Welcome to an interview with S.K. Nicholls, author of Red Clay and Roses. Susan also has a blog at http://redclayandroses1.wordpress.com and is an editor and contributor at The Community Storyboard.
M: Susan, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m excited to be able to talk with you about your current book, Red Clay and Roses, as well as the novel you are currently working on.
SK: I am delighted to be here. What a lovely home, and your new kitchen is fantastic. What a great job!
M: Thank you! Let’s sit out on my porch. Our backyard is kind of like a green jungle with the palms and water oaks and hydrangeas. I thought it might remind you a bit of Georgia. Would you like something to drink?
SK: I love it out here, such a nice habitat. I live on my back porch. Yes, please, a glass of sweet iced tea would be great. The ceiling fans keep a nice breeze, but it is Florida and it is hot.
M: Indeed it is! As I tell everyone who visits, don’t mind the cats. Actually it looks like they are all sacked out.
SK: Oh! You reminded me that I brought presents. I have kitty toys with catnip. The stuffed hamburger is Wendy’s. Nurses always have the best drugs.
M: You are so kind to think of the kitties! They love catnip. Since you mention nursing, before we talk about your writing, would you mind describing your career as an RN? I’ve always been in awe of nurses, having worked with them and also been taken care of by them. Would you say that nursing led to you to writing, either directly or indirectly?
SK: Don’t get me wrong. I love Nurses and have the greatest respect and admiration for most, but I think the level of professionalism seen today has declined. I had to get out of that profession due to stress and the lack of professionalism among certain coworkers. I started out in Med-Surg, ER, and CCU, and always had two jobs in GA working Psychiatry/Forensics simultaneously. When I came to FL, I dialed it down a bit and went into geriatrics and pediatric extended care. It appalls me the changes over the years. I started out with 4 patients at most, and when I retired I had 44 patients. It is no wonder the degree of professionalism has declined. There is so much burn out, overwork, and stress in the field.
SK: As to my writing, it is sort of a given that Nursing influenced Red Clay and Roses. The protagonist is a nurse. When I found the ledger, I was both a Nurse and a student, and the people interviewed were actual patients/people I met in my Nursing career, being a fictionalized true story. I am hoping that having worked so many years in psychiatry, and particularly in forensics with the criminally insane, will lend some insight to my future writing.
M: I’ve read Red Clay and Roses and really enjoyed it. You’ve written on your blog about the difficulty in categorizing it. Much of the book is nonfiction, but some events are fictionalized. When you set out to write it, did you already have a structure in mind? Or did it come to you as you wrote?
SK: I am a linear writer who uses deductive reasoning. I see the big picture and then break it down into parts. I did not have a genre template or lean to any formulaic style of writing with Red Clay and Roses. The novel was sort of an accident. I have always kept journals, and have been attracted to journalism. It was where I wanted to go after high school, but life didn’t work out that way. The novel came about when I was going through old journal notes and decided to compile them. Then, I had the good fortune to reunite with my cousin and receive her related diaries. That it doesn’t fit into an easily recognizable genre results from it not being written to fit into one.
M: One of the many things that impressed me and many others about Red Clay and Roses is how you bring that era of pre-Civil Rights to life and how you also illuminate the political powerlessness of women during that time as well. Did you plan to have that kind of broad impact when you were writing your book? Or were you focused only on telling the stories of Althea and Moses, Sybil and Nathan?
SK: Most writers try to avoid politics and religion when writing. I wrote Red Clay and Roses as personal story documentation, so I didn’t really give its public image much thought. I have strong convictions concerning the value of intercultural acceptance and the 14th Amendment, whether speaking of race or religion, and have always been actively involved with Civil Rights, Planned Parenthood and NOW. Women’s history, reproductive rights and responsibilities, and how they have changed over the past century interest me greatly. Friends, and other Nurses I know through these channels encouraged me to publish the work.
M: You recently released a revised version of Red Clay and Roses. What prompted you to do this? Do you see this as one of the benefits of self-publishing, to be able to revise and republish?
SK: I am most pleased with the control one has over their work with self-publishing, yes. I changed my cover three times. The one my small press publisher wanted was horrible in my not-so-humble opinion. The revision was no big deal actually. I published on feedback from friends, not beta readers, and given some more feedback from readers, I decided that a chapter I had worked by condensing three into one needed a little more work to smooth out rough edges and help the flow as a good read. I did not take it down and republish, but submitted some text changes to include some corrections found necessary with the copyediting done. Again, self-publishing makes that easy to do.
M: Let’s talk about the book you are working on now. I hear that not only is it fiction, but it is genre fiction. It’s a murder mystery or thriller? What inspired you to do something so different from your first book?
SK: I have several WIPs, but you must be referring to my crime novel. I have always loved John Grisham’s legal thrillers, and the works of the Kellermans and Patterson, but lately I have fallen in love with some Florida regional authors, Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiaasen, and Tim Dorsey. I love the very real characters that you can relate to. This is genre specific writing and much more formulaic and imaginatively creative, hence the need for much organization. It is not without some serious research and I am grateful to have Jan C. Garavaglia, ME (Dr. G. from the Discovery channel) right here in town. I am hoping, with your three widowed P. I. ladies, and my future work, we can blaze the trail for some regional female authors in the areas of crime and mystery.
M: Oh, that would be great fun to blaze that trail! Now, what is a typical writing day for you? Do you set yourself goals like word or page counts? What needs to happen for you to say that you’ve had a productive and satisfying writing day?
SK: I have three works that are about 30,000 words each. I have just scrapped my entire crime WIP and am now using it as a reference for another one that is coming together but hasn’t quite gelled. So I sort of feel like I am starting over. It was necessary. Getting onboard with Scrivener and taking that online course to get a practical working knowledge of the use of it has been a Godsend. It is starting to come together now, but I don’t have strict writing frames. I can easily spend a half day writing and might end up with the perfect paragraph or the perfect chapter. Much of what I am doing now is new to me, as I am using Scrivener to outline a series and the first book, so my time is mostly spent in planning for now. I have been working the very opposite way to the NaNoWriMo method in the past. But having Scrivener on hand now is really helping with getting me organized and my methods are changing. I also have a new timeline tool, Wendy’s Story Timeline, which is making this so much easier than it was with my last book, much less of a struggle.
M: You know, publishing, whether it’s self-publishing or traditional publishing, is very competitive. Writers who are coming out with their first novels or short stories may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the marketplace. Do you have any advice for writers who aspire to be published authors?
SK: I don’t see the competition as much as the camaraderie. For example, as readers, we may read ten books a year or twenty, so the more we, as authors, can produce and promote together…the better off we will all be in the long run. No serious reader is going to read just one book in their genre in a year, (and I know I can’t write but MAYBE one).
SK: I didn’t feel the intimidation with my first book because I had no online presence, but I certainly feel it now. Marketing can be overwhelming. My best advice to aspiring authors is to read and take the ideas of other people’s opinions and glean from them what applies to you specifically…let the rest roll off like water on a duck, else you will go nuts. Also, write, write, and keep writing!
M: That’s so true that there is wonderful camaraderie and that by helping each other, we help ourselves. Susan, it’s truly been my pleasure to talk with you today. Thank you again for taking the time for this interview. I know I am one of many others who are look forward to reading more of your work.
SK: Thank you, Marie, for having me. Dear me…I have rambled on all morning. It is lunch time already. Let me get out of your way so you can get on with your business.
M: No hurry. I’ve enjoyed every minute, as I’m sure our readers have too!
Well, that’s it, folks! My interview with author, SK Nicholls. Be sure to follow her blog at http://redclayandroses1.wordpress.com and pick up a copy of Red Clay and Roses. Please stay tuned for more interviews by Marie at 1WriteWay.
To get your own copy of Red Clay and Roses, visit any one of these links:
Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/297631