The Writing Life – Guest Post by S.K. Nicholls…

sknicholls

Thank you for having me here today, Chris, and for all you do to help promote authors. Today, I’m going to share an interview that tells a little about me, my writing life, and my newly published title, Naked Alliances. It’s the first in the Naked Eye Private Investigator Series.

What’s inside the mind of a crime thriller/romp author?

I don’t know if every writer’s mind works like mine, but I see stories everywhere I go. If I see a shady character stretched out on a park bench, I’ve concocted a story about how he works undercover for the CIA before I’ve turned the next corner. I’m always looking for things that amuse me. Yesterday I saw a handsome man driving a truck with the tag, “Thor 2”. I thought, “If you rode me like you ride that truck, I’d be Thor 2.”   

What is so great about being an author?

I haven’t experienced any greatness, but if I ever do I’ll let you know. Entertaining is fun, but my legs turn to rubber whenever I stand before a large crowd. Being an author allows me to entertain while lounging in the comfort of my own home dressed in PJs and consuming copious amounts of coffee, or other liquids, depending on the time of day/night.

When do you hate it?

Hate is a really strong word. I don’t use it often. I don’t like how some people prejudge independent authors’ abilities to write before they’ve read the work.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

I’ve never had a regular writing day. I don’t plan to write. It just happens. Once the story is in my head, I’m in a manic rush to get it plotted out and typed up. I work 20/7 for weeks until I’m totally satisfied with it, sleeping only a few hours each day. Then, I send it out to beta readers and keep a huge box of tissues handy as the feedback comes in. Next, I rewrite it. Finally, I send it to my editor, and start the process all over again.  

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

I only know a few bestselling authors who have big egos. Not personally, of course.

Do I? I dunno.  

How do you handle negative reviews?

I’m really happy to get any reviews. That means somebody is reading my work and was thoughtful enough to share their opinions.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Frame them.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

“What do you write?” followed by, “That was some storm we had, wasn’t it?” before I can answer the first question.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Readers are smart. Most readers can pick up on forced writing. Let it go and come back to it when you’re feeling it.

Any writing quirks?

Silence. I don’t even want to hear the birds chirping or the clock ticking.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

What can I say? Some people play golf.

What has writing taught you?

Patience. I get ideas and want them to be published books immediately. It never happens that way. Naked Alliances took two years from start to finish. Everybody has a book in their head. Getting a story written down in legible, coherent sentences of proper structure with dialog and narrative that is cohesive is a long, involved process.

A dozen beta readers (advanced copy readers) read and gave me feedback. I edited based on their feedback, put the book on a shelf for months, then took it down and sent it to a professional editor. He gave it two edit passes that took time for me to respond to, and had it proofread by another pair of eyes. We then went back over it to assure there were no typos, misspelled words, things that might have been altered during the editing process.

The beta reading and editing can take more than a year, because you are no longer on your schedule, you’re on everyone else’s. Being independently published does not mean you do everything yourself. It takes a whole team. You are the one who pulls the team together. 

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Not really. I enjoy writing and all that goes with it, even the hard stuff.  Life is short, if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, do something else.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

This is a joke, right?

What has writing taught you?

Nobody is perfect. I find myself editing everybody’s writing. Especially journalists’ work. I’ve learned so much, I can hardly enjoy reading a book now.

Seriously, as introverted as many writers are, you must know in your heart that this writing thing cannot be done alone. Whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, you must have a team who believes in your work as much as you do, or more.

What do you think makes a good crime romp? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

Readers must be entertained and held in suspense.

  • Grab them with a hook in the first chapter that’s filled with action and interesting.
  • Use comic relief to temper the suspense and pace the reading.
  • Characters must have agency. The characters must drive the plot, rather than the plot driving the characters. In the words of Chuck Wendig, “Character agency is, to me, a demonstration of the character’s ability to make decisions and affect the story. This character has motivations all her own. She is active more than she is reactive. She pushes on the plot more than the plot pushes on her. Even better, the plot exists as a direct result of the character’s actions. The story exists because of the character. The character does not exist because of the story.”

How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

I started out with the story in my head and began writing in a word doc. With mystery and suspense, there are so many elements that must be gradually revealed. I was scribbling notes on anything I could write on, making mind maps and schematics. The characters took over and started doing their own thing. I quickly moved into Scrivener to outline and stay organized. I love how you can set up a binder where you can easily move between chapters, keep your outline on index cards in the top right corner of your writing screen, and manage all the finite details of your writing process like word counts and targets. Adding the photographic images of famous people as my characters to refer to in profiles was fun, too. It’s a mild learning curve to use Scrivener effectively, but once you get it down, you’ll never go back to writing any other way.

Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

As mentioned above, character development is key to success. I go all out with character sketches separate from my manuscript and drop their histories into the novels in bits and pieces, gradually revealing details. Naked Alliances has dual protagonists, and each had to have their own background, their own stories, their own struggles and challenges. 

Richard Noggin, P.I. is a gambling man, a loner, and somewhat reserved, but open-minded. His family life was strained, and his sister went missing in his childhood. Brandi is an exotic dancer at the Parliament House, a gay resort complex. She was formerly an E.O.D. Specialist in the Army and had a brief stint as a cop that didn’t turn out too well. She’s transgendered, biracial, and has developed a morbid fear of guns.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Keep writing. Serenity is knowing that the good does not last forever, but neither does the bad.

Title: Naked Alliances

Genre: Mystery/Crime Thriller/Romp

Naked Alliances is currently on sale for $0.99NakedAlliances_JPEG

Author: S.K. Nicholls

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Website

Publisher: Brave Blue Heron Books

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About the Book:

Naked Alliances is a crime thriller with a humorous edge. In this romp through Central Florida, Brandi, an exotic dancer at a gay resort, is trying to protect a young immigrant woman on the run. While fleeing men with guns, they collide with Richard Noggin, P.I. when he’s on his way to meet with the former mayor about an important case. Richard’s willing to help them, even if doing so makes him a target. Brandi and Richard each have their own agendas, but reluctantly team up to go undercover in a nudist resort. No possibility of encountering a concealed weapon there! With bodies piling up, Richard juggles both a cold case and investigations into a sex-trafficking ring, working hard to keep his balls in the air. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare?

If you liked Chablis in John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, you will love Brandi in “Naked Alliances”. You can learn about Chablis here. Unfortunately, she was another celebrity lost in 2016. Readers who enjoy Florida regional writing, crime thrillers, and mysteries, books on organized crime, murder, private investigator novels, and humor will find “Naked Alliances” by S.K. Nicholls enjoyable.

e_dsc4834-1S.K. Nicholls is a crime romp novelistBraveBlueHeronBooks vector image that lives in Central Florida where her family has owned and operated Cypress Cove, a nudist resort, since 1964. A Registered Nurse and formerly a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, (S.A.N.E.) she has a special interest in sex-trafficking. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing that is always blended with humor. When she’s not writing, she can be found tracking down Snorlaxes, wandering city parks with the homeless, or sipping margaritas on the bow of a boat.

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