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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Life After a Big Book Deal: Sarah Lotz Chats to Alex Smith About Writing, Being a Writer and All Things in Between

The ThreeDay FourLocal author Alex Smith remembers sitting in a little café in Noordhoek with Sarah Lotz and a couple of other writer friends, dreaming of landing the elusive “big deal” that would make them household names.

After giving a pitch to an agent to take to the Frankfurt Book Fair, Lotz eventually secured that deal, resulting in the internationally acclaimed The Three and Day Four. Smith caught up with Lotz to ask if she would consider The Three, which was not her debut, her “breakthrough novel” and to find out if the “big deal” changed her life as a writer.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s a cliché to say this, but it really was a dream come true (and sometimes I still can’t believe that it happened) as it meant that I could write full-time,” Lotz says. She also shares more about the genesis of The Three, her writing habits, the effect of winning an award and her advice to someone who is about to enter the publishing world.

Read the article for the best piece of advice Lotz has ever been given regarding writing and other fascinating titbits about her writing career so far:

Q: A writing question for students: In terms of developing story and place, how does actually visiting, let’s say the suicide forest in Japan, impact on your ability to create it in your novel, as opposed to simply doing Internet research?

A: I’d read many accounts of the Aokigahara forest – where more than a hundred people tragically kill themselves each year – and had a preconceived notion of it as a morbid and creepy place. It wasn’t: it was beautiful and eerie and had its own particular atmosphere that I couldn’t have imagined if I’d hadn’t experienced it. I think you can get away with Google Earth, YouTube and written accounts of places, but clearly soaking up the atmosphere in person is first prize if at all possible.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given regarding writing?

A: Finish what you start. And write what you don’t know.

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