Name : Nicky Black (Nicky Doherty)
Where are you from Alnwick in Northumberland
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
There are two of us in Nicky Black (myself and Julie Blackie), so I’m answering mainly for myself here.
I was brought up in a big Irish Catholic family in Alnwick: four brothers and two sisters, my parents and a cat called Dandy in a three bedroom house. I went to school there, college in Preston in Lancashire in ‘86, where I studied languages and tried my best to look like Annie Lennox. I worked in Newcastle until 2002 and moved to London for my day job, managing regeneration programmes.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
We’ve just launched a flash new website which is great! (though not so great on a mobile…) www.nickyblackauthor.com, and I’m going to start writing a blog in the new year. I’ve never done one before so will need some practice and have been reading lots of blogs to get the gist of what I should do. I’m about 80 pages into our second book, called Heads (info on the website) and I can’t wait to get it finished. I really love it.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I used to write angsty poetry as a teenager which no one took any notice of (J). Now I think about it, I always loved writing letters. Before the days of emails and texts, I would write reams to my friends while I was at college, and had loads of pen pals as a kid. But I didn’t start writing seriously until around the year 2000. Julie has been a script writer for years, and when I started editing her work she thought I had a good eye for plot and timing, and encouraged me (actually she kept banging on at me) to enter competitions. I did, and I came second in a couple. It started there.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When we published The Prodigal in 2015 I thought maybe I could be a writer. When we’ve published Heads, then I may consider myself a proper writer. I’m still not sure I’ll ever be convinced….
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Julie had written The Prodigal as a two part crime serial for ITV back in 2000. It never got green-lit and after many years of touting it around other production companies, I said as a passing comment that it would make a great novel. Julie wasn’t keen as she gets bored writing descriptive stuff – she much prefers to write dialogue. So I asked if she’d let me have a go. She agreed, and here we are nearly five years later!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I think everyone has a writing style, so yes, I think I’ve found my voice. Julie writes the dialogue and her style is to keep speech short and realistic, no long paragraphs of dialogue. In fact if it’s more than two lines we’ll cut it back. People just don’t talk in long soliloquies. I would recognize her dialogue anywhere now. I, too, like short, sharp sentences, and I like to describe people and places in as few words as possible. But at the same time, I just love a good, long, bouncy sentence, full of rhythm and meaning. When that happens, I get all tingly. I like to write at pace, so I think our books are never going to be lengthy. No War and Peace from us.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Prodigal is a story about a man returning home from exile, ready to make amends for past mistakes, so it was a perfect title. Julie chose it when she first started writing the script. Heads is slightly different. Julie worked with a bunch of young lads back in the 80s who organized ‘all nighters’, Northern Soul and House Music. They were called ‘Heads’ and the title stuck.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think that might give the plot away…. Lol.
But generally, I think the message is that love can flourish in the grimmest and hardest places, and that, despite hardship, there will always be kind people and cruel people. We aren’t always in control of which one we end up being.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Great question! All of it I hope. The most common feedback I’ve had from reviewers and bloggers is that it is ‘real’, and that it reflects the reality of life on estates like Valley Park all over the country. I love that it’s universally realistic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think most writers draw on experiences and people we know, but they are fictionalized and enhanced to make them more dramatic for readers. I like to take characteristics of people I’ve met and merge them into one character. Both Julie and I have known plenty Margys, Marks and Mickys in our time working on estates in Newcastle. I’ve certainly met a Brenda before. But I also think that characters can be inspired by certain actors or other fictional characters. When I was writing Mooney, for example, I imagined Gollum in my head. Just weedy and needy and terribly lonely.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Roddy Doyle for me. Some of his books go over my head a bit, but he seems to manage to write an entire novel in dialogue, or from inside someone’s head. The Woman who Walked into Doors was incredible. I think he’s super talented. Julie has been a more practical mentor on the writing front. I don’t actually know any other writers. I’d like to have a writing mentor, like an editor or someone really experienced who likes the same sorts of books I do.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Altered State: The Story of Acid House” ha ha! I’ve never been to a rave in my life so I need to read up on it for our next book.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Clare Mackintosh. I Let You Go was a great book. I don’t get so much time to read for pleasure these days.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m still doing the day job so trying to write ‘Heads’ and trying to get as much exposure for The Prodigal as I can in very little time! ‘Heads’ is great. I love the story. Julie and I have a lot to do though to make it as good as The Prodigal. The feedback from readers has been tremendous. I never expected it, seriously.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My mate, Sarah. She must have read about six drafts of The Prodigal, and then she bought and read the paperback in the Summer. She’s my number one fan.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not yet, no. It’s impossible to live on the income of book sales, so I still have to work to eat. But one day, yes, I would like it to be my career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I have to avoid reading it, because I always find things I would change: it will never be perfect. But I wouldn’t have published it if I didn’t think it was ready, so no, fundamentally, I’m happy with the plot and the characters.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From reading. Simple as that.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course! In fact, here are a couple of youtube videos. One from The Prodigal, a reading of the ‘Russian Roulette’ scene, which, if anyone has read it, is the most scary, powerful scene in the whole book for me. The sound quality’s a bit poor, you’ll need earphones. It opens:
“Micky stood up, pulled a gun from under the chair and pointed it at Nicola…”
And this is a 4 minute tease we made of ‘Heads’ way back in 1998 when it was a movie script and we were looking for backers. I think it’s stood the test of time, and I’m really, really proud of it.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
For me, dialogue, for Julie, descriptive narrative. So we’re are the perfect team. She writes great dialogue and I like the narrative bit.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As above, Roddy Doyle. Three of his books are in my top 5.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Only up and down to Newcastle, but that’s where I’m from and so it’s never a chore. I love going home.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The Prodigal was designed by Kit Foster. Heads is just a thing we knocked together and we’ll need a professional designer when the time comes.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Starting: opening the computer and actually starting. I’ll do everything else: housework, make soup, brush the cats…. Once I start the time flies.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Edit, edit and edit again. Even that last read will give it a final polish. Always get second, third, fourth opinions from people you trust.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
As above, a professional edit and critical feedback is crucial. It has to be the best it can be. Typos can be such a turn off.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
A bit fat THANK YOU! I’ve had some amazing support, you know who you are.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Ah no, Janet and John I expect – does that count? If not then it would have been a Famous Five or the Naughtiest Girl in the School. Loved Enid Blyton, who doesn’t? J
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Seeing people truly grieve always makes me cry. Grief is such a painful thing. My brother had died not long before I wrote a particular funeral scene in The Prodigal and I was in floods. People generally make me laugh, I love sharing a meal and bottle of wine with funny people. Oh and Ant and Dec, obviously.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Annie Lennox, because she’s AMAZING.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘Beloved daughter, sister, aunty, great aunty, partner,’ because my family are everything to me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I sing in a choir, we’re doing the Verdi Requiem next year, and I’ve sang twice at the Royal Festival Hall (get me!). I also sing very loudly to 80s music in my car (when alone).
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like reality programmes, documentaries and drama: 24 hours in A&E is my current favourite, and I love a good cry at Long Lost Families. Lately, drama wise, I loved Ripper Street and No Offence. Paul Abbot is one brilliant script writer.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Chips/Green/80s and 90s
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I still don’t really believe I am a writer, so I would do what I’m doing now, running government contracts in the third sector. It’s a bit dull.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do now! We just launched it: www.nickyblackauthor.com
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