Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of the final book in your Trilogy, Rogue Gadda. How does it feel to finish the last book in the series?
Scott: With the introduction of e-book readers, like Kindle and Sony Reader, there is a current debate about the piracy of e-books and the loss of the print media. How do you feel about e-books?
Nicole: As the proud owner of a Kindle – I loves them. I had my Kindle for my trip to the US earlier this year and that completely won me over. I downloaded and took with me a dozen books – something I couldn’t have done otherwise. And the best thing was, travelling alone, I could carry it with me and whenever I stopped for a meal, I could hold my Kindle in one hand to read while eating. Perfection!
I don’t think anyone knows what the final landscape of publishing will look like. At the moment, what’s happening is very uneven. Here in Australia, eBooks still haven’t really taken off whereas I’m hearing from some writing friends in America that they’re now hitting fifty percent of their sales being electronic. Also, the speed of the change is really throwing people off (there’s been a massive increase in eBook sales just this year) and large companies just aren’t being able to keep up with it all.
This is for me the perfect example of the Chinese curse – May You Live in Interesting Times.
Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?
Nicole: I’m lucky that I’m now writing full-time, so I do have a typical writing day. In the morning, I write 3000-5000 words a day, over a maximum of three hours. Sometimes, it takes the whole three hours to get to just 3000. Sometimes, I get to the 5000 easily. Sometimes, I get to the 3000 in 1 ½ hours and then decide that’s enough for the day. That gets me a minimum of 15,000 words a week, which means I can write something like the Dream of Asarlai books in seven weeks. I spend the afternoons doing admin and promotional work.
I write really fast, and tend to blurt the first draft out onto the page. Then I have to do several re-drafts in order to get it readable.
Scott: When you wrote Secret Ones, did you plan on continuing the story in Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda or did the story just grow as you wrote each book?
Nicole: Originally, they were a series of three romances. They had a shared world, shared characters but no shared storyline. I wrote all three books, one after the other, in quick time (one a month – they were just 60,000 words then) and then spent the rest of the year editing them. That was in 2003. In 2007, I started working on them again, and added the storyline of Asarlai and the Forbidden texts, taking them from a series of books into a trilogy.
Scott: Where did the inspiration for Asarlai and the Forbidden Texts come from?
Nicole: It started when I put Secret Ones through the first novel crit group run by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild in 2007. We started with sharing the first chapter of our books, and at that point I’m quite sure it was Gillian Polack who suggested that I should add a storyline that joined all three books together. The idea intrigued me, so I took it away and started to work on it. I had a few months before I needed to present the entire manuscript to the book for critique. I quickly decided on a megalomaniac, who was going to try to reveal the gadda to the world. I just started writing the first scene and the Forbidden Texts appeared. After the critique of the entire manuscript, I developed the character further and realised it was a woman. I identified who she was and why she was doing it and then it all came together.
Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?
Nicole: With each book I write, it changes a little. I used to be purely organic – I’d come up with an idea and just start writing. I might draw maps or cool things like that, but there was very little research involved. With the Dream of Asarlai series, I had to write a synopsis of the entire trilogy to sell to the publisher, and that guided the writing of the last two books. With the new trilogy that I’m currently showing to publishers, I did some work on planning it out, writing a synopsis and doing some character work. With the contemporary romance I’m just finishing, I did a brief outline of the entire plot, but I’ve not entirely followed it (as you get to know your characters better, you understanding of what should and shouldn’t happen in the book changes). I might do some research before I write (particularly if I’ve got no understanding whatsoever), but generally I’ll do all my research during the editing process.
Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?
Nicole: Because I’m writing a contemporary romance for the first time, I’ve been reading a lot of it. Trialing a contemporary is a way of potentially expanding my repertoire, so that I have options for where income can come from and I’m not putting all my hopes into one genre or idea. As for my five favorite books – well, apart from my own they would be: The Lord of the Rings; Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice.
Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?
Nicole: Actually, this might well be contentious, but I would say – hold off approaching publishers. Things are changing at such an astronomical rate at the moment and as I said earlier, no one knows what’s going to be the final outcome. I do believe that print books will survive, but in what numbers? There’s already publishing houses making a business out of just publishing electronically, particularly in romance, and this is so prevalent that even major houses like HarperCollins and Harlequin Mills and Boon now have electronic only imprints. Amazon is establishing its own publishing imprints. Agents are becoming publishers. And then there’s the growth of self-publishing, which is slowly but surely losing the bad reputation it once had.
I think it’s worth waiting a couple of years until the dust settles, and everyone knows the direction it’s going. It’s not as though there’s a finite number of opportunities for authors and if you don’t act now, you’ll miss out forever.
Unless you’ve got a very clear idea of what you want, and you know exactly how to get it. Then go for it.
Scott: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?
Nicole: Do I have to limit it to just five? Cause if I can take a few more, then I’d be there with all the members of my writing group. Fantasy Writers on Retreat (or FWOR, pronounced phroar!) started a few years ago. The main part of it is an annual two-week writing retreat, but we’ve also become great friends and support for each other. So that would be (in alphabetical order) Alan Baxter, Cat Sparks, Donna Hanson, Joanne Anderton, Kylie Seluka, Matthew Farrer, Russell Kirkpatrick and Trudi Canavan. Can I have them all? Pretty please?
Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.
Thanks Scott. I hope everyone has as much fun reading as I did writing.