The Elevator Pitch

“You’re a writer, huh?”
“So what do you write?”

“Well, um, fiction…”
“What kind of fiction? Science fiction? I love science fiction!”
“No, that’s just about the only thing I don’t write.”
“What are your books about, then?”
“They’re all very different.”
“Yeah? Well, good to meet you, good luck with your writing!”

Blew that one, didn’t I? I watched the retreating back of a could-be reader, who knows, maybe big-time agent, thinking that that conversation could have been the key to my ever-lasting success and I blew it.

In the many years I’ve dedicated to becoming a published novelist, there’s one area I’ve never managed to wrestle under control; the elevator pitch, the ten-second grab, the synopsis of me as a writer, in 125 words or less.

In my defense, all my books are very different and apart from the fact that they’re fiction and feature characters in unresolved situations that finally become resolved, they don’t seem to have anything in common.

Well, now doesn’t that make you want to read my work! Characters in unresolved situations that finally become resolved! Irresistible.

I’m going to try to break this down and try again. Who would I liken my work to? One reader likened my books to John Irving’s work (an incredible compliment) and the reader was right insofar as I have unusual situations populated by quirky characters, and I do write about darkness in human nature and I do it with a twist of humor.

I did some research on John Irving and I found this snippet: The author was asked what his favourite literary genre is, and he replied I hate the certainty with which literary works are categorized into one or another “genre”; this tempts me to say that my “favorite” genre is something not easily categorized.”
Good, at least John Irving and I have that in common but I wondered what he would say if he was asked to describe his own work
I found this passage, published online in the Paris Review while John Irving was writing A Prayer for Owen Meany: “It will be called A Prayer for Owen Meany. It’s about this little guy—both a hero and a victim—who believes that he’s been appointed by God, that he’s been specially chosen; and that the rather terrible “fate” he encounters is all part of his divine assignment. And it’s the writer’s job, isn’t it, to make the readers wonder if maybe this isn’t entirely true? Even the doubters. I have to convince them of little Owen Meany’s special appointment in the universe, too. In that sense, maybe, writing a novel is always a religious act, in that we have to believe that our characters are appointed—even if only by us—and that their acts are not accidents, their responses not random. I don’t believe in accidents. That’s another aspect of how old-fashioned I am, I guess.”
That’s 138 words. Hmmm, perhaps I was getting too hung up on the need to be succinct to the point of pain, because that paragraph was longer than I would have imagined a description would be.
I decided to take a look at Lionel Shriver. She’s another writer I admire and I can relate to the variety of topics that she covers. She’s both literary and commercial.
Research revealed that Lionel Shriver prefers to create characters who are “hard to love” and I can certainly relate to that. My disturbed male antagonists are my favourite characters to write, I revel in the development of their weirdness – the realistic weirdness and psychotic breakdowns of a man driven to breaking point by his own neuroses and the pressures of life upon him.
But researching Lionel Shriver doesn’t help me with my 125 word synopsis of my writing. Clearly I’m on my own here and, as all writers and would-be writers know, this elevator pitch is one of the most important things we’ll ever write. If we ever reach the status of John Irving or Lionel Shriver, then we won’t need our little calling cards but until then, we do.
So here we go. I write fiction, both literary and mainstream. I write human interest fiction and I write thrillers. I explore topical subject matters that fascinate me and I create characters who have the unafraid potential to explore the sometimes disastrous consequences that arise from letting situations play themselves out to the nth degree. I’m in love with the complex and tragic construct of human nature, and nothing makes me happier than poking around to see what makes people tick and what makes them blow sky high.
And as for my most recent book, here’s a synopsis and I very much hope, readers, that you will find this to be of interest and I thank you for having me as a guest writer today. 
In The Witchdoctor’s Bones a group of tourists gather. Some have come to holiday, others to murder. Kate ditches her two-timing boyfriend and heads to Africa on a whim, hoping for adventure, encountering the unexpected and proving an intrepid adversary to mayhem.

The tour is led by Jono, a Zimbabwean historian and philosopher, and the travelers follow him from Cape Town into the Namib desert, learning ancient secrets of the Bushmen, the power of witchcraft and superstition, and even the origins of Nazi evil.

A ragged bunch ranging from teenagers to retired couples, each member of the group faces their own challenges as third world Africa pits against first world greed, murderous intent and thwarted desire. The battle between goaded vanity and frustrated appetite culminates in a surprising conclusion with shocking twists.

With the bones of consequence easily buried in the shifting sands, a holiday becomes a test of moral character.

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.
Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award.
Her second novel, West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine's four Editor's Picks.
Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos, launched in Spring 2013 to much acclaim and is about murder, madness, illicit love and poetry.
All books published by Inanna Publications.

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  1. What an entertaining guest post! And congratulations on winning a 2014 IPPY Silver Medal for Popular Fiction for A Glittering Chaos!


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