Saturday, August 15, 2015

How to make millions as a novelist like Danielle Steele

Is that your dream? To sell 650 million books, have 2000+ 5–star reviews on Amazon, earn £64 million in British sales alone, write 90 bestsellers ...? 

I can tell you how, but there's a hitch: first you have to be Danielle Steel. Let me share a few clues from her website. Notice the talent, persistence, hard work, enterprise and altruism?

  • bi-lingual, French/English, also speaks Spanish and Italian
  • has worked as teacher,  translator and advertising copywriter 
  • has eight children
  • worked on the streets with the homeless for 11 years after her son died
  • at one time held down three jobs and wrote at night
  • wrote a successful novel at 19, then wrote five books that were never published
  • established two foundations, one to help the mentally ill, and the other to help the homeless 
  • curates a contemporary art show once a year for a gallery in San Francisco.

Naturally, you will need everything that every popular novel needs in abundance: a riveting plot, strong characters, straightforward dialogue, ruthless structure, and an easy-to-read style.

Easy? I tested the first paragraph of her latest novel, The Prodigal Son, for readability. On the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease test, the score was 82.3, which means that 82.3% of English-speaking adults can probably read and understand it easily. This is exceptionally easy to read, I assure you.

Finally, when reading The Prodigal Son I noticed one quirk that is not what I'm used to. Steel reiterated certain points of character over and over and over again. In particular, I guess she told me 15 times how everyone in town thought the good twin, Michael the beloved small town doctor, was a saint. OK, I get it. I got it the first time. But let's not dismiss this as bad writing: I dare say this technique helps to make her novels so spectacularly popular. Popular means everybody gets her meaning.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Anne Karpf on aging: you're doing it now, and it's fine

I read "How to age" by Anne Karpf on my Kindle, and reviewed it for Amazon. I totally agree with Karpf's attitude towards aging — embrace aging, start young, it's continuous, it's interesting, it's growth, it's part of life. But alas, this is not easy in a culture that hates and fears old people and all they symbolise.

Some people may be disappointed in the book because of the title, which is misleading — and that's a shame. (And oh the agony of choosing a title...) Also, what a strange, depressing book cover! Title and cover don't do this important book justice.

My review

Anne Karpf reveals the extent of gerontophobia in the west — with all its cruelty, daftness and implicit self-sabotage — and the high price we pay for it.

Don’t be misled by the title: this is not a how-to book, but a long, eloquent essay reflecting on a big topic. It’s not easy to overhaul your attitude towards aging from a dreaded disability to an essential, valuable, lifelong process. However, at the end, we see how “Gina” incorporates the author’s attitudes towards aging into her own life. She started her personal how-to programme after her grandmother’s funeral by resolving:
“1. Never again to say of someone ‘she must have been beautiful’, as though age were some necrotizing organism that eats away at beauty.
“2. Whenever she felt anxious about her own encroaching wrinkles, to imagine herself fifteen years older so that, in comparison, she looked positively peachy. She thought of this as a reverse facelift.
“3. To remember that Betty, until the very end, thought that life was an adventure: she was always seizing new opportunities, conversing with strangers and reading new books.”
I recommend this book.