Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Maurice G. Nicholson Interview
5/5/2012 10:13:46 PM
Maurice G. Nicholson discusses his debut novel and the writing life!
Twitter continues to be an excellent online meeting place to connect with great new writers and today’s talented guest is no exception! If you enjoy reading taut action/thrillers, I’d like to introduce you to author Maurice G. Nicholson. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Maurice. I know you are a veterinarian by profession, but what do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
MGN: Falconry has been a passion of mine for over thirty years now and, during the Fall and Winter months, I try and fly my Peregrine Falcons as often as I can on the nearby mountains. Training Irish Red Setters is my other big interest; the object being to eventually get these beautiful dogs hunting in partnership with the falcons coursing across the sky high above them. When it finally all comes together - it’s just magic!
Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream or is this something that crept into your life recently?
MGN: I had a great friend, a man who was a lot older than me, but chance brought us together as next door neighbours in Dubai in the Arabian Gulf back in 1979. He was a dentist by profession but on our many night-time walks he told me of his love of words and language and of the great desire he had to write. It struck a real chord with me and, in time, I realised that it was something I really wanted to do too.
When I was between jobs for a few months about twenty years back, I wrote a collection of short stories but I never tried seriously to have them published. Then, I found I had the bones of my first novel, Call Down the Hawk, rattling around in my head for some years and eventually I decided - enough was enough. It was time to sit down and write or forget about it forever.
I had a chance to read an excerpt from you debut novel, Call Down the Hawk and I liked the way I was immediately drawn into the story with action that kicks off from the very first page. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Harry Ballentine?
MGN: Above all, the inspiration for the book was a house I had in Mayo on the edge of the Partry Mountains near Ireland’s West coast. It is the home of the protagonist, Harry Ballantine and his wife Freya in Call down the Hawk. I used to rent it out for part of the year when I was working away and I had some very strange tenants at times. This got me thinking about writing and basing a mystery there. Then one April weekend in 1995, the local area had a surprise international visitor and I remember the basic storyline of the book just seemed to roll into my head. The main action all takes place over that April weekend back in 1995, although the storyline dips back into the past occasionally too.
Harry Ballantine is a complex, damaged character who, like all of us, has learnt most in life from his mistakes. Now, when he thinks he has finally got it all together - his past comes bursting back into his life again threatening all that is dear to him.
Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open Call Down the Hawk?
MGN: It is very much a thriller but not a typical all action one with only thinly sketched characters. It is a character driven action novel that tells the story of how the past comes back to haunt a man, twenty years after he thought it had gone forever. Three men explode back into Harry Ballantine’s life with an offer - the sort that cannot be refused if his wife and he are to live. They want him to commit a foul act of murder, one that has the potential to send the island of Ireland spiralling into a new cycle of violence.
The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide to go the indie route and self-publish this novel?
MGN: It took me a year and a half to write and re-write Call Down the Hawk and, only then, did I begin to look for an agent. This was really disheartening as I found it next to impossible to get one to even look at my manuscript. Eventually, my stepson who lectures in English Literature at Hamburg University and who had edited and proof-read for me, emailed me and told me all about Amanda Hocking and how her indie publishing had taken her to new heights. After months of wondering who on earth would publish my book, I realised that the best person of all to do it was myself. I decided to go the Kindle route using the Kindle Direct Publishing site.
Would you recommend this mode of publication to others? Why?
MGN: Absolutely yes. Once the decision to self-publish has been taken, then it is only a matter of time before your book is out there being read and reviewed and there is nothing more pleasing than that. Even the critical reviews provide very useful feedback. The KDP site allows for free promotions too and these can really help get the word out and all publicity is good publicity.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
MGN: Never to give up and always be willing to learn new skills. I hate to think how many submissions I put together with great hope in my heart only for nothing to come of them. Now that perseverance has got me past that point, I have had to learn all about marketing and the social media, something I had never even thought of before.
Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
MGN: I had a basic storyline in my head but it was never set in stone and it changed quite a bit as the words flowed out. The characters just seemed to appear as the tale was told, though I based many of their traits on the many and varied people I had come across in my life. Luckily I had a lot of interesting sorts to call on. In my time in the Middle East I had three different arms dealers as clients and I once visited one of the Bin Laden houses in Saudi Arabia to treat some horses. I had to hone the story down quite a bit as I rewrote, of course, as I had definitely overwritten some parts of it and one thing a good thriller can’t be is too long.
Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
MGN: A pot of Arabica Coffee is a must for starters but, above all, I need the quiet of the early hours of the day. My writing time is usually from 5:30 to 8:30 a.m before my normal working day starts and there are many days when I know that I just won’t be able to do it. Oh, to be able to write full time!
At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
MGN: I remind myself that there are millions of words somewhere close by, just out of my reach at the moment and that the best thing I can do is to let them come whenever they are ready. So I lose myself in some other interest. Often, I take one of my dogs out on the mountain and do a bit of training. The main thing, I think, is not to try too hard to drag the words out.
Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
MGN: This is difficult as there are so many great writers that I really admire but to mention just a few: John Steinbeck for his magnificent humanity and portrayal of those on the margins of society, Pat Conroy for his unforgettable characterisations and Wilbur Smith for his adventurous tales from the heartland of Africa. If I could have just a smidgen of each of their abilities, I would smile forever more.
What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
MGN: At the moment I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the dog saw.” Gladwell writes beautifully and his work is full of wonderful insights into the nature of our human lives on planet earth, something that is very useful for all fiction writers. Having already read “Outliers” and “Blink” I just had to read this one as well.
What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to Call Down the Hawk in the near future?
MGN: I have started work on another thriller set on the South coast of Ireland, the area where I grew up. It is largely a maritime story based on some characters from my youth but it is early days yet and the story is unfolding slowly. There is a possibility of a sequel to Call Down the Hawk in the future, too. I don’t believe in tying up all the ends in a story as it never seems to happen in real life so I did leave the finale a bit open-ended.
Thank you very much for taking time to discuss your novel and your writing experiences, Maurice! I’ll catch you on Twitter!
For more information about Maurice Nicholson and his debut novel, check out:
Follow Maurice on Twitter: .MGNicholson
Where to buy the book:
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