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

The writing process 1 1

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 2

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 3

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 4

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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The writing life 1 5

The writing life 1

Michelle Edwards joined The Writers’ Masterclass in 2017 and wrote the first draft of a work of fiction during that year. That draft became her debut novel Go Away Birds, which is to be published in March by Modjaji. She was back on the class last year to write her second novel, which is nearing …

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Food for thought 1 6

Food for thought 1

Food for thought: It struck me recently while going through proofs of my next novel – The Rabbit Hole – that there was a lot of food and drink in the story. Not only pizzas, pasta, sushi, fish ‘n chips, delicious takeouts from such places as Giovanni’s Deli in Green Point, but meals consumed in …

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Writing sex 7

Writing sex

Writing sex scenes: some writers have no trouble at all; others squirm with embarrassment and avoid the subject altogether. “I can’t do them,” one writer told me and she shall remain anonymous. “People – my family, my friends – will think that’s what I get up to. No ways am I going to write about …

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I see you 2 8

I see you 2

Part 2 Last week I mentioned how useful the first-person observer could be as a writing tactic; this week I’ll look at some ways authors have deployed the “I see you” technique. There’s a useful double edge to the observation: “I see you”. In one sense it means that I acknowledge you as another human …

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I see you 1 9

I see you 1

Funny how with the start to each book comes a new revelation, and a new writing tip. Even 20 books later. So my theme of “I see you” has two parts. Part 1 has to do with the revelation; Part 2 with how to use it. Thing is, over the last few weeks, I’ve been …

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Goodbye 2020 10

Goodbye 2020

Goodbye 2020: it is certainly one year I’m not sorry to see the end of. Although it is probably going to be a year with a long reach into the new year and beyond. What will be interesting is to see the books – novels and memoirs – that this year will produce. From what …

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