Courage…in 2020!

Hi guys,

Yesterday, I was reflecting on the journey of writing my novel I released in October, 2019. The central idea I had for this novel four years ago was to explore the idea of courage, and to reject the notion that it is purely a male characteristic. I have pondered this for a long time how women in my life have showed so much courage and some men have not showed the same courage. A few friends have told of stories when they faced a partner that was violent and how they were not scared at all of them.

A juvenile example of this is when I was a young kid I loved going on those little rides, like the cars in the shopping centres, but my brother only wanted to sit on them and was too scared for them to actually go. When I was a three year old, I walked off into the Australian bush to go explore and find a dam that was on our vast outback property and my brother said he couldn’t go with me. I had two dogs with me and I reached the dam and then realised I was very lost. Consequently, my family had to come and find me, miraculously they did find me and I was okay. I am not sure if this is courage or just a desire for adventure and not knowing what I was doing. (haha). But still…

Also, I have heard many stories from my friends who were fearless towards men fighting etc and stepped into situations like this. After I experienced domestic violence once, since that I have found myself in a couple of situations where I have stepped in between two men fighting or a man victimising a woman. I will always go towards helping in these situations as I remember that feeling that there was no one to help.

So, the notion of courage I always felt had been mosty unrecognised in women. However, in 2015 I became enthralled by the extreme courage shown by the Kurdish women fighting Daesh in Syria.

For more than three years, I have lived and breathed this novel and been with these women. They inspired me to walk in courage, and every time I felt afraid of something I thought of what they sacrificed and what perils they faced. Then I was able to do somethings and overcome.

These women still live with me and will always be with me. The women in my novel are based on a lot of research I conducted, but they are fictional. I created their back stories, personality and characters. These characters will always be with me throughout out my life. In Where the Sun Rises I sought to reflect the courage I saw in these phenomenal Kurdish women, but also that I see around me in my female friends and I hope to reflect myself.

I think that coming to the end of 2019, I am reflecting on the year that was, and also how thinking about these women spurred me into many things this year. I wish to continue to take this inspiration from these women – and it is for men as well, into 2020. I am so keen for a New Year, this year had many challenges, but was also glorious as well.

Let’s move in to the New Year with Courage! Bring it on! Thanks for reading! Suz 🙂

Syrian Kurdish women my novel is about…

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 Some of the women from YPJ Brigade, at the battle of Kobane, February 2015
4 February 2015, 23:08:21
Source: VOA [Public domain]

Hey guys,

In light of recent events in Syria, I must mention that it is an attrocity that the area where I based this novel is now being attacked by Turkey. Below, is my blog about where my novel came from. But I must say I am extremely concerned and incensed that the Kurdish people in this area who fought Daesh are now being abandoned and have to try to survive another attack. The battle my novel is about was the battle for Kobane which is on the border with Turkey.

About the Battle for Kobane

Within the first month of when Daesh surrounded the town the world watched on, but no one helped the Kurds – thousands of people left. I remember watching it on the news. There were approximately a thousand civilians who stayed, and they only had rudimentary weapons in which to fight Daesh who had tanks and heavy military gear. This is why there were Kurdish protests all around the world for someone to step in. In the end Barrack Obama did act and the US air strikes did help the Kurds after one month of fighting on their own. They held Daesh off by giving their lives in street to street battles. There were a large amount of women soldiers who enlisted for this battle. This is what compelled and inspired me to write this novel.

This is the real detail of this book, based on real facts of the courageous fight made by a combination of Kurdish forces, including many women. These people were not soldiers to begin with.

I hope you enjoy my character’s stories, Karin and Roza who feel compelled to join the battle to defend their families and their land.

This battle was the first successful battle against Daesh and led to its demise in Syria. My book Where the Sun Rises is available on Amazon, in e-book or print format.

“Where the Sun Rises is an ambitious, compassionate and powerful novel. Sensory memories accessed through scents and tastes are used brilliantly to evoke the physical strain, tenderness and revulsion of war for female soldiers in the fight against ISIS. Their story deserves a far wider readership and Strong’s achievement lies in her ability to take us into their dangerous world.”…
Dr Toby Davidson, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney.

“Powerful and credible. An eye-opener to a story we rarely hear.”

Dr Lynne Spender, UTS Lecturer, Sydney. 

My novel writing journey…

Soon, my novel Where the Sun Rises will be published. It has taken me four years to research, write and edit it, develop the characters, plot and travel to the middle east to gain on the ground knowledge.

My novel is set within the battle for Kobane that happened in 2014 and 2015, it went strangely for exactly six months and two days. In this battle, Kurdish fighters including Kurdish women of the YPJ fought ISIS to regain Kobane, a Kurdish homeland. The battle for Kobane was a pivotal battle that ultimately lead to the demise of Daesh in Syria and beyond.  Kurdish women have been fighting equally to men for the past two decades in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, yet the world knows little about these women.

This is the first novel which brings to life this battle, and from the unique perspective of the female fighters. Where the Sun Rises explores this successful battle through the eyes of two female Kurdish characters, Karin and Roza who choose to fight Daesh (ISIS) after their brother and husband are killed. These two best friends take up arms to defend their families and homeland. They then have to embark on a recovery mission for friends captured by Daesh.

How did I come up with this idea?

While working as a lecturer at UQ in Brisbane, in 2015, I became fascinated by the story of the women who took up arms in the battle of Kobane. I wondered what would it be like if we could see this battle from their point of view? I wanted to bring this alive to a western audience and shine a light on what these brave women are doing within the Kurdish forces in Syria.

Over the following three and a half years in writing this novel, I conducted more than 2,000 thousand hours of research and travelled to the middle east to see and experience as much of it for myself as I could. I watched documentaries, watched footage of battle and the frontline, read articles, looked at maps and researched culture and language to be as authentic as I could in recreating this reality. I wanted to express the stories of these phenomenal women who took a stand against ISIS and fought ferociously and in the battle of Kobane.

Masada, Israel

UN Peace Keeper Soldiers, Adrian was talking to me about with the war in Syria, this is at the Golan Heights, border with Syria. This picture was taken in 2016 when the war was still raging over the border. A week after this picture was taken a few Daesh men crossed the border and were killed.

I wrote part of this novel while undertaking a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Macquarie University (graduating in 2017). The manuscript received high praise from its external readers:

Dr Toby Davidson: Macquarie University Lecturer,

“The manuscript is compellingly written, well-paced dramatically with a strong research component that helps it ‘feel real’ at a sensory as well as at a logistical level. High creative achievement is evenly spread across the manuscript. Sensory memories accessed through scents and tastes are used brilliantly (for example an orange evoking a memory of a sibling’s death and the return to real life in the markets). The physical strain, tenderness and revulsion of war are superbly captured… Ultimately, this is a worthy story, written with care and dedication. It is an ambitious, compassionate and powerful novel.”

 Dr Lynne Spender, UTS Lecturer

“The author has taken care to accurately present the reality of the lives of Kurdish women and the dramatic choices they make as fighters defending their land. The story is remarkable for the authenticity of the detailed portrayal of the geography, the intimate lives of the women fighters and the ferocity of the killing in which they are involved…Action sequences are described in detail and are convincing. The author makes good use of the senses to convey the sounds and smells of battle and death and contrasts it with the delights of singing and dancing, the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste of goat’s cheese. Recollections of peaceful days and olive groves are neatly woven into the narrative, as are the reassuring pots of tea… This is an admirable piece of work.”

GET YOUR COPY OF MY BOOK – YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT HERE.

Its available in print and e-book on Amazon and many other outlets.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO PRE-ORDER! It is available for $1.99 at the moment until I launch it and then it will go up.

Where the Sun Rises…Cover!

Hey guys, this is the cover of my new book that will be coming out in October. 🙂 I am very excited that it will finally be released. 🙂

I will let you know some background over the next few weeks of how I came up with this idea and what real life events this novel is based on.

Thanks so much for reading. If you would like to pre-order my book click on the link below or search the title in your country. 🙂 It will only be available for $1.99 until launch day. 🙂

Thanks heaps. Have a great day. Suz

Sounds simple, but just start…

Hey guys,

I wanted to write a short post about starting a writing project, whether a story, novel or even poetry, it is important just to start. Sounds simple and obvious but it is one of the big things that comes out in my writing group and in talking with other writers I have met. I told a lovely lady the other night at my writers group that she needed simply to start and turn off her editor. Years ago I read countless books and articles about this topic, about turning off our internal editors and simply allowing our brains to create without being paralysed by critical thinking. After you have created your piece, then you can turn your editor on again. Then you can start to edit. But you need to write and create, without allowing your editor to destroy what you are writing.  Through my writing experience this process has been solidified for me.

It is really important to remember that even if you start your novel in one way it will most likely not end up this way. I was telling my group the other night, that I had a beginning scene I was adamant was not going to be changed. I convinced my supervisor that my novel had to start with this sunrise scene.  We had many conversations and in the end she said to me, “you can’t change that, it’s exactly how it should be, you need to keep the sunrise.” I was shocked. I had convinced her effectively.

Guess what happened about a year later in my editing process? I changed the beginning. I decided to start my novel from a different point in time for the characters. Changing the beginning was not something I thought I would ever do or even wanted to do. But, I did and I am glad I did.

Now, the beginning scene I wanted is in like Chapter 10 or something haha… 🙂 My point is that we need to just start writing, because things will change in the process of editing. Your beginning may not be what you originally started with, so therefore you don’t need to worry about whether it is perfect, because I can tell you one thing, it wont be perfect.

No writing is perfect from the beginning. Even established authors have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

So let’s turn off our editors and simply start! Realise you may be even better than you thought anyway, and remember we all have to edit and rewrite a lot. 🙂 Go well, guys. Happy Writing!

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Writing a novel…with every brushstroke

Hey guys,

This morning I was reflecting on the process of writing a novel. I remembered how when I was young I used to be so intimidated by writing a novel. I felt in awe of how writers could include all of the characters physicality, their memories, speech, backstory, description of place, original plot lines, twists and turns and surprises and also the phenomenal voice, inventive imagery and metaphor that some authors employ.

All of this still impresses me and blows me away all the time. How some authors can do this in their novels so expertly! I still stand in admiration for these amazing artists.

However, now at least after writing two complete novels and now onto my third I have a different perspective on the writing process. I am not saying I am completely over this but now I can see the journey of writing a novel in a much more manageable and realistic manner. When I was younger maybe I felt that all of this magic came together for the writer in one go and they produced a phenomenally detailed and nuanced character driven plot with little work, stress or time. This was where I had no way of knowing then I was 11 or 12 years old what it is like to write a novel.

Now, I realise it is like painting. When I was young I wanted to be a visual artist or even a cartoonist. I would draw all the time when I was a kid practicing drawing faces, trees, landscapes, my favourite band members (haha) and I took painting lessons outside of school. I loved visual art. I have been reflecting on the process of writing a novel lately and realised it is a lot like painting. When you you create the whole piece by working on small parts gradually, so it could be the shading under the nose or eyes, or the neck, it could be the shading on the tree trunk, but nevertheless you work on small parts at a time. You also layer colours on top of one another and you put a foundation colour and then paint something lighter on top. You gradually create the whole picture/painting and when you stand back you can see the person’s face or the landscape forming, but when you are close up you can only see the colour and the brushstrokes.

So it is with writing. Each day I sit down and write the next part of the narrative and gradually I am building up the whole novel, creating each integral part that will necessarily fit together to make the whole picture, the whole world. You are layering colours upon colours, you are shading and creating fine detail. This is done gradually. Then with a novel you go back and you work on each chapter again to put more detail in, to fill in more colour and make it come alive even more. This is also what you do with painting at times, you will come back later and add some shading or light or additional colour.

So, the process of writing a novel – we should remember is gradual, it is writing down your first draft and not being worried that you will have to come back and put more detail in. That is a given. All authors need to do this. It is the gradual creation of the characters, the world, the sensory details and these all come together gradually to create your work. So this encourages me, it allows me to relax because the first draft is that, it is a skeleton where you can build the flesh of your story, and fill out their muscles and ligaments, skin and finger nails. All of this comes later.

Be encouraged just start writing and keep going. Once you have finished your first full draft then go back and examine every chapter and add detail and colour and characterisation or setting if you need. Then get another person to read it, then do another revision, and you will have to do this a few times. But each time your book will become what it was always meant to be. Be patient and kind with yourself. Enjoy the creation process, though the critiquing can be hard in the end you will be proud of your work.

But know that writing a novel is completed through those little faithful steps of writing every day or every second day and building and building and building on the bones of the narrative. Go well, happy writing!

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Where the Sun Rises-my novel… :)

Hey guys,

When you’re a writer, it’s hard to visually represent more than 2000 hours of research over three years, and many hours of writing, editing, and even travelling that went into producing my novel. But, here are a couple of pics of my 240 page novel (manuscript), Where the Sun Rises. It is sometimes good to look at your work in this way, in its entirety.

Thanks for reading. 🙂