MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR NOELLE NICHOLS
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hello, I’m Noelle Nichols, and I write epic, heroic fantasy.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
Shadow’s Hand is the first book in a heroic epic fantasy series that is inspired by Japan’s samurai and their warrior code Bushido. It’s a story about the makings of a hero and the hero’s sacrifice. It’s about people being their best selves and trying to protect the people they care about.
I’ve always admired the noble, the brave and the people with unwavering compassion. I’m drawn to eastern philosophy and the concept of bettering one’s self. I wanted to write a story where people would have to confront themselves in order to accomplish something great. To me, it’s fascinating to see what people will do for what they believe in. Each of the character’s have something they must overcome in themselves in the series. It’s a lot of fun to write.
The series is broken into POV parts, to explore different things from another character’s worldview. As the series goes on, it gets a bit more complicated with the different storylines. It’s a bit hard to handle, but I’m trying my best!
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always loved fantasy, ever since I was young. Fantasy allows me to escape into a world that is similar to our own, but on a much grander scale. I’m a dreamer at heart, and imagining things that are beyond reality allows me to understand things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. It’s easier for me process and understand things in fiction.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I have a pile of books on the samurai and shinobi (ninja) culture. Multiple books on eastern philosophy, and a few more ancient texts from the masters themselves (The Book of Five Rings, The Art of War, Hagakure).
While my book is not historical, I did draw a lot of inspiration from the Bushido Code, when writing the Shadow’s Creed for my series. I tried to keep the spirit of the samurai and ninja when writing it. Albeit my take may be a bit romantic. I fused this with magic and let the characters tell me the story.
Can you tell me about your Series?
The Shadow’s Creed Saga is a series that explores a person’s morality. It’s about trying to be the best person you can be, and making a choice that will be for the greater good. The main storyline of my series is magic, the Skills, being discovered and the characters learning to adapt to a changing world. Is this power good, or is it evil?
It’s character-driven as opposed to plot-drive, although being an epic fantasy there is quite a bit of mystery and intrigue in the first book especially. The second book focus more on character choice and consequence.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Only one has released, but I’m currently editing book two. It’s currently my favorite. There’s lots of in-depth character development and some moments that are really special.
Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
The inspiration came from my love of samurai and shinobi. I’ve always admired the loyalty and dedication to perfecting oneself. A huge part of being a warrior is the constant training and strengthening of one’s character; both mentally and physically. It’s also about having control and command of one’s emotions. For some reason, that’s always struck me as something I wanted in myself.
The magic involved in Shadow’s Hand is more a natural magic. As that’s part of the main plot, I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s inspired by the concept of kami.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Originally it was planned as a single book. Which then became two books. Which then became three books, and what I not believe is going to be at least a four-book series. Maybe five. Epic fantasy has a way of spiraling out of control.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I’m a super early bird. My best writing comes when I wake up at 4am and get lost in my story. I’ve been an avid participant of #5amwritersclub (on Twitter) for about a year now. I’m there most days. Weekends and holidays included. There’s nothing more invigorating to me than waking up and doing what I love.
I do set daily word goals. When I’m writing I like to write about 3k a day. On the weekend I can write anywhere between 5k-10k words. When I’m editing, I tend to slow down. I’m a heavy editor though, so I end up gutting my first drafts and re-writing things to weave in my storylines.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I do. I’m currently editing the second book in the Shadow’s Creed Saga. It’s titled Phantom’s Lament.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
The perfect names are hard for me to come by. I used a lot of placeholder names in the very early stages of the series, finally settling on names a few weeks before final release.
Almost all of the names in my book are Japanese, as the book is set in an Feudal Japan-like world. A few of them are not, but they felt “right” when I originally wrote them, so I kept them.
A couple that have significant meaning to them:
Saitou is actually taken from my favorite anime/manga Rurouni Kenshin. Though he’s nothing like the character in there, and his character is based off the historical figure Saito Hajime.
General Mirai, Mirai means “future” in Japanese. I’ll just leave it at that.
In book two, you meet Niten, which is one of the names for the legendary samurai Musashi.
Where do your ideas come from?
I’m always filling my brain with fun, interesting and weird information. I get some ideas while playing video games, watching anime, or a lot of the times, things just come to me while I write. My favorite is when something just clicks in my brain. Those are the special moments that makes writing worth all the hard work.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I’ll always write some sub-genre of fantasy.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Editing. It’s possibly the most crucial part to writing, but the stage after writing, after gutting my book, the stage where I rewrite and clarifying things, that is what kills me. It’s like climbing a mountain and realizing you’ve only reached a false summit and you have another 100 miles to go. Maybe it gets better, but I’ve been there twice now, and each time I have to fight to finding motivation again.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I am currently illustrating a book trailer. 🙂
I illustrated my cover, and I’m in the process of creating scenes from my book to illustrate my book. I’m pretty excited about it. I think it’s going to be awesome.
As a video editor by day, I love the video format. I think it’s a good marketing tool.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Writing a book. I thought the writing a book part was the hardest part. Then it was editing. Then it was figuring out how to publish it. Now it’s trying to market it. Every stage is such a hard thing. It’s one of the reasons I try and reach out to the new authors and encourage them. It’s easy to give-up because it often takes years to write a book.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
Hearing someone say they loved my book and can’t wait to read more. : )
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The dream is working for myself, writing books, creating art and living in the mountains somewhere.
Have you always liked to write?
I really enjoyed writing when I was in high school. Then I lost confidence in my ability, believing that I hadn’t lived enough life to write a good story. Ten years later I started writing again during National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been seriously writing for about five years now. I can’t imagine not writing anymore.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up and believe in your story. No one else is going to love and believe in your story like you can. You have to fight for it. You have to want it—and want it bad. People are going to tell you no, but you need a fool’s hope to make it. Progress is better than perfection, and when you’re feeling at rope’s end, just breathe. You can do it. We believe in you.
There’s also a huge #writingcommunity rooting for you. Join us!
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I’m a creative person. I love painting and drawing. I also enjoy photography and exploring mountains and new places. As long as it’s something creative, I’d be happy.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I didn’t read my reviews at first. After receiving a one-star review from someone who didn’t connect with my book (my very first one), I felt crushed and refused to read anymore. Luckily, I had some great friends who helped me “get over it” and we celebrated reaching that author milestone.
The best way to deal with it is to realize that everyone has their own personal taste in reading. Everyone has had times when they stopped reading a book and didn’t like it. Once I put it into that perspective, it was easier to deal with.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Since you asked so nicely, here’s an excerpt from Phantom’s Lament, in Kilo’s POV.
The ground shook under my bruised knees, rumbling in waves as cobblestone pavers groaned at the strain of moving earth. Towers crashed, causing plumes of smoke to engulf me, pelting my skin with small scraps of rock and debris. I held my breath, keeping my eyes closed as the force passed. I did not need to see the destruction to feel the emotion.
Screams came from all sides. Children, men, women—their panicked cries pierced through my body, but I remained still. Their cries for help nothing more than ancient memories.
“Still your mind and in time the ancient Phantom will speak with you.”
The elder who watched over Konro village had told me this almost a season ago. Every day, day in and day out I came back to this place, at the moment of Zenkaiko’s destruction. The pain never lessened. It never would. I wanted to do something to help, but I was not part of the moment, and so, I bore the pain and witnessed the deaths of innocents.
I forced my hands to open, letting my stiff fingers uncurl as I tried to find stillness in my mind and body. There was nothing I could do. Nothing but to wait and see if the ancient Phantom would speak with me. If listening to the cries of innocents and doing nothing was enough to prove whatever he needed to see before acknowledging me.
When first I came here, I had tried to waken the Phantom from whatever trance he was in. He seemed somewhat conscious of my being there, despite this being a memory in time. It was both the present and past, something that could not be explained, but rather had to be accepted.
With all I had learned of the Skills, I had stopped trying to put the constraint of rationale to the power. And so, I waited. For whatever clarity the ancient Phantom would bestow on me.
I shifted my thoughts, listening as the unsettling calm took hold of the memory. I breathed in and opened my eyes, keeping my position on the ground. Palms on my knees. My staff laid on the ground. Still. It seemed like a bad dream, except that the reality of death touched the atmosphere. Unexplainably so, except, if the memory came from the ancient Phantom, perhaps it was his sadness that permeated the air.
After all, the people in this place were already dead.
Where did your love of books come from?
My mom always read with me and my brother when we were little. I loved it. It’s probably one of my favorite memories growing up. Later, in middle school, my dad used to take me to Borders and buy me a stack of books to read. After I finished them, he would take me to get more. I was the girl who was reading all the time, as I didn’t have many friends. I learned a lot from books, and I always felt that the characters were more than just words on a page.
It’s incredible that I get to now write stories and experience my world and characters coming to life on the page. It’s the greatest feeling thing thinking that young Noelle would have loved the stories I’m writing today.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Robin Hobb is favorite of mine. I love all of her books. I read so many great authors and books though, it’s really hard to choose someone to name. A favorite indie author of mine is C. L. Schneider. Her writing is so vivid and gripping and was the push I needed to start writing books of my own. She also was one of my first Indie author friends.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
This is just as tough of a question as the previous one. I tend to switch favorites when I’m writing. A lot of my characters have surprised me, and the moments where they do, I start to fall in love with them even more. I think what I enjoy more are seeing the relationships between the characters change over the course of the series. That fascinates me.
If I had to choose, I would probably have to say Kilo. He’s very similar to who I am as a person and who I want to be. He has a great worldview, but at the same time, he’s a very real person who fails and most of all, he is just trying his best to create a world that is in peace.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Original. I set out to write a book that I myself would enjoy reading. I don’t write to market, and I hope I can surprise people by being a little different with my story (that’s the hope anyway!)
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
There’s so many. I used to think writing was a solo endeavor, and while it still technically is, it’s essential to find your people and support group. These are the people who are going to pick you when you fail and celebrate your wins.
I’m refusing to name names because I know I’ll forget someone, but I’ve met dozens of authors who have made a huge difference in my writing journey.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
The girl who never stopped dreaming.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
“Do you believe people are bad?”— So, I’m into the philosophical aspect about a lot of things, and this is a very good topic to explore. It’s something that is explored a lot with Kilo’s interactions where he meets people and tends to hold off judgement until he knows the full story. He’s the kind of person who will try and see from a person’s point of view and try and understand them as opposed to judging them.
As both Kilo and I are INFJ personality types, it’s always hard to go against what is easy to think about someone. A meme I recently found about INFJ’s had the caption “understanding the argument from both sides”. Which is true.
I believe people try their best in life. Circumstance and nurture play a huge role in what someone believes and sometimes they just don’t see things the same way. It’s one of the reasons I admire people who try and better themselves because a lot of times they’re overcoming things from their childhood and past that have been quite traumatic or have set them on a certain path.
The short answer: I don’t believe people are bad.
The long answer: it’s complicated.
Where can your fans find you and follow?
You can find me on my website at noellenichols.com, over on Facebook at noellenicholsbooks, on Instagram as noellenichols (where you can see the beginning of a graphic novel soon), and on Twitter in the #writingcommunity as noelle_nichols.