Welcome to my weekly series – Author Interviews.
This is where I interview authors to find out about the person behind the novel. It also gives me a chance to glean some valuable insight on being a writer.
I am very excited because today I have been joined by author and blogger Susan Nicholls (a.k.a S.K. Nicholls).
Hey Susan, welcome to my red chair. Tell me about yourself and the book / books you have written?
Transplanted from Georgia to Florida, my books are colored with regional elements. My first self-published book, Red Clay and Roses is a Roman à clef , factual with a façade of fiction, historically a novel in which real people or events appear with invented names.
The technique was used in magazines and newspapers to tell scandalous stories without revealing who was involved. My story deals with a group of characters grappling with inequality in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s and involves the issues of illegal abortion, women’s rights, civil rights, adoption, and interracial relations. It is a serious novel but not preachy.
Currently, I’m working on a much different project. It’s a series of humorous crime romps. Naked Alliances air-drops you into the seedier side of Orlando that Disney World tries to hide from public view. In it, a lone wolf P.I. reluctantly teams up with a brassy transgendered exotic dancer to solve a cold case and protect a young woman on the run from a murderous sex trafficker, but in order to stay alive, they must go undercover in a nudist resort while the body count grows. It’s the first book in the Naked Eye Series. My family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation, Cypress Cove. The nudist resort in the book is a fictional resort inspired by the six years I lived there.
When did you write your first book?
How long did it take to write your first book?
- 8 weeks to write and a year and a half to edit down from 500 to 444 pages.
- 6 weeks to write the second and nearly two years to edit for 255 pages.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
I had discovered a ledger in the walls of an Aunt’s house that was torn down in 1992. That prompted investigations involving a cousin’s husband who had served time in prison for “fixing” the books of a local chiropractor who had an abortion clinic in the basement of his home. Posthumously, I interviewed both his wife and his black handyman at that time, and later spoke with my elderly cousin about what had happened. I felt strongly that their story needed to be told.
When I was disabled from a nursing career, I had the time to pursue a passion for writing that had been with me since high school.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
I can’t say I encountered any writing that first book. Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know anything about what I might possibly be doing wrong. I was writing with a strong and powerful voice, but the execution was flawed in that I broke a lot of rules. Over the next couple of years, I learned the rules. Now I break them on purpose.
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
I’ve been through a few with writing this current novel. After 12 beta readers, 10 who loved the story and 2 who didn’t like it well enough to finish it, I did much editing. Still dissatisfied, I put the book on a shelf for nine months, took it down and reread it. I decided it needed a professional editor. It’s a much better product for the editing. Now, I’m trying to get it traditionally published. Support from the many people who have read the story and enjoyed it motivates me. Many are blogger friends and authors. The best thing I ever did as an author was start a WordPress blog.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
I wrote Red Clay and Roses by the seat of my pants, pouring words passionately onto the pages.
Naked Alliances, with its details and twists and turns, required a different approach. I started writing in Scrivener, and found it much more user-friendly for novel-writing than Word. It also provides index cards in the corner and keeps an outline for you that you can readily click-through, in addition to a chapter binder that’s easy to navigate. Half way through the novel, I really had to rely on these features to keep track of crime scene and plot details. Each chapter/scene has its own index card with plot details and notes that I fleshed out beforehand.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Aside from being able to work twenty-four hours a day or zero, having a creative outlet is a marvelous therapy for my mental illness.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
The altered thought processes that come with bipolar disorder make my organization a bit cluttered, but my superb editor is onto me. He saves me from myself.
Have you ever considered quitting writing and if so how have you worked through this?
I’ll never quit writing. I believe we all need a break from it to live life so we have more to write about.
Life can get pretty stale sitting in front of computer all day. An unhatched chick doesn’t know the colors of its own feathers.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I write in manic spurts. During a writing phase, I eat, drink, sleep, think words, plot, character development, and dialogue twenty-four-seven. I’m obsessed with it from the time I awaken till I can’t write anymore. Once the first draft is completed, I breathe.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Only with housework. My supportive hubby hired me a house keeper. It was self-defense.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
I don’t think you can separate the two. Of course there is no story if there is no plot, but the characters make the plot workable. I couldn’t assign one more importance than the other.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
- What other people think of me is none of my business.
- Every reader and every writer is influenced by their own experiences.
- Murder is easy, humor is hard.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
Initially, I was overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all. I realized I was trying too hard and eased up a bit. It’s a necessary element to marketing, but it’s much more critical to write, and write some more. Social media doesn’t sell your books. Your books sell your books.
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Let most of the advice you hear on writing run through a filter or you’ll go insane.
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
Never. I’m always writing something. If I get stuck on one project, I slide over to another for a while, then come back to it.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
Next book???? Working on a series it is mandatory to be thinking ahead.
What do you wear to write?
Pajamas…or nothing at all 😉
Wow, interesting interview Susan!
Thanks for sitting in my chair.
There are so many things to take from this:
1. I love the phrase ‘murder is easy humour is hard’ – to me it is the other way round. I really respect you crime fiction novelists and the way you plan out a murder with so much precision.
2. The writing in manic spurts resonates with me as that is how I write.
3. I loved how you ‘poured words passionately onto the page’ whilst writing your book.
4. I agree with you on how writing can be a great form of therapy.
5. Interesting choice of writing outfits 🙂
If you want to read more of S.K. Nicholls or get in contact:
To read S.K. Nicholl’s books Red Clay and Roses click on the link.
S.K. Nicholls BIO:
As for me, my family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation here in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. My experience gives me a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination. I’m a former sexual assault nurse examiner with an interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking, crime, eco, and social issues, a member of the Florida Writer’s Association, Writers of Central Florida, Sisters in Crime, and recently attended Sleuthfest 2016, where my work was well-received by a large audience. I also read frequently at the local Short Attention Span Story Hour. I’m married to a rocket scientist who can’t boil water, only knows how to nuke food, and I’m enabler to a tribe of seven misfits.
Next week Anita Dawes takes to my chair.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>