Interviews

Scott Nicholson – The First

January 31st, 2010 by Anthony CW Morgan

Hailing from Boone, North Carolina, author Scott Nicholson’s full length novel bibliography includes Red Church (June 2002), The Harvest (September 2003), The Manor (September 2004), The Home (August 2005), The Farm (July 2006), and They Hunger (April 2007), all published in paperback format through Pinnacle Books. In addition to these, two Nicholson short story collections have been issued, namely Thank You For The Flowers (September 2000, Parkway Publishers) and Scattered Ashes (2008, Dark Regions Press). Nicholson has also entered the world of comics, boasting Dirt, Little Shivers, and Grave Conditions amongst his credits. Having studied creative writing at the Appalachian State University and UNC-Chapel Hill, Nicholson is a newspaper reporter by trade, winning three North Carolina Press Association awards.

Seventh full length novel The Skull Ring is slated for release in ebook format during March 2010, the novella Transparent Lovers also forthcoming (via PS Publishing in 2010). A finalist for the Horror Writer Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel upon its inaugural publication, Red Church will undergo British release through Ghostwriter Publications, with Spanish and Polish editions forthcoming.

Almost mirroring Thank You For The Flowers, Nicholson’s first UK short story collection The First will be available through Ghostwriter Publications. Its afterword explains the inspiration behind each story, while the foreword happens to be “So You Want To Be A Writer?”, a glimpse into the man’s “creative angst”. To discuss The First, Scott Nicholson was interviewed via email.

The First, your first short story collection in the UK, is being released through Ghostwriter Publications. In compiling the collection, how did you whittle the number of stories down to thirteen? As your inaugural UK collection, you must’ve wanted The First to be a great representation of who you are as a writer.

The idea has actually changed over time. Neil Jackson of Ghostwriter Publications has been working himself into a lather to get out the works of many emerging writers. He’s been releasing chapbooks while preparing for full book releases. I’d like to get all my stuff out in the U.K., as I’ve only had a handful of stories published there, mostly through TTA Press’ fine magazines. I compiled many of my uncollected published stories that are primarily dark fantasy or dark science fiction, along with some supernatural tales. In the afterword, I tell where the story ideas came from. I’ve also added a foreword called “So You Want To Be A Writer?”, which is an autobiographical look at creative angst and career suicide. If nothing else, you can laugh at and learn from my mistakes. Neil Jackson at Ghostwriter was clever enough to call the book The First in expectation of more. It’s now available as an ebook through Amazon and other outlets, but the print version will have some bonus material.

Your first published novel, namely 2002’s The Red Church, will be released in the UK in October 2010. Looking back, how do you view that novel? Are there certain aspects you feel are weak in hindsight?

There’s not much I would change about that novel, though of course every book could be improved. It has some autobiographical elements, from when I was thirteen and all that religious fever and threat of damnation were big question marks. I couldn’t understand how these people claimed God loved me but would make me burn in hell if I didn’t kneel. So it rings emotionally true even if the supernatural elements are as obscure as any horror book. If anything, I’d probably put more sex in it. And title it Twilight.

The Red Church will probably be released closer to Halloween, as Neil wants to make sure to give the book its best chance of success. It’s my most successful and popular novel and I’m thrilled it has a chance at a new audience. Since there are such close parallels between the Southern Appalachians and Scots-Irish lore, I believe it will connect with people in the British Isles.

In 2010, PS Publishing will publish the novella Transparent Lovers, which has been described as a “ghost detective love story”. What else can you reveal about this story? According to one source, it was originally due for publication in the winter of 2001-2002 through Barley Books (a deal which presumably fell through).

Ha, I almost forgot that. The perils of publishing. I revised the novella several times and eventually doubled its size, adding a second plot line that’s literally about a divorce in hell. A dead detective must solve his own murder to protect his new love at the same time his dead and vengeful ex is trying to take him down. I think it would make a great movie. Or a long therapy session.

You contributed the chapter “What’s The Point and Who’s On First: Character POV” to the book Writer’s Workshop of Horror, issued in 2009 through Woodland Press. In your opinion, what makes a credible, believable story character?

Pay attention to life. Listen to people at the grocery store and gas station. Sympathize and project, and respect everyone, no matter their perceived station in life. All characters will probably have a shred of autobiography, but fictional characters can’t be too “real” because they’d spend all their time eating, watching TV, and sitting at a desk. But they should be real in the sense of authentic motivation and reaction. That’s true for “bad guys”, too. Don’t forget, Hitler thought he was doing the right thing and he was also affectionate to his dogs.

The editor of that anthology, Michael Knost, has also edited the collection Appalachian Winter Hauntings, which you contributed the story “Apple Head Dolly” to. Could you provide an overview of this story too? And also, can you see yourself contributing to future collections edited by Michael?

That’s a hillbilly tale, based on poppet magic, an Appalachian version of voodoo dolls. The whole collection is very cool. I’ve been in several of Michael’s books and I find him professional and attentive to detail. I’ll write for him any time. People that keep their word and put in their passion will find me a lifelong ally.

You also wrote the story “The Name Game”, featured in the December 2009 dark crime collection Death Panel, available through Comet Press. What does this story entail? Also, how did you come to contribute to this specific anthology?

I was solicited for the Death Panel anthology and I try never to turn down a request, because I still get rejected like most other writers and I am still building an audience. Most importantly, I’m still growing in my craft. And I needed the money to pay my pusher.

You’ve also overseen comic book projects too, like Dirt, Little Shivers, and Grave Conditions. How does handling a comic book project differ to writing stories for you? What appeals to you about the form specifically?

Like many readers and writers, comics were my first real entertainment. The immediacy of visual media combined with a more straightforward, trimmed-down story makes for simple but powerful impact. I don’t draw them like I did when I was a kid, but making comics was my first creative endeavor. Now I get a twisted sort of glee that I am in my forties and I write “funny books”. It feels mildly juvenile, subversive, and daring all at the same time.

You have several comic projects in varying stages of development, such as Murdermouth, Dreamboat, and so on. At what stages of development are these respective comic projects, and what can you reveal about them?

Pretty much I have sample pages and outlines for them, and some scripts, in various stages of completion and being passed around to artists and letterers. Some are on submission to various publishers. Like all publishing fields, comics are extremely competitive and the economy has hurt the art of dreaming. Well, it’s hurt the uncreative fields, too. But to see an artist breathe dimensions to my flat stories is a real trip.

Your seventh novel, Skull Ring, has been slated for release in limited edition hardcover format through Full Moon Press for quite some time. When will Skull Ring actually see release? Also, are you working on a novel at the moment?

After the collapse of Full Moon Press, and because the ebook adventure has been more successful than I’d imagined, I am releasing The Skull Ring directly as an ebook on March 1st. I may pursue print publication at some point, but the novel has languished far too long and the few readers have told me it’s my best to date.

I just finished up a paranormal novel with demonic elements right now. It was going to be about ghost hunting but ghost hunting, one of my interests, is pretty boring. You sit in a dark place for hours and hope something says “boo”. Nobody wants that kind of experience in a novel. So I juiced it up. Sex. Death. Romance. Intrigue. And some whiskey. I may even name it New Moon.

You also operate a freelance editing service, whereby you edit a manuscript before it’s submitted for potential publication. What are your credentials and accomplishments in this regard, and also, what’s the key to having a manuscript ready for potential publication?

My biggest success is editing an early draft of a book that was a bestseller in England last year. Since this was a friendly arrangement (he edited a screenplay of mine), I don’t consider it a “professional” accomplishment, and obviously the writer did the hard part. But every one of my writers has gotten better, and a couple have been published. My goal is to make suggestions and give the writer tools and tips to help over an entire career, not just one novel. It’s quite satisfying and it helps me improve my own writing. I’ve taught many workshops as well, and it’s a natural fit for me. Talent can’t be taught, but craft can be learned.

You’ve also done some acting, appearing in the independent films Against the Wind and Buried Beneath. What are your parts in these respective films, and how did you come to appear in both?

Like many of my stranger endeavors, they came about through my work as a journalist. I’m able to get on sets and interview actors and directors, and smaller films always need warm bodies. Since I have a background in video production and I’m also a screenwriter, such roles are great learning experiences. I usually just serve as a warm body, chewing up scenery, though I did get one line as a French chauffeur, plus I got to drive an authentic 1918 Cadillac and fly in a bi-plane, plus have blood leak from my eyes. I was also in a scene with Randy Jones of The Village People in a movie that’s in distribution hell somewhere. Look out, Robert Pattinson. Next time, I’m taking off my shirt.

You write for your local newspaper too as a reporter, and have won three North Carolina Press Association awards in that role. Have certain stories you’ve written been inspired by situations you’ve reported on, and also, has it helped improve your skills as a fiction writer at all?

Mostly reporting helps because you must be prolific. In this line of work, writer’s block is called “unemployment”. Plus I get to mix with segments of society where I’d have no business otherwise, from crime scenes to funerals to farms to art events. Again, it’s about respecting the subject matter and the people. Your story might be the one they clip and stick to the refrigerator. You owe them your best.

Over a decade has elapsed since you began writing during the late nineties. If you had to compare your current writing style to the style you had a decade ago, how would you say you’ve evolved as a writer?

Wow. I still feel like I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I want to tell many different kinds of stories. I’ve been lucky to have some commercial success, but I’m not able to write fiction full-time yet and I’ve made some career detours. That’s okay, because I basically already get to write as much as I want. I’ve always been able to craft a sentence, and that’s the basic building block. After that, it’s just a matter of doing it over and over and over, and your style naturally emerges. The battle I have right now is balancing genre expectations with literary daring and bizarre humor. I feel my best work has not even gotten out there, because of the way the industry is set up and the commercial choices I’ve made. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You just type and let it all sort out in the long run. We’re all geniuses who have yet to be recognized.

Being currently in your second decade of fiction writing, where do you hope to be within the next ten years or so? Ideally, what would be the next stepping stone for you?

My publication in the UK is part of my goal, as The Red Church will also be out in Poland and Spain this year, so I feel like I have many new audiences to reach. I have four novels that have not really been marketed, and a couple in the works that could open up new directions. I may have to release them under pen names. Between the novels, comics, and movie scripts, I believe I just need to get them to the right people, and find the right partners, and they will find their proper place in the world. Money has become less important, though I’d still like to make a living out of this. But that’s what you say when you’re not Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling. Everybody’s got their own journey, and none of them are easy, especially if you’re a career dreamer. But I’m a student of the game, and writers need a lifelong commitment to the craft. It’s not really a job from which you retire. The only way out is to die. Perhaps that’s why so many writers blow their brains out.

For more information about Scott Nicholson, visit his official website.


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