5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Indie Author Interview: Michelle R. Nickens

Indie Author Interview with Michelle R. Nickens - Author of the Paranormal Romance Precious little Secrets.

Michelle R. Nickens has been writing since childhood. During the day, Michelle’s career focuses on supporting nationwide law enforcement programs. In that capacity, she has written hundreds of documents, reports, outreach pieces and proposals.
When not at work, Michelle’s writing includes fiction stories, articles, plays, lyrics and other forms of writing.

Interview with Michelle R. Nickens

Author Interview w/ Michelle R. Nickens
Michelle R. Nickens
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Michelle R. Nickens: My path has led me to a variety of writing opportunities. I started writing short poems and songs as a child, but quickly realized that I enjoyed making things up. My parents encouraged me to express myself which I have been able to do through my writing, acting, dancing and other activities. I’ve written plays, lyrics, short stories, articles and of course, my first novel, Precious little Secrets. My short attention span play, Wild Refuge, won the Audience Award for best production and was produced by the Atlantis Players. In my real job, I have written hundreds of documents, proposals, outreach pieces, briefings, guidelines, grants and other materials, some of which are used nationally by our law enforcement and public safety communities.

I’ve written dozens of articles for the Tallahassee Woman Magazine on a variety of topics, ranging from breast cancer and endometriosis, to wine tasting and wedding planning. I was also published in the Quality Cities Magazine for my piece on domestic terrorism and Florida’s response to September 11. During college, I interned at the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and was published numerous times in their journal. My poem, obsession, was also honored a number of years ago. Writing is a huge part of my life, whether at work or at home. I am honored to have the chance to put my words on paper (or on the screen) and have people react to and even use what I have written to make change and inspire others.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Like my music collection which includes Patsy Cline, Once The Musical, Nine Inch Nails, Elvis, New Order, Andrea Bocelli, and just about everything in between – my favorite authors and books are kinda all over the place. I love all the Harry Potters and Percy Jackson series – you might think I’m a 16 year old boy and not a 40ish-year old woman. I also like to see characters I can identify with and try to predict or figure out how I would react to their situation. I enjoy stories that incorporate fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction, along with strong yet troubled women.

"Writing fiction offers a great balance to my life."

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I remember when my father was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; I was in the 8th grade and won the Lt. Governor’s Award for Writing. I did not think I had a chance because a boy in my class who also submitted a piece was really smart. But, I won. Got to meet the Lt. Governor and accept the award. It was really cool and it was one of the first times I thought to myself – I might be pretty good at this. Since then, I’ve been required to write for my job and have been recognized numerous times in that capacity. Writing fiction offers a great balance to my life.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?

My writing process depends upon a number of things. First, what I’m writing? If it is a piece for work – I consider the topic, how much research is necessary, who will be vetting the document, the deadline and the audience – all of these factors help me formulate a plan to sketch out a shell, identify the areas that need to be addressed and fill in the gaps. If it’s a poem or lyrics – I do most of that in the car. I can get a lot done in the car. For my articles – if I am familiar with the topic, I’ll outline what I want to cover, conduct research and the necessary interviews, and free write for a couple hours, then go back and clean it up. These are always under a deadline, so I work backwards and plan out a time table to make sure I meet the deadline.

Plays, short stories, and my novel – well, I struggle with a routine primarily because my job requires travel and often 40+ hours a week. I am working to improve my process. Many portions of Precious little Secrets was crafted while traveling – spending hours on the tarmac, waiting around at airports and plane rides to California and back. It’s amazing how much I can get accomplished, plus it seems like the trip flies by. Late nights in hotel rooms and drinks at the bar also help the creative juices. Having said all that, for my next novel, I’ve already developed an outline and I am trying to take all the lessons learned from Precious little Secrets and apply it to the next novel. But sometimes, I just get a spurt and need a napkin or something before an idea vanishes.

"I could write 10,000 words about a pencil that is upset with its broken point [...]"

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
The easiest and fun part to me is coming up with an idea and writing free form. I could write 10,000 words about a pencil that is upset with its broken point, but editing it would expose my inner-procrastinator. I feel very lucky that I’ve been able (so far) to have the ability to make something out of nothing. I am often called upon to write something about a topic I know little about and it is so rewarding to create a product that people enjoy or, in some cases, use to enhance their efforts. Just today, a colleague said to me, “How do you do this? This is great.” I give credit to my father, who had a “masters in BS.” I strive to be as good as he was at this skill. My hardest thing is the editing. That’s probably a pretty common answer. I admire editors; they find what we did not see, but it makes me feel like a goober sometimes – like how did I miss that. Or, now I have to justify why I did that. I know in the end, it makes a better product, so I persevere.

Michelle, please tell us a little about your Book 'Precious little Secrets.'
Precious little Secrets is not a typical romance. As a matter of fact, it did not start out as a romance at all, but then suddenly the complexities of Natalie’s life and the need to show her evolve as a character demanded that she not only love another, but learn to love herself. Precious little Secrets is about self-discovery and, in some ways, believing in something and using the truth to grow and live. Natalie’s dream world takes her to surreal and scary places, testing her and drawing her nearer to the truth. Through these journeys, balanced with her real life, she learns more than the secrets of those around her, she learns and finally accepts her own.

Precious little Secrets (Michelle R. Nickens)
Click to Read an Excerpt

What inspired you to write the book?
I think that I am drawn to the paranormal, psychological and ghostly-type stories for a couple reasons. One is because of an experience I had as child. I call it – seeing my cowboy. I will never forget waking up in the middle of the night and walking to the bathroom. Something made me stop in the hallway and I remember seeing what appeared to be an outline of a man wearing a cowboy hat. My family has also experienced a number of bird-type encounters that I like to believe are not just coincidences. I know I seek these “visits” or signs, which brings me to the second reason – I specifically remember telling my mother at the hospital, “Do everything you can to breakthrough, to let me know you’re there.” I believe I’ve experienced one “visit” from her so far, but I continue to seek them, from her and my father. I also wanted to challenge myself and make my parents, my husband, my family and my friends proud. Completing a novel is hard work and I am pleased that I set out to do it and finished.

Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Woman of all cultures, ages 20 and up will enjoy Precious little Secrets. I know from being a busy professional woman that when I have down time, I want to read something fun, something to wisp me away. Precious little Secrets takes you on a journey, you don’t always know where you’ll go, but I hope by the end, readers will sigh, smile and sleep well. Some readers will see pieces of themselves in Natalie, or her mother, or even perhaps Sara or Sabra. Some guys will also like the book. A number of them have commented that they’ve enjoyed it. I think they will be intrigued with the fantasy and surreal aspects of the book.
The book is available at Amazon.

"My first book signing is scheduled [...]"

How would you describe the success of your book so far?
Things are going well. Being that this is a part-time effort, I still have a significant amount of marketing and outreach to do but the reaction thus far has been positive. My first book signing is scheduled for September 24 at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in the atrium from 8 am to 10 am and 11 am to 1 pm. I am also planning a launch party at Theatre Tallahassee and another book signing at Joanie’s CafĂ© in Havana later this year.

Some comments so far:

“I enjoyed reading Precious Little Secrets so much that I've shared my Kindle so that others can enjoy this great summer read. Nickens is a talented author and I hope to see more of her work real soon.”

“I just finished "Precious Little Secrets" and loved the book. I want more! My favorite books are the ones that I cannot determine what will happen next. The author accomplished this with so many twists and turns that I couldn't put the book down. I'm looking forward to seeing more from the author Michelle Nickens!”

“Precious little Secrets is a great read. Michelle R. Nickens describes her characters and experiences so well that you really feel for them and what they're going through. She pulls you into her book and makes it hard to set it down until you're done reading it all. I recommend Precious little Secrets to anyone looking for a great story and I'm looking forward to more from Ms. Nickens in the future.”

“I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Ms. Nickens has a way of describing places in her book that make you feel as if you were there. From start to finish, I was able to put myself in each of her locations. Wonderful characters and a mystery to solve that makes the book fun to read.”

How long did it take you to write the book?
This is not as easy a question as it sounds. I started working on it about eight years ago. I thought I might be done about five years ago. But, I wasn’t. And, then things changed. During that time in my life, my father was having a number of medical issues – he had had a liver transplant which went well but was later diagnosed with breast cancer – yes men do get it! He managed it for about 7 years. Eight months after his passing, my mother left me as well, from pancreatic cancer. Writing was the furthest thing from my mind and after they were gone, it took me quite a while to want to work on the book again. My mother did get to read that bad first draft – I hope she and my father would be proud of the end result. I finally got off my bum thanks to my wonderful husband whose love and support are a treasure. I also had a period where I made a huge decision – to change the POV from third person to first. It took months to do this and the whole time I questioned the decision, but now I can’t imagine the story any other way.

Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
Precious little Secrets was published using Kindle Direct Publishing for the eBook and Create Space for the paperback.

How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
My experience was extremely smooth. The process was easy to follow. The biggest thing that slowed me up was that I had been working in Apple’s Pages and when I was finally ready to explore self-publishing possibilities, I discovered that Pages was not the best platform for Kindle Direct Publishing. I acquired Microsoft Office for Mac and had to spend some time reformatting, so now I am just working in Microsoft Office for Mac.

Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I did not hire an editor or a cover designer. My book was edited multiple times by a published author colleague and friend and multiple writers/readers. I knew what I wanted for my cover – it is personal and has a connection with my mother. It is a photo of a location I took and then manipulated to look surreal. Down the road, I will be having a contest about the cover.

"Research can be overwhelming."

Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
I am still learning myself. Every day I discover new things that are available. I think one of the hardest things is knowing what is best to do for you based on your available time and personal and professional goals. Research can be overwhelming. The Internet is fabulous but you can lose four hours of your life real fast and not find what you are looking for. I think trying to identify a few resources, professional organizations, marketing outlets, etc. and using those efficiently helps focus your efforts. I also have an accountability partner – we meet, share, critique each other’s writing, drink wine, critique other people’s writing, and start over again. This friendship is very important to me and has been a driving force in helping me move forward with my writing goals.

Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am working on my next novel, Red Angel. The story follows Tabatha Wren, who gives up her life as an art dealer to take care of her ailing mother after her father dies. After Tabatha is faced with a mysterious visitor who attacks their house and destroys her father’s novel, she works diligently to eliminate the problem. Unbeknownst to Tabatha, this creature is trying to communicate with her mother, to finish what was left behind. But, after her mother dies, a new story unfolds. There are romantic elements but the story also focuses on parents’ love, lost opportunity, faith in the unknown and new beginnings. In addition, I am almost done with my one-act play, Stage Door Whore. I also write for my blog – WineKnows—Pour, Explore and More.

"I am moving forward with being an Indie Author."

Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
I am moving forward with being an Indie Author. If you would have asked me that about five years ago – I would probably have said – never self-publish – but now with where I am in my life and with the opportunities and flexibility available to publish – it makes sense. It’s easy, it’s free and you retain control. It’s also hard work and time-consuming, but it’s yours. I mean, if Random House knocked on my door, I’d answer but I’m happy with my choice.

Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
People really like their books. I still like to hold that book too. But, most of my family and friends have totally moved to eBooks. My mother in law was a librarian for 30 years and loved to read. When she went to kindle only, I knew times were changing. With the technology constantly evolving, I think we need to consider the eBook 2020 Concept with imbedded movies, links, other stories, interactive pieces, you decide the end, etc. Who knows? But, I bet someone, somewhere will still want those pages in their hands.

Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
I work full time supporting nationwide law enforcement programs.

How can readers connect with you?

Visit my website at www.michellenickens.com
Follow me on Twitter @PWTallygirl
Like my Facebook page at www.fb.com/MichelleNickensAuthors
Follow me on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/michellenickens/boards

Thank you very much for the Interview, Michelle.

About the Book Precious little Secrets

Precious little Secrets (Michelle R. Nickens)
Precious little Secrets explores the dreams and life of Natalie Swan—where reality, love and fantasy come together to reveal the truth.

After a traumatic breakup, Natalie's childhood nightmares return. Her guide is a mysterious little boy who leads her down surreal paths. In the waking world, Natalie faces challenges at work and questions what she wants out of life.

When she “accidentally” meets Derek Voeltgin, a client, on a business trip, Natalie struggles to reconcile her new feelings with her ethical nature. All seems fine, until her real world and dream world collide and the secrets of her past and present are revealed.

Links to the Book

Link to the Paperback Precious little Secrets with Excerpt on Amazon

Link to the eBook Precious little Secrets with Excerpt on Amazon

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