed man’s activities, putting Pete at the centre of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Sarah says: This book will stay with you for a long time. Fourth of July Creek is raw, demanding, and (eventually) quietly hopeful. Henderson’s characters are what make this read so memorable – sometimes believable, sometimes fantastical, without exception presented with great compassion. This book is so deftly written, it’s hard to remember this is a debut novel.

 

5 Tips to land the perfect title for your novel

The title is the first opportunity for your manuscript to stand out. When confronted with dozens of submissions every month, publishers are naturally drawn to those with an alluring title. So, it really is worth devoting some creative energy to coming up with the perfect title.
Simplicity, memorability, originality and cleverness is what you want to aim for. Here’s how to go about it:
  1. Keep your title consistent with the story and point of view. Having a disjointed title may put the reader off.
  2. Use strong, active verbs and precise nouns in your title. For Example, consider Forbidden Desire Under the Oak Trees, over something like Love Under the Trees. Be sure not to give the plot away in the title if you’re writing a suspense novel or thriller.
  3. If you can hide a layer of meaning in your title, it becomes so much more intriguing. Readers will consider the book title both before and after they’ve finished reading the book so if they can associate with the underlying layer of meaning at the end, it will make their reading experience even more memorable.
  4. Make a list of at least five titles and keep refining them before choosing the final one you’re going to go with.
  5. Google the title to check that it’s original. Although titles are not copyrightable, copying a title could count against it.
There you have it, five tips to landing the perfect title for your novel, so save some of your creative energy for this very important element of your manuscript.
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