The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist's Solution by Lisa de Nikolits
Genre: Humorous Thriller
Print Length: 291 pages
Publisher: Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series Publication Date: September 30, 2019
The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about a couple experiencing a crisis. The husband, Lyndon, loses his job as editor of a financial magazine. Neither are happy with aging. Lyndon has gotten by with charm and frozen emotions. The wife, Margaux, has no idea how angry she is with him for his detachment. It is her idea to sell the house and just travel. But he is not coping well with retirement, so he simply walks off a ferry in Australia and leaves her. He steals a cat (well, he steals an expensive SUV that happens to have a cat onboard) and he flees Sydney, ending up in Apollo Bay, a few hours south-west of Melbourne, where he falls in with a group of anarchists and punk rockers in a tattoo parlour, planning revolution.
Meanwhile, Margaux sits tight in Sydney with no idea of where her husband might be or what happened. She moves into the red-light Kings Cross area, befriending the owner of the hostel, a seventy-year-old ex-cop drag queen from Saint John, New Brunswick, and waits to hear from her husband.
When she learns that her husband is fine, she is consumed by wrath and she invokes the angry spirit of an evil nurse, a key player in the terrible Chelmsworth sleep therapy in which many patients died (historical fact). While Lyndon gets in touch with his original career ambition to become an artist and wrestles with anarchism versus capitalism, Margaux learns to deal with her rage.
A serio-comedic thriller about a couple who embark on an unintentionally life-changing around-the-world adventure, The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution is about the meaning of life, healing from old wounds, romantic love at all ages, and how love and passion can make a difference, at any age.
Lisa de Nikolits is the international award-winning author of nine novels (all Inanna Publications). No Fury Like That was published in Italian in 2019 by Edizione Le Assassine as Una furia dell’altro mondo. Her short fiction and poetry have also been published in various anthologies and journals internationally. She is a member of the Mesdames of Mayhem, the Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, The Australian Crime Writers, The Short Fiction Mystery Association and the International Thriller Writers. Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits came to Canada in 2000. She lives and writes in Toronto.
What inspired you to write this book?
While in Australia, I thought my husband had fallen overboard into Sydney Harbour. In fact, I missed the ferry stop! But I truly thought he was gone. And in that moment, a hundred scenarios flashed across my mind. None of them made it into the book but the seed was sown and I reaped it with all my might!
On the same trip, we visited Balmain and it was there, at the abandoned Rozelle Asylum for the Criminally Insane, (ironically now home to the Sydney International Festival of Authors, among other things), that I felt the presence of the evil Nurse Nancy. Research into the asylum led to the discovery of the Chelmsford Sleep Therapy which tied in perfectly to the book. Add to that the fact that I’ve always loved Sid Vicious (who doesn’t?!) and have always wanted to write about him, I studied tarot, focusing on Liz Worth’s book (with her permission), Going Beyond the Little White Book: A Contemporary Guide to Tarot.
Also, I wondered about the statue of the Virgin Mary at Coogee for many years and I’ve wanted to work that into a story, as well as the lives of the drag queens in Kings Cross. I lived in Sydney for two years and I wanted to use the city as a backdrop for quite some time.
I also tried to research throwing a roll of toilet paper off the Sydney Harbour Bridge but, contrary to my work of fiction, there are cameras and steel fencing everywhere you look! So me and my roll of toilet paper didn’t get to actually try the experiment, but I did the math and the toilet paper protest could, in theory, work!
And I wondered in as store full of anarchists, in Newtown – they frightened and fascinated me!
What can we expect from you in the future?
The next project is science fiction, of all things. I never thought I’d write science fiction! It’s called The Rage Room.
I had an idea years ago, to write about a man who wanted to be the perfect husband, father and son and because he couldn’t achieve it (he’s in debt up to his eyeballs and about to be fired), he comes home on Christmas Eve, looks around at the Hallmark perfection of the moment and decides that there is a way he can keep it like that forever. He kills his family. That way they’ll never know what a loser he is or how he failed them.
Pretty dark, I know. The novel was intended to be a suspense psychological thriller about family dynamics and the average Joe trying to succeed in this life, and how, as time went on, he couldn’t hack it.
But when I began to write the novel, it morphed into a time travel story. Talk about horror! I hate time travel! It fries my brain! But I needed it in order to explore the moral compass of the story, to be able to look at the permutations of what might have saved him or saved his family.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters inThe Occult Persuasion and The Anarchist’s Solution? The Occult Persuasion and The Anarchist’s Solution. I was so worried the word ‘occult’ would put people off but it had to be in the title for reasons I’ll explain in the next question.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Well, firstly, I thought my husband had fallen into the Sydney harbour and died which gave me the initial idea for the book. Then later, he and I were watching an episode of Forensic Files and they mentioned that the victim had an occult bruise on her neck. I immediately pressed pause and rushed off to investigate. An occult bruise? A demon had caused her bruise? And this was on Forensic Files? And then I discovered the following: OC•CULT:MEDICINE
(of a disease or process) not accompanied by readily discernible signs or symptoms.
Amazing! Now by this time I’d come up with my character Lyndon and he was very dismayed by how we are destroying the planet with all our garbage and waste and I figured ‘capitalism is an occult bruise on the body of the earth.’ And I got hugely excited about this thread and theme for the book.
And, once one has established the problem in a book – the crux of the crisis – what is he going to do about it? He’s going to find like-minded people (the anarchist’s from Newtown) and he’s going to be part of staging a huge protest.
But what about Margaux, his wife? What’s she going to get up to while he is off finding a new lease on life?
She moves out of her expensive hotel and into a hostel in Kings Cross run by a drag queen from Canada who used to be a detective. Handy, huh, have a detective nearby?
But Margaux is, understandably, furious with Lyndon. She’s been waiting her whole life for this around-the-world trip and then he has a nervous breakdown and rushes off into the night, leaving her.
Anger. One of the greatest emotions a writer can work with. but it needs to feed into the plot.
I’ve always had a fascination with Mary of Coogee, even when I lived in Australia and I’ve always wanted to work her into the story. So after Lyndon leaves, Margaux finds herself at the statue, praying for help even although she is an atheist.
A real life experience came to mind. When I was in Rome, I saw the Pope on the balcony at the Vatican. He was hard to see, a tiny figure, so they had huge screens and I decided to take a pic of him from a screen. And guess what? The Pope’s face was entirely blacked out, the background was in colour but not him. I kid you not. I’m sure there was some scientific explanation for this – his wearing white didn’t read on the camera card while the other colours did – or something!
But I decided to use this, in conjunction with the Virgin Mary and Margaux’s anger. She was so angry she summoned a lost spirit and this spirit used the Virgin Mary as a portal to ‘find’ Margaux.
Which then meant Margaux would have to do some sleuthing and find out who the angry spirit really was… Which she did and she discovered that she was the very angry Nurse Nancy who was involved in the terrible Chelmsford Sleep Therapy (which I had discovered when I did research on the Balmain Hospital for the Insane (which I explored when I was in Australia. It’s a lovely park now but I wanted to know it’s history.)
So there, in a rather long nutshell, is how I came up with the main thread and characters for the story! The rest of it came fairly easily – as I say, the entire book was a gift from the creative gods!
However, it was a complex puzzle and I had to stretch my little gray cells far and wide to make it all come together in a cohesive, seamless, and sometimes humourous fashion.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
The names were tough, actually! Because they had to fit! I spent a lot of time on the names. I tried many! But I was very happy with them in the end!
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Ah I loved the whole thing! I loved the sense of excitement, wonder and adventure. I loved the lessons learned by each of my characters and I hoped I’d internalize those lessons too!
I particularly loved Jason, the ex-punk rocker, and his fascination with Sid Vicious.
I loved using every place I loved in Australia to come to life in this book; Apollo Bay, Melbourne, Sydney, with Newtown in particular and the walk along from Coogee to Bondi. It was fabulous writing about it because it was like being there meanwhile it was the dead of winter here in Canada!
I loved all the relationships, the idea of fresh starts at any age.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
All my characters in all my books have the same thing in common – their moral and core beliefs are pushed to the limits by some external event or triggering event. How they react – and the dominoes that fall in their wake or the castles they build – fuel the stories!
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
I’m going to go way back in time to my awful little novel, Single Girls Go Mad Sooner, because although the book was awful, I think the title wasn’t bad!
I was in my early twenties and dating was just awful! This was all pre-Internet, mind you and I had to go out and meet men the old-fashioned way – in person!
had many misadventures and an illustrator friend of mine told me my descriptions of the evenings were hilarious – she said I should write down the stories and she’s illustrate them.
This actually gave me impetus to date more and have more bizarre experiences!
She reneged on the illustrations but I went ahead anyway!
Who designed your book covers?
I generally do but in this case, a friend of mine and wonderful designer, Colin Frings, did! I had an idea but it wasn’t panning out and so I sent him the elements and said here, see what you think! And I love it! I found the original artwork online by Glenn Larkby but we changed it to blue.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’d actually leave this one as it is! I’d edit some of the sentences – I keep editing when I prep for readings and such but when it comes to sending a book to print, you have to accept things at a certain point! Because really, one could rewrite forever!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The flower conversation on the beach between Lyndon and Sean! It just cracked me up – but I’ll say no more and hope readers will let me know if they enjoyed it too!
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d do yoga with Jason the ex-punk rocker, up on his roof! And then later, we’d go the protest together!
And I’d keep my t-shirt even although it was against the rules!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
They are all entirely imaginative! Actually Margaux was the hardest of the all for me as she is so utterly the antithesis of who I am. I come up with the more whacky characters more easily and struggle more with the more normal ones!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
They lead the way! But I have to herd them, can’t have them running off willy-nilly! It’s a lot of work, herding characters! I’m not sure if you ever saw that old video, herding cats? Well, it’s a lot like that!
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Because it will entertain you and inspire you!
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes, I have a book called Boomerang Beach. But it’s very dark and I think I need to rework it! As it currently stands: Boomerang Beach is a politically-incorrect satirical thriller set in Australia populated with intentionally clichéd sexual fantasies, held together by a layered plot featuring white supremacists and underground sex workers who ply their trade online. The unusual characters challenge sexual stereotypes and pull back the curtain to reveal a Lionel Shriver-like We Need to Talk about Kevin scenario which explodes the myth of the suburban family dynamic. (86 000 words.)
But as I say, I think this book needs a lot of work to be less brutal and direct and more allegorical. Reworking this is on my list but not one of my top priorities!
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Fresh linen or Ocean Breeze!
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Margaret Atwood. Because The Rage Room is a dystopian thriller and I’d love her insights.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
When I was writing the scene where they banish the Evil Nurse Nancy, a paisley-shaped rash appeared on my wrist. It turned out to be shingles but I think it was Nancy who didn’t want to be banished! Unfortunately it did not leave a scar – I would have loved a memento from Nancy!
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, I’d like to tell them how tremendously lucky I am to have my publisher, Inanna Publications. We’ve been together for over ten years, with nine books and I am so incredibly blessed to be part of their team.
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