I am truly happy and excited that the first 11 Questions interview of this year is with a lovely author friend, with whom I've found so much in common, Nicole Wolverton.
I met Nicole through 5-Minute Fiction, a weekly flash fiction activity, then hosted by Leah Petersen. One Tuesday afternoon, Nicole tweeted about my entry. I started following her on Twitter, and then her blog. Soon I came to learn that she lived in the same region as I did, and that she loved to cook. Her tweets about her lunch or dinner choices left my mouth watering, and challenged me to revive my special Sunday Dinners at home.
You all know how I love stories of serendipitous connections, right? Of course, there is one in this story too. It turns out, I'd already met Nicole when we were both part of an online community of fledgling writers; one where the writers all had cryptic pen names. We eventually made the connection when we were both invited to join another group of community writers now writing in pursuit of publication. See? Everything is meant to be.
And now, it is with great pleasure, and pride, that I introduce you to my dear friend, Nicole Wolverton, whose debut novel, The Trajectory of Dreams releases this month from Bitingduck Press, LLC.
As the first stop on The Trajectory of Dreams blog tour, Nicole is giving away a free e-copy today and a chance to win other prizes by visiting the other stops along the way. Please sign up at the end of the interview.
How early in life did you realize that you were a writer? At what point did you decide to pursue publication? What brought you to that decision?
There was never a time I didn’t want to write, although I went through a year or two in junior high when I always wanted to be the next Dr. Ruth (don’t ask—I was a weird kid). I was a nonprofit fundraiser for a long time, so I did write for a living . . . grantwriting is an art, and I enjoyed writing the stories of all the good things nonprofits do. Creative writing was generally shunted off to the side, though, until one day I completed a novel. I know that sounds strange. I mean, how does one randomly write a novel, right? I never thought I had the intestinal fortitude to string 80,000 words or so together, but it happened. And then it happened a few more times. Practice makes perfect, I guess. Eventually I liked a novel enough to give publication a go.
The Trajectory of Dreams is a psychological thriller. Have you ever written in other genres? What is it about this genre that calls you?
My writing is all over the place, which isn’t all that surprising—my reading habits are all over the place, too. Thrillers, horror, mysteries, romance, literary, both adult and young adult. Since I don’t have a preference of reading genre, it makes sense to dabble in a variety of genres to see what I enjoy and what I’m good at. I seem to mostly write young adult thrillers and horror, but I never rule anything out.
Is there a specific topic, whether within your genre or outside of it, that you feel you cannot write about? Would you explain to us why?
It’s hard to say never, you know? You just don’t know what’s going to be part of a plot, what a character might feel the need to do. In general, I don’t want to write anything that makes my grandmother wonder if I’m secretly a homicidal maniac or a degenerate . . . of course, the main character in The Trajectory of Dreams breaks into houses to watch people sleep, so maybe I’m not as concerned about that as I think.
Could you describe for us the birth process of your stories? Are all your stories born or developed the same way?
I was going to say that there’s no standard birth process, but that’s not entirely true. Ideas come from a million places, but as soon as I decide to go with a story there are specific things I do. Characters are really important, and I like to really know them before I start writing. I make some fairly complete character bios, complete with photos of random people who kinda sorta look like the person in my brain. If there’s research to be done, I complete that (or as much as I can). I’m also a major outliner. I write out a detailed outline of each chapter. If I start writing and something off the outline happens, I re-outline. I like orderliness. Oh, and I almost always write the ending first.
Where do you typically find inspiration for your stories and the characters you create? Is there a particular source that you return to regularly?
I wish there was a standard well that I returned to again and again for plots and ideas, but there’s not. Sometimes I watch television or movies or read books, and a crazy offshoot pops into my brain. Wouldn’t it be weird if . . . Or sometimes I’m in class or listening to a lecture, or I see something on the news or a friend says something. Whatever the case, I get the idea for a plot. My brain is a warped place.
Can you describe for us a typical writing day? Do you write every day? Do you dedicate regular hours to writing? What would be the optimum conditions for a “perfect” writing session?
I write when I can grab time, so there’s no typical writing day. Sometimes I write for five minutes, sometimes I write for five hours—but I do try to get in a few words each day. There’s that whole idea of exercising your writing muscles, so to speak, and that’s personally important for me. Optimum conditions . . . let’s see . . . no distractions, no scenery. Just me, a laptop, a locked room. No internet, no phone, no dog, etc. That never happens. Usually I’m sitting on the couch with a dog and two cats running around, my phone ringing, Twitter and email begging for attention, etc.
After a writing session, how quickly can you step out of your story to tend to real life?
Right away. I’m good at compartmentalizing, so whether I’m banging out 1,000 words during a lunch hour or writing a chapter over a day-long spree, I don’t need a transition out before I can interact with real people. Of course, the characters and plot do rumble around in my brain after I stop writing. I end up editing in my head sometimes, but not so much that I ignore my husband or can’t concentrate on work.
How does real life affect your writing life? Is it a hindrance? A refuge? A refueling point?
Like most people, I need a break from the world in my head. Writing is easier when I start fresh after doing something else. My favorite break from writing is dragon boating. I get out on the water, let my brain disengage, muscle memory takes over, and I’m counting strokes. It’s hard to obsess about whatever drama is going on with my characters when I’m concentrating on my form in the boat.
Have you ever found the inkwell dry? How do you refill it?
I’m really lucky—I get ideas for stories everywhere. My brain seems to always be plotting. I have a big list of plots, characters, ideas, etc. When I finish one thing and don’t have anything sitting in my head that I’m dying to write, I can pick something from the idea bin. I think a big part of constant idea generation is having creative and physical outlets that have nothing to do with writing.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? Like the least? Why?
The answer for what I like best and least is the same: finishing a novel. On one hand, I’m super end goal driven. I want to finish. Completing things gives me a little jolt of accomplishment, and I like having something to show for my efforts in the end. On the other hand, you live with your characters for months or years. They’re as real to me as my husband, so when a book comes to a close it’s hard to say goodbye. They’re like friends or relatives. Sometimes I think I’m going to end up like Kurt Vonnegut, with main characters from one book showing up as peripheral characters in another.
This is a question that was posed on the blog of one of my favorite authors, and answering it helped me identify my priorities in terms of what I want to focus on as a writer. So, I’ll ask you: “If you had just one story left in you, and it was guaranteed to be published, what would that story be?”
That is so freaking hard to answer. I’d love to write an intense coming of age story (young adult) that involves gender politics and reproductive health. How’s that for random?
Nicole Wolverton is a freelance writer and novelist living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Follow her on her blog, where she now hosts 5-Minute Fiction every Tuesday night, and Twitter as @NicoleWolverton. Add The Trajectory of Dreams on your "To Read" shelf on Goodreads.
Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or through a local independent bookshop you can find on Indiebound.