Interview with Brent Nichols

17 Jan

A great bundle of science fiction books is currently being offered at https://storybundle.com/scifi, consisting of six titles from Bundoran Press and six by some great writers who have befriended the press over the years. As an added bonus, we will be running a series of interviews with the authors about their contribution to the Bundle.

Next up: Brent Nichols

When did you first know you wanted to be a science fiction writer and why? How long after than did you have your first fiction sale?

I knew I wanted to be a writer pretty early in my life. Books had a huge influence on me. At first I wanted to be the heroes of those books. Eventually, though, I started to envy the writers. People I’d never met, in many cases people who died before I was even born, were having this tremendous influence on me. I wanted to wield that kind of power.

The best part of reading for me as a child was the way books would whisk me away to somewhere else. I got hooked on science fiction early, because of the fantastic environments and the mind-bending concepts. That made science fiction the playground I wanted to inhabit as a writer.

So my goal was selected by my early teens. My first sale came many, many, many years later, when I was in my forties. If you’d told fourteen-year-old me that he’d work for thirty years without making a sale he’d have called you a liar. That unshakable delusion was the only thing that kept me going through all the years of rejection and obscurity.

What themes appear most strongly in your writing? What makes you particularly care about those ideas?

I find I’m constantly exploring the question of identity, of how we become who we are and the degree to which we can choose. I’m almost fifty and I’m still grappling with that. The person I assumed I’d become when I was a child is not the person I grew up to be. I’ve been shaped by the events of my life, especially my childhood, often in ways I don’t like, and it’s maddeningly difficult to change myself from the inside.

My characters tend to be young, and they tend to struggle with identity. With choosing. With seeing beyond their environment and the “wisdom” of everyone around them to make good choices about who they become. They struggle, and sometimes they fail, to rise above their environment and become who they choose to be. I’m endlessly fascinated by that struggle.

Do need privacy to do your writing or do you prefer the social ambiance of a coffee shop or writing retreat? How do you balance your writing with the rest of your life?

I’ve never been one for writing in a coffee shop. I do most of my writing at home. I’ve got an office set up with a view of the backyard and a couple of bird-feeders, which are often full of squabbling birds. It’s a pretty nice place to work. I don’t have children or pets, so I’m generally not interrupted when I’m home.

I do find that my productivity increases when I go on retreats, though. The social pressure of having writers all around me who are writing and who expect me to be writing leads me to work more and goof off less. The most productive days I’ve ever had been at retreats or when I’ve been stuck with absolutely nothing else to do. The absence of Wi-Fi can be a wonderful thing when you want to get work done.

Lately I’ve been dictating with Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I only want to do alone. I either dictate in my office, or I take a digital recorder and walk around outside. If I go outside and pick a destination, I’ll usually keep on dictating until I get there. It takes away my typical inclination to decide I’m frustrated or that I need a break.

As for balancing writing with the rest of my life, it helps that I don’t have children. Nor do I have a day job that is overly demanding. For a long time, I worked as a trainer with an irregular schedule that gave me a lot of days off. Now I’m able to make my living writing, so balancing writing with the rest of my life has become easy. The only challenge is self-discipline and resisting the urge to make excuses while I goof off.

If you could give one piece of advice to a budding writer, what would it be?

Be wary of advice. Especially be wary of writers who tell you there is one way to do things. If you read or watch a lot of interviews with writers you quickly realize that they work in very different ways, and succeed in very different ways. So, you can reject out of hand any advice that begins with, “You must always …”

Do what works for you, and never mind what works for someone else. That being said, be wary of indulging your anxieties and telling yourself that a routine that involves very little actual writing is “what works for me”. If you’re not writing, your approach doesn’t actually work for you.

Similarly, you must be discerning with the feedback you get when you share your writing. You will get good, insightful, useful feedback, telling you things you’d never figure out on your own. And you will get wrong-headed, destructive, terrible feedback that you must ignore. And no one can tell you which is which. Figuring out which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore may be one of your biggest challenges as a writer.

 

To learn more about this great bundle of books, visit https://storybundle.com/scifi.

To connect with Bundoran Press, visit our web-site, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @BundoranPress

To learn more about Brent and his writing, visit: http://www.steampunch.com/index.html

 

One Response to “Interview with Brent Nichols”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Advice to Writers (from the Bundle) | bundoransf - January 21, 2019

    […] Similarly, you must be discerning with the feedback you get when you share your writing. You will get good, insightful, useful feedback, telling you things you’d never figure out on your own. And you will get wrong-headed, destructive, terrible feedback that you must ignore. And no one can tell you which is which. Figuring out which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore may be one of your biggest challenges as a writer. (Brent Nichols) […]

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