This is Part 2 of 3 featuring my extended interrogation of Nikki Nelson-Hicks. She's a tough cookie, but I eventually opened her up like a can of cheap tuna... So hang with us as we continue or extended trip into the Nikkiverse...
Sherlockian chronicler (Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits), creator of the Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective series, and a distracted writer with an attention deficit muse, Nikki is an acerbic, sarcastic, hair-exploding, dart throwing contrarian - all of which shines through in the maniacal humor and power of her writing. In her day job as a cubical goddess, she plays with plastic dinosaurs on her desk while thwarting customer service terrorists.
Beyond Holmes and Lovecraft, who are your other influences and what do you draw from them?
So many but here are a few in a nutshell...
Flannery O'Connor: When I first read, A Good Man is Hard to Find, I threw the book across the room. I felt dirty and wanted to scrub my skin with a pumice stone. Then I went back and read it with a writer's eye. She was able to convey all of that without using any words above a 6th grade level. She wrote about horrible things with a very simple touch. I liked that. It shows you can do so much damage with very little things.
Terry Pratchett: His cutting wit. His Discworld series are beautiful pieces of biting satire on politics, religion and social mores. My favorite book is Good Omens, a lovely book he wrote with Neil Gaiman about the Apocalypse and how the world is saved by the most unlikely hero. Broke my heart when Pratchett died earlier this year. I respect his decision to end his life but, still...Goddamnit.
Stephen King, but only his older stuff, nothing written after he blew his mind out with cocaine. The Stand, The Shining, Salem's Lot. Wonderful stuff. I think Salem's Lot is an excellent example of setting as character. Absolutely beautiful.
Hunter S. Thompson: When I read his stuff, my heart bleeds for the poor fuck who had to edit it. His writing is so stream of consciousness, just a mainlining of ink to the page. Some of it is absolute drivel, but I still love the fire in his words. I only discovered him a year before he committed suicide. Such a waste.
David Foster Wallace: I admit, I can't read his novels - too much navel gazing MFA writing for my taste. I'm simply not smart enough to enjoy those types of stories. What I love are his magazine articles, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, A Ticket to the Fair. Razor sharp wit and such an in depth eye for detail. Brilliant son of a bitch. He also committed suicide. Not that I'm sensing a pattern...
Neil Gaiman for his use of myth and twisting old ideas into fresh stories. Even if he broke my heart when he made fun of my t-shirt. For the full story CLICK HERE ... For the follow up story CLICK HERE
Harlan Ellison, but only when I want to get really, really angry for no damn good reason.
Right now some of my favorite new authors are Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, and Todd Keisling. So fresh, young and....so damn young. Seriously, I am tempted to break their fingers.
What were the challenges involved in writing Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits? Specifically, how did you try to stay true to the Holmes canon and what different aspects did you bring to your tale?
I have to give credit to my editor, Dave Brzeski, for keeping me on target. He is British, cantankerous and knows the canon. He gave this very modern, very profane, very American Yank many, many kicks to the arse whenever I strayed from the path.
It's not easy writing something that is based on a beloved literary icon. You run the risk of cartoonish parody and losing several body parts to bloody thirsty fans. And Holmes has thousands of them! I went to a Sherlock Holmes convention and was amazed at the number of academics there who would go on and on about Holmes to the point I wanted to raise my hand and ask, "Ya'll know he isn't real, right?" but I was afraid they'd start pointing and screeching at me like Donald Sutherland in the end of Body Snatchers. As a result, you have to write it with a light touch. Not too mawkish so it is boring to modern readers and not too off track to seem blasphemous.
And, of course, writing about a time and place I have never experienced is also a challenge. Thank you, Great Divine Google. Praise be to your infinite database of antique photographs, demographics, and maps - although, Google told me a penny-farthing was a type of bicycle and Editor Dave nearly bust a gut laughing at me.
Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective has just made his third appearance (Boo Daddies, Bogs, and a Dead Man's Booty) in a volume which also includes his first two cases (A Chick, A Dick and a Witch Walk Into a Barn / Golems, Goons and Cold Stone Bitches). How did Jake come to jump onto the page for you and what's with his last name and the excellent alliterative titles?
In 1997, my husband was deployed to Budapest, Hungary as the Detachment Commander for the Marines at the American Embassy and we went with him. The street the school my kids attended was called Istenhegyi Ute. Brian and I thought, "Huh. Wouldn't that be a great name for a private eye? Jake Istenhegyi, Private Dick."
It was our joke for years and years and I filed it away for the future. The name, Istenhegyi, is a Magyar word which means "God's hill" or "God of the hill". And it is pronounced, ISH-ten-hedge-ee. Simple, really.
In 2013 or so, I was approached by Tommy Hancock to write a story for Poultry Pulp, an anthology where all the stories involved chickens. I said, "Challenge accepted." And I told my husband, "Hey, I think I'm going to finally put Jake Istenhegyi to the test."
And, voila! The first Jake story, A Chick, A Dick and A Witch Walked into a Barn was born. However, the anthology never really hatched (Ha!) so Tommy asked if I wanted to make it into a series and I said, "Okay. Sure, what the hell. Could be fun." I get myself in more trouble with that sort of attitude.
As for the titles, they are a joint effort. The first one was conjured while drinking wine and playing a lively game of poker. My husband and I were talking and hashing over title ideas and the phrase why did the chicken cross the road became our pivotal point. Somewhere, during all the brain storming and the wine flowing, we finally came up with the title, A Chick, A Dick and a Witch Walked Into a Barn.
For the second one, I wanted to keep the joke rolling, so out popped the cards and booze. After much discussion and drinking, we came up with Golems, Goons and Stone Cold Broads but, in the end, I opted for Golems, Goons and Cold Stone Bitches because reasons. *spoilers*
The third one was a real family effort. I already had Boodaddies and Bogs, but I needed the Boom Boom Boom for a good finish. I wanted it to be about pirates or pirate treasure, but was stymied. Brian and I sat down, started hashing out ideas and my daughter, Brenna, popped her head out of her room and shouted, "Hey! What about A Dead Man's Booty?" Boom! Done!
In Part 3, we'll tie up all the loose ends and get the district attorney to file felony charges...
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as an expert in deception and interrogation. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, LIE CATCHERS, begins a new series featuring LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.
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