Love Bites

By Elena Kaufman

Foreigners, drifters, and eccentrics reach out to strangers in their desire to be witnessed, to be connected, and to find safety in a sea of anonymity

Friday, 5 October 2018

When life is stranger than fiction

Hello supporters, readers and writers, family and friends,

I hope you're doing well and adjusting your internal clocks for Fall and the draining daylight from our days. The Scandinavian HYGGE is something to practice in this darker season: the art of getting cosy. Think staying at home on the weekend with candles, a book, a hot drink, fluffy blankets, either alone or with good friends and family; wine and good food is part of it. So is conversation. This is the time of year to settle down and enjoy some quiet, contemplative time. After an exciting long weekend I’m about to practice some hygge myself.

On Monday evening I returned from three days in London and Oxford. Alone! Without babies, hubby, or dog. It was a needed break to remember other parts of my life, in particular: writing, reading, and being in touch with other writers. Also, wandering the east end of London where I went to drama school was fascinating. The crime novel I’m working on: “Smoking Dog” takes place in Whitechapel so I checked out the Blind Beggar Pub (famous for the Kray brothers gang shoot-up). The bar has been refurbished and all traces of that history are gone which surprised me but I was told ‘the owner doesn’t go in for that kind of thing’. Brick Lane, which was edgy when I was a student, is now wholly gentrified and populated with a hip, colourful, funky crowd and one of the best chocolate shops I’ve seen outside of Belgium. I also got to meet two writers I admire, Unbound authors, Erinna Mettler – “Fifteen Minutes” (also a short story collection) at the OXO tower for a drink where we brainstormed a collaborative project idea. Also, Jennie Ensor – “Blind Side” (psychological thriller) and I hopped around Hampstead talking shop and her recently successful “The Girl in his Eyes” a mix of biography and fiction.

In Oxford I spent an entire day with my best friend from the Oxford Masters in Creative Writing, Elizabeth Duncan, a talented poet and fiction writer. We bummed around, dodging tourists around the Radcliffe Camera library, drinking tea on the roof of the new shopping mall and reminiscing about our student days from 2012. That evening I took part in the Master’s program Alumni readings for their second year students. After a drinks reception I put down my glass of red and presented part of “The Poisonwood Gods”, the last story in “Love Bites”.

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION was my topic since when writing the story I’d asked myself the question “What would happen if a pair of newlyweds went to a remote island for their honeymoon and never returned home again?” That what if question is a good springboard into a story. That morning of the readings I wanted to fact check the height of the sea cliffs off Molokai island in Hawaii. They’re the largest in the world. What I found online though made me shudder. A honeymooning couple celebrating on Molokai – he, an experienced hiker – went ahead to check out the trail for a potential hike with his wife but never returned. Four days later, after a massive search, they discovered his lifeless body. She, the bride, would have to go home alone. It was a shocking story and I felt such sadness for them, for their families.

Be careful what you write, I told the students. It’s not that we make things happen with our words but we definitely bring a focus to imagined scenarios. I see my story as a warning to carefree travellers to be confident, curious but careful on their adventures. But also, what is most important in my story, with its happier ending, is that things are not always what they seem on the surface and depending on the kindness of strangers can be a life-affirming act.

The adventure of this book: of promoting it, reading it at various events, getting feedback from readers and friends has been illuminating and surreal. It’s unlike acting where the performer gets instant gratification (or not) immediately after.As an author I know the book is on its own adventure now in different countries. But the best part of that journey is getting a postcard from readers once they’ve read it. An email, a review on Amazon or Goodreads, a text, anything to reach out and say ‘hey, I read your stories and this is what I thought’.

*Please think about taking a few minutes in your busy days to let me know. It’d mean the world to me. The links to Amazon and Goodreads for reviews are below.

If you never received the link in an email way back in March or April to allow you to download the book do let me know and I can help you out! Your pledging gave you access to the free e-book and the link would have come only by email. You should not be waiting for a paperback in the post unless you specifically ordered it on Amazon. I’ve added the link to that below or if you’re in England you can walk into a Foyles or Blackwells and get it there.

In the meantime, good luck with your own forms of HYGGE and enjoy the start to a new season.

With gratitude, love,

Facebook author page: @kaufmanwrites

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