The Nearly Girl
by Lisa de Nikolits
on Tour November 2016
Fans of “A Prayer for Owen Meany” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” will love this clever, fast-paced and enjoyable thriller.
Like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Amelia Fisher attempts to carve out a ‘normal life’, showing us how mythic the idea of ‘normal’ really is.
With a poetic genius for a father, an obsessed body builder for a mother, and an enchantingly eccentric group seeking the help of an unorthodox therapist, what could possibly go wrong?
A chance discovery propels Amelia and fellow therapy attendee, Mike, with whom she is in love, into a life-threatening situation instigated by the crazed doctor’s own dark secret but Amelia’s psychosis saves the day.
Told with warmth, humor and populated with vividly original characters, this sprint-paced novel has it all, from restraining orders to sex in office bathrooms, and a nail-biting ending.
A novel about an unusual family, expected social norms and the twists and turns of getting it all slightly wrong, the consequences of which prove fatal for some.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Published by: Inanna Publications
Publication Date: October 2016
Number of Pages: 301
ISBN: 1771333138 (ISBN13: 9781771333139)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, &INANNA 🔗
Read an excerpt:
Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has lived in Canada since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.
Lisa de Nikolits is the award-winning author of five novels. Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror won a 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women’s Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award. West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick. A Glittering Chaos tied to win the 2014 Silver IPPY for Popular Fiction. The Witchdoctor’s Bones launched in Spring 2014 to literary acclaim and wide readership. Between The Cracks She Fell launched in Fall 2015 and was well reviewed by the Quill & Quire and was on the recommended reading lists for Open Book Toronto and 49th Shelf. Between The Cracks She Fell was also reviewed by Canadian Living magazine and called ‘a must-read book of 2015’. Between The Cracks She Fell won a Bronze IPPY Award 2016 for Contemporary Fiction. All books have been published by Inanna Publications.
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Absolutely yes! My exploration of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (a core theme in The Nearly Girl) came about when I was trying to untangle my issues with insomnia and claustrophobia. This led to the creation of my character Dr. Frances Carroll and his therapy called D.T.O.T. which is Do The Opposite Thing.
It was also my lifelong characteristics of nearly getting things right and also getting them very wrong that led to the creation of my protagonist, Amelia. For example, I used to file my manuscripts and papers in the oven (before I met my husband who said this was not such a sound practice since, even although I never baked, I did actually use the oven top and there having paper – reams of it – neatly stored inside was unwise).
But the things I do would sooner be classified as idiosyncrasies while Amelia suffers from a full-blown psychosis. So I used my small-time mistakes as seeds to grow the idea of her story-worthy malaise that led to her discovery of crimes. Because The Nearly Girl is a thriller, a past-paced one at that, as opposed to being a story about therapies and mental health issues.
And it is a funny book which is another thing I love about it. I am not funny. Or if I am, I am funny by mistake. I feel that I lack a sense of humour in general – I am always the last one to catch the joke and most of the time it has to be explained to me. I generally avoid watching comedies because I find them very stressful – the level of chaos upsets me and I just want it to be over and everything to be alright! Also the pressure to get the joke, to laugh — it’s all too much!
But this book, remarkably, is funny. Well, parts of it are. There are parts that are downright heartbreaking too and while I never fail to laugh at the funny bits, the heartbreaking bits are equally as wretched, no matter how many times I read them too.
Shortly before the book goes to press, the author has read and reread it countless times and sometimes one does weary. And sometimes, I admit that the thought of reading it yet again was daunting but then as soon as I started, I was delighted to be hanging out with these characters. It never got old.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start with a single idea. For example, with The Nearly Girl, it happened like this. I was on a bus, in winter, going to a book event. I didn’t know if I was on the correct bus since I had not been to that area before and I was anxious. Then I realized how interesting it was, to be on an unfamiliar bus, on an unfamiliar route, with all kinds of interesting people. What was fascinating was how significantly visually collective they were as a group and how extremely different they were to the usual bunch on my regular bus. I wondered about their jobs, their families and their lives and I thought that I definitely should take more random busses.
At one point, I looked out the window as we drove past the beach and the sun had just set and it was snowing and I felt sad that we were prohibited by bodies that forced us to follow the seasons and obey the rules – what we could just have a picnic in the snow? Sit on the snow in shorts and a t-shirt, with the sleet hitting our bare arms while we made smores.
And there it was. The Nearly Girl. She would be out there, she would be doing exactly that.
And then I had to figure out the rest from there. But I had a protagonist, an idea and a name for the book.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
They are not based on people I know but if I have a character and I need to flesh him or her out and I am stuck, then I go and talk to people who remind me of my character. For example, in The Nearly Girl, Amelia falls in love with Mike. I knew Mike’s age and what he looked like but I had no idea what music he listened to, or what books he read or what he liked to do for fun.
I supposed I could have gone online but I cannot work out my characters that way. I have to be in the real world, looking at people, that’s the only way my characters can come to me. So I kept an eye out at work (I work in a building of 3 000 people) and I finally saw ‘Mike’. I followed him and explained who I was and I asked him if he would be interested in helping me develop my character.
Fortunately for me, he was extremely helpful. I interviewed him and later I sent him a questionnaire and we emailed back and forth.
(I thank him in the back of the book).
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I wear a hat but I don’t think that’s very unusual. I need to nap here and there – sometimes only half-an-hour in between chapters. I think the brain needs to recharge! I snack on chocolate-covered peanuts. I always light a candle. I make notes on scraps of paper as I go. I talk to the cat. If I am stuck for a bit and I go and have a bath and usually struck by inspiration without a piece of paper in sight (and no, I never learn to take a notepad with me!).
Tell us why we should read this book.
The Nearly Girl is my sixth published novel and of the six, it is my favourite. I love it because if I could live my life according to the philosophies or ethos of any of my books, it would be this one. That, and the fact that this book features my favourite bunch of misfits thus far! The book is also a love story and it’s a story about family, about not-fitting in, in the world and learning to live with that. The book is about unlikely friendships and how sometimes the vicissitudes of life can come gift-wrapped with surprises.
There is a purity and an honesty to the emotions and actions in this book, a simplicity that I would liken to John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany and, before readers leap up in horror to protest the comparison of my book to John Irving’s, let me get there before they do! Alas, I am no John Iriving but he is one of the writers that I strive to emulate.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Jess Walter (The Financial Lives of Poets), Margaret Atwood (The Heart Goes Last), Garth Stein (A Sudden Light), David Adams Richards (Principles to Live By), Richard Flanagan, (The Narrow Road to the Deep North)
What are you reading now?
I am on a panel with Steve Burrows and Dietrich Kalteis so I am reading both of their books; A Cast of Falcons and Triggerfish, respectively. I have Annie Proulx Barkskins lined up, along with The Complete Book of Spells, Ceremonies and Magic by Migene Gonzalez-Whippler (research), The Odyssey by Homer (research), Paradise Lost by Milton (research)
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
The book is titled The Occult Persuasion (hence all the research into spells and magic mentioned above.) This will be my book for 2019 as I have two novels lined up, one for 2017 (No Fury Like That), which is a revenge novel set in Purgatory and here on earth and Rotten Peaches (2018), which is a story about two sets of couples living on opposite ends of the world, whose complete lack of morality causes an implosion of lives when they finally intersect.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Just for fun, I’d take the cast of Thor and set them to The Nearly Girl!
Henry the Poet and father – Chris Hemsworth
Megan the body builder mother – Jaimie Alexander
Amelia – Natalie Portman
Ed – Colm Feore
Dr. Frances Carroll – Paul Giamatti – and yes I know he’s not in Thor but he’s the only person who could play Dr. Carroll!
Mike – Josh Dallas
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Playing my guitar, talking to my cat, taking naps (with my cat)
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.
Don’t Forget to Visit Lisa de Nikolits’ website 🔗, her Twitter Feed 🔗, & her Facebook Page 🔗!