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JJ mew

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed author Narda Pitkethly about her life and career, what inspired her to write, and the work that went into her new book, Nardagani.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I am a glassblowing artist who landed in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1988. My intentions were to experience being a ski bum for one winter. I loved living in the mountains, so decided to make Sun Valley my home. My brother, Jay, followed me to Idaho, and also chose to stay. Jay and I found good jobs, and we explored the many outdoor opportunities in and around our town.

Narda Pitkethly, author of Nardagani, interview on The Table Read

Suddenly, one day, Jay was gone… he disappeared. Together with Search and Rescue, hundreds of people came out to search for Jay. Clues led us to undertake extreme measures to find him. I shifted from the person I once was, in an inspiring transformation, that lead to a magical conclusion to this mystery.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I never thought I would write a book. I did not feel qualified for such a project. When people kept pushing me to write a book about my brother’s disappearance, especially with such an enchanting result to the story, I began writing. I had a riveting story to tell, and I realized I wanted to share it.

When did you take a step to start writing?

I began by jotting notes on pieces of paper when I had an interesting thought about my story. After several months, I was approached by a local writing coach who asked if I would attend her writing class. The next week I began in earnest to write my book.

How long did it take you to complete Nardagani from the first idea to release?

It took about two years from when I began writing my story with my writing coach to the release of my book.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Nardagani?

My biggest challenge in writing my book was finding the time in my busy schedule. My solution was to get up two to three hours earlier than usual and focus on writing. It was hard to get out of bed in the beginning, but then my body and mind made the adjustment to waking in the dark, going through the routine of getting my coffee, and sitting down at my computer to fulfill the weekly assignment laid out by my writing coach.

What was your research process for Nardagani?

My research process for my book was simply to delve into my memory, review my personal journals, and ask friends and family about their experiences related to my story.

How did you plan the structure of Nardagani?

My writing coach guided me. She asked me to write one chapter per week. We would meet every Wednesday to go over my chapter, and then I would make edits per our discussion.

Narda Pitkethly book

When I completed the edits, it was time to write the next chapter, so I would be ready for our Wednesday session. Each chapter was focused on one part of my story. Together we went through all of my chapters three times, making edits to refine my writing and to deepen my story.

When we felt done, I hired an editor who specialized in weaving the story together in a way that brought in a strong flow.

The #1 Writing Tool

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Nardagani need?

I hired three editors. When one had done everything she could, I hired the next one. Each editor brought a fresh perspective to my story.

Then, I requested help from several articulate friends to make additional edits. I found this process of having lots of help reassuring, and it was the most fun part of writing my book. 

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Make a rough outline that targets your top ten or so ideas. Write on each idea as best you can, focusing on getting the story on the page. Don’t worry so much about how the words come out, just get them out. Trust there will be time and guidance to make them flow.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

At this point, I’m planning to write more books for the reading program I created, which is helping students in 74 countries. This reading program came about directly because of the disappearance of my brother. My brother was a challenged reader, and the program I created, Nardagani, helped me find him.

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am so proud of myself for completing the project of writing and self-publishing my book. It was worth every effort, even the large project of narrating my book for Audible. Every person has a book in them!

Twitter: @nardaganiread

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