Mar 8, 2010

Getting In the Mood by Sandra Gore Nielsen


I started my first novel and knew instinctively that I needed to go to a fantasy space to immerse myself in the atmosphere. A good deal of the book takes place in ancient Egypt. I studied Egyptology years ago, so am quite familiar with the culture. My goal was to make it as real for me as possible. I want to feel I am actually there, living the Nile as my character does.

The first thing I did was to dig out a beautiful necklace I purchased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is an exact copy of an original piece from the Late Period, the time setting of my story. I wear the necklace every day.



Next I leafed through my library of books full of wonderful photographs. I concentrated on works of art from the Late Period. I studied maps of the ancient kingdom and researched the different names ofeach city, its history and specific cult. Why different names? They do have 6 thousand years of recorded history!

I re-read some translations of ancient Egyptian literature, including fascinating material from common folk giving advice to their family. I collected direct quotations to help me with dialogue. I hung a photograph I took on the Nile above my desk to help me recall the natural landscape and colors.

I created a massive spreadsheet with many tabs to compile vocabulary, factoids, and definitions: species of plants and animals, types of food, powers of amulets, architectural detail, god stories, and names to use for reference or characters.

I watched 8 hours of Discovery Channel shows on ancient Egypt. Thank Hathor I have TIVO so could speed through the ads!

I re-read Naguib Mahfouz’s novelette “Akhenaten “which brings alive the 3300 year old personalities of real life power brokers.

My notebook for jotting down ideas has a map of ancient Egypt on the cover. In short, like the best way to learn a foreign language, I am going for total immersion as best I can in California.

The book is romantic fiction, but I want the setting to be authentic. I have visited Egypt so it is easy for me to feel the warmth and hear the birds. It just requires letting go and traveling there in my mind.

Writing fiction is so different than non-fiction. With non-fiction I am always concerned with absolute accuracy. With fiction I am allowed artistic license. I want authenticity for background, but I can play around with it. I don’t have to describe a real temple exactly, but can create a temple with the necessary elements. This is not supposed to be a textbook, but I want the reader to feel as much like they are there as I do.

I have never had as much fun as writing this book. Well, maybe actually traveling comes a very close second. But I am traveling in time as well as space. It is a daydreamer’s dream come true!


***

Born in Kansas City, Sandra is a baby boomer who escaped the Plains on a one way ticket to Iceland and beyond to explore the world while her friends were partying at college.

She returned to the United States after 25 years in Europe, Africa, Central America and the Middle East, with a Danish husband, an art degree and speaking five languages.

She sees her life as divided into distinct eras.

After the traveling era came family, business and politics. She and her husband raised a daughter and son in a beach house in Central Coast California and started up and managed a successful scientific company. Sandra served as both an elected official and a Planning Commissioner.

Her writing era began in Las Vegas with creation of www.sandraoffthestrip.com, a magazine blog dedicated to the adventures of an eclectic mind. Sandra has been published in the Turning Point Publications anthology “Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths” with her personal romantic adventure “A True Love Story.

She has also just published her first book “Sex, Zen and Shopping: Live Rich by Shopping Smart.” She is the author, photographer and layout/cover designer. This guide explores women and their passion for shopping and shows how anyone can live richly by changing how and where they shop. The book is both ‘self-help’ for the spirit and a ‘how to’ for the practical.

She is also compiling a cookbook of her own recipes plus those of talented friends around the globe. She is working on her first novel which is a romantic fiction set in modern day Las Vegas and ancient Egypt.

Sandra is an associate of the National Speaker’s Association and a member of the Nevada World Affairs Council. She lives part time in Las Vegas and part time in California. You can find out more and/or email the author by visiting her author website: www.sandragorenielsen.com

6 comments:

  1. How can you not love Sandra and her work! Both books are must read -- buy them now.

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  2. I appreciate your tips in "getting in mood" (your desk looks great!) and sharing your methods for background research. Any good novel takes careful thought and research, and it's clear you're taking the time to think it through. Good luck!

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  3. My first "comments" disappeared so here's another try - hoping it is as clear!
    I like your writing desk mood-creation as it is hard enough to sit down day after day to write or research. I would like to hear at least one "inspiration" that has come to you after this development - without revealing any key elements of the work in progress!
    Keep us posted!

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  4. I'm betting every writer has different quirks that help them write, from being in a certain place, to going through rituals, and etc. I've never written fiction, being strictly a snarky opinion column writer, but one thing I noticed over the years is that the process is very mysterious and the best thing you can do is get out of its way. For me, a column often starts with a single phrase or word or image and then if I allow the process to unfold, it begins to write itself around that core "pearl." And, of course, some columns form and come together much easier than others, often because the original core is dead bang on the mark. Get the core wrong or off and it's like pushing cement around. Get it right and it's like allowing water to flow where it needs to go.

    Well, keep us posted on how the book's coming.

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  5. Isis (first of my Red Mirror series) is moving along very nicely.
    I'm at 70,000 words now which is about 250 pages. I don't know how to talk about inspiration. Some days the story just pours out and I write 5 to 6 thousand words. Other days I do a chapter (1500 words average - I want to keep them short.)
    My chapters are almost stand alone. Each one is a mini-story - or at least that's what I'm trying to achieve.

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