Welcome to the start of a new week! Today Nicolas Wilson joins us for the guest author interview:
Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I'm Nicolas Wilson, a novelist. I've also dabbled in journalism, short stories, and comics. More to the point, I'm a storyteller.
What first inspired you to start writing?
My writing really grew out of a crappy adolescence. I was always quiet and pretty solitary, but I changed schools and lost most of the few friends I had, and my parents started having troubles that eventually culminated in a pretty messed up divorce. Writing started for me as a handful of middle school writing assignments that really seized my imagination. In retrospect, I think they provided an escape from a life I wasn’t happy in at the time. It became a passion for me; it’s hard to beat the pure joy of learning new things and toying with strange ideas.
You're a journalist as well as an author, how much does that influence your writing?
Spending so much time listening to others talk certainly gives a writer a leg up on dialogue. I got to interview a few of my personal heroes during my time writing for Dangerous Ink, and it also taught me that sometimes they are even better in real life. (Adam West, I mean you- despite being relatively young, I do not have enough lifetime left to heap praise on that guy). The rest of the time, they ruin your enjoyment of their work. But no one’s perfect, right? It's certainly forced me to look at people with realism, even if I'm accustomed to viewing them on a pedestal.
On a technical level, journalism is very focused and to the point. It sort of prepared me for the minimalistic style I adopted, one I came to from Didion by way of Palahniuk.
Where do your best ideas come from?
Research. So many of my best ideas are bouncing off of oddly tangential new technologies or political events. Sometimes it’s just a snippet of an interview on NPR.
I often see an idea, or the kernel of one, in somebody else’s story, when I say, “God, I would have done something entirely different with that” and find the idea so intoxicating that I’m compelled to put it someplace.
My sources are pretty much all over the road, but the future fascinates me. Where we’re going. How we’ll get there. And how we’ll treat each other along the way.
What is your favourite book and why?
My favorite single book is probably still Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s just such a fun and funny book. I grin just thinking about it.
But truthfully, I attach to authors, more than stories. There's a few authors who have a distinctive voice that captivates me. Lovecraft, Poe, Garth Ennis-schizophrenic choices, I know. I grew up with comics, and love series' like Transmetropolitan, Punisher MAX, Preacher. Stuff with a hefty dose of the macabre, the absurd, occurring in fantastically strange, tragic, but oddly beautiful worlds.
Are you a planner? Or do you prefer to dive straight into writing?
Planner. Definitely. I've done some free-form stuff, but for the most part, I keep detailed outlines for every possible-project. I can keep those for months or years before I have time to write it, but that way, I can easily see what had entertained me in the original concept. I keep a detailed spreadsheet of my word counts, goals, etc. The last time someone commented on that spreadsheet, it was to say "that is the sign of a very lonely man." Well, to be fair, her original response wasn't that clean. She actually said, "You obviously aren't getting laid enough." More to the point, though, I have a hilariously bad memory, and I'd never get anything done if I didn't have my notes. By the time I get to the end of a project, I barely remember beginning it. I bet if you asked me a few trivia questions about any of my novels or short stories, I'd have a difficult time answering them at all.
What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
Set some moderate, repetitive goals, and stick to them. I wrote short stories to be finished every Friday night for five years, even while working full time (and sometimes more than), and going to college (some of that also full time). But every Friday I made sure I had something, even if it was just a small, few hundred word essay, ready to put out. It kept me working, through tragedies and oddities that might well have otherwise derailed what is kind of a fragile balancing act to keep going. And it let me hone my abilities and discover my voice, as a writer, before I even flirted with writing a novel.
But it’s also important to pace yourself as a writer. Be very clear about what you want out of your writing, and how you can get there. Even if you can only focus on writing an hour or two a week. Your day job, family, social network, the rest of the time may give you a greater diversity of experiences to pull from, as well as distracting you during the inevitable periods of writer’s block, but so long as you can set aside that time, you’re set. Because if you can set that boundary and stick to it, you can always alter it to fit your emerging needs, whether it’s expanding your output over the summer to finish a series of essays, or putting everything else on hold in November to participate in National Novel Writing Month and finally get that novel out of your head.
And that balance between goals and boundaries is key. I've encountered a lot of freelance creatives, not just writers, who burn themselves out, because they chose to invest all of their energy and hopes in their passion, when they hadn't built that dream up as an organic part of their lives. They aren't prepared for the massive scramble that is freelance work: sending off manuscript after manuscript, working hard on an article only to see an editor cut it, balancing the actual work with the structural work, like marketing, self-promotion. It's a lot to handle, and you need to explore how you'll handle it before said handling will determine whether you can pay rent that month. I spent years publishing my stories on my blog, but feeling like a spoken-word artist performing to an empty bar, because I did literally no self-promotion for my work. Time well spent, since some of that early stuff really is the evolutionary first-fish-to-breathe-air. Not pretty, not efficient, but a starting point.
What are you working on at the moment?
At this exact moment, I'm finishing the conclusion to Lunacy, a claustrophobic tale about a manned Mars mission that goes sideways because in the weeks leading up to the launch a crewmember is bitten by a werewolf. Everyone laughs when I tell them that, but the story is really like the first Alien movie, if everything the Alien killed spawned another alien.
Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Whores, my first work, is sort of like a paramilitary Handmaid’s Tale. It’s about a group of women thrown together through adversity and oppression, who become guerrilla freedom fighters in a society of populated largely with hostile thugs and apathetic bureaucrats.
I feel like I'm running a bit behind, since I published Whores last year, so I'm prioritizing publishing things that are already basically written. I’m putting together collections from those short stories I mentioned earlier, cleaned up and reedited. And I have several novels that are several drafts done and just about ready for a paying public, so starting with Dag, April 22nd, I hope to start releasing some of those.
My second novel, Dag, is about a sarcastic Department of Agriculture employee who has a chance run-in with a farmer covered in toxic chemicals, and walks away with a genetically modified baby, along with the seeds of a military-industrial conspiracy. Dagney and her makeshift family scramble to stay ahead of artificial soldiers and megalomaniacal businessmen long enough to reap the truths behind an international web of corruption and intrigue.
Dag will be 50% off, in honor of Earth Day (April 22nd), and will keep that price through the end of Arbor Day(April 26th). Visit goodreads for a preview sampler with several short stories, including the one that later became chapter 1.
It's available here, through the "read book" tab.
I’ll summarize the other coming soons briefly:
Nexus: follows a generational ark spaceship filled with people who will never again see their home world. It's about how they handle internal conflicts as they grapple with their independence, their isolation, and their sponsor's interests, while bargaining with new species for mining rights. Tentatively due July 2013.
The Necromancer's Gambit: A group of magicians based in Portland, Oregon tries to maintain order in the face of a series of murders, and a challenge to the societal authority. Tentatively due September 2013.
Banksters: A sociopath climbs the corporate ladder.Tentatively due November 2013.
Homeless: A scourge makes every building on the planet uninhabitable, and we see how weak the fabric of society really is.
The Singularity: A physicist investigates a temporal distortion, and how it might be related to a football player's progressive dementia at a remote rehab clinic on the Oregon coast.
I'm also planning on writing sequels to Nexus and The Necromancer's Gambit, probably for release in 2014. Both of them ended with unresolved tensions that I would like to immerse myself in further: Nexus saw a mutiny, and the Gambit saw a number of little-fish tossed back to catch the big one. Threats abound, and there's a lot of people pissed off at the putative heroes of the story.
You can follow along with my work several ways. Archives of earlier work, including short stories, and first-drafts of some of the novels are available on my website.
News relating these upcoming releases is also available through my facebook, and goodreads. Come say hi!
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Thanks to Nicolas for sharing his thoughts with us, on Wednesday we invite Rita Lee Chapman to the hot seat.