Mike Nicol

Now you need to know who I am and my credentials for running WriteOnline. I’m a South African author and live and work in Cape Town. In fact, I was born here and have spent the last four decades on the False Bay coast – which was handy for surfing. My writing career started in my teens but it wasn’t until 1978 that I published my first book: a volume of poetry called Among the Souvenirs which won the Ingrid Jonker award. Ten years later I published my debut novel, The Powers That Be (that sold to 10 countries which I have to admit was exciting, but scary) and this was followed by the international publication of my next novels: This Day and Age (1992), Horseman (1994) and The Ibis Tapestry (1997). My second collection of poems, This Sad Place, appeared in 1993. During the 1990s I was commissioned to write a number of non-fiction books: A Good-Looking Corpse (a history of the 1950s as depicted by the writers on Drum magazine); The Waiting Country (a memoir of South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994); a memoir of a year in Berlin and my return to Cape Town, Sea Mountain, Fire City; The Invisible Line (a biography of The Star photographer Ken Oosterbroek); and then, in the new millenium, came Mandela – The Authorised Portrait (2006); Mandela – Celebrating the Legacy (2013); a five-book series of short biographies of such people as John Lennon, the Dalai Lama and John F Kennedy for PQ Blackwell, and Monkey Business (2011) about the tragic Anni Dewani murder in Cape Town. With the radical change in South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela, I moved from literary fiction to crime fiction as this genre allowed me to write about the political corruption and criminality that was to become such a factor of South African life as the country joined the rest of the world. My crime thrillers have been well received at home, in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK. The first series, the Bishop series, is under a television option in Germany. After being a journalist on, among other publications, The Star in Johannesburg and then Leadership in Cape Town, I went freelance in 1990. Some years later I spent a year in Berlin under the DAAD residency programme, and followed this with a writer’s residency to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Essen, in 2002. In 2010 I presented a lecture at New York University as part of their Liberal Studies programme. By then my interests had shifted to teaching creative writing. For ten years I was invited to give an annual series of lectures on the University of Cape Town’s creative writing MA programme before moving to tutor online creative writing and non-fiction narrative writing short courses on an educational platform and with the backing of my publisher PenguinRandomHouse. In 2013 I started my own international online writing class, The Writer's Masterclass – which has successfully produced eight published books and many satisfied students, who return year after year. So now, as a professional working writer, and non-fiction editor and ghostwriter (for such authors as Moe Shaik, Simone Haysom, George Bizos, Mamphela Ramphele, Peter Harris, Charles Abrahams, Neil Reynolds, among others) and with all these years of my ‘apprenticeship’ both behind me and ongoing, my WriteOnline course can offer guidance and support towards making your writing a reality. For rights to my books please contact my agent Tina Betts at [email protected] . To view my publications, please navigate to https://writeonline.pro/publications

Food for thought 4 1

Food for thought 4

Food for thought: Well, not food at all but drink. Because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of drinking that happens in novels. I really like associating my characters with a type of drink and often the brand too. It adds to characterisation. In the series with Fish and Vicki, Fish goes for IPAs, particularly …

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Searching for Sarah 2

Searching for Sarah

Lawyer, writer, blogger. Dominique Malherbe is a name to be reckoned with. I’ve known her for a number of years and watched her reputation grow. And now comes her biography/memoir, Searching for Sarah (from Tafelberg). It’s her third book, following two memoirs  – From Courtrooms to Cupcakes and Somewhere in Between. But memoirs are one …

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Food for thought 3 3

Food for thought 3

Food for thought: it’s a touchy subject cannibalism because if anything speaks of extreme characterisation (Hannibal Lecter, for instance) then it is those characters who eat other characters. I came across this issue while writing Power Play. I was using Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus as the vague outline for a plot. As you know, there’s a …

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The writing process 4 4

The writing process 4

The writing process can get off to a slow start. You might wander around for hours, days, weeks, trying to find a way into your story. So, with the Writing Reality course a week away, a good topic is the agony of the beginning. Let’s assume you’ve done the research, transcribed your voice recordings, organised …

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The writing process 3 5

The writing process 3

Two weeks ago (in The Writing process 1), I quoted extensively from John McPhee’s excellent book, Draft No. 4 , about the writing process in general. This week, for those keen to join the WriteOnline Writing Reality course on 29 March, I thought it an especially good time to tap the brain of John McPhee …

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The writing process 2 6

The writing process 2

With the start of the WriteOnline Writing Fiction course next week, I thought it a good idea to talk about an essential aspect of the writing process: characters. We all know that characters make novels: think, Oliver Twist, Mrs Dalloway, Molly Bloom, John Rebus, Pilgermann, Sethe, Piggy. We remember those novels by their characters; possibly …

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The writing process 1 7

The writing process 1

It’s never too late to learn, especially when it comes to the writing process. From my start-out days, I’ve had a copy of E M Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, which every novelist should read, at my elbow. More lately, I’ve been reading books on the writing process by contemporary authors. These books are hugely …

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Writing fiction 8

Writing fiction

Last year Kwanele Kunene did the WriteOnline Writing Fiction short course. She’s at the start of her writing career. So how did she find the course and what are her plans for writing her first stories? In this email Q&A, she talks about how the course got her writing. First off, tell us a bit …

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Food for thought 2 9

Food for thought 2

Food for thought: so you want to use food as a way of bringing your character to life but you’re wondering how to do it? Do you sit them down to a meal? Do you have them sprinkling spices into a pan of sautéed vegetables? Do you have them ordering-in pizzas? As you can see, …

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The writing life 2 10

The writing life 2

Part Two Last week I had an email Q&A with Michelle Edwards whose debut novel Go Away Birds is being published by Modjaji next month. That interview covered her writing life, but we weren’t done yet so here she looks at some of the themes and issues she brings to that novel and the new …

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