I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from author N.R. Leigh...
NRL: If I’m fortunate enough that you’ve been following the blog tour for my debut novel Peace, Love, and a Dead Hippie Chick, then you may know I’ve been asked: “What do you find the most difficult part of being a writer or writing?” I’ve answered that it’s mainly the publishing and promotional parts that I find the hardest. However, one aspect of the early writing process that almost scared me out of writing my novel was the dialogue. What do people actually say to one another? Is it interesting? So, I started listening to what we say, and most often it’s not so remarkable. “Hi, how are you?” “What do you want for dinner?” “Can you help me with this or that…” Basic inquisitions and replies, mainly.
That revelation made the writing process less daunting, knowing that in the suspenseful action driven sequences of my novel, those casual conversations would be nominal. Write what’s on the character’s mind, with a brief description on how they said it… As a more introverted and empathetic person, I tend to be overly considerate while communicating, in an effort not to offend others. I’ve also shared on this blog tour that writing has helped me to become a more confident speaker, which led me to wonder, “Am I a good conversationalist?” and “What makes for brilliant dinner conversation?”
Attending many holiday dinners in recent weeks, I listened to conversations to see if I could find a commonality in what lent to fabulous or flopped table talk.
Here’s what I noticed (with politics and religion barred from the table):
1. A question posed early on in the meal lent to a lively discussion.
2. Even with politics and religion off topic, they come up nonetheless.
3. People typically talk about themselves.
4. Fewer people are comfortable with cross table conversations, and two guests typically direct the topics with side conversation spinning off from there.
5. Women speak more than men.
According to an article on LifeHack.org, the seven pointers for becoming a brilliant conversationalist are: Listen, Give compliments, Keep up to date on social issues, Be humorous, Speak clearly, and Enjoy it. In another article on the site I found tips like: Focus on the positives, Converse, not debate (or argue,) and Be true to yourself. All great considerations in a modern world.
With the final season of Downtown Abbey here, I am late, the very latest I’m certain, to the DA party. My mother-in-law recommended the series when she gifted an Amazon Fire Stick for Christmas. So, I started with the PBS Behind the Manor Special, and I took note as the actors discussed proper dinner etiquette during the Edwardian era. I was surprised to hear that speaking one’s mind in a loud pitch was a common and desirable trait among aristocracy. I would have perceived it to be crass or rude. However, their rank denoted their prattling as truth. Interesting as well, during the large formal dinners the host or hostess will determine the physical direction of who is conversing, either to one’s right or left.
In contrast to intimate contemporary dining, during the Edwardian Era just a mere hundred years ago, dinners were more formal—and most interesting to me—a time when social matters were discussed and one’s social rank teetered on the success or failure of your dinner party. Can you imagine if the temperature of your food or the degree of your guest’s conversational skills affected your place in society? Additionally, according to the EdwardianPromenade.com, women did not pour their own wine. If they desired a second glass, a gentleman would oblige.
If nothing else than providing an interesting contrast in customs between two eras, reflecting on communication has inspired me to more clearly (and loudly) speak my mind, and to host more dinner parties with women pouring the wine.*****************************
by N.R. Leigh
GENRE: New Adult/Coming of Age
Peace, Love, and a Dead Hippie Chick follows the intertwining journeys of three young women in the mid-1990s who go on the road and off the grid, and leave their worlds behind. Each woman falls into a dangerous subculture of sex, drugs, and rock and roll in an attempt to attain her own sense of peace, love, and freedom.
KARA, a middle-class Midwestern girl, flees her painful past after a tragic accident claims a loved one, only to learn—after a violent attack—that there’s no safety among friends or strangers. Survival rests in her hands alone as she escapes into the wilderness of New Mexico.
NATASHA, born into privilege, rebels against her family’s expectations as she follows the Grateful Dead concert tour circuit, selling contraband and exploring her sexual freedom.
AMY, an impoverished Southern belle, becomes love-struck when an exotic drifter passes through town, deciding to leave home and follow him.
This intricately interwoven coming-of-age tale delves into the connection between strangers and the premise that the grand orchestration of life goes well beyond chance.
Saturday, February 26, 1994
Daddy put a silver spoon in my mouth, and I yanked it out.
Those were his words, not mine, when I called my parents to tell them that Ian and I had returned to the States. A heresy for someone whose first love is money, I know. So, I stood to correct him.
“Yes, I yanked it out, but I sold it on the street for twice its value—to be exact.”
He didn’t appreciate my wit.
“I see nothing but disaster in your actions, Natasha. You’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to come home.” His voice was stern and steady.
That’s the point when I usually hang up the phone, but we hadn’t spoken since December, when I called to wish them a “Happy Hanukah.” Shortly thereafter, Ian and I flew down to Costa Rica during the break between fall and winter Grateful Dead shows.
“Your mother is worried sick. She’s taken out another life insurance policy on you. At this point, you’re worth more to her dead than alive.” He was whispering—Mom must have been hovering. She is an insurance agent, and most of her customers are Daddy’s clients.
“Dad, I’m fine. I promise.”
“We’ve phoned most of the police municipalities on the West Coast and asked them to keep an eye out for you. Since you are twenty years old, they’ve said there is nothing they can do. It’s an embarrassment for us… and a waste of my hard work. If you come home immediately, we will get you your own condo in Boston. We’ll give you whatever money you need to travel. You will have plenty of breaks during semesters. I’ve already spoken to the Dean, and he said we’ll call this whole mess a sabbatical.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
N.R. Leigh began her writing career in 2007 as a featured columnist for the guerrilla newspaper The Uncommon Sense. She since has written books as an expert on personal health and wellness under the pseudonym Nicci Leigh.
She was inspired to write her debut novel, Peace, Love, and a Dead Hippie Chick, by a conversation with a friend, who described a newspaper article regarding the events that surrounded a group of hippies’s visit to her small town and the havoc they caused. This crazy, fascinating account, coupled with N.R.’s experiences traveling the United States in her early 20s, gave birth to her story.
N.R. has a background in education and teaches aesthetics, yoga, Reiki, and related holistic modalities. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, she currently lives in a rural coastal community in southwest Florida with her family and their Australian Kelpie, Sydney, who believes she’s a Tasmainian Devil.
N.R is inspired by funny people and those who create positive change and peace. Her friends and family describe her as driven, strong, silly, and independent. Something most people don’t know about her is that, at age eighteen, she aided police in the capture of a team of bank robbers.
N.R. is working on her first fiction series, Imagine Yasmin.
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The tour dates can be found here