Today we will be featuring a new author from Curiosity Quills Press, the publisher mentioned in last Tuesday’s guest blog. As always, the Fiction Reboot is committed to hosting and featuring many different kinds of writers at different stages of their career. We have great authors coming up, including Lucienne Diver (author and agent for Knight Agency) and Stephanie Smith (novelist and academic), as well as another new CQP author, Michael Shean, whose work began as serialized online fiction. Stay tuned for unique perspectives on the writing life! Presenting: Nina Post
Nina Post is a fiction writer who lives in downtown Chicago. Her early cultural influences include Steve Martin’s comedy albums, Chuck Jones, The Muppet Show, and MAD magazine. Parlor tricks include speaking in ‘trailer guy’ voice, reciting the periodic table in less than a minute, and Enneagram typing. She likes spending time with her husband, reading, running, and information gathering.
Nina’s writing falls under the categories of urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy, combining supernatural elements with realistic characters and a comedic tone. Her debut novel, The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, was published by Curiosity Quills Press in the Winter of 2012, followed by One Ghost Per Serving in the Summer of 2012.
ONE GHOST PER SERVING
ONE GHOST PER SERVING by Nina Post
Possessed by Rex, a mischievous spirit, Eric Snackerge’s life has careened out of control. Losing his scholarship and getting blacklisted from the legal profession are just the start – now his best-friend-turned-enemy is in danger of stealing away his family, too.
An unusual contest may be his last chance to make his daughter’s dreams come true. But he’ll have to overcome his own self-doubt — not to mention the seemingly impossible odds — in order to achieve that goal.
As Eric and his ghostly companion soon learn, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill sweepstakes. When the sponsors begin dispatching spy cameras, attack helicopters, and the kitchen sink – all to make sure that Eric doesn’t get any further – it becomes clear that the contest is only the first phase of a much larger, sinister plan to spread a supernatural pathogen throughout the food supply.
Do Eric and Rex have what it takes to foil the villains’ plan and protect the Snackerge family from becoming the next victims?
1. I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” Does this describe you? Could you say a bit about your early writing experiences?
If I don’t write for a few days, I get testy and restless, just like if I don’t go running. Writing fiction has been an impulse since I was very young, and arguably I’m addicted to the process. I have pushed it aside before, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. With that said, breathing is probably more important to continued survival.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, bringing the maximum number of books home from the library, getting shipments of books in the mail through reading clubs, and ravaging the book fairs at school. I wrote my first story at age seven, wrote more little stories, then tried my hand at a novel when I was thirteen. The only thing I remember about it was showing up to a home office every day in the summer and getting it done.
2. Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves? In your opinion, what does it mean to be a ‘professional writer?’
Despite some minor success in college, I only really started to focus on writing in 2010, when I wrote The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse. I wasn’t sure if I would do anything with it, though I intended to write another book. But my husband encouraged me to submit to publishers. Several were very interested, and I’ve been focused on writing ever since.
Being a ‘professional writer’ means being disciplined, and setting standards and goals for yourself. It means behaving well: being nice, being prompt, being reliable. It means understanding that not everyone is going to like what you write, not taking it personally, and appreciating what you have while striving to accomplish more and challenging yourself. It means committing to a word count or other goal, and it means taking a day off each week to recharge.
3. One of my recent YA novels is primarily comedic (Jacob Maresbeth is a medical vampire, more interested in homecoming than the details of his condition—or the designs of the nefarious hematologist). Your work is very humorous—but also fantastic and supernatural. Could you say a bit about this combination?
What I most want to accomplish with my books is to give the reader a satisfying story with characters they care about and find interesting. Beyond that, I would love for any book of mine to make the reader laugh and take their mind off their problems for a little while. When I was nine or so, I became a huge comedy fan and listened to comedy albums dozens of times. I knew standup routines and funny bits of movies by heart and would perform those over and over. I think that strange hobby really informed my love of humor, but also minor characters, and my care in making them pop.
I grew up reading a lot of fantasy and the supernatural. The fantastic gave me a wide palette of characters, and there’s something about taking a monster and giving them human traits that really appeals to me. It’s a fun way of exploring what it means to be human. However, I’m moving into writing different types of books that will still have elements of humor.
4. I am a researcher as well as a writer (medical history). Your website includes researching as one of the things you enjoy doing—could you say a bit more about this? How do these things inform your work?
Oh, I love research! It’s an integral part of my process, starting from the concept phase. My favorite aspect of research is talking with someone who works in the field that I’m writing about. I’ve used that method with a number of books now. I always make sure to prepare by doing plenty of reading on the subject before I approach them, because I respect their time and want to make sure I’m asking things that I couldn’t easily find in another resource. ProQuest is also a great tool: it’s basically an online research and news service that aggregates historical articles from thousands of publications.
The information I collect is always much more than what goes into the book. My intention is to carefully choose details that add to the story, contribute richness and a verisimilitude, and fit with the characters. Research also gives me a lot of ideas, both for characters and plot, and within the story.
For The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, I looked into window washing, spy gear, angels, and HVAC systems. One of the building engineers gave me a tour of the HVAC system and the roof of the building, where I had set a few scenes. For the sequel, I did quite a bit of research on what Chicago was like immediately after the Great Fire. For One Ghost Per Serving, I researched the grocery distribution chain, foodborne pathogens, and more. For recent books, it was epidemiology, high-rise fires, and the state park system.
5. Could you give us your opinion about social media? The online world of networking?
Social media can be wonderful, and it can be frustrating. It can make your day and it can make you rant in the kitchen like Malcolm Tucker on ‘In the Loop.’ I keep it simple, like I do with most things — I’m not in it for scale. Twitter gives me an opportunity to support and connect with people who make things I like, whether those are books, podcasts, reviews, blogs, movies, or music.
The negative side is that on the days you’re feeling bummed, it seems as though everyone else on the planet is getting an excessive amount of whatever you think you’re missing. Those are the days when you need to avoid it. As important as it is to not compare yourself to others, there are days when you don’t need to test that.
6. Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?
I work on one thing at a time. I like to think about my idea and the characters I have in mind while running or walking. I make some notes, do a little research, tie down the crucial beats, then write my outline and four-act treatment. In Scrivener, I keep a one-page document that contains the title, the logline, the internal and external goals, the theme, the broad character arcs and motivations, the stakes, the core conflicts. This document keeps me on track. There is a misconception that outlining impedes organic growth. I have plenty of organic growth with an outline, even when it’s very comprehensive.
For a first draft, I have a daily minimum word count of 2,000 for every weekday (though I’m more often in the 3-4,000 range), and I put in some writing on Saturday. I do a first draft without polishing, then go right into a second pass. This is when I flesh out settings and descriptions, add more detail, make sure the chronology makes sense and that the setups are paid off. My husband reads and edits my output every day. Then, I give it to the editor and start on the next book. When I get the manuscript back, I do a careful final pass.
As for writer’s block, sometimes you just need to recharge. What works the best for me is exercise, especially when I need to think something through. My other main recharge activity is watching my favorite movies and TV, which sparks ideas. Other things that help are music, doing more research and reading, and going to a museum.
7. As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of networking and workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism?
My husband is my primary reader, aside from my editor and publisher. I have experience workshopping stories in fiction writing classes in college. In my Second City writing class, I had the pleasure of watching people in the class perform my sketches, which was amazing and useful. My parents were my first mentors, for their strong work ethic, their confidence, having a house full of classic books, and giving me a grounding in the arts and in business.
When it comes to criticism in reviews, I’m laissez-faire. I tend to read only a few reviews, and I have my own standards for what I’m doing. When it comes to notes, I’m flexible, but I’ll do what feels right to me.
8. Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the publishing world? Or upon the need/value of agents?
Just keep writing and learning, and work hard. When I began submitting, I focused on independent publishers and contacted them directly. I didn’t consider submitting to agents for a number of reasons.
As a writer, you need to take charge of your career and have at least a basic familiarity with the typical clauses you’ll find in a publishing contract. Whether or not you work with an agent, lawyer or other advisor, make sure that you understand what the contract says. If you don’t like something in the contract, don’t be afraid to speak up about it. Any reputable publisher expects to negotiate their contracts, and if they tell you the terms aren’t negotiable, that’s a big red flag indicating you might want to look elsewhere.
9. Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)
My husband, who is the best possible partner a writer could have. My family. Other inspirations (this is a grab bag of people and works) include Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Alexandre Dumas, Jacobean literature, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Parzival, Bradbury, Pratchett, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Nora Roberts, Withnail & I, Bloom County, Pete & Pete, The Middleman, The X-Files, Bruce Lee, Joss Whedon, Jim Henson, Disney and Pixar, Tim Schafer, movies of the 1980s, mythology, the natural world, travel, the landscape of my childhood, etc.
10. Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?
My recommendations are usually movie-focused, because it’s easier to learn structure from movies than from books. The two novel-writing books I recommend are Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamott’s Bird By Bird.
I recommend Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series, which really helped me with structure. Other helpful resources are Wordplayer.com, Jennifer Crusie’s site, and Scriptshadow.com.
I also recommend a few podcasts: Popcorn Dialogues (“watching movies to write better novels”), Writing Excuses, and Scriptnotes.
Thank you so much for the opportunity, Brandy. If anyone would like to know more about me or my books, they can go to http://www.ninapost.com, or find me on Twitter at @ninapost.
Thank you, Nina!
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Friday Fiction Feature!