Author Interview: J.W. Nicklaus

Author J.W. Nicklaus generously granted me an interview with him to discuss his recently published collection of short stories, "The Light, The Dark & Ember Between."

1) In the preface, you wrote, "While I'm not retelling any one individual's story, perhaps save my own..." and the author bio mentions that you are a single father. Then, the collection begins with four men who lose a woman in their life. Coupling those nuggets of information, I can't help but wonder, what are the parallels between your experiences and the experiences of the characters in your stories?

That is a wonderfully profound question, and I'm not entirely certain my answer can live up to the question itself!

Within the stories there are parts of my personal character within some of the storied characters. With all I share a bond of time-worn romanticism--a sometimes melancholy, sometimes many hued ideal. I revel in the sweeping kind of romantic throes exhibit by the father in Emissary, and smile with every smaller gesture like that in Paper Doll. Losing someone who so divinely occupies your heart was the focus of Requiem For Linny. The story idea itself came from seeing a painting in the Phoenix Museum of Art--the storyline wasn't based upon the loss of a person, however, rather the loss of a relationship. I tried to manifest that feeling in Buck's actions and in the way he laments the loss of his love.

I find it intriguing that you mention the first four stories, because Broken is one of those. I intentionally left the story's conclusion open-ended because I wanted the reader to decide, in their own mind, what the actual result was: 'hard' or 'soft'. I was interviewed by one of our local newspapers, and the reporter (a male, mind you) had read the book and asked me specifically about that ending. He was looking for a definitive ending, because I think we are somewhat conditioned to that. What if the ending isn't what you thought? That one clandestine piece is a haunting definition for Hope, is it not?

My experiences are not the least bit unique--they're the same as yours or any one else's. I've simply tried to take mine and give them some form, a vehicle for my own catharsis. What I hope brings the characters to life is the ability of the reader to relate and empathize, which in turn evokes emotion. Many of the decisions we make in our lives are predicated upon passion. I wrote the stories sheerly as a way for me to manifest something internally into a different realm.

2) Juxtaposed against men who are depicted as flawed and fragile, the women of "The Light, The Dark, & Ember Between" are described with an almost ethereal quality, personifying beauty and strength. What was your inspiration for the characters?

You've hit upon a hot button of mine. I have long felt that women hold a latent but stunning power over men. Sure, we can be macho and do all the things that men are typically associated with, but I genuinely believe that even the hardest of men has some true weakness, in some way, that a woman can exploit. We need their tenderness and nurturing, their playfulness, their softness. Women, to me, are beautiful and strong. That's not to say all men are weak, mind you. Women just have a silken way of separating man from beast. As much as I try to explain it, it becomes more apparent that it's inexplicable . . . yet inarguably without heartfelt reproach

The inspiration? All for the love of a woman; a simple statement, yes, but so very layered. What other soul-rending emotion could better illustrate the flawed nature of men than love. There is a tangible, palpable feeling that I draw from--the ancient Greeks and many artists refer to the muse, while I feel my muse is far more spiritual in her inspiration, and as such is my angel

3) In the spirit of "Ten word quickie," define "ember between."

I am currently working on a couple.(Ed. note: Mr. Nicklaus generously provided an amazing answer befitting its own post. Come back tomorrow for his creative response!)>

4) I mentioned in my review that you write with poetic beauty. Is poet on your resume? What path did you take to arrive where you are now -- with a collection of short stories being reviewed all over the bloggosphere, podcast interviews, and signings at book stores?

You know, I have a hard time with the label of 'poet' -- not that I don't respect it, but it carries an aura of ornate literary means, and I'm not the least bit convinced that the two poems I've had published necessarily fit that criteria. I write as I feel best befits the situation. Sometimes the only way to accomplish the right moment is to be respectfully beautiful while remaining true to the story and characters. I'll give you an example from one of the stories I'm currently working on, Rhapsody In Blue, in which a woman finds herself alone in a lifeboat after suffering some injuries in an accident she has yet to remember: All I could see around me was water; reflecting sunlight made it twinkle, as if a hundred clear night skies had fallen into it.

Poetic? That's not for me to say, really. But I do believe it's respectfully beautiful and describes the way the sun comes off the ocean.

You've pretty much nailed the path . I did a virtual blog tour with Pump Up Your Book Volume, working with a wonderful coordinator by the name of Dorothy Thompson. I have to say, it's a lot of work but worth every minute if you approach it properly. I did some research into VBT's before going with PUYBV, and ultimately my instincts screamed at me to go with them. Honestly, it was one of those 'little voice' kind of moments. I was richly rewarded for heeding it, too. It was a fantastic experience for me, and to this day I remain in contact with a good number of those folks.

By the time this posts, I will have done my first book signing here in Tempe, Arizona. The bookstorewas Changing Hands, and it's no shrinking violet in independent bookstore circles. They get big name authors all the time for their events: J.A. Jance, David Ewing Duncan (NPR 'Biotech Nation' host and contributor to National Geographic), and Jennifer Steinhauer (New York Times L.A. bureau chief) -- and that's just a sample of their July authors! I'm fortunate to be listed amongst such contributors.

5) How long do those of us who have read, and loved, "The Light, The Dark, & Ember Between" have to wait before we can read more J.W. Nicklaus?

I am currently working on a couple other short stories, one of which I hope to have completed within a month. Once I'm confident it's polished to my liking/standards I'm thinking of offering it as a bonus to those who have purchased the book already, or certainly to those who have reviewed it. I've been tinkering with a much longer novel for some years now, and I really need to get back into that. Tentatively it's entitled Eden, about a woman who has a rooftop garden that gets her involved in things she's never contemplated before. In true Nicklaus fashion, there is more than a hint of romanticism involved, unwittingly on her part. If I really put my self back into it I suppose I could have it ready for pre-press in about a year. In the meantime, I'll keep working on the short stories and will see where they take me.

6) What message do you hope readers will keep with them after they've finished reading the last page of the collection?

Hope isn't always right in front of our eyes, nor always at hand when we most want it--but it's always there. Always nurture your dreams, because they bring color to Hope. Perhaps the best message overall is stated by Marcus Aurelius at the end of Emissary . . . but I can't reveal it here without spoiling the story, so you'll just have to read the book to find out ;^)

7) Shameless promotion time! Here's your chance to share the social networking tools can readers can use to connect with you, where are you on the bloggosphere, etc.

First, and most importantly, I am grateful that you took the time to provide me this list of questions, and for giving me the opportunity to delve a little deeper behind-the-scenes, if you will. I was only too happy to do it! I really had to take some time to think about the answers to these questions--this was good stuff.

My web site, http://www.avomnia.com/, is geared more towards my writing and approach to the same. You can find more informaton about me, other things I've written, reviews and other info about the book, including a book trailer and links to my Blog Talk Radio interviews and all my Blog Tour stops. You can order an autographed copy of my book from there as well!

My blog, avomnia.wordpress.com, is far more dynamic and contains my ruminations on pretty much whatever I'm thinking about at the moment I write. Use the Tag Cloud to find a topic that might interest you, or just browse around a bit. I'm pretty good about interacting with my readers, so leave a comment!

I do have a Facebook page, but in all honesty I'm not very good about keeping up with it, but I do check occasionally, so ifyou're in the neghborhood by all means look me up ;^) You can reach me through my web site (jwnicklaus@avomnia.com), lostpenguin1@cox.net, or my blog, and I certainly enjoy getting mail from fans :^)

Read my full review here!
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