I’d like to introduce you to the twenty-sixth interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. He is Raymond Nickford.
QUESTION: Hi, Raymond! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
ANSWER: Hi Susan. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I feel a little queasy about blowing my own trumpet and doubt that I have one to blow but will try keep to simple home truths.
With two parents generally away on business I was something of a solitary child; a dreamer who invented his own friends and on those occasions when real life ’embodied’ friends did materialise, I tended to observe and absorb rather than to participate. I was ill-equipped to socialise and so met most of my friends as characters in books and this, together with an early reading of Daphne Du Maurier’s highly atmospheric “Rebecca” completely kindled in me a fascination with observing characters, particularly troubled or ‘haunted’ souls, in the broadest sense.
QUESTION: You have a degree in Psychology and Philosophy from University College of North Wales. How do you use your knowledge of psychology in your writing?
ANSWER: I think this may have led me to choose Psychology and Philosophy for my degree and while at the University College of North Wales, I read both behavioural psychology and psychoanalysis across the range of Freud, Jung and Adler, amongst others. I was fascinated with Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” and the dreamer in me had a field day.
From early essays on the abstruse like ‘Pretending’ and ‘Descartes Body-Mind Dualism’ I gradually became less ivory-towered and took pleasure in writing supernatural stories and character sketches in stories for mainly USA anthologies including those of editor Melissa Gish’s “Gaslight” series, Joseph Cherkes series “Haunts” and “Not One of Us”. Frankly, I still think that, ultimately, instinct, a still nature, and a certain sixth sense and, above all, a tendency to question my own preconceptions about those I meet/invent have served me far better than any arid academic knowledge of psychology; so that it is far more the instinctive dreamer than the psychologist which have effected my writing.
QUESTION: How many books have you written? Have they all been published?
ANSWER: Five books so far, the best details of which can be found most easily on Amazon at:
QUESTION: Your newest book is a collection of dark, psychological stories, “Cupboard of Skeletons”, published in March, 2013. Can you tell us about the book? Do you have a favorite story in it?
ANSWER: To an extent, dark; if you mean that the characters generally inhabit an atmospheric and, perhaps, brooding or eerie world, but I firmly believe that, even where a story may not have a ‘happy’ ending, then still, it should be in some way uplifting – if not cathartic for the reader.
“Cupboard of Skeletons” is a series of stand-alone stories and novellas comprising atmospheric scenes and poignant themes centring around odd, troubled characters whose lives are driven to extremity, drawn on, still, by the tantalising hope – sometimes delivered by fate or fortune – of happiness.
Moving, dysfunctional lives and relationships; hypnotist and patient, a strained romance between lovers, paranoid father and daughter, and many more, all of whom have eccentricities, which make normal relationships difficult. There are indeed some ghostly presences and the supernatural but the Cupboard of Skeletons is more a euphemism for people with dark or embarrassing secrets which come to haunt and test their lives and how they try, against all odds, to find something of their dreams.
QUESTION: Your suspense novel, “A Child From the Wishing Well”, features an eerie music tutor, her young pupil Rosie, and Rosie’s paranoid father. Can you tell us more? Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
ANSWER: You are quite right that “A Child from the Wishing Well” is pre-eminently a “suspense” novel, though I think it would be fair to say that all my books would fall within the genre of Suspense and Literary Fiction if I had to compartmentalise them – or, at least, character-driven plots, where characters are sometimes odd or dysfunctional outsiders who may redeem themselves or change to find a measure of their own happiness – but not always so.
Perhaps the central question in “A Child from the Wishing Well” is whether a paranoid father can break out of his mental illness sufficiently to reach out to the seven year old daughter, Rosie, who is lonely without the spontaneous love that might have come from a less troubled father.
Ashamed he cannot relate to his daughter, Rosie, Gerard accompanies and stays with her for violin lessons at the home of tutor, Ruth Stein.
Ruth, fascinating him for her musical sensitivity, becomes a confidante. Against his better judgement and his wife’s reservations – the paranoid, Gerard, can only cling to believing the tutor might bring him closer to Rosie.
Soon, he must wrestle with his suspicions again, for Ruth mothers Rosie, almost smothers…
Reaching out to a broken doll, propped in the darkness at the bottom of Ruth’s garden well, Gerard wants to believe what he touches and smells is just the decay of sacks enfolding a doll; the closest to a child that the lonely old spinster could cling. Investigating, Gerard’s fears for Rosie’s safety begin to mount.
Rosie draws closer to her father, notices his new concern but, if she is in real danger, can he save her?
If he needs to save her, can Gerard still triumph over the emotional void of paranoia; feel, accept, he and Rosie could share the love of which others speak?
QUESTION: Are you working on a new book? Do you ever write sequels? What are your thoughts about writing a series?
ANSWER: I’m working on a sixth book entitled “Prey to Her Madonna” [the ‘prey’ intended, of course]. It’s something of an exploration of the way a woman, once a nun or novitiate, can too easily become the object of ridicule when she returns into the more street-wise world outside her convent life – to the extent that she attracts a stalker who has, he thinks, a reason to harbour a grudge against Catholics – particularly happy ones.
However, I’m intrigued with the idea that even a stalker might, given understanding and compassion, discover that there is a world to be found outside his consuming bitterness; one in which there is something called ‘love’.
Like many of my fellow authors, in the absence of any engine of a mainstream publisher under my bonnet, I’ve gone though 2-3 years of endeavour to expand marketing my work to a wider readership and being pretty clumsy at networking, I’ve found that far too much time is spent in the drudgery of self-propulsion than in returning to my first love – writing and ‘Prey to Her Madonna’.
QUESTION: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
ANSWER: As a consequence of the previous answer, perhaps 4-5 years, instead of the 2 years it would take without having to do my own self-propulsion/trumpet-blowing.
QUESTION: How do you feel about the “rules” of contemporary writing: no adverbs, no dialogue tags, show don’t tell, etc. In your opinion, how important are they to writing? Are there any that you particularly adhere to?
ANSWER: Rules are made to be broken – but judiciously. If writing comes from the heart and is done with the greatest integrity one can muster and then several drafts/edits, then I have found that I do not self-consciously follow any do’s and don’ts … until the end of the 2nd draft! I do confess to being a my own worst enemy when it comes to savaging my own text and will cut ruthlessly until I get to the most honest emotion (raw or tender) and the truest scene or setting.
QUESTION: Where do you get your book covers? Do you design them yourself? Do you think that a book’s cover plays an important part in the buying process?
ANSWER: From the good Bradley Wind. I often think it is sad that book covers do so much to influence purchases but I suspect that the truth is they do so massively. To be fair, a good cover designer, if he/she listens to the author, will tend – by suggestion or evocation – to lead the reader to the core theme of a book and even to enhance that theme or mood.
QUESTION: If you could meet the author of any book, who would you choose, and why?
ANSWER: Most certainly D. H. Lawrence. I have to confess that there are many, including myself, who would have criticised aspects of his own lifestyle, perhaps others would have added that he lacked ‘pedigree’ and had too much of an obsession with gamekeepers seducing/being seduced by Ladies with capital L’s or men and women who had – what do they call it these days – yes, a different ‘sexual orientation’ to fine upstanding heterosexuals.
I trust I’m – ahem – fine and upstanding but, for me, it is never so much Lawrence’s subject that fascinates me as his most extraordinary sharp and raw observation of personality. His prose often rises to poetry and yet it is rarely ‘purple’ or decorative but entirely captures the essence of memorable characters. Daphne Du Maurier has had an equally powerful influence upon me and if I had the tiniest fraction of the talent of these two writers put together I would thank God.
QUESTION: What books or authors have inspired you the most? If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
ANSWER: D. H. Lawrence and Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith amongst those who have passed. Usually – but not always – Ian McEwan amongst those who, thankfully, live.
QUESTION: Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!