Here she is to tell us how she does it!
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P.S. is the story of magazine journalist Jennifer Pendergast, who inadvertently uncovers a crime ring in Johannesburg that leads her into a dangerous poaching arena. As she follows the trail, she realizes that everything she loves will be at stake—and fights hard not to become a victim herself.
Here’s how P.S. starts out:
Jennifer Pendergast had twenty-two pairs of heels—one pair of shoes for each working day of the month plus two extra. And twenty-two different lipstick shades—which she picked not according to their colour but only if they had interesting names. It was her Granny who had taught her to believe she was undressed if she left the house without at least her lipstick on. Besides, she wished to draw attention to her mouth and away from her hair which was red and unruly with curls. In order to tame them she cropped them below her ears, however, she also hated her freckles, and ignored her dark green eyes, but actually she was beautiful, she just didn’t know it.
She carefully applied the shade “Tainted Love,” which was a dusty rose pink and wriggled her toes in the nude strappy wedges she’d picked for today before grabbing her handbag and A4 leather work folder. She was late already for work. Lucille was coming in to clean today and Jenni had spent some time writing out a note of tasks for her. Why was it she always missed the spider webs? Jenni shivered, probably enough of them in there to stop a Boeing by now.
The first paragraph really pulls you in. Did you plan the entire story from the start? Do you know exactly where it’s going as you write?
Because these paragraphs sprang seemingly unbidden from my imagination, it has amazed me how the story has taken on a life of its own from the few seeds that were planted right from the start. This has made me acknowledge how much a writer is not only a creator of ideas, but also a conduit for ideas that come from beyond ourselves. The stories I write are seldom fully known to me before they are written. The final product is often a mysterious and delightful surprise.
I’ll take that as a no—it sounds like you wing it a little—but does that make it hard to focus, or stay motivated?
Through building on those words I am also aware how much work is involved in crafting and honing in order to create something so much greater than a mere beginning. In essence, these paragraphs have made me fall in love with writing the book, and have formed the bedrock of the motivation that is required to keep pushing forwards to claim the goal and prize of completing the book.
What do you like most about this intro?
Really, they take that “pride of place” because they are the first paragraphs of the first novel I’ve written. These chapters have been a gift to me and I can’t adequately express how grateful I am for that.
I like how you immediately introduce us to Jenni—quirks, insecurities, and all. You also throw in some of her vulnerabilities, which makes us like her from the very start. Were these aspects planned or more accidental?
Accidental, in that they arrived in spite of me. Her family, dog, and social conscience are her vulnerabilities and these are featured straight away. Also, links to the antagonist are subtly presented right in the beginning, though these are not clear at this early stage.
It sounds like even you might not know how the story will end!
I have a plan of how the story will develop and end but I won’t be surprised if that changes along the way. I have to finish the book though because more than anything, I have to see how Jenni triumphs. When she does, then so will I, in having completed my first novel!
Well, we’re all confident that it will end just as intriguingly as it began. Thanks and congratulations, Liberty, on a job well done!
Read Liberty’s novel-in-progress, and start your own while you’re at it. The feedback you receive (and give to others) is incredibly valuable!