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Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Author interview no.506 with horror, science-fiction and urban fantasy writer and poet Nikolas P Robinson (revisited)
Back in September 2012, I interviewed author Nikolas P Robinson for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the five hundred and sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with horror, science-fiction and urban fantasy author and poet Nikolas P Robinson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Nikolas. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Nikolas: Well, I’m a single father living in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. I’ve always loved reading and I have been writing nearly as long as I’ve been doing that, as far back as I can remember.
Morgen: The Black Hills sound great, a suitably remote area for writing? In the introduction I have you listed as writing a variety of genres, what genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Nikolas: I typically write things that fall into the horror genre in one way or another but I have started a couple of hard science fiction pieces and some urban fantasy work here and there.
Morgen: Popular genres. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Nikolas: So far there’s only Unspoken and a digital-only collection of poetry that’s available from Amazon. I don’t see much sense in writing under a pseudonym for myself; none of the usual motivations apply.
Morgen: Not doing so does make life easier when getting paid. :) You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Nikolas: I didn’t have the patience to continue submitting queries and waiting for rejections any longer. I wanted to see the book in front of me, to be able to touch it and feel like I had actually accomplished something with the months of writing and additional months of editing and revising that led to it being something that I could consider complete. I would have loved to experience the whole process of being nudged along and prompted by an actual professional editor through either an agency or publisher, but I had to make do with my mother and her Masters in English and the suggestions of the beta readers that I am still so grateful for.
Morgen: It is the readers who are the ultimate ‘client’ after all. You mentioned having a book to touch and feel, are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Nikolas: I did make both Unspoken and A Wreck In Progress (my poetry collection) available through the Kindle marketplace on Amazon. I prefer to hold physical copies of books in my hands, but I have read a good number of books and stories in digital formats as well.
Morgen: It’s great having the choice, isn’t it. Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Nikolas: I try to avoid comparing myself to other authors, but I have had other people do so. I’ve had comparisons that ranged from Stephen King to Cormac McCarthy…both are flattering, but neither is accurate as far as I’m concerned.
Morgen: But they must have something in them that readers of those authors see. I’d be flattered too. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Nikolas: The benefit of self-publishing is the ability to retain full creative control. I designed my own cover art and layouts and came up with the titles all on my own. I know how a book cover can make or break a book as far as impulse sales are concerned, or even how it can potentially impact regular sales…I’m even guilty of holding off on buying something because the cover art simply didn’t appeal to me, and I know how stupid it is to do that.
Morgen: Not necessarily. If care hasn’t been taken in the cover, it may well reflect in the content. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Nikolas: I have a few novels in progress and a handful of short stories as well. I’m hoping to have my next novel completed before the end of this year and there is a short story (Exorcising Demons) that I’m expanding a bit and hoping to have at novella length within the next couple of months.
Morgen: You sound prolific. Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Nikolas: I do try to write at least a little bit every day, but there are a lot of times when I either don’t find the time or simply can’t seem to get my creative juices flowing, so to speak.
Morgen: And you can’t force it. I write a short story a day for my blog’s 5pm fiction slot but there are days when I struggle. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Nikolas: I have some stories that work one way and some that work the other. The one I’m focusing on getting finished next is fairly well outlined and just waiting to be filled in, whereas Unspoken was pretty much unplanned in every conceivable sense.
Morgen: I’ve done both although I prefer the latter, especially for shorter pieces. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully formed?
Nikolas: I always do a decent amount of editing. I begin everything the old fashioned way, with pen and paper and rewrite it and revise it into something approximating a second draft while transcribing it onto the computer. My next step is to typically put two word documents side-by-side and rewrite it onto the new one, making changes, extending scenes, and the like until I have what feels like a third draft. That’s when I send it out to obtain feedback and red-lining from beta readers. My technical communications professor, when I was still majoring in physics and chemistry, hammered in the fact that there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.
Morgen: I can’t imagine that anyone can write a perfect manuscript first time round, even seasoned authors. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Nikolas: I prefer first-person but avoid it when I can and try to focus on third-person writing. I’ve never tried second, but there’s a good chance that I will, at some point.
Morgen: Oh yes, do. It’s great fun. :) You mentioned earlier that you write poetry…
Nikolas: I do write a great deal of poetry, a lot of lyrical work as well… but that stems from the number of years that I was a musician, and a lot of the time there is a basic rhythm or harmony assembling itself while I’m writing those things.
Morgen: How about non-fiction or short stories?
Nikolas: The only non-fiction I’ve written are autobiographical things; one that pertains to an interval of my life when drug use was frequent and I kept a journal that documented a lot of what was taking place. I don’t know it that will ever see the light of day.
I write (or at least begin writing) a lot of short stories, typically for one anthology or another; but I have a nasty habit of not being finished before the deadline is up and the work is never submitted.
Morgen: Oh dear. I can’t talk though, I’m rubbish at sending things off anywhere, although I’m good with deadlines if someone asks me to do something. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Nikolas: I worry that everything I write will never actually see the light of day. I’m neurotic and insecure when I’m not being insanely arrogant.
Morgen: <laughs> Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Nikolas: I’ve had numerous rejections for Unspoken; a lot of them come from aiming a little too high and trying to catch the interest of larger agencies and well-established literary agents. I tried not to let it get to me and even went so far as to send brief emails back to each of the agents who had rejected my manuscript (most without even seeing a fraction of it) in order to thank them for taking the time to consider my work. It helped to deal with the rejections when I received one rejection from the assistant to Lisa Gallagher (of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates), which included the following:
“Although there were several strong elements to the narrative (especially the overall concept and poetic voice), I’m afraid that on balance she was not sufficiently compelled by the book to feel that she would be able to market it as effectively as you’d like to publishers.”
That whole thing made me feel a great deal less insecure and snubbed with the rejections that I was receiving, hearing some small amount of praise included within the rejection definitely helped.
Morgen: Like you, I started at the top of the agent tree and had similar reactions. I do suspect it’s fairly normal. So you’ve not secured an agent, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Nikolas: I lack an agent or any sort of representation at this time, but I do think that they can very much help the author by acting as a staunch advocate for their work.
Morgen: One would hope so. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Nikolas: In April, for National Library Week, here at the local library I will be taking part in a panel discussion and writing workshop that is being hosted. I entertain the thought of taking part in the Black Hills Writers Group which has been active in this region since 1956, but I’ve yet to become involved. I’ve always had some issues when it comes to socialization and interacting with other people.
Morgen: Writing groups are great; I run or belong to four. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Nikolas: I exercise for typically a couple of hours each day (though that fluctuates from half an hour to as much as three hours or more, depending on my motivation and energy level from day to day) incorporating both a decent amount of cardio and a good deal of weight training, I enjoy reading a great deal, I watch far too much television and way too many movies, I like to spend quality time with my significant other (including 3-7 mile walks that we try to squeeze in a couple of nights a week), and I spend a good bit of time with my children (often playing video games together with my son)…and, of course, there’s my actual occupation (technical support for DirecTV).
Morgen: Ah, the day job. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Nikolas: I’m a member of the Writers Coffeehouse Online hosted by the Liars Club, but I’m not terribly active, though I do frequently read the things that other people take the time to post. I’m also a mostly inactive member of Book Blogs.
I’d like to say that I find the groups valuable, but I’ve really never taken full advantage of them in any real sense.
The forums that I’m part of that actually matter to me are the relatively small groups based on Facebook that I participate in.
Morgen: Everything’s so time-consuming, that’s the trouble. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Nikolas: I can be found in all of the usual places:
Morgen: And a WordPress one at that. :) Thank you, Nikolas.
I then invited Nikolas to include an extract of his writing and this is a brief segment from a novel that he has in progress, as yet untitled:
The shotgun in Miles’ hands erupts with an almost deafening explosion and the hands are no longer there holding onto him. Something wet and visceral hits the ground a few feet from where he stands. Almost immediately he begins walking backward slowly towards the open doorway that he knows is there, and he can hear the hungry thing in the darkness shifting itself around, breath gurgling in its throat.
It drags itself across the floor, the gender that it might have been before disguised by the severity of its wounds. Still it moves inexorably forward, desperate to reach its prey even as the final traces of life begin to dissipate within it. There is no question though, that it should be dead already, that its momentum should have ceased some time before; but somehow it just keeps dragging itself along, leaving a trail of blood punctuated by viscera at irregular intervals.
Miles had seen some terrible things in combat, been party himself to some of the most monstrous actions that one human being can perform against another, but in the minute or so that he had spent watching this creature crawl its way towards him in the half light, he felt bile surging against his esophagus.
Worse than the appearance; the hoarse, guttural groan that issues from its ravaged throat forces Miles’ teeth to clench.
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