Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, TJ Nichols – TJ Nichols is an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast who first started writing as child. Many years later while working as a civil designer, TJ decided to pick up a pen and start writing again.
Thanks so much, TJ, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
TJ Nichols: I haven’t take a trip for research specifically (though I have done things like hot laps in a race car and Tough Mudder etc for research), but I do research while I travel. I go to museums and gather brochures because I’ll usually get an idea while I’m travelling. I always have a notebook with me to write observations and experiences and any story fragments so I can pull it all together when I get home. I can’t wait to write my story idea from my recent trip to Singapore…but it’s in the queue :/
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
TJN: I know authors are told not to read reviews, but I like to. If lots of people are saying the same thing then it’s good feedback (and something I can work on). I never, ever respond. If a reviewer tags me I’ll check it out and retweet it or share it. Bad ones are a fact of life. My book wasn’t for those people and I move on. I write what I want to read and there are people who fortunately share my taste.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
TJN: The best ideas always come when I’m neck deep in edits so all I want to do is to play with the shiny (at the moment I’m doing promo and expecting edits any day, and I’m supposed to be finalizing another WIP, but this awesome hero has taken up residence in my head and I want to write his story, now). I have piles of notebooks (not the pretty ones, just cheap supermarket bought exercise books) and I take an hour or so in the evening to write everything I know about the idea so that I don’t lose it, and if I think of something or I stumble over a news story that relates I just add to the notes. It’s a way of feeding the idea without letting it take over. I will probably write my shiny next because it’s stronger than the other shiny ideas that I have jotted down this year (they need more work to come together).
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
TJN: Character usually, they wander into my head doing something and then I try and figure out who they are and what they want, which then unfolds the world they live in (I don’t do a lot of pre-planning of my world building it all comes together as I write).
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
TJN: Rogue in the Making is the middle of the Studies in Demonology series. Both Saka and Angus had to make some tough decisions and I needed to make sure I set them up for the last book. However, I still needed to make it a complete book, not just a middle book. I think I put them through hell (yay!) and upskilled them ready for the last book (they’re going to need it) and I feel like I still gave them both a complete arc so it’s a good read.
JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?
TJN: Terrance…readers either hate him or are ambivalent. He was meant to be a walk on/walk off character, but something started to happen, and I realized that he was very much needed in the story. He’s not entirely trustworthy, but he has reasons. I think as readers see more of him they might warm to him (or sent me hate mail). When characters don’t follow the script it usually means my subconscious knows more than me and I should roll with it.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
TJN: Doctor Who’s assistant. I really wanted to travel and that looked like fun.
JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?
TJN: I’d love to do both. I’d love to go back and see what the history books got wrong or deliberately left out (because so much gets erased because it doesn’t suit the narrative the writers wanted to create), but I’d also love a glimpse at the future. I’m always hopeful that the people in power will do the right thing instead of damning their grandchildren to a dying planet—no amount of money or ego can built a new Earth.
JSC: How does the world end?
TJN: Through neglect.
JSC: What are you working on now?
TJN: By the time this is posted I should be working on the edits for the final Demonology book , Blood for the Spilling. I should have also turned in book 1 of a new UF series (which I’m super excited about) and maybe I’ll be writing 500w/day of my shiny idea—when I’m editing I like to keep a story ticking over so when I hand the edits in I have some writing I can leap into.
And now for TJ’s new book: Rogue in the Making:
The blood sacrifices have brought rain to Demonside, but across the void, the Warlock College of Vinland is still storing and gathering magic, heedless of the warnings of the international magical community. The underground is full of warlocks who disagree with the college, but do they care about wizards and demons or only about snatching power?
With a foot in each world, Angus is no longer sure whom he can trust. The demons don’t trust humans, and even though he is learning more magic, he will never be one of them. He is human and only tolerated. Some demons would be happy to slit his throat. It’s only because his demon is powerful in his own right that Angus is alive.
Saka only has a year to prove that Angus’s people can change and that the magic taken will be rebalanced, but the demons want action. His affection for Angus is clouding his judgment and weakening his position in the tribe. Time is running out, and he must make a choice.
Angus’s mouth was drier than the sand of Demonside after a year with no rain. He nodded. Around him the tent was dim and mostly empty, except for the bed and the orb-shaped magic collectors, of which there were only three. Everything else was packed for the walk. Few tents had been put up because they would move on the next day. Saka had asked for his tent so they could work, but Angus had hoped Saka would change his mind all day.
If anything, Saka had withdrawn further and given short, sharp answers to any question Angus asked. So he stopped asking. There was definitely something wrong with Saka, and this was not the way to find out what.
Usi passed her knife through the flame, and Angus copied with his chosen blade.
He still hadn’t come up with a way to back out, and he didn’t know what to say to stop it. Did he really need to learn how to cause pain? Saka was right in that he needed to be multiskilled, but it could wait. Couldn’t it? Until he knew more? Until he was more sure of himself? What if he actually hurt Saka? His stomach clenched, and he almost threw up.
Usi watched him as though hoping to find weakness, and that was enough for him to keep his expression blank.
“You will make and hold the circle.” She didn’t have a conversation the way Saka did. Perhaps there was a reason why she didn’t have an apprentice yet.
His hand was sweaty around the bone hilt. He had no idea what animal the bones had come from and had decided it was probably rude to ask. Maybe it was better he didn’t know. That he held death in his hands was bad enough, but Saka had been impressed with the quality of the knives.
Angus drew up the circle around them. It crackled like lightning and shimmered crystalline blue. While he could hear the noises of the camp, they faded away as he brought his focus to what he had to do.
Get it done. Get it over. That was all he could think about.
Angus blinked and focused. She talked about pressure points, demonstrated with the hilt of her knife as she pressed into one on Saka’s wrist and then several others up his arm. Each time she drew a hiss from Saka.
“There is no need to start with blood. Like lust, you want to build the pain. The magic will look and feel different. That is what you need to learn. Holding lust is easy.” Her lip curled in the slightest of sneers.
TJ Nichols is an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast who first started writing as child. Many years later while working as a civil designer, TJ decided to pick up a pen and start writing again. Having grown up reading thrillers and fantasy novels, it’s no surprise that mixing danger and magic comes so easily, writing urban fantasy allows TJ to bring magic to the every day.
After traveling all over the world and Australia, TJ now lives in Perth, Western Australia.