Saturday, 17 October 2015

Christy Nicholas

Author's Name: Christy Nicholas
Best Known Works: Legacy of Hunger; Ireland: Mystical, Magical, Mythical; Scotland: Stunning, Strange and Secret
Where You Can Find ThemFacebookWebsite
Top Writing Tip: Write every day. Even if it's twaddle. Even if you hate it, write. It gets better, truly it does. Give yourself a comfortable minimum, and don't sleep unless you make that minimum. It's a fantastic feeling to finish a first draft.

Hi Christy, welcome back! Thanks for catching up with us.

When and why did you begin writing?
I had just written my first novel (which is still in the editing process), about my parents' love story. It was a tale that needed to be told. I enjoyed the writing of the novel very much and was eager for more. I have always been incredibly attracted to Irish history, and the magic of that land, so I wanted to portray it in such a way that others could know the magic.

When did you realize that you were Pagan?
When I was about 16, I was heavily involved in the Presbyterian church. I began to study other religions and discovered that my soul was definitely more at home in a different belief system.

What are the main life experiences that have led to this book? 
I've always been someone who tries new things. I am an accountant, but I make jewelry, take photos, paint, and sew. I also have no children, yet still wanted to make a mark on the world.

How did the topic of your book(s) come to you?
I have always been a fan of Irish history, and a big fan of such novelists as Juliet Marillier and Morgan Llewellyn, who combine history with mythology and magic. I wanted to do something similar, bringing the Great Famine into a greater public scrutiny. 4 million people either left or died in Ireland during that time, a full half of the population. I wanted to show someone taking the opposite journey - traveling TO Ireland during that horrific time.

Tell us a bit about your story, key characters, and plot.
Valentia McDowell is a rather spoiled young lady in Pittsburgh and is bored. She is determined that she wants to go on a quest - to find her grandmamma's family in Ireland. She corrals her brother, Conor, into the journey, and, of course, her maid and his valet. She has been haunted by tales of a special family heirloom for years, a mystical brooch her grandmother had left behind. She takes one of the first steamships across the Atlantic, traveling in style and wealth. But when she arrives in Ireland, battered by illness and already disillusioned of her quest, she discovers the plight of the Irish people during the Famine. She continues her quest but conceives of a new one - to help the people as much as she can.

Do you plan your stories before you begin?
Yes, and yes. I'm definitely a planner, not a pantser. I am an accountant, so I love order. I write out my synopsis, building it layer by layer (see The Snowflake Method for details). Then I make a spreadsheet with all my scenes, and only then start the writing process.

How long does it take you to write a book, are you a fast writer or a slow writer?
I'm a pretty fast writer, but a slow editor. While I set myself a minimum of 1000-2000 words a day (with weekends off), I can usually get a novel-length first draft in about 2 months. I love writing the first draft, and when I get in the zone, my fingers fly as fast as my thoughts. It's an almost orgasmic experience to finish that first draft. However, then comes the hard part. I hate the editing. It's a painful process for me, and I tend to procrastinate it. I'm doing that right now, as a matter of fact!

Is this your first published piece or have you had work published before?
I've had my two travel guides, Ireland: Mystical, Magical, Mythical and Scotland: Stunning, Strange and Secret published in 2013 and 2014.

Are you published or self-published, and what has been your experience of this process?
I am both. My first couple of photojournals of my travels were self-published. My two travel guides for Ireland and Scotland are published by a small press publisher in Ireland (Tirgearr). They are also publishing my first novel, and I am very grateful for all the help they have offered me along the way. It's a very long process either way, but highly rewarding.

How important are reviews of your work, do you read them?
Absolutely, and yes! We all have an innate need for approval. It's hard-wired into us, and a review is a critique of something you have sweated long hours to create. It's as if someone is judging your child. Of course, you must have some thick skin for those that just don't like it - I do understand that. However, the good reviews make you glow inside that you've brought some delight and joy to another person. You've shared your love with them, in a way.

Who encourages/inspires you? 
People. There is such kindness in the world, in the face of cruelty and hardship. I think it's the strongest force in the universe.

Do you ever dream about writing?
All the time! In fact, that's where I get a lot of my ideas. It's also where I tend to solve plot issues, or come up with new scenes. I used to train myself to remember my dreams by writing things down as soon as I wake up. I did this for a long time, and now I'm very good about remembering what I dreamt.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you most like a writing retreat?
The west coast of Ireland. Specifically, County Donegal, hopefully on a high coastal cliff overlooking the sea. Ireland holds a piece of my soul, and I call it mo anam bhaile, my soul's home. My inner self feels grounded when I am in Ireland, in a way I never felt in the US, Canada, or even England or Scotland.

What are your future plans for writing?
I've already written two prequels to this novel, and a first draft of a stand-alone story, called Call of the Morrigan. I'm hoping to next work on a novelization of the tale of the Children of Lir.

Thank you, Christy, for updating us on your projects. We wish you all the best for your new series!

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