Last week’s book launch and blog tour excitement has settled into a calmer pace, so it’s time to get my next project moving along and my regular social media and blog posting back to normal (and oh, wow, has social media diminished!.
For this month’s interview is with my hugely supportive critique partner Nick Wilford, who last visited in September on a blog tour of his own and is now here to talk more about his work in general.
Nick is originally from Brighton, England and now lives in a quiet town in Scotland with his wife, three daughters and six rescue dogs. Wanting to make a career from writing, he trained in journalism, but soon realized that the fictional realm was where his true passion lay. He enjoys writing speculative fiction, exploring the things that cannot be seen and “making the impossible reality.” Nick is the author of the Black & White YA dystopian series and has also published a collection of shorter fiction as well as curating, editing and publishing a fundraising anthology featuring a diverse array of talent. By day, he works as a freelance editor, and he also enjoys travelling to inspiring locations with his family, listening to music and helping unwanted dogs find loving homes.
Hi Nick, it’s good to have you back at the Fountain Pen. Can I just say… SIX dogs!!! Wow, I can barely manage one! Why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself while I recover.
I grew up in Brighton, which is a fantastic town (now a city with Brighton & Hove, of course) with such a rich history and so many interesting quirks and corners. So many creative people seem to gravitate there and there’s always something new to discover. Perhaps some of that air of creativity rubbed off on me, I don’t know, but I always had my nose in a book when growing up. When I was 22, I moved to Glasgow to study journalism and met my future wife just over a year later. I haven’t looked back since! Scotland is just as inspiring, with its huge open spaces and its stories.
How did your writing career begin?
Well, as I mentioned, I started out by trying to get into journalism, although I’d always written little bits and pieces of fiction, including a play that lampooned my family when I was ten. In fact, I really enjoyed drama and joined a drama club in high school, where we wrote and performed our own comedy routines in front of the school three times a year. That was so much fun, although stage fright was ever present! I didn’t really see creative writing as a viable way to make a living though, which is why I turned to journalism, starting with taking part in a media group at sixth form. I later worked at my local paper in Carluke, Scotland, but that was a short-term contract, and finding other work was hard. I ended up working in a call centre, and decided to start writing a book in 2007 aged 26, to keep myself active. That book never saw the light of day, but I haven’t stopped writing since then!
Why speculative fiction? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?
It’s hard to answer that, but I think you naturally find the thing that works for you if you’ve been writing for a while. You learn what doesn’t work and what does. I started out writing thrillers, which didn’t really suit me, although it’s still a genre I enjoy reading. I suppose I turned to speculative fiction because there’s something enticing about creating your own world where you’re completely in charge of everything. Also, I’m intrigued by what we can’t see, and what may lie ahead of us. Human society has advanced in ways that were completely unpredictable fifty years ago, so where we might be in another fifty is anyone’s guess. It’s fun to roll the dice and follow the line of where things could go.
What do you hope your readers take away from your work? What are you trying to achieve?
Like most writers, I guess, I want to take readers on a thrilling adventure with twists and turns that leave them gasping. But beyond that, I hope to make readers think too. That sounds a bit heavy perhaps, but it’s fun to forecast where we might be going. Sometimes the vision isn’t pretty, so it might be a bit of a warning, but it’s a friendly one.
How do you approach a new project? Are you a plotter or a pantser, or somewhere in between? Where you do get your ideas?
Definitely somewhere in between. I’ll usually start by sketching out a page or two in my notebook where I brainstorm where an idea could go, then I start writing. If I get stuck, I’ll return to the notebook and write down the various elements that are in play and try to draw lines between them. I actually think putting pen to paper helps me think in a different way than just tapping away at a screen – it’s more freeing somehow! Unfortunately, my handwriting is terrible, so there’s no way I could write a whole book like that.
Ideas can come from anywhere. The old “what if?” game is always a classic for coming up with ideas, but more and more, I’m interested in taking aspects of our current society and projecting how they could evolve. In my most recent draft, people can transition between genders by retooling their DNA, which ends up being undermined and exploited in insidious ways. I’m just playing with ideas for my next book at the moment, but they’re revolving around the nature of online fandom, taken to its logical or illogical conclusion, mixed with the metaverse and virtual reality. In this vision, people are able to step inside their favourite show or game and interact with the characters. A bit like a theme park.
Tell us about your most recent publication.
I recently wrapped up my YA dystopian trilogy, Black & White, by publishing the third book, entitled Reckoning. In the series, a corrupt future government has created a society with no disease, no pain, no hardship – but this comes at the expense of another country to which these things have been shifted and is mired in a state of squalor. My protagonist, Wellesbury, discovers this and sets about trying to change things. We think he succeeds, but by the time we get to the third book, in which the former government is on trial, there’s sabotage afoot and things threaten to go back to the bad old ways. Luckily Welles’s extremely smart and resourceful partner, Ez, is on hand.
What’s next for you?
My first traditionally published book, The Becalmer, comes out from Creative James Media in August 2023. Set on a colonised moon a couple of hundred years in the future, it’s about a girl, Harica, who has the ability to resolve conflicts with her mind. She doesn’t know where her gift comes from, and she initially sees it as more of a millstone than an asset as she’s constantly called on to intervene in schoolmates’ teenage drama. Things change when she’s tapped to stop a war on the planet around which the moon orbits by brokering an arranged marriage that will unite two countries. The prospective bride is not playing ball, and Harica discovers she has a similar ability to herself, but she doesn’t use it for good. To beat this adversary, Harica has to truly take ownership of her gift and take it further than she ever thought possible.
I was honoured to read a draft of The Becalmer and it’s a great story – I’m looking forward to seeing it out in the world. Good luck with the build up to it, Nick!