Fifty Shades of Venice

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A part of me tries to avoid mass cultural activities out of some inner desire to preserve my integrity.  Call it a left over residue of literary elitism from my days as an English Major, or a fear that by participating in the norms, I will lose touch with the ability to be ‘unique’ or to form my own thoughts–a fear of cultural brainwashing, shall we say.

On the other hand, just because something is wildly popular is not reason enough to write it off. Think Adele, Harry Potter, The Beatles, Facebook, Twitter, Martin Luther King or Obama, for that matter. We can be engaged and inspired by mass cultural figures, pastimes and entertainment while keeping our discerning minds in tact.

Perhaps this view explains my recent caving expedition. Not spelunking or potholing but caving, as in giving in to things.

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For example, the other night I met up with a friend to see Fifty Shades Darker. It’s not the type of film in which to invite your child or the minister of your church, but it works just fine as a sexy film to see with your girlfriends. (In fact, there were only women in the theater!)

After the film, I had an interesting discussion with my friend. Why is this genre so popular? Although The Fifty Shades stories have been called mommy porn and this latest film received a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that doesn’t take away the facts; the novels are wildly popular the world over. In fact, 100 million copies of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy were sold worldwide through 2014 (The Gaurdian, 2014). That number has certainly only grown in the last three years.

I believe this series is popular for several reasons. 1) It pushes the norms of the romance genre (tell us it’s forbidden and we want it more), 2) it features an innocent heroine and a rich bad boy (two popular elements in the romance genre) and 3) it provides a narrative that goes beyond the sex and physical attraction to offer up what we all want in our lives: Love.

Although S&M plays a role in the film, and Grey’s stalker mentality would make any woman squirm (and not in a good way), the lead characters care so deeply for one another that they inspire positive change in each other’s lives. He’s willing to give up his dark habits for a chance at love. And who wouldn’t want a sexy, successful multi-millionaire to consider you ‘the one’ who could make his life complete? (Given that you feel the same way, that is. Otherwise that could be highly problematic.)

The heroine of the story is also strong. She is able to say no to power freak Christian Grey while every other woman in his past only knew how to say yes. Her innocence and integrity are her weapons in turning a bad boy good, without taking the sexy out of him.

As we left the movie, my friend gave me the ticket stub, suggesting that I could use the ticket as a tax write off or memento, since I’m an author of romance.

As I prepare for the launch of my second book,  I revisit why, with my interest in literature, I continue to write romance. It’s quite simple, actually. I believe that everyone deserves love in their lives and I am most attracted to works of fiction that bring messages of hope, connection and joy into the world, while honoring the social narrative in which they are written. Romance is a genre that gives space for all of these qualities.

It is thus with pride that I share with you the cover of my upcoming novel The Things We Said in Venice!

A gondola, Venice, Italy

It’s no Fifty Shades of Venice, but it does take you on a romantic journey through Italy, Argentina and The Netherlands with characters that make you laugh, cry, contemplate and open your heart to the chance of love.

With a launch date planned in May 2017, you will undoubtedly be hearing more from me in the coming weeks about this novel. But for now, a picture is worth a thousands words.

I would love to hear what you think of this cover design!

Graphic Public Service Announcement

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If I were in charge of the posters in airports, train stations and tram stops, they might look something like this.


Or like this:


I might even get a bit preachy.


Or blunt and demanding.


Okay. I’ll admit that this blogpost is inspired by my recent caving in to yet another social media platform: Instagram. I ignored it for years based on its’ name alone. As a writer, I savor a well-written article, short-story or book. I enjoy taking the time for a story to unfold on the page. Instagram was for me the antithesis of this idea.

As you can see by my little image gallery here, I’ve been using the app Phoster to combine words and images for my Instagram posts. I have to admit, it’s been fun.

Speaking of fun, the proof for my second novel The Things We Said in Venice just shipped. Any bloggers or columnists who are into reviewing books, please let me know if you’d like a review copy.

Any readers up for a light, travel romance, my second novel should be available to order by mid-May! The cover of my second novel is still a secret, but if I were to announce it’s pending arrival in Instagram terms . . .

Second Novel Headed Your Way

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2017 will bring many new things, including my second novel, The Things We Said in Venice. In just six words, you have already learned quite a bit about this story.  There were some important things said that warrant enough discussion for a novel. They were said in Venice, and there’s a ‘we’ involved. We and Venice suggest either a mercantile venture or romance. I’m guessing you’ve deduced which of these two options apply.

Over the last year of writing The Things We Said in Venice, I’ve gotten to know the characters quite well. So well, in fact, that they come into my thoughts when I’m out for a run or headed to the green grocer. Although they have been trying to talk me into a sequel, The Things We Said in Venice is currently a stand alone novel.

Some of my readers have asked me if my second novel is an eco-romance like my debut novel Green. I was all geared up to say, “No. Not at all.” But as I re-read the final draft, I realized that both characters are quite aware of the environmental issues facing us today. They’re not eco-preachy like Jake Tillerman (lead male character of Green) and the book isn’t shaped around an environmental disaster. The lead characters of The Things We Said in Venice are like many of us. They are living in the age of climate change, melting ice caps and disappearing species and these facts inform the way they think and interact with the world.

If you enjoy travel, have a sense of humor and like being swept up into a romantic journey of love conquers all, then this book is for you! (More details to come in the following weeks!)

Want to be notified as soon as The Things We Said in Venice is available? Then drop me a message and I will add you to the early notification list.

 

Rumor Has It

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I was at a networking event in Amsterdam the other evening and I ran into an old friend of mine who works as a translator. Anyway, she was translating from Swedish to English at this trial at the Criminal Court and on her break she was in line at the cafe to order a latte when she overheard a conversation. Guess who’s single? Fokke van der Veld.*

I’m not usually one to gossip, but he’s only one of the most famous travel writers in Europe. I have at least three of his guide books on my bookshelf and he’s been translated into 36 languages, so he’s also known around the world.

One book of his I have is van der Veld’s travel guide to Peru. To be honest, I bought it because of that shot of him on the cover. He’s so handsome! That, and of course I hope to go to Peru someday.

According to my source, he now lives in The Hague. Not that I’m interested, being happily married and all. But it’s interesting to know.

*Thanks for reading the fine print! Want the full scoop on Fokke van der Veld? Get it here.
 

Failure and Success as Synonyms

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If you occasionally check out my author website, you might get the impression, based on the lack of updated blog posts, that I’ve thrown in the writing towel and dropped off the face of the earth.

Au contraire! I have been writing on a semi-regular basis, just offline. And what are the results of my efforts?  The completion of my second novel!

I wish I was writing to inform my multitudes of followers (humor me for a minute) that my second novel will soon be released.  The instant gratification part of me is twitching it’s fingers and wants to hire someone to design an eye catching cover and then upload my manuscript and self-publish. After all, I’ve spent over a year writing and rewriting, having it edited and rewriting again. As soon as it comes back from the proofreader, wouldn’t it be logical to publish it online?

I listened to that voice when I published my debut novel Green in October of 2013. In fact, I didn’t even consider the traditional route of attempting to get an agent or starting the arduous process of submitting to publishers. I read enough books about publishing and novel writing to know the chances of getting an agent and getting published are both slim. Take this quote for example:

“A literary agent may get 5,000 query letters a year. Only a fraction of these will lead to the agent requesting the manuscript. If you think about it, an agent reading one out of a hundred submissions must read 50 books every year!” Source: Mark O’Bannon’s article on Betterstorytelling.net.

I could find a hundred more quotes that would justify a second round of self-publishing as the most logical route. But there is another voice within me that has been gaining ground over the last six months, and she has been saying something rather wise: Why not try? Do the research; do it right; put in the time. If it doesn’t work out, who cares? You can self-publish.

But my ego cares. I’m sure on some level my id and superego also care. Because really; who wants to set themselves up in an almost statistically guaranteed position of rejection? And who wants to admit failure? Despite all of this logic, that steady voice within keeps telling me to defer the excitement of sharing my latest novel with the world and invest the time and energy into getting it published–despite the odds. After all, if I fail in being selected out of those thousands of manuscripts, I will have at least tried. This is almost as big an accomplishment as writing the darned book in the first place! wouldn’t you agree?

Now that I’ve made that decision, it’s almost like the universe is providing me with the framework to take the first step.

This past Monday I attended the first Connecting Women gathering of the year in The Hague. The topic? Failing: A gift in Disguise, presented by psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou. (And yes, with a name like that she is Greek).

In less than an hour, she took the word failure and transformed it into a positive concept. Everybody in this world must experience failure to get to know themselves, gain clarity in their lives and to learn how to succeed; even if that success comes in another form than you originally intended, she explained.

During the presentation, she asked the audience to come up with an imaginary person who was struggling with a failure in their lives. The group came up with a woman named Lilly who was both a writer and hair stylist. I was not the one to suggest she was a writer! This imaginary Lilly became a case study for our group. The advice that poured forth, the strategies for addressing her passion to write and her frustrations around her failure to publish seemed to be speaking to the future me. If Lilly takes up the gauntlet and gives it a try, why can’t I? Because if you view failure and success as strange synonyms, you have changed the way you view the world.

 

 

 

Understanding the other

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December is a busy month for most. Although I’ve been working on the second draft of my latest novel, my creative energy has been transferred to working on local projects in The Hague, The Netherlands to bring a bit of tranquility and celebration to the lives of the Syrian and Eritrean refugees temporarily housed in our neighborhood.

This post on my other blog shares one such event.

https://kristininholland.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/breaking-bread-with-refugees/

The Power of Seeing Famous Authors Speak

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Tonight I did something splendid. Instead of staying home and writing, I went out and attended a talk by a famous author. Since this all went down in The Hague, I posted it on my Kristin in Holland site. However, considering it has everything to do with the writing of fiction and the amazing contemporary author TC Boyle, I thought I’d also share the link here.

https://kristininholland.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/tc-boyle-and-the-shadow-of-fame/