A local woman's latest novel tackles the heavy subject of homeless people who live in tunnels under New York City, known as "mole people."
Faith Friese Nelson, of Montoursville, self-published her novel, "Finding Verity," a coming of age story about a teenager named Puck who was forced to the streets because his mother abandoned him. There, he met Fin, a mole person who helped him find a foster family.
Ten years later, Puck is a successful novelist. He befriends Emma, an elderly woman. While their friendship develops, Puck reveals his past to her, which helps him come to grips with his verity, his truth and his need to find Fin.
"I wanted to write about their (mole people) plight," Nelson said. "The story evolved from that."
While she said all writers draw on past experiences when they write, she had never been homeless or abandoned, but it was not hard to imagine what it would be like.
Research made those imaginings more real.
"I had to do research about the homeless who lived in the tunnels under New York City," Nelson said. "There are several nonfiction books available about mole people and life under New York City."
Videos about mole people and the tunnels also can be found online.
It took about two years for Nelson to write "Finding Verity"; she had the idea for it in January 2011 and finished it in January. She currently is working on a screenplay version of the story.
For Nelson, the hardest part of any story is the ending. "Finding Verity" ends in a way that allows for a sequel.
Despite the challenge of finishing a novel, there also was a reward.
"Several readers told me that I took an unbelievable premise and made it believable," Nelson said. "Any time a reader hears that, it is rewarding."
One of the pieces of advice Nelson would give to any budding writer would be to edit, something she had to do.
"With the exception of one chapter, the entire first draft of the novel was written in third person," she said. "My beta readers liked that first-person chapter so much that I completely rewrote the novel in first person, from three viewpoints: Puck, Emma - the elderly woman he befriends - and Fin, the mole person."
"Finding Verity" is Nelson's third novel. She wrote her first novel in the early 1980s but never published it. All of her novels are based on aspects of the human condition.
While "Finding Verity" is a coming-of-age story, "Windfall," her first published novel, was more of a mystery thriller.
Last year, she removed "Windfall" from publication because she felt it needed a major rewrite. She hopes to republish it by the end of the year under the new title, "Angel's Kiss, Devil's Mark."
"Then I would like to write a novel that explores slavery before the Civil War, but I want to approach the story in a way that never has been done," Nelson said. "Vague ideas for that project are simmering in my brain, but I won't commit to any of them right now. I also think a novel about aging baby boomers might be fun to write."
Nelson does more than write her own novels - she also publishes them herself.
As she explained, the world of publishing is evolving because of the Internet. Traditional publishers are reluctant to take on new writers, preferring to work with authors who have proven track records.
"I'm not saying traditional publishers never publish new writers, but is difficult to find one that will," Nelson said. "It takes patience to find a traditional publisher. Since querying publishers take time and I'd rather use that time for writing, I self-published. Amazon.com is very user-friendly for writers who wish to self-publish."
One of the benefits of self-publishing is not having to share proceeds with the publisher if the novel becomes a best-seller.
Self-publishing on the Internet is easy, with minimal costs, but there are obstacles. For Nelson, the biggest challenge is marketing. She considers herself a writer, not a salesman or advertising guru.
Using a publishing firm gives the writer access to editors and a marketing staff. However, since she has a full-time job, she does not have to survive on the book proceeds.
Yet despite a full-time job, Nelson does not let herself take a break from writing.
"If I don't write every day, I feel incomplete," she said. "If I waited for my muse to tap me on the shoulder, I'd never get anything written. Writing is work. Writing is rewriting. The first novel I wrote in the early 1980s was handwritten and then typed on the typewriter. Now I write at a computer. Sometimes I need quiet to write and sometimes I don't. Every writing session is different."
Just like every writing session varies, so does what she writes. While some writers stick to one genre, such as romance, mystery, thriller or science fiction, Nelson does not want to limit herself.
And since she forces herself to write daily, she encourages other people who want to be writers to do likewise.
"Write every day," Nelson said. "Thinking about writing is not writing. Going to writing seminars and attending writer's groups can be educational, but that is not writing. Research is not writing. The only way to become a writer is to write."
Last but not least, she also would tell potential writers to read.
"Windfall" and "Finding Verity" can be checked out at the James V. Brown Library.
Visit FaithFNelson.com for Nelson's blog about writing and her journey to becoming a writer.