Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature Nicole Willson. Nicole is the author of the forthcoming debut novel, Tidepool.
Recently, Nicole and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as why she loves the horror genre.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I truly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t writing. If it wasn’t a comic strip about cave girls and dinosaurs for my grade school magazine, it was Star Wars fanfic, which I didn’t even know was called fanfic back then. I decided to start pursuing publication in high school, when I typed up some of my best stories and sent them off to places like Twilight Zone Magazine. (They didn’t get accepted.) Although I gave up on that dream for a while in my 20s when the rejections got to be too much for me to handle, I never completely lost the drive.
My favorite authors include but are by no means limited to Cherie M. Priest, Erin Morgenstern, Adam Nevill, Neil Gaiman, Alma Katsu, and Gwendolyn Kiste.
Congratulations on your new book, Tidepool! What can you share with us about the inspiration behind the book?
Thank you! I like to say the book is Lovecraftian cosmic horror with a heavy dollop of American Horror Story in the mix. Someone who read it said it reminded them of Hammer horror films, which made me happy all day.
I started thinking about the story while I was walking along the beach in 2015. What if the ocean was full of terrifying creatures and one woman was the only thing standing between these beings and the town they were threatening? Who was she? Why was she the only one who could protect everyone? What if she commanded an extremely high price for her services and the townspeople were getting tired of paying it—what then? That central image evolved quite a bit as my initial idea became Tidepool.
What attracts you to writing dark fantasy and horror? Do you remember the first horror movie you saw or horror story you read?
I’m a fairly anxious person, and writing horror feels like I’m forcing my various demons into a form that I can control and (sometimes) conquer. Given that life feels more and more unpredictable by the day, turning the things that are bothering me into actual monsters is great therapy when I’m feeling especially helpless. Win or lose, at least I’m completely in charge of the outcome.
The first horror movie I have a clear memory of is the 1932 version of The Mummy from Universal Pictures; a local TV station showed weekend creature features, and I think The Mummy might have been the first one I was allowed to watch. Even though I could have outrun that creature easily, it still scared me.
The first horror story I remember reading was “The Cask of Amontillado.” It was so unlike all the other dry, deadly dull stories in my school reader, and the characterization, the growing sense of dread, and the story’s stunning ending made me aware for the first time of the true power of the horror genre.
You’ve also written a number of short stories. Do you find your approach to fiction varies depending on the length of the project, or do you have an established pattern for writing regardless of length?
My processes for both are similar in that I generally start with an idea and then imagine the characters who might be in this particular situation. However, I tend to be a lot more freewheeling when I’m writing short fiction. I might start with the ending and work my way backwards, something I don’t think I’d ever be able to pull off with a novel. Or I might write different fragments of the short story and link them together, whereas I try to work straight through from beginning to end with a novel draft—I’ve found that if I write fragments of the novel, I may or may not do the work involved in connecting them and filling out the entire story.
Do you have any particular writing routines (e.g. writing at a certain time each day, playing music, etc.)?
I tend to keep vampire hours when I’m writing; for whatever reason, I prefer working at night. I don’t generally play music unless I’m feeling particularly inspired by a certain song or if I’m looking for the music to set a certain mood in the story, but I’ll light some candles and incense before I start.
If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: drafting dialogue, creating characters, or establishing setting?
For me, a novel will stand or fall based on how strongly I feel about its characters. Give me good, memorable, vivid, complicated protagonists and antagonists and I’ll follow them just about anywhere. I love developing worksheets and backstories for all my main characters, even if most of what I come up with for them never makes it into the books.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working through a round of edits for a YA horror novel that I consider a modern-day cross between The Haunting of Hill House and the Bluebeard tale. I also have an adult horror novel about a survival challenge and a vampire soap opera in the works.
Where can we find you online?
Huge thanks to Nicole Willson for being this week’s featured author!