An Interview with Conor Nicholl, author of Agrathias
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
I’ve had many, many ‘first novels’ ever since I started writing when I was five. I think my first one was about two dragons who had to defend themselves from a group of people that were flying in to defeat them. It wasn’t until 12 that I got the idea for Agrathias. I’d always wanted to finish a book, and I just went with this idea and made myself never quit. I’m really glad I made this decision. I’ve grown a lot as a writer, and I’ve gotten to see a 12 year-old’s idea age itself over 11 years as it became a full-length novel. Now, though, I’d really love to find the stuff I wrote between the ages of 5 and 12. Whether I’d laugh, smack my head, saying “why?”, or do both, it’d be cool.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I let an idea percolate before getting it onto paper. It takes the place of an outline for me. I just go about my day, day to day, and then start writing once I have a pretty good idea what the next part of my story should be. It’s exciting and engaging when you can just write and write, and sometimes more ideas will come along, so it’s more of a snowball effect. So all this writing will work itself out in time, and if that takes place in one year or a few (or maybe a few months, who knows?), I’m fine with that.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
I’ll write wherever I can. I mostly write in areas with some commotion going on or in car rides. It helps me see everyone moving around or the landscape passing by to think of what to write next. Plus if I’m around friends, I can both talk to them and write, and it helps with writer’s block because anything they say can give you ideas. Plus, even if you end up writing nothing, at least you got to talk to a friend! So that would also mean I write mostly on paper. However, digital is so valuable because it makes whatever you write on paper permanent once you send it to your email. I can’t say how many times before I started doing this that I would lose whole chapters because I lost the papers. That’s a small reason it took me 11 years. It’s demoralizing having to write chapters over again because of loss of time and ideas, and sometimes it would take weeks or a month or two to get back into writing again. So I’m very grateful for digital!
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I was really self-conscious when I first started to write my book, so for the first few years I never showed anyone except for my friend Elise. But then as I grew older I started having more people read it to get a better opinion on different parts to the book, and so the book changed as I took in some of their ideas I really liked. And Elise has been the biggest help anyone could ever ask for. For the first year and a half of writing she probably spent just about as much time, if not more, on editing and helping me write the book. She was solely responsible for the addition of the main female character in the book. And even though since then I had taken on the book by myself, I can’t thank her enough for what she did in the beginning.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
I can’t help but stop by a Waldenbooks whenever I pass by it in the mall. I just look inside and start reading anything, and my friends will end up coming to find me in there. It was like this at college. I would usually have to go to my bookstore for course reading material, and I would spend way more time just reading the books all along the aisles.
I like Amazon because it allows you to have this similar experience while on the go. I can search for any book, then go through similar books. Not as entrancing as the actual bookstore, but it comes pretty close for me! So that’s why I have both print books (lulu.com for paperback and hardcover), and electronic versions for Kindle.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?
I would say that my favorite author in childhood and young adult would have to have been J.K. Rowling. I know that is a bunch of other people’s favorite author, but I always got excited when the new Harry Potter book came out. However, in my adolescence years, I really became hooked on the Darren Shan books in the Cirque Du Freak series. I really like endings, and I mainly judge both the books I read and the movies I see on them, and I just felt really good after reading the ending to that series.
I would say that I have just recently entered adulthood (I’m 23, so maybe a few years?), so now I just like reading anything fantasy. I like to see how others envision their own world.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What’s your take on it?
When I was close to finishing Agrathias and I knew that I would definitely be publishing it, I made a Facebook Page for it and started inviting everyone I could, and from there I’ve been advertising it ever since. I post updates for it whenever something significant happens, or whenever something happens around me that relates to my book. I’m also reaching out to whoever can offer reviews for Amazon, because any sort of critique will not only help readers determine if they want to read my book, it will also help me to improve my writing.
Offline, I try whenever I can to tell people about my book without bugging them. I’m not pushy, but I guess I kind of have to be since hardly anyone will care about my book unless it is leveraged upon them in the right way. If they end up liking it, it will propel itself from there. Since I can only reach so many people, that’s when I rely on others to spread the word for me, because people would feel better in buying a book from someone they know and trust than from the author who they probably don’t know too well.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Luckily this is my second interview, so the temptation isn’t there! But even in the future, I wouldn’t. The interviewer has been nice enough to ask the questions and post on their networks, so I’ll answer them without any copy and paste. Of course, if similar questions are asked, similar answers will be given, but it all happens in how I’m answering it at that time.