Interview with Nikko Lee, author of Wolf Creek
I’m going/not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but fromyour other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
Of my previous publications, Boson’s Mate is probably my favorite as a writer. It’s a gay steampunk erotica published in Valves and Vixens (2014). I loved creating a futuristic steampunk world where spacecrafts run on quantum coal and solar sails. The whole economy is based of a substance that is incredibly dangerous to mine and process resulting is an underclass of the society crippled by amputations and reliant on cogs and gears to function. Throw in a part man, part machine captain who rose from the ranks of miner and a playboy on the run from his title and I fell in love with the world and the characters.
I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels?
I agree. Some books leave me wanting more and others just leave me scratching my head about the sequel bait. I make every effort for my novels to be stand-alone even though I’m always thinking in terms of series. After spending, months and even years with these characters, I want their existences to be meaningful and rich. Sometimes that takes more than one book. I wrote Wolf Creek as a stand-alone novel, but I already have the sequel outlined. I can’t wait to see my characters face new challenges and grow. After all, they have to earn their happy ends.
There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
Currently, I’m working on a thriller with a BDSM flavor. Safe Word is about a dominant psychologist who must team-up with an uptight detective to find a killer targeting his BDSM community before he becomes the prime suspect.
Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
I’ve been writing stories since I was in elementary school. I still have my seventh grade English journals were I wrote one of my first adventure story. My first novel proper was written on an old word processor that I no longer own and was obsolete by the time I finished my undergraduate education. I can still remember some of the plot threads involving a drug company using a small village in Quebec to test a new drug under the guise of a vaccination program. Since then I’ve written several novels that never saw the light of publishing and never will. I may use various characters from them, but my writing has evolved so much since I wrote those draft that I would need to completely re-write the novels if I wanted to consider publishing them. I recently returned to one of those trunked novels that inspired Josh’s character in Wolf Creek. After several months of re-writes, I discovered it was salvageable. Spar is an gay erotica involving two martial artists discovering their greatest fight is within themselves. It will be published by Torquere Press next October.
Do you have a dedicated writing space? How does it meet your writing needs?
I have an office space carved out in my kitchen with a desk and computer. It’s functional but cluttered. Really all I need to write is a computer or laptop, internet access (for distractions, I mean research) and a cup of chai.
What is your writing process? Have you ever thought about changing it? Other authors I have interviewed talk about having an outline – post-it notes in an office, or writing in paper journals. Is there something like that in your writing technique? Or is it all digital for you?
I started out as a complete pantser and have slowly evolved into a plotter. Initially, I lived my stories with my characters as I wrote them. Then I started daydreaming scenes or chapters before writing them. It works for short stories. However, novels tend to get complicated and have various interviewing plots that are best kept track of on paper. Wolf Creek marked a change in my writing process. I knew I wanted to write the story for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) when writers from around the world challenge themselves to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. With so little time, I needed to know where the story was going. So I wrote my first complete outline. Usually I will hand write the outline, type the first draft, re-write the outline and character sketches to identify and fill in gaps, and update the manuscript electronically. Once I have the novel completed, I alternate between print and digital edits as I need to change my perspectives. Reading out loud to writing groups or even myself is a great way to check to errors and odd sentences. Lastly, I find some willing victims – I mean beta readers – who graciously read my would-be novel and let me know whether they enjoyed it or not. Then the submission game begins.
How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
Usually the first few times through, I’ll know how close it is to being finished by how many gaps in logic are present. Then it is a matter of faith. If I’m lucky, I can usually find a handful of beta readers to review my work. Their reactions help me gauge how ready it is to be submitted. Something can always be improved upon, but I want other people to be able to read my stories. So at some point you just need to let go and let the work stand on its own two feet. It’s not always easy to do. You only get one opportunity to catch the eye of an agent or publisher.
Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I always aim for my stories to appear in both formats. Ebooks allow for greater accessibility and they are cheaper. But there’s nothing like physically holding a book with my name on it. The reality of publishing in this day and age is that you are lucky to get something published regardless of the format. I read both myself. When I want a more leisurely experience, I prefer paperback. When I want to consume a story like a ravenous animal, I prefer digital because I almost always have my smartphone with me and can read anywhere/anytime.
Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
When you are writing a novel, simply finishing it feels like the hardest task. Really, it’s getting the word out that you have even published a novel or story that is the hardest part. Social media is a great tool to reach a lot of people. Unfortunately, most of the time it feels like shouting in the wind. I maintain a blog at nikkolee.com about writing, science and hiking that serves to attract readers and allows people to get to know what I’m about and interested in. I have Twitter (nikkolee88) and Facebook (Nikko-Lee-160950667286913) profiles that I really should post on more. My publisher was great about allowing me to use their Twitter account to draw in interest and arranging blog tours. I also relied on blog guest posts and interviews to reach a wider audience. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming and exhausting with all the possible social media types and sites out there. But if people don’t know about your novel they won’t find it among the thousands published every week. Basically, I try everything I can think of to reach as many people as I can. My goal is to let people know about Wolf Creek whether they read it or not – I really hope they will read it, of course.
You have answered other sets of interview questions, is there something you wish someone would have asked you? Or conversely, something you wish they hadn’t asked?
I wish someone would have asked me why I didn’t have my main male characters end up in a sexual relationship by the end of it. I was tempted. I really was. Josh deserves to find that special someone who will love and cherish him. But first he needed to love learn to love himself. When I reached the end of the novel, I realized that Gavin wasn’t the right man for Josh. Their bond is something more akin to brotherhood. Although in the next novel when Josh does meet someone he becomes intimate with it will cause friction between him and Gavin. They will both need to come to terms with their own feelings. Like I said, I want my characters to earn their happy endings. These characters have a lot more growing to do before they get a chance to settle down.