Today’s Author on the Couch is…
1. Nichole is giving away a copy of her book DAUGHTER OF DESTINY to one lucky person who comments on this blog!
2. Sign up for my newsletter to be entered into January’s drawing for a $15 Amazon Gift Card!
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Nicole: Oh gosh, there have been a few. Oddly, several of them are in some way related to this book. Reading The Mists of Avalon in 1998 changed me forever because it opened my mind to new ways of viewing faith and inspired me to write the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy. Going on an Arthurian legends tour of England in 2013 (through Gothic Image Tours) led me to amazing friends who will always be a special part of my life, allowed me see the places of legend in person and actually inspired a future book that will take place in modern and Tudor Glastonbury (that city totally has my heart).
But perhaps the strongest was attending a week-long Master Class in historical fiction writing at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island in Washington. Not only did I learn a ton from our teacher NTY Bestseller Deborah Harkness, but I made friends her and with five women who will be my sisters for life. There is a bonding at Hedgebrook that has to be experienced to be understood. It also changed how I view the material things in life. I lived alone in a cabin the woods for a week with only my writing and daily communal lessons/meals as a break. The place is set up for one woman, so you have one glass, one plate, a small assortment of cookware, hot plate and a toaster oven. I learned what little I need to survive. I’m all about simple living now and would love to live in one of those tiny houses!
Me: I need to say how jealous I am. The Arthurian legends tour sounds AMAZING! And your little cabin in the woods is my dream writing place! I’m so happy that you got to have those wonderful experiences!
What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Nicole: I’m uber organized. I’m a Virgo, so I do outline before I write, even though I know my characters will blow it all to bits at some point when they decide to take over. Setting schedules and making lists comes natural to me, which really helps when juggling the marketing and business part of being an author.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Nicole: Perfectionism. Again, that comes from being a Virgo, I think. I have to learn when to let go and let my beta readers read, and when enough editing is enough. I’ll always worry that what I wrote isn’t good enough, but in some ways, nothing ever is because you can’t please everyone. I also have terrible anxiety, so that flares up when I get close to a release. I dread negative reviews even though I know everyone gets them. Medication and wine help (but not at the same time!)
Me: Oh, perfectionism… I suffer from the same malady. I feel your pain.
What was your high point as a writer—a time when you were happiest?
Nicole: I think when I decided to go indie was my high point. After a bumpy road with an agent, almost making it to traditional publication three times, parting ways with my agent and lack of success in finding another, it was so freeing to realize my whole career (not to mention my royalties) was in my hands alone. I will never fire me just because a book doesn’t sell well. And I get to have full control over the book cover, the editing, the promotion, everything. I’ve assembled a wonderful team of designers, editors, layout people whose expertise I trust and I have had a ball learning about the business side of things. I love knowing that I can write my books in whatever order the muse inspires me and by the time they come out, I will be completely happy with every aspect.
Me: What was your low point as a writer—a time when questioned your path as a writer?
Nicole: Pick any of one of the dozens of times I’ve been rejected by agents or editors. They all hurt and made me question my ability as a writer. I came close to giving up a few times. The ones that stick in my head are being told one of my books “reads like a bad YA novel” even though it totally wasn’t YA and being told the main character of another book was “abrasive and unlikeable” and basically that nothing happens and they have no reason to continue reading. I’ve also been told that one of my historical novels was “too historical.” What??? The rejections by editors are their own bittersweet pain because you got sooooo close to contract, which is good, but ultimately, it was still a no, often for reasons out of your control, which is bad.
In all cases, I cried, complained to my best friend and my mom, wallowed a bit, drank some wine (okay, a lot of wine), had a good night’s sleep and then slowly moved on. All I could do was send out the next query letter and keep writing or revising. Moving forward, no matter how slowly, is the only way to deal with rejection. Someday you will find someone (or lots of someones) who understands your vision for your book and that meeting of the minds makes everything else fade into a bad memory.
Me: How many books have you written? How long does it typically take you to write a book? What’s the most painful part of the writing process for you?
Nicole: I’ve written six books, five novels and one non-fiction. Four of the novels are being published this year. Hoping to have the fifth one out in late 2016 or early 2017. Not sure if the non-fiction will ever get published. (It was written to tie in with the Guinevere novels at the request of an editor we thought was going to acquire it.)
Because I primarily write historical fiction, it takes at least a year, year and a half for me to write a book. Research can take anywhere from 3-6 months, with the writing taking about 5-6 months and then another 3 months or so of editing. Even my romantic comedy, which was written in 2 months, has undergone a year of editing.
I HATE editing. I LOVE having edited because I can see how vastly improved the novel is. But for me, editing is a very painful process. A lot of that is because I don’t like to be wrong, and the whole point of editing is finding or being alerted to the problems in the novel and fixing them. For me, it’s a necessary evil. My joy comes in the first draft when I’m truly being creative and finding the story.
Me: One of the things I love about being a writer–>as a group we don’t fit any mold! We are all different with different processes. You love your writing a first draft. I hate writing a first draft. You hate editing. I love editing.
Who is your book boyfriend? Why?
Nicole: Which one? My main squeeze is Ben Pearl from Jennifer Lee Carroll’s Kate Stanley series, especially Interred with Their Bones, which is the first book. Ben is a private security agent who you know had to have some military background, but you don’t know much else about his past, so he’s mysterious, too. He’s intelligent, sensitive and romantic, yet can kick-ass and save the day when needed. For some bizarre reason, I picture him as choreographer Tyce Diorio (who I also have a major crush on).
My first book boyfriend was Edward Cullen. Yep. I was a Twihard. But that relationship is long over. I still have a soft spot for Jace Lightwood/Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series (I read the whole thing, but I only acknowledge books 1 and 3 in my head). I love his sarcasm, charm, protectiveness and pure sex appeal. Jamie Campbell Bower was perfect casting for him (too bad the overall movie wasn’t that good).
My latest crush is on Bran Killian from Nora Robert’s Stars of Fortune. He’s Irish (nuf said) and so, so romantic. I won’t give away too much, but let’s just say he’s magical. Bran is trusting and supportive and ugh, everything I could ever want in a man. *swoons* I picture him as Gerard Butler.
Me: What’s your writer’s mantra? Why does that mantra speak to you?
Nicole: The tagline on my website is “Stories of strong women from history and today.” I don’t have a mantra so much as a mission statement.
For my historical fiction writing, it’s to rescue little-known women from being lost in the pages of history. While other writers may choose to write about the famous, I tell the stories of those who are in danger of being forgotten so that their memories may live on for at least another generation. I also tell the female point of view when it is the male who has gotten more attention in history (i.e. Guinevere to King Arthur).
For romance/women’s fiction, it’s to create strong female characters who are role models for women of all ages in stories that are fun and romantic. These women represent the modern independent female spirit and are meant to appeal to women who feel they are outside of the norm of society whether by age (my heroines are almost always over 30), race, sexuality, or natural inclinations (we all have things that make us feel like freaks, right?). I hope my readers can find something in my books that makes them think, “Oh, thank goodness, I’m not alone.”
I have a strong natural urge to fight for the rights of women and be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I even have the words “I am the dragon’s daughter” from Game of Thrones tattooed on my forearm (even though I’m not a fan of the books or TV show) because they scene from which they come is Daenerys fighting to defend her people. That’s what I feel like I’m doing with my writing. I’m fighting to return women to the historical record and to create strong contemporary characters that inspire women to stand up for themselves.
Me: I LOVE your mission statement and your message.
Tell me about your book DAUGHTER OF DESTINY (Guinevere’s Tale Book 1).
Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.
In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.
Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.
You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.
Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from your newest release.
Nicole: Oh, this is tough! I could tell you right away what it would be for the second book, but this one is harder to choose. This is part of a scene between Elaine and Guinevere toward the end of the book. I’ve taken out the spoilery parts. These two were childhood friends and then Guinevere ended up as a ward of Elaine’s parents. Something has happened which resulted in Elaine having a broken heart, which she blames Guinevere for, even though it’s totally not Guinevere’s fault. (Elaine is a bit unstable.)
Elaine had no reply and so lashed out like a child. “You just don’t want me to be happy! You cannot find love, so no one else will either. That is your plan.”
I halted and stared after her, shocked. “How can a heart of so few years be so dark?”
Elaine whirled and took three steps toward me so that her face was only inches from mine, her eyes dark and menacing. “Do you not understand that lack of love can blacken a heart just as quickly as loss of it?”
Her face was strained, pulled tight by the pain in her heart. “I am never allowed to love, never free—a bird trapped in a cage. I would be happier if Father gave me to the cloister. At least then Christ could be my spouse.” She grabbed my forearms with surprising force, fingers digging into my flesh as she spoke, eyes straining to shed tears her body was too weary to produce. “My heart yearns for the love my mind knows exists. Everyone but me is allowed happiness. Isolde was sent here to marry. Even you, who were exiled because of love—you know the joy of its fulfillment. I have nothing.”
My heart was breaking for the poor, innocent girl before me. I pulled her out of the street and into an alleyway to give us some privacy.
“You have your God,” I said, thinking that reminder would bring her comfort.
“What little good He does me,” she muttered.
The bitterness in her voice took me aback.
“I have faith, yes—that His will is truly what is best—but it is cold comfort when all speak of me dying barren and alone. You have no idea of my life, Guinevere.” She spat my name with such hatred, she briefly reminded me of Morgan.
“Who says such things, Elaine? I have heard nothing of the sort.”
She released my arms violently, flinging them away from her. “Of course not. You live in your own little world, you and Isolde, off having your fun while I am trapped in a life not of my own making.”
She turned away, her back toward me as she watched the setting sun.
“Do you really think we would have chosen the lives we live?” I asked her. “I was exiled here, torn away from the only people I ever loved. I have no one here, Elaine. What kind of life is that? Isolde had no say in her placement in your house and, from what I can tell, was never welcome. Your mother treated her as a slave, and she endured it until she was forced to flee.”
Elaine turned back to me, eyes flashing dangerously. “She chose to leave with my intended. Tell me, were they having an affair the entire time, or did the whore have a last-minute flash of inspiration? I cannot make myself feel sorry for her, and I never will. She deserves everything that is coming to her, and so do you.”
So much for making peace with her; it seemed I had gained another enemy.
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Abbie Roads writes dark emotional novels featuring damaged characters, but she always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending… after torturing them for three hundred pages. Her first novel will be released October 2016.