Sunday, 3 February 2013

Author Interview: Nic Wilson

I’d like to welcome Nic Wilson, a novelist and journalist. He writes everything from science fiction, fantasy, topical political fiction, and horror.  His latest novel, Whores, has been reviewed as a very well-written, gritty novel with an extremely fast-paced plot, memorable characters and a political dystopia that is chillingly thought provoking.  From some of the future projects in his works, he should be a writer to watch closely this coming year!

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’d say, if anything, I was inspired not to become a writer. I was a big fan of Poe at an early age. His work is wonderful and evocative and psychologically disturbing, which I think makes it perfect for any elementary school kid. But the man had a pretty horrible life. Poverty, addiction, crippling loneliness and loss, dying early and alone. So from a fairly early age I internalized the idea that the best you could hope for from writing was that your words would outlive you- but that was probably because you’d die young. I grew up poor enough not to want to continue. So I really tried to get a real career and an education, but I could never stop writing, detrimental to my life expectancy though it may be.

I don’t know what it is, honestly. There’s a joy to sitting down and stringing sentences together that just does it for me. I technically graduated, and just this week had my day job upgraded to a full-time 'real job', but I’m going to keep writing, because it makes me happier than any other combinations of happy-making things I’ve found. Now that I’m really pushing for other people to read what I’ve been doing, I’m hoping I can spread some of that happy around.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about e-book pricing, what do you think is the ideal price for a self-published writer?

I don’t think there’s any one ideal price. For starters, the e-book ecosystem includes single essays and Tolkien-esque fantasy novels. To complicate things, without complex coupon schemes there’s a 99 cent floor for most distribution platforms. That completely mucks things up because a sub $1 price, which would probably be ideal for sub-novella works,  doesn’t exist,. Another wrinkle is that there’s a fairly spendy bit of equipment in an e-reader or tablet that people have to buy up front that sort of inflates the customer’s cost which, authors unfortunately have to contend with by setting lower prices. Finally, it’s basically dependent on the audience, and since it’s a small but dedicated audience, I think a lower price-point is justified in the short to mid-term as we evangelize the e-book idea to the wider world.

Ultimately, I think I’d like to see prices settle to about $3 for a mid-length novel from an established author. That’s roughly the cost of a paperback novel, with all of the printing, distribution, warehousing, shipping and other associated costs stripped away. More for larger novels, and less for shorter ones. That would leave room for those just starting out to set a lower price threshold, so people could try their work without feeling like they’re investing in a book they don’t like.

Where do you write?

At home, though really, I'll write anywhere, so long as I'm isolated. I have three animals who are always good for a distraction, climbing on my shoulders, trying to use the laptop as a springboard. I've never been the write-in-a-coffee-shop type. Having other people around cripples my concentration. Even my fiance knows that when I'm writing, she needs to stay somewhere she can't even theoretically look at the screen, otherwise I can't focus on the task at hand, past the feeling of being watched.  Am I paranoid? Because I feel like you think that I’m paranoid?

Who is your favourite author and why?

The most influential writer on me has probably been Warren Ellis. But I did a two-year stint in journalism, got a chance to interview him- and learned the wisdom of the idiom about meeting your heroes. Suffice to say it soured me a bit on him.

At a minimum, though, I owe Ellis a debt because he steered me, through Transmetropolitan, to the work of Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson had a breezy, hilarious as hell writing style that I think helped me realize writing can be fun, and then later, that writing can be fun and socially aware. More than anything, I think that summarizes my writing ethos.

Where do you find inspiration to write?

I think my main inspiration is people. I like to write about fantastical and strange circumstances. But at the center of them is people: normal, emotional, irritable, and often times irrational human beings. It's just as fascinating to me the way human beings react to crazy happenings as the crazy happenings themselves.

Beyond that, my inspiration is usually pretty far-ranging, but to paraphrase my fiancé, my writing is usually me working through things in my own head. Whores came from the US debates last year, though I have a hard time calling them that with a straight face, over female healthcare and rights.

I have several other novels in early draft stages, due for release this year, but Whores is the only one that's been finalized and published at the moment. They all follow some theme that felt important to me at the time. Dag is about environmental issues, corporate culture and unorthodox families; Nexus is a space opera about privatization, exploitation and genocide; The Necromancer's Gambit is about the role of government in an underground world of magicians; and Banksters is about how at home greed and sociopathy are in the financial sector.

I look at writing these novels as exploration, or maybe a vivisection, an excuse to view different aspects of the world, whether it's new science, a political discussion, or the troubles of a friend or family member.

How important are readers’ reviews to you?

I’ve been regularly publishing writing on my website for something like seven years. But my site was always very bare bones, no social media aspect, no interaction. It felt kind of like I was in a beat poet coffee bar, doing my thing on a stage, to a bunch of empty chairs.

The e-book thing is different in that now there very much is criticism, and interaction- including interviews. I love it. I want to know how people feel about what I’ve put so much time and myself into. And I hope they enjoy what I do. There’s very little more gratifying, honestly. But not everything I write will be for every person. I hope that by marketing myself in an honest way, I can help people find things of mine they might enjoy, and avoid things that they won’t. Reviews are just a mechanism for that.

Any future projects in the offing?

Always! I'm naturally a fast writer, and since the first draft is the most exciting one to work on, I have a massive backlog of works in the editing process. They should be due out in the next year or so, since I'm prioritizing their release, rather than focusing on new work- though I do have those in the pipeline as well. But the stuff in the editing process:

Dag: is the story of a woman working for the Department of Agriculture who gets entangled in the web of a military-industrial conspiracy, when she'd rather just go home to her foam mattress and a quart of rocky road ice cream.

Nexus: is about 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 sponsors interests, while bargaining with new species for mining rights.

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.

Banksters: A sociopath climbs the corporate ladder.

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.

As for the projects on the agenda:

I'm finishing up the last 20% on Lunacy, which is the story of a manned Mars mission that gets thrown off course when one of the crew members is bitten by a werewolf.

After that, around summer, I've got the sequel to Nexus. I don't want to spoil too much, but the original Nexus ends with a revolt, and we're going to see what happens after the mutiny. I'm looking forward to discovering how to make a scientifically realistic car chase using spaceships.

In the fall, I'm writing another sequel, this one to The Necromancer's Gambit. The first Gambit novel ends with a lot of betrayal, and with the worst threats having only been temporarily dealt with.  So the sequel, tentatively titled Kindred Spirits, is going to be about the aftermath of all of the duplicity, lies, and lawbreaking, as all of the various chickens come to roost. There's going to be magical hell to pay.

Random One: Favourite film?

Hmm. I’ve never been much of a film buff. I think I’m just turned off by the reliance on stock characters that the medium necessitates; with only 2 hours or so to tell a complex story, you don’t have time to flesh everybody out. So I tend to be drawn into serialized TV. I think my favourite film is probably based more in what I’m craving at any particular moment, which at times would include Monkey Shines and Mallrats, for obviously very different reasons. But I think I could narrow it down to a single director, since I’ve absolutely loved both Looper and Brick: Rian Johnson. His movies just squat in my brainpan and refuse to leave; as an example, The Singularity is in many ways a reaction to what he did in Looper- though I’d stress there’s hardly a common link between the two, The Singularity being a rather low-key medical/science mystery character study with nary a shotgun in sight. Brick is my favourite-definitely of the two- though I’d say that’s mostly because time travel flicks always have a caveat that its gimmick is somewhat spoiled upon repeat viewings (which is perhaps the main thing The Singularity was a response to). But this interview just reminded me to go online and buy Brothers Bloom- which I haven’t seen yet. So yay interview.

Random Two: Where in the world do you most want to visit?

On principle, Disneyland. I vacationed there so much in my metaphorically distant youth, it'll always be my automatic getaway spot. I have every Disneyland video game that has been released, and portion them out, so I always have a little pick-me-up when I need it. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of places I'd love to visit, but those can always come after another trip to Disneyland, or after a stopover.

Beyond that, I’ve been planning, since I set The Singularity on the Oregon Coast, for a trip there, both as research, and to see how much of my remembered setting was accurate. And I’ve been promising the fiancé that trip for a while, now, too.

But for maybe a more exotic trip, I’d like to see London. America’s still a fairly young place, really, and I’d like to visit someplace truly old. And I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with British culture, too. This would almost certainly blossom into a full-fledged romp through Europe.

Really anyplace. Any place that doesn’t have insects that lay eggs under your skin.


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