nattel-lilianLilian Nattel’s oldest friend remembers her telling stories when she was five years old, but she didn’t decide to be a writer until she was ten. That was when she discovered not all authors were dead. Her life took detours, as life will. In her twenties, she despaired of ever being a real writer, because she was too tired at the end of a boring work day to write at all. Instead, she put boredom to good use and became a chartered accountant. As her own boss, she had a small consulting practise and wrote part-time in a garret, albeit a dry and relatively warm one. During that time, she signed up twice in a private (but written) contract with herself to see what she could accomplish in the next few years in return for a lot of penny pinching to buy herself time.

Alone in her garret, Lilian had no idea that there was anything like a literary scout. So she was shocked to find out that the manuscript of her first novel, The River Midnight, had been leaked to German scouts. As a result of the buzz (which she thought had something to do with bees), it sold across North America, the UK and Europe in a matter of weeks, just in time for her wedding, thus enabling the purchase of her garret and the house around it.

The River Midnight was a prize-winning, national best-seller. Now that she’d learned the secret of success, Lilian knew that writing her next book would be easy, fast and make piles of money, and that as a new mom of two perfect children, she would spin stories, change diapers, and in her spare time learn to speak Chinese. She did change diapers, many of them, she learned one phrase in Chinese, and took to her bed with the flu for a month while deciding whether she ought to give up writing altogether. Instead she got up and slowly wrote The Singing Fire, which garnered much critical acclaim and the assurance that she had avoided the second novel curse: “Toronto’s Lilian Nattel proves her debut was no fluke” (Nancy Wigston).

Now that her kids were toilet trained, life was obviously too undemanding, for she decided to embark in a new direction and write the most challenging book of her career. As a true optimist and slow learner, she again expected it to be fast and easy. The writing gods had a good laugh. Eight years and ten drafts later, Web of Angels was done. And Lilian doesn’t care if the next one is easy or not because in the end the gods gave her a gift: Web of Angels is an important book and she was privileged with the writing of it.

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