Nicole Eva Fraser talks about
hating first drafts,
writing like a man,
and the unspeakable
of loneliness in
I Don’t Think It’s That Simple ~
coming this month
from Second Wind Publishing
Interview by Carole Howard
Carole Howard writes:
Though Nicole and I haven’t (yet) met in the flesh, we are fellow authors in the same publishing house, and I’ve gotten to know her – perhaps better than I know some people I have met in the flesh – through her writing.
Nicole once said, “Reading gives me a sense of belonging and community. When I see myself in someone else’s story, I remember that other people are in the same boat, that I’m not alone on the journey.” Her latest book, I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, is a perfect example of that kind of story.
And so I introduce you to my “friend,” Nicole Eva Fraser.
Carole: First, would you briefly summarize I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, for those who haven’t yet read it?
Nicole: A high school basketball coach forms a father-son bond with his star player and falls in love with the boy’s married mother—until a surreal accident changes the course of all their futures.
Carole: And what’s the significance of the title? No spoilers, please!
Nicole: What if someone told you one relatively simple thing that could give you the key, the freedom to make a new start in your life? Would you listen?
Carole: I’m interested in your writing process. Are you a seat-of-the-pantser, or someone who knows what is going to happen in the book before she starts writing it?
Nicole: My writing process is slow and involves years of rewriting. I hate writing first drafts; getting things down the first time just about kills me. Rewriting is easier. I start out with a general idea of what’s going to happen in a book, but not many specifics.
Have you heard the saying, “Most people don’t want to write; they want to have written”? I think that’s what separates writers from pretenders. Yes, writing is endlessly painful, difficult, and messy—and we love it. We can’t live without it. It’s how we’re wired. And whether or not we receive acclaim, even if no one ever reads our work but us, we keep doing it.
Carole: I’m absolutely fascinated that you could write in a male narrator’s voice. What was that like?
Nicole: I assumed I’d write the book from Julia Atwater’s point of view, so that how I started out. But it kept feeling wrong. I couldn’t get any momentum. A voice in my head said that I should write in Evan Leighton’s voice, so I switched POVs, and the story started flowing.
It probably helped that I’ve always felt comfortable in male environs. I was a tomboy growing up. I used to know some pro ball players and coaches—the unglamorous parts of their lives. I’ve raised two sons who are athletes. For years I’ve worked out at a hole-in-the-wall gym with grunting, sweating guys, because we’re just there to get strong.
Carole: On your website, you say, “My dream to be a published writer was…. always about the fact that our stories matter, and it’s important to share them.” When I wrote my own novels, I incorporated experiences and observations from my own life. I assume, based on your saying that “our stories matter,” that it’s true for you, too. Is that so?
Nicole: Another reason why Evan Leighton’s voice came naturally to me is that I am him…or I was him, at another time in my life. Growing up as a completely unwanted child. As an adult, successful on the outside, dying on the inside. An introvert who is expected to be an extrovert and can’t quite manage it, is always on the run from people. Stuck in emotional quicksand. And lonely, so desperately lonely inside.
I remember when I started out on this project, I thought I was writing a book about love…then realized I was writing a book about loneliness.
Carole: Yes, definitely a book about loneliness. And I’m guessing, from the book, that faith plays an important role in your life?
Nicole: My spiritual journey has been circuitous. In my spiritual life (and most parts of my life), I’ve always been an outsider. I’m the one who feels perpetually outside in the cold, face pressed against the glass looking in at the warm and happy group, desperate to belong but knowing that’s not my true home. At times in my life, I’ve been part of a close church family, and loved the safety of that. But something always put me on the road again. Evan Leighton personifies some of that spiritual struggle…a struggle Julia also understands, but she sticks with church for her son’s sake.
Carole: And how did you get the idea for the book in the first place — was it a plot-spark? or a character-spark? Or something else?
Nicole: A million times through the years, I’ve shuddered thinking about how utterly alone I would have been in this life if not for my children. In the past, I wasn’t always able to stop the nightmare-thoughts about how that unspeakable life-draining specter of loneliness would have destroyed everything I tried to do if I didn’t have my children to love and love me back. Evan Leighton and Hunter Atwater came out of that.
Carole: I love-love-love the essay Hunter wrote about his three fathers. Can you tell us (again –no spoilers, please) about writing that essay?
Nicole: That essay was one of those gifts we writers sometimes receive from the invisible plane. It popped into my head one day, just the way you saw it in the book. I didn’t change a word. The whole time I was capturing the words on paper, I cried, and my shoulders were shaking, and I cried afterward, those deep soul-sobs that feel like they’re swallowing you up into oblivion. A mystery.
Carole: How moving. Thank you, Nicole, for telling us about your life, your book, and your writing process.
Carole Howard (carolejhoward.wordpress.com) is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing. Set in West Africa, Deadly Adagio gives the reader a peek into Senegal, amateur orchestras, the Peace Corps, the State Department, and a tribal custom that the book’s protagonist finds brutal. All of that, plus a murder to solve!