Time for winter to finally release its hold on the land, the snow to start to retreat, the green things to start waking.
But in the meantime, the interviews keep coming! You got your iced coffee? Ready?
Today’s guest is Nikki Nelson-Hicks! She’s been writing mysteries, horror, ‘Weird West’, sci-fi, and across a whole slew of genres for several years and has quite the interesting history. Let’s talk to her!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I had always written stories, poems, etc. but never really thought much of it. It was just a handy way to get an Easy A in English classes. Until my freshman year in high school and things changed. I had the hardest, most fierce crush a 14-year-old virgin could bear on my English teacher. I would write him stories about vampires (because I was a huge vampire geek…and this was in 1980 BEFORE it was cool), leave them under his classroom door or on his desk. I’d find a way to walk past his room to wave at him. I’d sit outside the school and watch him walk to his truck. I was a menace. To get me off his back (and avoid any police involvement), he helped me to enroll in an afterschool Gifted and Talented program for theatre. From there, I learned how to hone not only my acting skills but my writing as well. I also met the boy who would one day become my husband and father to my children, so I owe SO MUCH to Mr. Shearer, wherever you are.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Thanks to Covid, my day job became a work from home position. Which sounds ideal except now my workspace has to be split into two sections: day job and writing job. In the Before Covid (B.C.) days, I could focus on writing either during my lunch time or at night when I got home from work. 2-3 hours at best if I was “in the vein”. Now, I can work my day job and turn slightly to the right, and work on my writing job. Still, I only get in 2-3 hours a day if I’m “in the vein”. Being home has its distractions.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Because of my jumpy ADHD Monkey Brain, object permanence is a real hassle. SO, to keep my brain on track, I print out pictures of whatever is most pertinent to my story and tape them all around my desk area. Sometimes, I have models of monsters or, once when I was writing about a pirate ship, I had a huge model ship crowding my desk. I need to see it to keep focused on it.
What does your family think of your writing?
My sister hopes I will be able to fund her retirement.
My adult children think I’m pretty goddamn cool. I’m lucky because they are geeks and nerds like me. My daughter is an artist, and my son is a writer.
My husband is my Watson. He is my anchor and keeps me sane. And, due to his 23-year career in the USMC, he is also a huge source of information when it comes to guns and fighting.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I rarely go to Amazon much these days. However, I do have two stories. One reader contacted me to let me know that when he was bedridden with Lyme disease, my Jake Istenhegyi stories brightened up his day and gave him hope and entertainment. That’s the BEST thing a writer can hear. Another woman contacted me and said that a student she was counseling for his ADHD and reading skills picked my Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits book out of her bookcase and, after reading it, said it was the best thing he’d ever read and wanted more! That made me feel like, no matter what, I did at least one good thing.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Either one of these two things:
I had a mad crush on Carl Sagan. I wanted to be an astronomer. My mother, God bless her soul, took me on a tour of the Huntsville Space Center. It was never to be, unfortunately, because my math skills are nonexistent.
OR I wanted to be a paranormal investigator/reporter like Carl Kolchak or the Scooby Gang. I wanted to go around the world in a van and find monsters, adventures, and tackle mysteries. This dream I did achieve in a way. Back in 2004 – 2007, I was a member of a paranormal investigation team, Adsagsona Paranormal Society. We were one of the first teams to investigate the Villisca Axe Murder house.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Sharyn McCrumb’s, She Walks These Hills.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I have a Post It Note on my desk that says: Clever Will Get You Killed. But I ignore it. I know it’d be easier to just write the formula shit and get paid but, where’s the fun in that? I really do try to be as original as possible with the material I deliver. That way the story is as fun for you reading it as it is for me writing it.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am one of the founding members of the Nashville Writers Group and many of those people are now my best friends. We help each other with critiques and just friendship. Writing is a lonely, crazy, job for neurotics so it’s good to have people who understand.
One time, I was really ready to give up the whole writing gig and my friend, Alan Lewis, texted me, “Can I call you?” and we talked for over an hour. This is a guy who is battling Parkinson’s as well as trying to make it in the Indie biz and he took time to talk me off a bridge.
I also have some friends in a group we call the Awkward Geeky Writers. That includes Todd Keisling, Mercedes Yardley and Anthony Rapino. We give each other advice and friendship. We meet up most Saturdays to watch movies together online and hang out.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t wait for anyone to give you permission. You don’t need a diploma to be a writer. Start writing. Live life. Get out there. Quit waiting. Oh….and eat more fiber. Seriously. Pooping is a privilege.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Getting a good mic and camera so I can do video/audio interviews. So much fun and I have made such great friends.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Not so much underappreciated now but Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman has been my GO TO book whenever I felt down. Basically, anything by Terry Pratchett is brilliant. OH! And basically anything by James Herbert. He’s the British Stephen King.
What are you working on now?
A coming-of-age story with monsters and magic called Crown of Feathers.
In Appalachian folklore, if you find a bundle of feathers under a sick person’s pillow, that means they are marked by Death. When this Crown of Feathers is found under Eli’s mother’s pillow, he steals it thinking it will save her from Death. He soon finds out there are worse things than dying.
What do you have coming soon?
I put together a few of my short stories into an anthology called Stone Baby and Other Strange Tales. It went live on Amazon in February.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The one true thing I’ve learned in my 55 years of life:
Never get good at anything you hate; they will make you do it for the rest of your life.
Excellent advice! How can your fans find you?
The best way is to go to my blog. Can you put in a button or something like that?
But wait! There’s more!
Nikki has kindly provided us with a sample from her new book, Crown of Feathers. ENJOY!
CROWN OF FEATHERS
In the human flock, patience is a virtue, a nicety of the humble masses. However, in the wilder sections of nature, patience is the stock and trade of a predator. If you doubt it, look around. Consider the red breasted robin standing stock still out on your front lawn, waiting for the faintest movement of a luckless bug. Watch the cat sitting on a windowsill, frozen except for a swish of his tail, watching the robin out there on the lawn. Cast your eye higher still to the spider web in the eaves on the front porch. It looks empty and frail, flittering in the passing breeze. Only if you know where to look, up in the corner pocket, will you see a silent still garden spider waiting ever so diligent as it waits for the first tremor to sound the alarm of a struggling moth caught in its web. Patience. A humble attribute for some. A game of life and death for others.
Sister Megaera was a being of the latter sort.
She couldn’t see the boy, not with the eyes in her head, but there are other ways if one knew how.
She reached out with spectral fingers until she found an anthill. The creatures were hungry; their sort always were. It was easy to push them towards the tender flesh on the ankles of a young boy.
She heard him yip and smiled. The sounds of scuffling soon followed as the boy jumped up and began slapping the ants off his legs.
“OW! GITOFF! GOSHDARN! OWW!”
Sister Megeara leaned forward in her rocking chair.
His footsteps sounded like dancing as he flailed and kicked.