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PR Isfeld


“Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity.”

-Twyla Tharp

Captives, in one form or another, has been a part of my life for more than seven years. The core ideas and obsessions have been with me even longer than that. So, in December, when I put the finishing touches on the manuscript and realized that it was as ready as it would ever be, I expected to feel both triumph and relief. 

What I didn’t expect was the accompanying sense of loss. What would I do without it? I had a first rough draft of a second book after 2022’s NaNoWriMo, but for a while, I felt as frozen as the Ottawa landscape around me. What if I never found another major project that meant as much to me? 

I’m certainly not the first writer to be in this situation, and there’s tons of advice out there, including from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, which gives creative people full permission to “scratch” in search of their next idea. So that’s what I did, and here are the things that worked for me: 

  1. Taking a (planned) break to recharge: I gave myself a couple of months to read from various genres, binge-watch a lot of TV, and take a trip to Costa Rica. I carried a notebook everywhere I went with no pressure to do anything except note down my (surprisingly many) ideas. 
  2. Spending time in nature: I got outside as much as possible with my two somewhat-reluctant little pugs. It’s very hard to be in a bad mood on the trails at the dog park, even if they are packed with snow. 
  3. Cross-training my brain: Focussing on other creative activities including art journaling, painting, and photography took the pressure off my writing mind. It didn’t take long for some new ideas to emerge.
  4. Hanging out with my critique group: for most of the writing of Captives, I’ve been a member of a small-but-feisty writers’ group called the PaperBackWriters (PBW for short), which has recently expanded from three to four members. Reading and commenting on their work is always a source of ideas and inspiration. 
  5. Brainstorming: some of the exercises I’ve done, both with PBW and on my own, include timed freewriting, mind-mapping, responding to writing prompts, and doing Tarot card readings for my characters. 
  6. Working on this website: the bulk of the writing of Captives was a solo project, but getting it ready for submission was already a collaborative act. Working on this website, which involved defining a visual motif to present the manuscript, took me into whole areas I’d never thought about. Thanks to Caro Begin, whose listing I lucked into on, it has been a great experience.  

Finishing Captives marked the end of a long cycle, but a new one is already beginning. 

 As Tharp says:

“Life is about moving. It’s about change. And when things stop doing that, they’re dead.”


On submission
A psychological mystery that explores the aftermath of a brutal abduction and the secrets that haunt the survivors.

Three years ago, Samantha Gilchrist and her friends Amanda, Kaylee and Maria forged an unbreakable bond when they survived a brutal kidnapping in Kandahar. Sam wrote a best-selling memoir about their ordeal and moved on to a great new career as a journalist and a happy relationship with Dave, a handsome intelligence officer she met in Afghanistan. Still, she can’t help wondering about the reasons behind their capture.

On their way to Maria’s remote Gatineau cottage to commemorate the anniversary of their escape and rescue, Sam and Kaylee hear news reports about a missing Afghan diplomat. Then, they think they see Ali, their former interpreter and the mastermind behind the hostage-taking, who was supposed to have died during their rescue. When Amanda’s lifeless body is found the next morning, the friends’ suspicions lead them down a dangerous path that uncovers dark secrets and hidden motives.

The narrative alternates between the present day and the version of events presented in Sam’s memoir, as she and her friends struggle with their grief over the loss of Amanda and lingering trauma and jealousy over their differing fortunes in the aftermath of the kidnapping. As tensions rise and secrets are revealed, Sam starts to question everything she thought she knew about her friends, her lover, and herself, not just in the past, but in the here and now. 

Full of suspense, complex characters, and unexpected twists, Captives will cause fans of mystery and psychological thrillers to make irresponsible decisions about their sleep.