Author and graphic designer, Enni, moved from Finland to New Zealand in 2006. She has just released her third novel, an enemies to lovers romantic comedy, Nest or Invest, which explores issues in the real estate market. Read on for more about community housing, developers and life imitating art. For details about Enni’s background, read our first interview, Enni Amanda Tuomisalo on Self-Publishing.
Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of working with Enni to edit Nest or Invest.
Can you please share the Nest or Invest book blurb?
All is fair in love and real estate, right?
Single mum Shasa Daniels is heartbroken when she discovers her landlord is selling her rental home to Mac McCarthy, a hotshot developer known for replacing old villas with luxury condos. Determined to stop him, Shasa gathers her friends to outbid him and build community housing instead.
Mac, the man in thousand-dollar shoes, isn’t as financially stable as he makes out. This deal promises to secure his future, until Shasa the eco-warrior stands in his way.
Each will do what it takes to succeed. He barges in on her community meeting. She crashes his improv group. But Shasa quickly finds out spying on a guy this hot is a lot like playing with fire. Can her newly discovered love of acting and their on-stage chemistry bridge the gap between their two worlds?
In our previous interview, you mentioned the need for you as a writer to fall in love with your male lead. You set yourself the challenge to see if you could do this with a property developer. Did you do so?
I’d say I did, but it led me on a process of discovery. I couldn’t just focus on what my characters do for money, that’s never the full picture of who they are. I needed to look past their profession to see the person behind it. You don’t fall in love with a property developer, but with a real person.
What inspired you to write a book tackling issues with real estate?
My husband and I missed getting on the property ladder and have a long history as renters. We’re now past 40 and are still sitting on our house deposit – a never-ending process, because the prices keep going up and up in this unprecedented housing crisis. It’s tough for many people. You can be a stand-up person with perfect record and still struggle to find a rental. Being exposed to it seeped into my imagination.
What is community housing?
People band together to buy a block of land and build units or houses, sometimes with common facilities. There are different ways of doing it, ranging from four or five units upwards. Some share a community garden, others keep car-parking at the periphery, creating space safe on the inside for children to play. It’s a way for people who can’t afford to get into the property market alone to team up with others and buy their own unit. Some communities set ground rules about selling, but technically they are just units, so like any other property you can rent it or sell.
I went to a meeting here in Hamilton about three years ago when someone was trying to set up a project. We opted out because there were many people involved and it was going to take years, but I liked the idea of bypassing the developer, building together and having the freedom to design a space that works for you.
You recently blogged to say life was imitating art. What happened?
Writers often experience something, and it ends up in their book. This time, I wrote the story first, and now, it’s happening to me. When the book was already in the editing stages, I got warning that our rental property was going on the market. An old friend contacted us, not knowing our situation, saying he wanted to invest in an intentional community. He’s been advising us and getting an architect involved, so we’re now planning a small-scale co-housing community. We have a small group of people who are interested in building with us, and we’re currently looking for the right section.
Did writing the book change your views about the real estate game?
My research gave me a clearer view and highlighted issues. People who’ve already bought and are no longer in the game might miss what’s happening. My chat with an architect highlighted how units are built for maximum gain. The highest number of units permitted on a 1200 square-metre section is eight, so they’ll do it, packed like sardines, leaving room for nothing else. There’s definitely a disconnect between developers’ purpose for investment and the reality of living in it.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How long did it take you to get from concept to publication?
I hit on this idea in August 2020. The romance writers’ group I’m in did a short writing exercise, and I wrote the first paragraph. After that, I couldn’t stop.
My first draft was ready early December, a horrible month for beta readers, but I got a couple. The first one gave me a kick in the butt, so I worked harder and made changes, mostly to the beginning.
In January, I worked with you, the first time I’ve worked with a developmental editor. I’m really proud of this book, as it’s gone through this last painful push to get it to the next level. I write my first draft quickly, in the zone, so to get ahead, I might skip things, leaving little holes in the process. Having someone to go over those and patch it is great. English isn’t my first language, so I need someone to make sure I get things right.
Like everyone else, I suffer from imposter syndrome. When I release a book, I always fear someone will find out that I suck, that I don’t belong here. But as an indie author, you have to go into marketing mode, so you have to convince yourself it’s good. With this book, I noticed a massive difference, because I had a team behind me. For the first time, it didn’t hurt so much. If you’re an indie author and are on the fence about hiring an editor, trust me, it takes the terror out of the process. People want traditional publishing for validation and having an editor is as close as you can get to that. But you still have to believe in yourself.
To publication, it was six months. My first book took a year. I’m definitely getting faster. Some people publish a book a month. I want to get to two books a year. If I were writing full time, I could shoot higher, but I work three days a week as a Creative Designer at Wise Group, one of the largest non-government mental health providers. I also design books and book covers and do other sporadic design work for local clients.
What is the heat level in Nest or Invest?
There are different scales to rate romance heat levels. Some are very detailed, but in general, people recognize words like steamy or sweet. Sweet means nothing much beyond kissing happens on the page. I’ve never made a conscious choice to close the doors, but in my first two books, nothing warranted that level of intimacy. With this one, it was there, so I wrote it. I didn’t want to close the door, as sex is part of the human experience. If it’s mentioned but it’s not described, you don’t get the significance of it. I don’t like it coming across as a mundane activity, like flossing. For me, it wasn’t about getting that sex scene in there for a certain heat level, it happened organically.
What’s your next story?
I planned this book as the first in a series. Marnie’s story is next. My next challenge is to fall in love with a politician, and I’m exploring the themes of power and influence. I’m a cross between a pantser and a planner – I start writing and do research as I go. I’ve booked a trip to Wellington and I hope to get a tour of the Beehive, our parliament building. I’m hoping that while I’m writing the second one, the third one will begin to take shape. For now, I’ll leave it open.
Next time: Artemis Savory on Being a Virtual Assistant