Phetra H Novak, Sweden’s fresh and exciting LGBT voice

We live in a small world, a really small world. Living in Sweden, in the country’s eternal #2 city, Gothenburg, home of Volvo and the point of departure for most emigrants to America, my gaze is naturally pointed toward the west, the promised land, America, where, incidentally, I sell more than nine out of ten books. Yet it took meeting an Indian (from the country of India, not a native American) to avert that gaze for a second and look to the east, from my archipelago home toward the main land, to find another author, Phetra H Novak, in the same genre, living practically on my door step (not literally, dearest Deb, see, I do learn…) Thanks Sid for introducing us.

Phetra H Novak published her first book last fall, a contemporary gay romance novel, called Finding Home. I usually do write reviews on Wednesday, but I can’t review this book because it’s currently being re-edited and proofed, hence the link to its Goodreads page. But please, add this book to your reading list. It is well worth your time once it will be re-released. I’ll spend some time explaining why it was pulled, later. Instead, let me focus on Phetra’s writing style, her author voice.

Phetra H Novak's Finding Home

Phetra H Novak’s début novel Finding Home. The cover was like a home coming, with a bridge I’ve crossed countless times.

Phetra has a very keen eye for people, and her characters are easy to take to heart, they’re likable, or not (as is the case with Luca’s dad, to name one.) Luca, the main character, is very typical for today’s young Swedes. He’s vulnerable, insecure, despite knowing everything and having been taught to go for it. I won’t spoil the book for you here with a recap, and while it is a fairly straight forward romance (and you all know how much I love those…) there is something about Phetra’s writing that just pulled me in. And it’s not just the fact that I know the city where it plays out. I’m hard pressed to put the finger on it, and it took me reading her second book, to get a better feel for what it is that is so amazing about her writing.

I read Haven’s Revenge over the last few days. I had thought it was her thriller about a Middle East connection. The mere thought of LGBT and the Middle East was interesting, captivating. Alas, I had bought a shifter story, and if there’s a genre even less appealing than romance, it would be paranormal. (Makes you wonder what the hell it is I DO read, eh?)

Haven’s Revenge is a very fresh approach to the genre of shifters, werewolves, bringing in Phetra’s native deities, the likes of Odin and Thor (where they’re still gods, not aliens like in Marvel’s universe or in Stargate SG-1) The story is riveting, it’s captivating, and by page twenty I was completely absorbed, only to have my guts ripped out and left hanging for the rest of the book. She did eventually stuff them back in, but with little care to their future use.

Phetra H Novak's Haven's Revenge

The cover of Haven’s Revenge, the first book in Phetra H Novak’s series Caddo Norse

Reading the book has taught me something valuable about authors: it’s all about the storytelling, the perspective the author brings to the table, not their mastering of grammar. And Phetra’s writing is fresh, her storytelling is captivating, and her characters are almost instant flesh and blood. It took very few paragraph’s to get a sense of who Haven is, who Luca is, and how they each struggle with the challenges put in their path. Now, mind you, there is a large cast of characters, particularly in Haven’s Revenge, and given that this is the first book in a series of novels, I can only imagine what the future holds. Did I mention I don’t like series? #facepalm

I don’t envy Phetra, she must be the bravest woman in Sweden. First she shivers when I tell her about my dislike for traditional romance novels when she just told me about having written one, then I buy her book about shifters after just having told her about my dislike for paranormal, only to go on and rant about series. And she’s still going to meet me for lunch again later this week. A brave woman indeed. Either that or she’s as crazy as I am… You decide.

Now Phetra, like me, is not a native English speaker. Like me, she’s spent years stateside and knows English very well, has a great vocabulary. But sadly, her editor left a bit to desire, and she ended up pulling Finding Home from Amazon to have it fixed, with tighter editing and better proofing. Being in the editing process for my next novel, and having done this many times before, I do understand just how important it is for us non-native speakers to have someone who understands where we come from and what to watch out for. Not all editors are accustomed to “Swenglish” or International English as it is. And it’s easy to get sloppy, miss things, or – worse – give up and not care. Great editors and proof readers makes a story shine, allowing the reader to focus on the story without typos, commas and grammatical errors to get in the way of the experience.

The more you know, the less you know. That realization is painful.

The more you know, the less you know. That realization is painful. This is also true for grammar! And despite what some will claim, language rarely has a single answer to what is correct, and what is not.

But also allow me to say this: English is not one language, not one flavor, and it’s not just two (US and UK) either. English is spoken all over the world, and it is spoken and written in a plethora of ways, not all of which conform to the two main standard norms. Indians “do the needful”, Aussies can be very “ocker”, and Singapore “aunties” are to be reckoned with, not to mention Kiwis, the Irish, South Africans etc. Did I mention those who do not have English as their first language? International English is a thing, and it’s quite a vibrant and rapidly developing lingo within English. To dismiss that is to also disregard a broad Texan, Geordie, Cockney or a Southern drawl with all it entails. And we are still debating how to write all that it seems. As it should be.

I hope that Finding Home will be out for sale again, soon. It’s a beautiful story about a problem that is still a reality for far too many of us, even in a country where equality has come a long way. Just because something isn’t the norm doesn’t mean it’s not a reality. As for Haven and his wolf king in the Caddo Norse series, if you like paranormal and shifter stories, you’d be a fool not to read this! Phetra H Novak is a writer to be reckoned with, and I hope she’ll write many, many more books, a diamond in the rough, for sure, but once polished, she’ll shine bright. Of that I have no doubt, whatsoever.

This last line’s for Phetra: I can’t wait to read your Sweden-Saudi story! I’m sure I’ll be thrilled by your thriller… See you tomorrow.

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Have a great hump day!

Hans

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