Mystery Mondays: Lisa de Nikolits on Chasing Her Muse

It’s always a pleasure to host Lisa de Nikolits on Mystery Mondays. Not only is she a Canadian author, her enthusiasm and happiness always comes through. She’s got a great story to share with you today.

Over to Lisa…

When the Muse Beckons, Chase Her!

by Lisa de Nikolits

My husband and I ended a rather harrowing 2017 with a lovely trip to Australia to visit my family. We finished the trip with four days in Auckland and it was all wonderful. The weather was great, it was marvellous to see my family – and I wrote thirty five thousand words of a new book!

I hadn’t planned on writing a thing. In fact, I had a few books with me; Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochon (who I had met at Bouchercon, we were fellow speed-daters), The Glass House by Louise Penny, Random by Craig Robertson (who I also met at Bouchercon), Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride and Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly.

I also planned on reading some Australian and New Zealand fiction. In particular, I wanted to read a bunch of short stories as I’m trying to hone my skills in this area.

But what happened was this… we drove up to Blueys Beach, which is a few hours north east of Sydney, in the Pacific Palms area. It’s a spectacular stretch of coastal scenery and there are three beaches, all very close to the house my sister rented for us; Blueys Beach, Boomerang Beach and Elizabeth Beach.


My sister (wisely) had decided we’d take the trip one week before all the schools let out and so the area was really quiet. So much so, that at certain times, we had the beaches to ourselves. And on the day that we went to Boomerang Beach, there was no one around at all.

And, just to mention how amazing the flora and fauna is in Australia! The birds shout and screech – Australian birds do not make pretty sounds – some of those guys sounded like they were throwing up! And the cicadas were a wild and noisy chorus in the trees, so there was a cocophonic clash of sounds coming from the blue gums trees.

And the Australian flora is so different to ours, it’s dry and yet it’s succulent, there are bursts of magenta bougainvillea flowers, and yellow flowers bigger than my hand, with bright red stamens, and there are palm trees of all kinds. The whole place is lush and dense and every time I visit, I marvel at it. And, despite the fact that I lived in Sydney and have been back five or six times since I left in 2000 to come to Canada, I never cease to admire the intensity. And, no matter how many times I visit, I always see it afresh and I’m always thinking about how to potentially use it in a story.

The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution, (which will be published by Inanna Publication in 2019), is set in Sydney and I thought I was done with using Australia as a location, but apparently not!

My husband and I walked up a steep hill to get to Boomerang Beach. Not a person was to be seen. We got to the beach entrance which was set high on a hill, it was a small opening set between two hedges. I had a stone in my shoe and I urged my husband to go ahead, I’d catch up. And, left alone, on the side of the road, I thought what if a bus came along now and offered me a ride? And what if I was an unhappily married woman who wanted to escape from my life – who would ever see me go? No one would see me. I would vanish into thin air. Hmmm… who was that woman and whose bus did she get into? A cult! What kind of cult? What kind of bus? Where were they going? Already the wheel of ideas was in full spin!


I left the road and walked down the steep, sandy stairs to get to the beach. Still, not a soul around. In front of me lay the most incredible beach of rocks and aqua waters, it was wild and magnificent with rock cliffs to the one side and a beach stretching for miles to the other. What rocks! Huge boulders with patches of rust of them, strange discolorations and striations, and there was a whole field of these alien-looking sculptures.

Hmm…. I thought again. And then, the husband could be accused of her murder! Wrongly, of course, but that could be great. The police might think that the husband did it by dashing her head on the rocks and throwing her into the waves. Come high tide, no one would be the wiser. And why would he kill her? Had she disgraced him? What was the story of dissent between them? So much to think about!

When we got back to the house, I got out my notebook, just to jot down a few ideas. But then I thought, no, don’t just write down the idea for the story, start writing the thing itself. You’re here now, you won’t recall the ideas with the same intensity that you have now.

As a result, I started writing and three notebooks later, I had what I thought was a respectable start to a story, of (I thought) about fifteen thousand words.

I wrote by hand. I had an iPad with me with a separate keyboard but I didn’t feel like typing. That would feel too much like being at work! But putting pen to paper, with the fantastic summer breeze blowing on me, that was relaxing and enjoyable! I wrote and wrote, waiting to run out of story but it didn’t happen! It was going so well that I wrote in the Auckland airport, waiting for the plane to come home and I wrote the whole way back, apart from one short sleep.

I had to input the story when I got home – I must admit, there are only two parts of the writing process I really dislike – inputting copy and updating self-edits from hard copy. I grumble a lot when I have to do it!

It took me a good week solid, to type the story in, but in the end, I had just under thirty five thousand words of an extremely weird story. I’d love to carry on writing it but first I have to finish my self edits to Rotten Peaches which will be coming out in Fall 2018. I hate to leave a story when it’s going so well but Rotten Peaches takes priority. I hope that my brain will use the time to keep working on Boomerang Beach in the background, and I’m going to trust that it will!

So you see, stories can pop up at any time in any place and I urge writers or would-be writers, that when the muse beckons, chase her! Chase her immediately because she can be fickle and even if you end up scribbling in poor handwriting, you’ll get a story!

Thank you for having me as guest today, Kristina and I hope your readers will have enjoyed the post!




LisaNFLT01BWOriginally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has lived in Canada since 2000. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain. Lisa lives and writes in Toronto. Previous works include: The Hungry Mirror (2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women’s Issues Fiction and long-listed for a ReLit Award); West of Wawa (2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and a Chatelaine Editor’s Pick); A Glittering Chaos (tied to win the 2014 Silver IPPY for Popular Fiction); The Witchdoctor’s Bones launched in Spring 2014 to literary acclaim. Between The Cracks She Fell was reviewed by the Quill & Quire, was on the recommended reading lists for Open Book Toronto and 49th Shelf. Between The Cracks She Fell was also reviewed by Canadian Living magazine and called ‘a must-read book of 2015’. Between The Cracks She Fell won a Bronze IPPY Award 2016 for Contemporary Fiction. The Nearly Girl was published in 2016 and No Fury Like That was published in 2017, with Rotten Peaches coming in 2018 and The Occult Persuasion and the Anarchist’s Solution coming in 2019. All books by Inanna Publications.

“Lisa is the author of seven impressive novels, each of them marked by her wild creativity and memorable characters. No Fury Like That is a genre bending literary thriller, wickedly funny with a brainy narrative.”

– Open Book Toronto

Lisa has a short story in Postscripts To Darkness, Volume 6, 2015, and flash fiction and a short story in the debut issue of Maud.Lin House as well as poetry in the Canadian Women Studies Journal (Remembering, 2013, and Water, 2015). Her short stories have also appeared on Lynn Crosbie’s site, Hood and the Jellyfish Review. She has a short story coming out in the anthology PAC’HEAT, a Ms. Pac-Man noir collection and a short story in the Sisters In Crime anthology, November 2016, The Whole She-Bang 3. Lisa is a member of the Mesdames of Mayhem and has a short story in the antholgies Thirteen O’ Clock and Thirteen Claws.


No Fury Like That

NoFuryCoverLisa de Nikolits is one of my most fascinating discoveries of Canadian literature. Her writing is fresh and attractive, but deep in ideas and thoughtful provoking.

No Fury Like That is a brilliant psychological exploration of human soul questioning our certitudes about the world: De Nikolits knows how to combine the oppressive atmosphere of Beckett or Kafka with the contemporaneous form of the thriller-narrative, always with a touch of humor and sensibility. And of course, with an extraordinary capacity to capture the essence of human emotions. —Miguel Angel Hernandez, Escape Attempt

Don’t dismiss No Fury Like That as a light, entertaining read. There are nuances to Ms. de Nikolits’ writing that could be missed with such a viewpoint. This book is really about second chances that we may never get the first time around on our trek along Eternity’s Road.

—James Fisher, The Miramichi Reader 

Afraid to die? Worse is yet to come! Julia, a ruthless business woman, suddenly finds herself in Purgatory not remembering if she has died, or how. Left with no choice but to make friends with other lost souls, she never dreams she will not only become their saviour but also an avenger. In this brilliantly written book you will be holding your breath when Julia realises she should have made things all right at the primary crime scene where it all started – Earth. —Suzana Tratnik, author of Games with Greta

No Fury Like That is de Nikolits at her best. She has taken the question, “What if you had a second chance?” and has given her imagination free rein to answer it. The result is a novel full of colourful characters who grapple with their lives, their deaths, and what it is to be human. By the final page the reader has not only witnessed Julia Redner’s metamorphic journey, but has also taken a personal step forward. —Liz Bugg, author of the Calli Barnow Mystery Series

A smart, satisfying read that’s laced with humour, peopled with quirky characters and moves along at a fast clip. Readers will root for its plucky heroine, hoping she’ll get a shot at a second chance. Another spellbinder from Lisa de Nikolits! —Rosemary McCracken, author of the Pat Tierney mysteries.

Imagine if characters from The Devil Wears Prada got trapped in Sartre’s play No Exit, where ‘hell is other people’. —John Oughton, author of Triangulation.


Links: (Inanna Publications) (Author website) (Goodreads)


Mystery Mondays: Lisa de Nikolits on The Writer’s Seeing Eye

BTCSF_FrontCoverLisa de Nikolits sat in front of me at The Bloody Words conference, and what I remember is her great bit smile. This week, I’d like to welcome this very friendly and talented author to Mystery Mondays. Lisa’s going to tell you about the Writer’s Seeing Eye.

THE WRITER’S SEEING EYE by Lisa de Nikolits

 Ideas for crime novels. Where do they come from? 

“We need to watch another episode of Forensic Files,” I said to my husband. 

“It’s 2 a.m. on Christmas Day,” he replied, “We need to get some sleep so we can enjoy Christmas.”

“Ah, just one more,” I encouraged him. “It’s all research for me and I’ll make you a fresh cup of tea. Just one more!”


That’s what I tell myself anyway. 

And it’s true that I have learned a lot about ethylene glycol and ketotic hyperglycinemia, blood spatter, fingerprint analysis, handwriting analysis, the ever-famous DNA, toolmarkings and ballistic analysis.

While the things those guys can do is just mind-blowingly amazing, two things struck me with this program. The first is how stupid some people are, when it comes to committing a crime. Most of the time they leave behind a trail of evidence that is nearly a paint-by-numbers for the detectives to solve. 

And the second thing is the impulsivity of the crimes, which occur on the spur of the moment. 

While I am full of admiration for Forensic Files, when it comes to novels, things are very different. Readers have very little patience with stupid protagonists and they are very quick to spot any story inconsistencies or things that might not ring true in the flow of a crime committed. 

In real life, how many times you have found yourself staying “real life really is stranger than fiction” and it is stranger because it’s not reasoned out in the same way that we plot books, real life crime just happens and then people try to mop up the mess and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t. 

My ideas for the crime in my novels comes from flights of my imagination. The big ‘what if?’

For example, my husband and I got confused while taking a ferry back from Sydney to Cremorne Point – he got off while I didn’t and in that nano-second, I was convinced that he had fallen into the black water of the Sydney harbor and drowned. 

He was fine, of course he was, he had got off while I had been photographing something and there was nothing to it. 

But my writer’s seeing eye saw him being ushered off the boat, with a gun tucked under his armpit, and a gothic anarchist girl leading him away. I saw that a human trafficking gang had confused him with his doppelganger, and that an innocuous picture that he had posted on Instagram had caused all the confusion. I saw that my husband’s niece was involved in the kidnapping, and that she was being haunted by the ghost of a woman who had been locked up in an insane asylum. 

None of which could have come from Forensic Files or crime stories from real life, but that said, nothing is going to stop me from watching my favourite program – all for ‘research’ of course!


WhiteShirtBioPicLisa de Nikolits is the author of five novels: The Hungry MirrorWest of Wawa, A Glittering ChaosThe Witchdoctor’s Bones and Between The Cracks She FellBetween The Cracks She Fell was reviewed by the Quill & Quire and on recommended reading lists for Open Book Toronto and 49th Shelf. Canadian Living magazine called it ‘a must-read book of 2015’. 

Lisa has also been published in various anthologies and journals including Postscripts To Darkness, Volume 6, 2015, Thirteen O’ClockMaud.Lin House, the Canada Woman Studies Journal, Hood and the Jellyfish Review.



twitter: @lisadenikolits


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The Mesdames of Mayhem: