Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Friday, August 19, 2011

Five Questions With J.W. Nicklaus, author of "The Light, The Dark And Ember Between" - plus review

Wrapping up Men's Week is my interview with author J.W. Nicklaus.  His book of short stories, The Light, The Dark And Ember Between, is one of the most soulful collections of intriguing tales I've had the pleasure of reading in a long while.

J.W. was kind enough to take time to answer a few questions about his writing.

1. At what age did you know that you wanted to become a writer?

When I was probably thirteen or fourteen-years young I started three short stories using my parents' Sears electric typewriter, which sat upon a somewhat rickety rolling cart. Every time the carriage would return (for all you non-geeks, that "CR" you see sometimes in text means 'carriage return', a throwback to the old days of manual typewriters. Google it!) the whole table would shake. There was something oddly cathartic about slapping that platen lever on a typewriter to send the carriage back to the right, you know?

I can only remember, in the vaguest terms, what two of the stories were about, and I never completed any of them. One revolved around a basset hound named Basil, but I can't recall what the story was about. Strange that the breed of dog and the name I'd given it stuck with me all this time.
I really never thought much about becoming 'a writer', per se. As a boy I enjoyed reading — a lot.

As with many kids school slowly sucked the desire to read for pleasure out of me. I didn't begin to write short stories again until I was in my early thirties.

I still struggle with the label of 'writer.' I suppose there is a large part of my mindset that says I'm not actually a "writer" until I make it with one of the big publishing houses. That paradigm is rapidly changing, though; current trends have blurred the line—and definition—of being a writer. There are arguably a good many books out there whose contents severely test the loosest definition of 'writing.'

By contrast, there are scores of truly worthy people writing incredible stuff who may never get the exposure they deserve. Once the fogged mirror of publishing clears up then, perhaps, we shall have a new definition of the word writer.

2. What three important facts do you want readers to know about your book?

I have found this tidbit interesting: many people have alluded to treating my stories like one would when making a cup of hot tea—you let the teabag steep a little while in order to appreciate the true flavor of the resulting tea. A lot of people have said they intended to read a few stories in a row, but invariably wound up stopping for a bit after reading just one, to allow it to sink in, to savor it before moving on . . . or taking that next sip.

The stories were written over a six year period. They are most representative of my 30's. I had not set out to write them for that purpose, they just happened that way. Streetlamp was one that literally woke me up at night and I arose to tap out the foundation of it, if for no other reason than to allow my brain to shut off so I could sleep.

The Light, The Dark, And Ember Between has opened doors unto new faces, introduced me to good people I never new existed, including the characters within. A special kind of intertwining bond exists between us; they have shown me things, taught me lessons which I can't properly express with words. You could, I suppose, make the argument that it's part of maturing or getting older. But I think there is a little of writing's magic, a faint idiomatic pixie dust, that found me when I needed it most.

3. Who are some of your favorite authors? Who inspires you?

John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Alan Dean Foster, John Grisham, Mark Twain, David Sedaris, Neil Gaiman, David McCullough, to name a few. These men have made me think more pointedly, laugh more carefreely, and feel more intensely. Doesn't matter if their writing was literary or simply narrative, a good tale is its own reward for the reader and author.

As for inspiration I can't claim to have a specific name. I am most often inspired by events or history, or in the case of past experience, by being deeply touched by someone. Life, in its grandest and most expansive sense. is most inspiring to me.

4. What do you have coming up in the future?

Bile, and lots of it if Washington D.C. can't right our ship. But you don't want to hear about that . . .
I have been tinkering with (on and off . . . for years) a full length novel. I tend to write when inspired or moved to do so. I would love to be able to carve out a couple hours a day for working on a project, but that's tough to manage right now. In the meantime, I gently massage the idea in my head and let my subconscious play around with the ideas.

Years ago the project was titled Eden, but for the last year I have selected a much strong, slightly enigmatic appelation: Lethe; it's short, lean, and powerful. 

And someday, when my muse once again drapes her arm around my shoulders, I will strike key after key in my march toward an engaging, fun, and hopefully much better selling read.

5. What advice do you have for anyone wanting to break into writing today?

Be passionate about what you want to do, about what you want to write about. Be thorough in your research, be steadfast in your convictions—it is likely there will be people who take you to task for your belief or approach.

Unless you already possess a fat wallet then don't get into writing to make money, for two reasons: your efforts will be diminshed because your focus is on fiscal payout, not your readers, and secondly, the chances are beyond astronomical that it will happen. It can happen, without a doubt, but only if your dream, if your passion, fuels you to reach that star. It's a long way from Terra Firma to breaching the ionosphere; there are stars to be grasped but be ready for the ride.

Perhaps most importantly, never stop reading. Lots of people will tell you that . . . because it's true. Read all kinds of stuff, read outside your comfort zone. Read for pleasure, and read for critical reasoning or learning. Above all, read for you.

Finally, a big "Thank You" to Ms. Galligar-Chance for the opportunity to participate here. Anyone wishing to contact me is welcome to do so, either through my blog - http://avomnia.wordpress.com/ or from my website, http://www.avomnia.com%22%3eavomnia.com%3c/a

A Review of The Light, The Dark And Ember Between

There are authors who are well-known for their short stories - Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, O. Henry, even John Steinbeck - and all are admired for their mastery of spinning a tale of brilliantly strung-together words. This acclaimed group can now count another author among their ranks - J.W. Nicklaus.

In his collection, titled The Light, The Dark, And Ember Between, Nicklaus presents fifteen stories that cover a complete range of emotions from joy to sorrow, love to hate, and all the often gray areas in between.

Among these fifteen treasures can be found a little something that everyone can relate to. Among them -  Emissary and Requiem For Lenny both tell of love's enduring grace even beyond death; Streetlamp is one's man's reflection on life's challenges; Paper Doll follows a love that has quietly flourished since childhood, and Broken is the heartbreaking tale of how love overcomes tragedy and betrayal. My favorite story of the book, Winter Rose, is a beautiful story of a homesick soldier, a war that unbelievably brought out the best in people and a little girl who received the protection and love she so desperately needed.

J.W. Nicklaus' stories are treats that are to be savored, mulled upon and re-read again and again - with each reading offering forth a new glimmer of delight or insight each time. I highly recommend this collection for those who enjoy well-crafted writing.

My thanks to J.W. Nicklaus for providing the review copy of his book, and for participating in the interview for Men's Week.


J.W. Nicklaus said...

I can't believe I missed "belief" in the last paragraph, writing instead "believe." DOH!

Short of my poor oversight, I am genuinely grateful for your review. It appears that the stories did their job, evoking or provoking where they should.

I'm not out to get millions of readers, but if I can capture them one by one soon enough I will have the best of followers and fans.

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview . . . and of course, the wonderful review ;^)

Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews said...

I fixed it!

Thank you for participating! I hope readers will check out your writing, and I hope for many more words to come from your pen! (or fingers!)