S.K. Nicholls is a crime romp novelist living in Central Florida where her family has owned and operated Cypress Cove, a nudist resort, since 1964. A Registered Nurse and formerly a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, (S.A.N.E.) she has a special interest in sex-trafficking. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing that is always blended with humor. When she’s not writing, she can be found tracking down Snorlaxes, wandering city parks with the homeless, or sipping margaritas on the bow of a boat.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Naked Alliances. When did you start writing and what got you into crime romps?
I started writing novels in high school and had a scholarship to go to college. My first child was born at the age of sixteen and by age twenty-five I had three, was a full-time student and held a full-time job. Fortunately, I was able to retire early, at age fifty, and have not stopped typing since.
I love to read books by Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Baker, and Randy Wayne White. I like the local Florida history woven into their work along with the humorous approach to crime fiction. I had been writing dark fiction for a while and my husband challenged me to write something with a humorous edge, lighter reading, and more softcore. I’m crazy about Chablis in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We attend the comedy shows at the Parliament House here in Orlando. It’s a great gay resort and home of the Footlight Theater. Characters and plot started forming in my head and Naked Alliances was born.
What is your book about?
Naked Alliances is a crime thriller with a humorous edge. In this romp through Central Florida, Brandi, an exotic dancer at a gay resort, is trying to protect a young immigrant woman on the run. While fleeing men with guns, they collide with Richard Noggin, P.I. when he’s on his way to meet with the former mayor about an important case. Richard’s willing to help them, even if doing so makes him a target.
Brandi and Richard each have their own agendas, but reluctantly team up to go undercover in a nudist resort. No possibility of encountering a concealed weapon there! With bodies piling up, Richard juggles both a cold case and investigations into a sex-trafficking ring, working hard to keep his balls in the air. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare?
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
My answer is two-fold; First, I want readers to be entertained, but I also want them to think deeply on the many social issues surrounding the way we live and how we interact with each other.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
Characters should have agency and be relatable. Chuck Wendig describes character agency this way, “The story exists because of the character. The character does not exist because of the story.” Characters should drive the plot rather than the plot driving the characters. Dialog is the easy part, if you can become the character in your mind. The in-between parts, the nuts and bolts of the story, come from having exciting character histories, their own stories, their conflicts and struggles.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced writer’s block, but I get anxious about writing humor because different people find different things funny, and appealing to a large audience is a challenge. I can be funny all day, but sit down to write something amusing and draw a total blank.
Murder is easy. Funny is hard. The characters and the plot are all there when I sit down to write. Often, I have to sit back and allow the characters to take the reins. My anxieties stem from the fact that I am a serious person who worked to save lives. Shaking off that seriousness and letting go, releasing my inhibitions, and learning that it really doesn’t matter if I offend somebody cause somebody else is gonna laugh have been key to loosening up to write humor.
I was scolded as a child for constantly asking the question, “What if…?” What if dogs could fly? What if horses had feathers? What if all the people in the world had blue hair? What if Leprechauns had club feet? What if dentists paid you to let them pull your teeth? What if you got scared half to death twice? What if you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
It was cause for punishment as a kid, but I still use hypothetical questions as a warm up exercise to write humor.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
There is no such thing as a regular writing day for me. I know some people are disciplined enough to sit down and write X number of words on any given day at a specific time of day. I can’t do that. I get a story in my head, then it’s a manic race to the finish line. I will write from sun-up to sun-up, for weeks on end, outlining and plotting, designing mind maps, setting up Scrivener, typing away until I have that first draft completed, editing as I go. I take breaks to swim or walk, but the laundry doesn’t get done. The phone doesn’t get answered. My husband feeds me frozen pizza at my desk. (It’s the only thing he knows how to cook, ie. microwave.) It’s probably not the healthiest way to write, but it works for me.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
When I finish writing a book, I take a long, hot Epsom’s salt bath with lavender oil and sleep for four days and nights straight. Once it’s published, I throw a launch party to rival any hurricane party in Florida.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
Being my own boss. I’m driven by passion enough to accomplish what I set out to do. I like that I can set my own hours, vape at my desk, eat and drink at my desk, work naked, not comb my hair or wear make-up, close the window to the sights and sounds of the city and focus undistracted…or take a break and go play Pokemon Go in a park whether it’s three o’clock in the afternoon, or three o’clock in the morning (with clothes on.). (I’m 59,781 points of 500,000 into level 31, if anyone cares, and probably will still be level 31 by the time you read this considering how long it took to get from level 30 to 31.)
What has writing taught you?
Patience. I get ideas and want them to be published books immediately. It never happens that way. Naked Alliances took two years from start to finish. Everybody has a book in their head. Getting a story written down in legible, coherent sentences of proper structure with dialog and narrative that is cohesive is a long, involved process.
A dozen beta readers (advanced copy readers) read and gave me feedback. I edited based on their feedback, put the book on a shelf for months, then took it down and sent it to a professional editor. He gave it two edit passes that took time for me to respond to, and had it proofread by another pair of eyes. We then went back over it to assure there were no typos, misspelled words, things that might have been altered during the editing process.
The beta reading and editing can take more than a year, because you are no longer on your schedule, you’re on everyone else’s. Being independently published does not mean you do everything yourself. It takes a whole team. You are the one who pulls the team together.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
I blog at sknicholls.wordpress.com and Brave Blue Heron Books can be found at S.K. Nicholls.
Where is your book available?
Always on Amazon. There’s a Kindle app for every device, and the paperback can be delivered right to your door. I’m also considering walking into Barnes & Nobles around the country to place a few copies of my books on their shelves. Independent book sellers may also be able to acquire copies, just ask. (Please ask.)
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
If you are a writer, never give up. If you are a reader, tell us what you think when you’ve read our work. I read all reviews personally so that I may continually write what people are wanting to read. Naked Alliances is Book One in the Naked Eye Series, your feedback is crucial. And thank you for your support. Peace, and keep the faith.