Arousing feelings

The second most important rule in writing fiction is to arouse the reader’s feelings. This is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks, which you can’t learn from a book, it has to come from your heart. If you can’t feel, the reader won’t be able to feel. I must stress that there has to be a variety of feelings, not just love and hate. Jealousy, envy and greed are also feelings.

Example 1: Jane buys a new gold bracelet and shows it to a friend. The friend looks at it carefully, but doesn’t say anything nice about it even though she likes it. This is how she expresses her envy.

Example 2: The wife would like to have a swimming pool in the garden (greed), while the husband, who is tight with money, doesn’t agree. So they have an argument about it.

Example 3: A book is about Mary and Edward, who are in love, but aren’t destined to get married. Throughout the book the reader can feel their suffering, but their wish isn’t fulfilled until right at the end, when their romance can begin.

Example 4: The successful German writer Heinz G. Konsalik’s main characters on their travels around the world often quite accidentally come across a brother or a sister they didn’t know they had. I’m sure many readers cry over this, although personally I find it too unrealistic. But the fact remains that Konsalik knew that arousing feelings was one of the most important characteristics of a book. And he played on the same strings in nearly every one of his books.

Example 5: The following always works: there has to be a desire and an obstacle to achieving it, which must continue for a considerable part of the book. And right at the end, when all hope is nearly lost, finally a solution is found and the obstacle is removed.


My roots

I was born in 1970 in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, a country that lies between Italy and Austria. Let me tell all those who have never been to Slovenia yet but will come here one day that you’ll be pleasantly surprised as your plane approaches the airport and you see all the mountains, surrounded by thick forests. You’ll admire the undulating green blanket that covers almost the whole of the country. And between the mountains there are small towns and villages. The capital Ljubljana is also surrounded by hills. I’ve always liked the fact that it takes me only 10 minutes to reach the nearest hills from my apartment.
My mother completed secondary education in economics and spent most of her life working in the commercial sector. My father had a doctorate in electricity supply and specialized in protection against lightning. They both influenced me – my mother by always liking interesting books and my father with his intellectual view of life.
I was also influenced by the fact that we were living in Yugoslavia when it was still ruled by a communist regime. Even as a child I felt angry because it was impossible to buy Milka chocolate or Manner or Lorentz biscuits, which were readily available in the neighboring Austria or Italy. I started desiring beautiful objects and products. I envied rich people who lived such easy, carefree lives.
I have to stress that even as a child I was a big dreamer. I dreamt about the wonderful life that awaited me. And, of course, later I was bitterly disappointed. But nonetheless I think that those dreams are one of the main reasons for my writing.
If I go even further back, when I was 8, I loved listening to stories. As I didn’t have many, I would hear the same ones 30 times or more. I knew them by heart and while listening to them I created my own images. This also influenced my imagination.


Gripping stories

I’ve already mentioned that what is most important about a book is that it’s interesting and thrilling. But what arouses people’s interest?

An example: Anita has always been in love with Peter. She tried to talk to him for months. When she finally plucked up the courage, it transpired that he was in love with her, too. A romance flourished between them and three years later they were happily married. They raised two healthy children and lived to the end of their days.

Is this interesting? Maybe for some people, but not for most. It’s just everyday life, nothing unusual.

Today’s readers are constantly bombarded with interesting television programs. This is why they’re much more impatient than readers were 100 years ago. Or in other words, novels that were successful then are perhaps not considered so today.

So what is interesting?

Here is an excerpt from my book PROMISE ME ETERNITY

Helen looked around the room. “Didn’t you say you were going to buy a new kitchen?”
Simon threw her a critical look. He didn’t approve of such direct questions.
John was coming down the stairs. “Welcome,” he said. “The kitchen has already been ordered, but there was a hitch. It should have been here by now. Otherwise for that money …”
Helen could remember the exact amount they had talked about last time. They had paid out a full seven thousand dollars for a solid wood kitchen rather than veneer. Where do they get their money from? she wondered. She decided to talk to Simon that evening. They, too, could do with a new kitchen.

In the excerpt above the envy between two neighbors because one of them had bought a new kitchen is very clearly noticeable. And envy is always interesting.

John nodded immediately: “Of course. This year we’re going to the Canaries for three weeks.”
“Really, the Canary Islands? Hear that, Simon? We’ve talked about our vacation as well. We were thinking about Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai with seven stars, weren’t we Simon?”
He forced a smile. “We were actually only thinking. I’m a bit short and I don’t know how …”
Helen couldn’t believe it. She’d been sure that he would confirm her words. If nothing else, because of pride, but no, he went and admitted to having no money, embarrassing them both. She angrily said, “Simon, we’re going to Dubai even if it means selling the house. I hope that’s clear to you.”
John and Maria exchanged looks. Simon and Helen often argued in front of them. Maria got up and began carving the goose. “It’s a bit overdone,” she said in a conciliatory way.
As if she had not heard, Helen said, “I’ll sell your goddamn microscope if necessary! I’ve had enough of everything!” Tears of anger showed in her eyes.
Now Simon got angry. “I don’t get why you’re so obsessed with what other people have. It’s possible to have a good life without luxury vacations. I told you I have a loan to pay off until next year …”
Maria silently served the roast goose. “I hope you like it.”
“I’ve had enough of your excuses! You find a reason every year. Go to hell!” Helen got up and went off toward the bathroom.
Simon angrily watched her go, grinding his teeth.

In the second excerpt someone has a wish, but there’s an obstacle. Simon’s wife would like to go on an expensive vacation, but he doesn’t have the money because he’s paying off large debts. This leads to conflict.
And that is what makes a book most interesting. The more such conflicts there are, the better.


13.700 New Readers

I don’t know what happened yesterday, but 13.700 new readers have uploaded the book Only the Strongest Survive from Amazon.

Yesterday my book was free in the KDP Select program.



Intellectual inferiority complexes

I believe that most new writers spend far too much time on words and sentences rather than on the story. They’re willing to spend hours or even days thinking about a single sentence, trying to prove to the world how very clever they are. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, especially if an equal amount of time is spent on the content of the story, but this is something many writers don’t know how to do or they can’t be bothered. Writing an interesting novel isn’t as simple as it may seem. But neither is it so very difficult that one should immediately give up.
I’ll tell you an interesting example. While on holiday at the seaside, I noticed a friend had a thick book in his hand. I asked him what he was reading.
He said: “It’s a war novel and I love it. But it’s quite a demanding read, which suits me, at least I’ll learn something new.”
I asked him: “So how long have you been reading it?” I’d noticed that he’d only read a few dozen pages.
“Three weeks.” He made some excuses about having lots of other things to do.
I had brought with me Nothing Lasts Forever by Sidney Sheldon.
I convinced my friend to read it. He read it in a few days and asked me if I had another book like that. I gave him all three books I had brought and he read them within a week. And he never touched the thick war book again.
It’s hard to believe how many people feel that they have to learn something from a book. And at the same time they watch simple thrillers on television, from which they learn nothing.


Love for writing

I began writing 11 years ago, at the age of 30. To be honest, until then I had not written anything. If a fortune teller had told me when I was young that I was going to be a writer, I would never have believed her as I’d always found it difficult to write a single page, let alone a whole book. So I can’t say that I’ve always loved writing when I didn’t even know that I could write. It is true, however, that I fell in love with writing later.
Even as a child I missed interesting and thrilling books for which I’d be ready to give up sleep if necessary. Libraries were chockablock full of books, but finding a truly interesting book was like finding a needle in a haystack.  I was particularly annoyed by books in which you had to read 50 pages before anything happened.
Besides, I could never understand why places and objects needed such long descriptions. For example, a writer would take a whole page to describe a living room. There were even a few sentences dedicated to the door handle.
So this was the main force that propelled me to begin writing one day. I wanted to write a novel that draws you in from the very start and is so interesting that it has to be read in a couple of days.
And I’ve done it. Not just with my first novel, but with the second and third, too. And I’m certain that the fourth and fifth will be just as successful.


My letter to agents

Let’s go back to 2007, when I wrote to many American agents. In a letter, which took me weeks to compose, I stressed my achievements until then in the first few sentences. After all, it’s not so easy to join the list of 100 most often borrowed books in libraries. And not just with one, but all three books. The books have sold in above average numbers in bookstores, too.
The first replies came so quickly that I immediately knew that the agent had not taken even five minutes to look at my book, but had sent me the standard reply. All the other replies that came later were also negative, except for one.
Although I tried to not let it get to me, it did. And fate would have it that even the one agent who wanted to read the whole book became seriously ill and retired prematurely. But I’m very grateful to her as it was because of her that I decided to have the book translated. The cost of translating a book is approximately 7500 USD (for 100,000 words).
For all those who wish to follow my example and write to agents, I recommend you read Guide to Literary Agents.
Very disappointed, I abandoned my ambitions to be published abroad. Later it became clear to me that even an American writer has a very small chance of being represented by an agent, let alone someone from a small country like Slovenia. The chance of succeeding was almost nil.
Three years later I happened to chance upon an article about how demand for electronic books was growing rapidly. I typed into Google: “How to self publish e-book?” and got extensive instructions. So I set to work. It wasn’t easy and in one of the future blogs I’ll write how I did it and what problems I encountered on the way.