Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Nikki.

First of all, let me say that I’m delighted to be “here.” This is so much fun! Thanks for the invitation to chat. Regrettably, I will be at my job until 5:30pm  ET, but I’ll jump right in as soon as I get home.

That’s fine, Nikki. I’m sure our readers will be glad to hear from you, no matter the time. 

1. Tell us about your latest book, Framed.

When a long-lost painting turns up at Brush & Bevel, a New Hampshire art gallery, owner Ginny Brent and her intrepid employees discover that art is not the only thing that can be framed. Set amid quaint New England towns nestled in the Monadnock Mountains, Framed  follows Ginny, Sue and Elsie as they investigate the clues hidden in the painting and unveil the truth about a cold case murder/suicide. But will they make it alive to the unveiling of the painting, or have they stirred up too much evil?

2.  Sounds intriguing. I love the setting and your protagonist sounds like the perfect amateur sleuth. I’m looking forward to reading this one.

What are you working on at the present time?

Oh, I have lots of irons in the fire. I have two sequels to Framed in the works:  A Thousand Words, in which a newspaper reporter gets too close to the bad guys, and Moving Pictures, based on my brief gig as a movie extra last summer. The characters from my two scifi books have demanded that I write a third novel in that series, so I’m in the midst of rewriting The Edge of Possibility, which takes place about 400 years in the future. I’d also like to resurrect some of the ten novels I’ve written during National Novel Writing Month since 2001, and I’m putting together a collection of my short stories and poetry.

3.  Wow. I’m impressed. You certainly have a lot going and are so prolific. How interesting that you were a movie extra. You’ll have to tell us about that in a future interview. I’ve never participated in NaNo because of the time limit and am awed you’ve done ten so far. You go, girl!

I note you’ve published books in the sci-fi and mystery genres. Is there any genre other than these that you’d like to write?

Those are my two favorite genres to read, so I tend to write them too. I’d like to try my hand at a coming of age story, perhaps something for middle readers, and—dare I say it—a more literary novel.

4.  Oh, boy, literary novel. My sister Cyndi (Caitlyn Hunter) and I just finished a Southern literary novel and I found it to be a world apart from writing genre fiction.

You’re an author, songwriter and editor. If you had to choose only one, which one would that be and why?

Geez, why don’t you ask me something difficult? That’s like asking if I’d rather lose my left hand or my right. It’s very hard to disentangle those three pursuits, since they’re laced together so tightly. I love editing; watching a good story become a polished gem is enormously rewarding, especially when the author learns something from our work together. Songwriting is a pure joy. When words and music unite to express an emotion or tell a story, it’s as close to heaven as you’ll get. But if I have to choose, I’d have to be an author. I need to write. Besides (she added slyly), if I call myself an author I can still write poetry, and if the poems come with a melody who am I to deny it? And every author has to be part editor, as well. So I could have my cake and my ice cream and soda, too.

5.  Love the way you linked those together. And it’s so true. I’m like you, Nikki, I need to write, as well. I always say I can’t not write (double negative – I know).

Tell us about your journey to publication.

After I’d written and rewritten Chicken Bones, a sci-fi novel in which a musician and a champion auto racer join forces with an alien time traveler, I began to think about getting it published. I got a few rejections for it (the first of which is framed and hanging on my study wall) and experienced the typical it’s great/it’s junk swings. The one nibble I got from a traditional publisher hinted at 2 years before release, and I was just too impatient to deal with that. So I looked into POD, used some of my savings, and went with authorHouse Publishing. When I finished the sequel, A Windswept Star, I returned to them to publish that too. Then I wrote Framed, and felt that the time was right to look at independent presses. After some searching, I found L&L Dreamspell, and the rest is history. They’ve been wonderful with everything from the editing to the cover to the layout of the book. I couldn’t be happier!

6.  L&L Dreamspell is truly an exceptional publisher. I share your feeling about them.

I find your career as a picture framer interesting. How did you get into this?

After a brief stint temping at a CPA’s office during tax season, I knew I wanted to get back to something that involved creativity and public contact, and had a physical component as well. I’d worked in a crafts store and enjoyed it, but I also wanted to learn more about art. Picture framing seemed like a good fit. I was enormously fortunate to get a job at a local gallery with a terrific boss and co-workers. I worked there for nine years and loved it, and only left when the shop relocated beyond a reasonable commute. The gallery and staff serve as partial models for the setting of Framed, although we never solved any mysteries or ate really good chowdah.

7.  My dad is an artist and one thing he taught me, the frame is an important aspect of the painting. It can either enhance or completely diminish its effect.

What inspires you?

What doesn’t? One of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, puts it this way: “It’s all compost.” Every experience goes in the bin and eventually turns into rich, productive soil. Frustration with Excel classes became a taut, highly-charged poem, while a hole in the ice on my pond led to an eerie encounter with a disembodied alien observer. Even as I wept at a funeral, I knew that someday that emotion would come out in my writing somewhere.  I think every writer draws on experience to give substance to imagination.

What gives me the energy to write, however, is the wild. Whenever I get stymied or stodgy, a walk in the woods gets me going again. I need the solitude, peace and even the danger of wild places to restore my soul and clear my head so that the story that wants to be written can flow from me.

8.  I agree with you regarding drawing from our emotional experiences. And water is my calming effect. Too much of a worrier (okay, scaredy-cat) for wild places – I’d be looking around, waiting for a bear or other wild animal to chase after me.

Are you a pantser or outliner?

Definitely a pantser, at least for first drafts. My characters have been amazingly generous in showing me the stories they want me to tell, and it’s only in rewrites that I need to organize not the story, but the way I tell the story.

9.  I’ve found most authors feel this way. I know I do, and I read an interview with Dean Koontz where he said he lets the characters take over and lead the way.

If you could sit down and chat with one literary giant, alive or dead, who would that be and why?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. Would it be Jane Austen, so I can ask her how such a retiring personality could write so vividly of social mores, or Voltaire, so I could get behind his supercilious mask to the great humanity I sense under it? Or maybe John Muir, so I could thank him for his lyrical writing and amazing leadership?

10.  Interesting choices, Nikki, especially Voltaire.

Most writers are avid readers. Who are your favorite contemporary authors?

Laurie R. King comes to mind; Janet Evanovich for laughter and Tastykakes; Jodi Picoult for courage; Tony Hillerman for the sheer stark beauty of his writing. Garth Stein because he made me cry; Brunonia Barry because she made me start over as soon as I finished the last page.

11.  I love those authors who make me want to re-read their book(s) over and over.

Tell us about your neck of the woods.

My husband and I live on six acres of mostly wooded land in a small town in New Hampshire. My sister calls me Lives with Bears and yes, we’ve had bears looking in our windows. We also have turkeys, deer, foxes, fishers, porcupines, coyotes, bobcats, a great variety of birds, and possibly a mountain lion. We have a small pond that hosts five species of frogs, and we live within walking distance of the prettiest waterfall in the state.

Oh, and we have absolutely wonderful human neighbors, too.

12.  We live on acreage which is mostly wooded ridges and have seen deer, bears, wild turkeys, and a rabid fox. We heard a bobcat – terrifying noise – at night.  I was terrified our dogs would be hurt by the bobcat but he eventually went away.

Do you have any pets? If so, tell us about them. If not, what’s your favorite animal and why?

We’ve always had a cat or two. Currently our blue-peach tortoiseshell Neva vies with us for the best seat in the house. My favorite animals have always been horses, for the way they smell and for their generosity in accepting us into their herds, and because of my lovely buckskin mare, who taught me so much about being a woman.

I’m also fascinated by insects in their astounding variety. And I like bats, though I don’t keep any as pets.

Oh, horses. Absolutely one of my favorite animals. I, too, love their smell. It’s comforting to me. I love riding one at full gallop, especially quarter horses. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair. We had an American saddle hose that followed us around like a dog (sigh). I could go on and on about these great animals.

Thanks, Nikki, for such an interesting interview. For more information about Nikki and her works: http://www.nikkiandrewsbooks.com/