Today I’m delighted to welcome author Lisa de Nikolits to Colloquium for the first time!
Lisa is the author of six books, including her latest, The Nearly Girl, featuring eccentric characters such as Henry, a genius poet; his estranged body-building wife; a psychiatrist, Dr. Carroll, who practices an unconventional form of cognitive behavioral therapy research called DTOT (do the right thing); and Amelia, Henry’s daughter. Amelia can’t manage to conform to societal norms because she lives in fear of being normal, aka boring. The Nearly Girl is the story of Amelia’s life. Forced into taking Dr. Carroll’s advice, she manages to discover her true self over the course of this fast-paced thriller that is being heralded as perfect reading for fans of works like A Prayer for Owen Meany and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
The Story Behind Book Number Six – The Nearly Girl
I wrote the first draft of The Nearly Girl in December of 2013 in Australia. The trip was memorable for three things. The first was that my nephew Grayson was just six months old and I met him for the first time. The second was that I was writing the book on a tiny ancient Macbook Pro (on which I write most of my first drafts as there is no internet or other distractions), and the third thing is that I got caught in a flash storm and was stranded at a ferry stop in Sydney, with the computer tightly tucked under my t-shirt and wrapped in a plastic bag I had found – I had no backup of my work and I couldn’t bear to lose this story!
The Nearly Girl. The manuscript was accepted for publication by Inanna on the 7th of January, 2015 was published for real in late September.
I told a friend of mine that giraffes take 13 months to gestate. In terms of The Nearly Girl, I have had two and a half giraffe gestations – that’s a long time!
My very first inspiration for the book came about in 1984. 1984 was, as those of you who were around at that time would agree, a stellar year for shoulder pads, Bananarama, Wham! (yes, still with George Michael), Billy Ocean and Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69. TV shows were all fired up: Magnum, P.I., Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Hill Street Blues, Cheers, Knight Rider and The A-Team. Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields and my own personal fav, Paulina Porizkova, were hot on the covers of Elleand Marie Claire. Hair was big, jeans were pleated and the fashions will never see a revival, as dreadful as they were but there’s no doubt, we were living large and loving every moment!
And none of that has anything to do with The Nearly Girl.
But one book did. The Dice Man. Penned by George Cockcroft under the pen name of Luke Rhinehart, the novel is about a psychiatrist who makes decisions for himself and his patients according to the cast of the dice. Hailed as a cult classic that would change your life, it did change mine. I read it in 1984 and it made me want to write a book of my own with a crazed psychiatrist with his own therapeutic methods of treatment.
Now that I think about it, I have actually spent a lot longer than I thought, working on this book.
It took a long time for my psychiatrist to come to me with his own unique therapy – there was no short cut to my meeting with Dr. Frances Carroll. The road involved an intense study of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia and claustrophobia – the treatment was successful for the latter but not for the former but hey, the less you sleep, the more time you have to write, I guess.
And one day, mulling over my problem(s) and feeling super-annoyed with myself for having said problems, I snapped at myself – ‘just stop it! Just do the opposite thing and you will be cured! Just sleep! Just get in elevators, just go on subways, just get on planes!’
Of course, not being a qualified therapist, this did not achieve the desired result BUT it did spawn my dearly beloved Dr. Frances Carroll who is one of my favorite characters to date.
Such a nutter! And yet, so funny. Well, I think he is hilarious and I hope readers will too but I shouldn’t set expectations about the book in any shape or form – some readers may find him dangerous, or annoying and think he should be locked up. All of these observations would also be correct.
And I must not forget my dear Amelia, protagonist in all of this. She is The Nearly Girl and I was inspired by her by own inabilities to do certain things correctly – make lunch dates and stick to them, or use the oven as a filing cabinet for my manuscripts and printouts, use Vim to clean the dishes and dish detergent to clean the bathtub. And the temptation to just get on a bus, any bus and believe it would get me to my location because really, a bus is just a bus.
I have always struggled with so many of the rules of social engagement – like being at a job for example. At my first place of employment, I phoned my mother. “I can’t stand being trapped like this,” I said. “I have to leave. I can’t understand this rigidity.” She told me to get used it and I realized from her tone that she wasn’t joking.
So Amelia, dear to my heart, is based on my struggles but of course my struggles are just boring and tedious and have financial repercussions and no advantages whereas Amelia is much more interesting than me, and so are her adventures.
So, looking back, it has been a very long road, this longer than two and a half giraffe gestations of this book and I hope the world likes Amelia and Henry the poet (her father) and Megan the body-builder (her mother) and beloved Ethel and Ed (her grandparents) and of course, Dr. Carroll and the whole gang who attend the D.T.O.T courses.
If you have any questions, I’d be delighted to chat!
One last thing I’d like to add is that I love attending book clubs, so if you’d be interested in having me at your book club, along with my characters, that would be fantastic!
I also do a lot readings at the Toronto Public Library and other places, so if you’d like to catch a live reading and meet me in person, please check out my website as all the events are listed there, along with reviews, photographs and all kinds of interesting information. Thank you!