Name Nicky Black
Where are you from
I’m from a market town called Alnwick in Northumberland, now living in Stirling in Scotland. I worked in Newcastle upon Tyne for twelve years, then London for fourteen years before taking the plunge and deciding to write full time – for a while anyway…
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
In March 2016 I was offered a redundancy package from my job in London and I grabbed the opportunity to do something different. Knowing that if I stayed in London to write full time, even for a year, my money would run dry very quickly, I decided to move north of the border to Scotland where I would be able to live a more affordable lifestyle. I worked my notice and left London in August. I’ve not regretted it thus far.
I’m now working on my second book, which is based on my friend Julie’s screenplay, ‘Heads.’ It’s working title is ‘Tommy Collins’, but that might change. It’s about a young man living on a poor estate who wants to be a music promoter in the 1980s. He gets the opportunity to organize a massive rave and make enough money to start a new life. But it’s a time when criminals are wanting a piece of the action, and the police are on a moral crusade to shut down all-night parties.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing as a hobby, and got involved in theatre writing in Newcastle about twenty years ago. I enjoyed it, but dialogue was never a strong point. I preferred writing prose, so when the opportunity came along to work with my friend Julie on the Prodigal, I jumped at the chance to turn her two-part TV script into a novel.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s only been a recent thing. I told my optician I was an author recently when I had my eyes tested. That’s the first time I’ve ever said that officially. So once the day job was history, then I can start to think of myself as a ‘proper author.’
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Looking back now, I think it was sheer boredom. I was bored with the day job and really wanted to do something more creative. It was one of those ‘what if’ moments where I pretty much kept it to myself, didn’t shout about the fact that I was writing a book – I just did it. I’ve always loved Julie’s plays and scripts, she has a real eye for dialogue. The Prodigal was my favourite of hers and I just thought it would make a great book – it’s full of drama and tension.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I actually don’t know. I think readers would be better at answering that! It may be that, once I start writing my own stories, without Julie, then the voice may change a bit.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title
The original script for Tommy Collins had four main characters, and I wanted to focus on only one, and make him much more central, so I changed the characters name to Tommy and it’s just stuck. I thought it might be a bit of a ‘Billy Elliot’ type effect. But we’ll see. I know that ‘Heads’ is a bit meaningless, though, so that had to change.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That you can make it out of any situation if you use your nouse and you keep your loved ones close.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Tommy’s story is very loosely based on Julie’s experience of working with a bunch of lads who used to organize illegal rave parties in warehouses back in the 80s. I’ve never been to a rave, so I’ve had to research a lot of it. I do love the 80s though, so I’m in my element in terms of nostalgia. The story though is not about raves, that’s just the context, it’s about aspiring to a better life.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I love books that are dialogue driven. Roddy Doyle is brilliant at it. The Woman who Walked into Doors is my favourite book of all time, closely followed by a Star Called Henry. He seems to be able to write amazing prose, action and dialogue. He’s a special writer for me.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favourite author is above, though after reading the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, he was almost pipped off the post. I’ve read so many new authors in the last year, I wouldn’t even be able to begin to choose one that’s grasped my interest. I tend to read more art-farty stuff to be honest, haha.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
An author that I met last year called Louise Ross (LJ Ross of the DCI Ryan series). She’s a posh Geordie like me and she has shared an awful lot of knowledge with me. I am very grateful for that. I love her books too and she seems to like mine, so it’s a win-win.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, you have to, otherwise you wouldn’t take it seriously.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I will edit The Prodigal and probably every book I write for ever. There are always things that I would change but I would only actually make those changes if it would seriously enhance the book, or if I’d made a humdinger error. For instance I’m rewriting the Prodigal prologue for a second edition and creating a new cover. I’ve learnt a lot over the last year, but I won’t be changing anything about it again after that.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I’ve covered this one.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes, Tommy Collins is set in 1989 – the second ‘Summer of Love.’ It is the story of a young man with who feels stuck in the dregs of his own life on a run-down council estate (Valley Park, the same estate that features in The Prodigal). He spends his time claiming his dole, doing a fiddle job and organizing rave parties. It’s the latter that he loves doing and wants to be able to make it pay and get his wife and baby out of the life in which they’re trapped. When a local hard man offers him money to organize a huge rave party, he takes it. And then his problems really start. The criminals have high expectations, and if he doesn’t pull it off, the consequences are grim. But DCI Peach is also on his tail, and if he does pull it off and the police find out, the consequences are grim…
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Dialogue. That’s all I’m saying.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, not really. I travel to the odd event. Perhaps as my readership grows I’ll get to do more. I’m not one for living out of a suitcase. I like my home comforts.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Kit Foster designed the cover for the Prodigal, I haven’t decided on a cover yet for Tommy Collins, though I’ve got some ideas.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Edit, edit, edit. I’m a bit of a ‘edit as I go along’ person. Which suits me, but I’ve got to be strict with myself once I’m over half way not to spend a whole week editing.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Thomas Brodie-Sangster would be my Tommy Collins if he could do a Geordie accent.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I guess most writers would say ‘just write.’ I can’t say fairer than that. But also, be professional. Get a copy and proof editor, a professional cover, and format the book so it looks like books you buy in Waterstones. Do not compromise on quality.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Only thank you! I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to The Prodigal. And sorry it’s taken so long to get book two out. It’s coming next year, I promise, and I do hope you all like it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara on audio, and Safe With Me, K L Slater on Kindle.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No I don’t, probably Peter and Jane at school
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Watching other people cry makes me cry. Ant and Dec make me laugh J
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Roddy Doyle, because he’s my favourite author, though I’d be so scared I’d be disappointed and he’d be a bit of a snob…
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Gosh I can’t think of that – I’m not dying any time soon!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Yes, I love singing. The first thing I did when I moved to Scotland was join a choir. Singing makes me happy as a pig in poo.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m currently binge watching the Walking Dead. I’m on Season Five. I never fancied it before as when I first watched it years ago, I spent the whole first two episodes expecting Michael Jackson to jump out of a grave. Now I’m into it, I can see what all the fuss is about.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
80s music of any kind.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would like to have been a TV producer. I like getting stuff done and I love telly. I’m not sure I could live without my TV.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?