Writing, musings & naming characters…

Hey everyone,

This morning for the first time in a while I decided to write and rewrite some sections of my next novel. I have not had much time with all of my teaching I have been doing. I focused on some images, and memories between characters, as well as creating some nicknames. Nicknames say a lot about a character, as do names.

I had decided to call my main characters brother Tommy, for no real reason, I liked the name. This main character Sarah and her brother Tommy were always described as twins when they were young, always together and they looked alike as well. So, I was looking up the name Tommy for some nicknames and I saw that this name means “Twin” in Aramaic. What?! 🙂

This has happened to me before with a character out of my first novel that her name meant “burning and fiery explosion” and this character is blown up. I had not looked up the meaning of her name before I named her.

Amazing. I am struggling at the moment with how much of my real brother and my story I should put in this novel. I am tossing backward and forward in the strong wave undercurrent of whether to present it as it happened, my life with him, or a modified version as there is not much space in this current book. Then again maybe there is. Or do I keep our story for another book? This is what I am wondering at the moment. Maybe I modify for this book, then write in more detail my own experience with him.

I am reading Trent Dalton’s book, Boy Swallows Universe, and I know he wrote about his life in this book. It is inspiring me to brave and simply write what I need to. I am conscious of the significance of writing about my life, with how it could effect people but Trent Dalton said, “don’t worry about that, just write it.” That was my plan originally but I didn’t think I would become paralysed by how much to include and what details and how much do I put in of the hospital visits and struggles etc…It is all very interesting. I am really seeking guidance from within about it. I know where it ends, but how much of my own life will I include? This is the unknown at the moment.

Today, I am pondering on this, and meeting up with some writing friends so it should be good. Thanks guys for reading, feel free to comment if you like down the bottom. Have a lovely day! Stay well. 🙂 Suz

ocean wave
Photo by Simon Clayton on Pexels.com

Creative processing… :)

Hey everyone,

It is a disturbing time in many ways right now, but also there are positives coming out of this horrendous worldwide situation. I think on the whole people are appreciating their relationships more, and, for some, they are expressing things they haven’t before. It has made me realise a lot of things. Made me see certain relationships that are important to me, that I didn’t realise the significance of until they were taken away, for a brief time.

It is interesting. I feel a lot of things will change through this pandemic. In some ways, I hope and pray that we realise the essential things in life and how this short life should be lived to the full.

My brother died at age 37 and I was very close to him. After he died I realised that I didn’t want to waste my life doing things I was meant to do, instead of things I felt called to do, or had a passion for.

I have always known I was a writer since I was a young child. I fell in love with words from the moment I learnt to read and write them. I fell in love with story as well. I wrote and drew comic books and drew pictures, wrote stories and made pop up books. So for me, I knew following the death of my brother that I needed to write every day of my life .That is my purpose, I know that for certain. I must admit it took me a couple of years to really embrace this, and I enrolled in my masters to focus on writing. I had wanted to do that since I had graduated from my first degree. Doing a masters allowed me to focus on writing, which my life had only partially allowed me to do. Since then I have written and published my first novel, Where the Sun Rises which took me 3.5 years and thousands of hours of research to write, even travelling to the Israeli and Syrian border.

That was an amazing experience and it is a novel I really believe in. Check it out if you’re interested. 🙂 It is about the real life phenomenal women who fought in Syria.

Anyway, in the past months I have written 54,000 words of my new novel working title, Sarah Johns. It is about a foreign correspondent from Sydney who is in my first novel. Now that I have written 75% of the novel and I am at a certain point where I know what is going to happen but the details are not set in stone. This is how I prefer to write, I know how it will end but not all of the details. It helps me to be inspired to keep going and exploring the idea, characters and where it is going.

I am thankful in this COVID time that I have had the time to write a first draft of this novel, as often we don’t have the time do we? I am extremely grateful for this. I am grateful for my family and friends as well and for health. I hope you are all keeping safe and staying well! Love to you all.

Kind regards, Suz

New novel – Sarah Johns…

Hey everyone,

During these lock down times and times of quarantine I have been trying to make the most of more time to write. I feel this is a unique time where I can get the whole first draft of my next novel written. This novel is quite different from the last novel I wrote which required research about absolutely everything. My new novel is in first person, I am enjoying writing with first person as I haven’t done this for years now. This story is also about someone who is Australian and also someone who is a journalist – therefore it is easier for me to write this book. This character comes from Sydney, which is where I am from. Of course this is her story, not mine, but it is a lot easier to write this book in many ways. Though no doubt as I progress there will be challenges – there always is. Each book has its own particular hurdles, however, I am enjoying this process and I have now written 36,460 words of this next book.

I always knew Where the Sun Rises (WTSR) might be the hardest book I attempted to write, due to the fact that I had to research everything, including; culture, on the ground war facts, conditions in Syria, how it felt to be there as well as focalising from another cultural point of view, and from two points of view. It was an ambitious feat 😉 I am glad I wrote it. But I just wanted to say I am enjoying not having to research absolutely everything. 🙂 Though of course there is some research I will have to do, though nowhere near as much as WTSR.

Anyway, stay tuned for this next book. Also, I hope you are able to do some creative things in this time. Whatever you like to do. I have also been knitting, buying pot plants, exercising a bit and drawing. 😀 So, go forth and be creative. Thanks for reading! Remember, you’re not alone. 😀 Take care, Suz

Bilgola Beach, Sydney.

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…

YPG à Kobané7
 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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