Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guest Blogger: NL Hight

Vendetta by [Hight, Nickolas]

Please tell us about your latest book:

My debut novel, VENDETTA, is a fairly straightforward tale of revenge set in the year 1377. A young squire in the Hospitaller Order, Angelo Anchioni, discovers his family has been murdered at the command of Bernabò Visconti, the ruler of Milan. He renounces his vows and swears revenge. The revenge component is set against the backdrop of the complex and very violent state of affairs which existed on the Italian peninsula during the 14th century. At its core is the divisive and passive-aggressive relationship of Bernabò Visconti and the English mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood, both real historical figures.   

What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm currently working on the sequel to VENDETTA, tentatively titled END OF DAYS. It picks up right where VENDETTA leaves off. I'm also working on a collection of military sci-fi short stories and collaborating on a contemporary crime/noir-ish thriller with a friend. Both of those projects, however, aren't just on the back burner. They're more like on the back burner of someone else's house out in the middle of nowhere. In Myanmar. 

In short, I'm focusing on the 14th century for the foreseeable future.

How do we find out about you and your books?

You can always check out my blog and website:  www.hightnl-author.com
I've got a FaceBook author page, too. https://www.facebook.com/NLHight.author/
It's also on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Book Depository, and will soon be available on Overdrive.
The easiest way to keep track of any updates on my work or any other news will be via my blog. 

Why did you decide to write historical novels?

I've always been fascinated by the medieval period. Reading "A Distant Mirror" by Barbara Tuchman planted the initial seed, I think, because that's when I first discovered John Hawkwood. He gets very little mention in the work; two or three pages out of 600. But I found it amazing an Englishman, about whose life very little is known, rose to such prominence on the Italian peninsula. And he never made it back to England. He died in the employ of Florence. 

And history has always been my favorite subject, so it's much easier to get fired up about conducting research ...

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

A little piece of me goes into every character. I think that's unavoidable for any writer. Not that it's a bad thing! I've had a broad range of work experiences and interests. It makes for better characterizations. For specific things, like describing the strain on people under severe physical hardship or extreme stress, fear, anger, etc, my time in the Marine Corps very much helps to describe those emotions. 

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

I am, for better or worse, an extremely undisciplined writer. I definitely qualify as a 'pantser.' 'Go with the flow' describes my writing schedule. But when I get into a rhythm, I'll hammer away into the wee hours. I finished VENDETTA at 4am on a Saturday morning ...

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

I cook and read. I play a lot of ultimate frisbee and disc golf. And I enjoy skate skiing when there happens to be enough snow to do it (I live in northern California, and snow has been hit or miss the past few years). In short, if it's taking place outdoors, I'm there. Unless I'm in the kitchen, where I'm equally happy ... Or making high-quality, high-octane cocktails, in which case I'm happiest.

Where do your ideas come from?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? I came up with the original premise for VENDETTA while staying at the hill town of Orvieto. It's in Umbria, a couple of hours by train north of Rome. And, like virtually every hill town in Italy, Orvieto has a magnificent duomo, stunning views, cobbled streets, amazingly preserved architecture, spectacular museums. I mean, it was like the Story Fairy dropped a brick on my head. There I was standing at the summit of a bell tower, on a crisp fall day, king of all I surveyed. I said to myself, "Hmm. What if ...?" And that was all it took. The finished product is not even close to my original idea. But I sure had fun completing the journey. There was so much going on during the latter part of the 14th century. It's impossible to NOT get ideas during a time when the human race was decimated by plague, war was endemic, the most trusted institution (the church) was also the most loathed, and yet we were on the cusp of the Renaissance. An altogether remarkable period in our history ...

What does your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend think of your writing?

When I first started working on VENDETTA, I think my wife thought it was a lark; that I'd lose interest or it would fall by the wayside. But she was always supportive. And I wasn't sure she'd like it, so I only let her read a couple of short excerpts. And then one day (mid-May, 2015) I had a 537-page rough draft. The dedication was to her, which came as a complete surprise and she read it and really enjoyed it. So, as far as writing goes, she's all about it. It's the business aspects of being an author over which we butt heads. All. The. Time.

Do you ever ask him/her for advice?

Character names. She's supplied some great Italian names for me ... Other than that, everything comes out of my noggin.

Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)I'll give you the condensed version. I've had a busy life. Why, I could write a book!! HA! Get it?! Uhhh, moving right along ... Army brat, youngest of four kids. Grew up in Germany and Colorado. Went to college for a couple of years after high school (Minnesota and Colorado; I swam in Minnesota until an injury ended my season) then joined the Marine Corps in 1991 and served in the infantry. Attended Texas Tech University; I majored in Russian Language and Area Studies. Got out of the Marine Corps. Then went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 2001. Did all sorts of things as a Marine officer. Resigned in 2007. Lived in Seattle. Taught swim lessons and had a personal training business. Married in 2008. Marine Reserves in 2009 (yes, yes, there's a definite trend). Moved to California in 2009. Tried to work as little as possible because I missed Seattle so much. Fortunately, the Reserves kept me busy. I did a few mini-deployments and a couple of extended ones. 2013, I started writing VENDETTA. Spent six months on active duty in New Orleans, Dec 2013-May 2014. Didn't write a single word. Went to Italy for just about the entire month of October, 2014 (research, of course). Had to do a complete rewrite. Retired from the Marine Corps last year. Spent about half of last summer as a wild land fire-fighter in Grand Teton National Park. Worked a full fire season there this year. 
I've traveled all over (and most of those places have been by choice, Iraq being the glaring exception). I've worked at the Air Force Academy bookstore, tended bar, waited tables, raced triathlons, climbed Mt Whitney, worked as an archaeological field tech (a fancy name for digger of holes), fought fire, fenced, and done a bajillion other things. With all of that and a wife who is one of the only humans I know truly capable of multi-tasking, we have no kids. But we do have a couple of awesome dogs and five chickens. 

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?

I'll read just about anything, but when it comes to HF Dorothy Dunnett is my all-time favorite. That woman knows how to eviscerate you emotionally. Just tears your heart out. Beautiful prose and such a magnificent story teller. Whenever I'm hurting for inspiration, I'll turn to her House of Niccolo series. When I need to take a break from all things medieval, I'll read Carl Hiassen, Kipling, Martin Cruz Smith, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Robert Heinlein. Hilary Mantel is also excellent. And anything by Michael Chabon.

What do you think of critique groups in general?

I haven't had much luck with finding a critique-group. To be honest, I haven't tried very hard, either. I think -- like so much else in this profession -- if it works for you, great. But I think you can get just as much constructive feedback from solid beta-readers as you can from a critique group. It's all dependent on the personalities involved, too. If you can make it work, do it. If you're serious about your writing, you'll have to get feedback. You can't write in a vacuum. As a writer, you lose all objectivity regarding your manuscript. Good critique partners or beta-readers will keep you on the straight and narrow. Bad ones will make you want to throw your laptop through a window. The trick is finding the right one(s) for you. 

What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?

Oh, jeez. You know what kills me? Anything to do with stuff that isn't manuscript-specific: marketing, PR, querying, writing a synopsis. I had no idea what ANY of that entailed and now that I do it's very difficult for me to come to grips with. Query writing is worse than being in combat, I swear to God. It's also why I don't have an agent, because every bone in my body rebels against the concept of the query. *sigh* 
And as I stated earlier, I am supremely unorganized and undisciplined. I just wrote VENDETTA. No organization, no synopsis, no outline. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end (I actually wrote the middle first). Just awful. On the other hand, it got done. As for easy, the only easy thing is the research. Everything that happens once I start writing has me pulling my hair out.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

I love the camaraderie. I had no idea what to expect at my first writing conference (Pikes Peak Writers Conference, last year) and was delighted by how welcoming and supportive the experience was. And it was just as wonderful this year, too. That's most rewarding to me; the sense of, 'we're all in this together' that transcends genre and experience. 

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

I'll sort of paraphrase Chuck Wendig ... Never quit and get your work out there. There are so many publishing options available to writers. Pursue one and get your work out there! 

And I will always remember the words of Seanan McGuire: Be kind to each other. Help other writers when you're able. When one of us wins, we all win!

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