Nicholas Gagnier is the author of the eight-book Shroud Saga, which include the genre-bending sub-series Olivia & Hale and its spin-off The Book of Death. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.
What was your first story/book and when did you write it?
I was probably about nine when I first expressed an interest in writing. My mom helped me write a story about a vicious wild bear. I wrote my first novel when I was 21 and published at 32
Do you normally research your stories before you write it, or do you start with a general concept and see where it goes while writing?
I’m a big fan of the Stephen King’s “what if” method. In his craft book On Writing, S.K. says to ask ourselves “what if”— you might not get a very good story at first, but that’s the point of first draft. I’ll generally research smaller things (ie. FBI building layout, city maps, etc) but most of it comes from that first question.
Can you tell us something about your beginning in the indie world?
Yes! I spent my first few years putting everything into my interiors and making my own covers before fixing those elements to help readers find them. But man, was that first bit slow.
Writing, editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing… Do you wear all these hats yourself or do you have some trusted person helping you through all?
I’ve done all combinations, from when I was broke and had to do everything myself, to being able to hire great artists and professionals to help with my books.
Do you find that an author’s career can be influenced by where they live, in a day where the internet is so predominant?
I feel like the Internet has dissolved a lot of the boundaries for international writers in a US-dominated book market. I’m Canadian, but most of my books concern American characters or events, so my own background as an outsider has informally helped, but never hindered it.
Did you start by writing novels or you “evolved” into it after writing a lot of short stories?
I began with stories, spent about 10 years writing and reading mostly poetry before moving into publishing my novels. With my friend, I helped co-found Free Verse Revolution, a poetry site that she runs and owns now. So it has definitely been a diverse journey.
Do you have a formal writing instruction (for example, a degree in creative writing)? Do you think that a formal instruction helps writing?
My mother was a freelance journalist in the 80s, and told me never to pursue writing as a degree (so I went with psychology)
Have you ever killed a character you didn’t want to?
All the bloody time.
What was the predominant genre on your bookshelf growing up?
Fantasy and Horror – especially King.
Do you think that indie writers perpetuate their own alienation?
I feel indies have come a long way. Of course, there are always half-efforts and bad books that reflect on our industry, but I’ve really loved being indie, and never been associated with some of the more persistent stigmas of self publishing.
Is there anything you find bad or lacking about the fantasy genre?
My whole thing is breaking genres. I’ve never boxed myself in, and said, “this is purely contemporary fantasy.” A lot of my work deals with worlds between worlds, so you get some stories on Earth and some in those other worlds. As for fantasy in general, I feel some of it is formulaic, but always try to keep an open mind.
Is there a subject you would never write about as an author?
Pure romance. If somebody doesn’t die, it’s not worth my time. Apart from that, I’ve dealt with almost every incendiary topic I can think of, and gotten away with it, just because of how those issues are related and debated in-story.
Do you write other genres?
As I said, my whole thing is genre-breaking. Fantasy-coming of age, Fantasy thrillers in the real world, post-apocalyptic fantasy. It goes on and on.
How important it is to use an editor?
On the record, I’m going to say a second set of eyes is necessary. But I’ve been scraping dimes of the cushions at points, and a pro editor is not always realistic. Take that how you will.
How important it is the cover of a book?
As I’ve learned, this is one of the musts. Respecting the genre you’re in, genre-appropriate typography— I’ve learned so much in this area.
Do you want to talk about your current project?
My newest release is Apocalypse, out July 30th. It is the fourth and final book of my current series The Book of Death. (Starts with Leviathan).
What do you do when not knee-deep in writing?
Working my real job or sleeping.
Do you have a writing space and more specifically a writing routine?
I write everywhere I go. I do have a dedicated space, but I work 12 hours at an unrelated job, so I have to make use of my phone wherever possible.
How do you choose your characters names and how important are the names of the characters in your stories?
I usually name my characters after famous people. My main character Harper is named for TKAM’s author. Ramona is named after a song and modeled on Clarice Starling. Tim is just Tim.
Do you want to give us some of your contacts?