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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
Q: Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know about? Like your hobbies?
A. I came to this country with my parents through Ellis Island in New York in 1951 when I was two years old, part of the post WWII wave of immigrants who fled to the U.S. to escape the destruction in Europe. I watched my parents — both humble, blue-collar working people, thrive and find prosperity in America and this experience has always colored my outlook on life. They taught me that hard honest work, perseverance and attitude determines how well you succeed and that your family is the center of everything that's worthwhile. Before writing my book later in life I enjoyed a long career as a newspaper journalist and public relations agency executive. My hobbies are wood carving, fishing and playing softball.
Q: When did you write your first story and how old were you?
A. I wrote a poem in high school –- a very bad and clumsy poem, but I believe it got me hooked. Whether it was published or not, I've been writing things and thoughts down on paper since then. While I was in the army as an infantry sergeant I scribbled down my thoughts at night while on duty at a guard post in the middle of winter on the Korean DMZ, probably not the most responsible (or safe) thing to do, but it was always a way for me to organize and bring clarity to my thoughts. I never wrote to get published, only to simply enjoy the act of writing and having fun with the language. This is not the best advice for someone who wants to be a fiction writer, but it was the most natural road for me.
Q: As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A. I wanted to be a baseball player, an astronaut, a cowboy, a sailor traveling the world in his boat, and an explorer who went on great adventures of discovery. I ended up being a journalist so I could meet those same people and write about them, sharing their adventures vicariously, which was the next best thing. As a child I used to pretend I worked on a newspaper by listening to the news on the radio and taking notes to pretend that I was getting an exclusive "scoop." Sometimes what we pretend to be as a child is what we end up being as an adult.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
A.When I was about 11 years old I read two books: Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and a collection of Ernest Hemingway short stories that described a young man fishing and camping in the north woods of Michigan. This hooked me on the possibility that you could actually create a fantasy world — something you constructed free-form out of your own experiences, and live within that universe using your own imagination. If you did this well enough and with honesty, someone else would believe the world you imagined and live in it just like you did. This suddenly opened up new possibilities for me and it also made me want to read more books to see how other writers invented their worlds.
Q: What is your favorite book from your childhood?
A. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe.
Q: What do you like doing when you're not reading?
A. I play softball. I go fishing. I go hiking in the mountains where I live in Colorado. I spend as much time as I can with my family.
Q: Where do you get your writing ideas from?
A. The news, my own random notes, ideas that spring from other books and accidental thoughts that come to me while walking or simply driving a car. I've always been fascinated by language, and I believe if you grow up speaking more than one language, as I did, you have a taste for the rhythm of speech and the written world. I'm always arranging sentences in my head and sometimes they grow into stories. I've written things down in a notebook for as long as I can remember — not a diary, but rather a notebook filled with thoughts and ideas I might want to remember.
Q: Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A. The characters in my novel, The Gopher King: A Dark Comedy, are a composite of people I've known while I was in the military, as well as my experience as the publisher and owner of a small newspaper in Colorado. I don't think you can entirely invent people out of thin air — they're always a mix of everyone you've ever met and everything you've ever heard someone say. These characters and conversations live in your subconscious and, with practice, I believe you can learn how to retrieve them when it comes time to create a story. If you're good, the made-up people are more real than the actual human beings could ever be. Sometimes there's more truth in fiction than non-fiction.
Q. Can you describe us your ideal writing space?
A. I can write absolutely anywhere and there is no ideal physical space for me. I spent many years sitting in a crowded, noisy newsroom filled with dozens of people clattering on typewriters, so I learned how to focus and shut out the world around me in order to write on deadline. If you wait for the perfect and most comfortable spot that's silent and void of any distractions you'll never write down a word.
Q. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
A. Editing and discarding what you once thought was a brilliant piece of prose, only to discover that it does nothing to move the story along for the reader. If you write selfishly, only for yourself, then you'll write far too much, over-describing everything at the expense of the tale you're trying to tell. Writing does not come naturally to me, so doing it every day no matter what is the best way for me to overcome that deficiency.
Q. How do you handle a writer’s block?
A. Write something…anything and do it religiously every day. Even if what you write is terrible and boring…just start writing and keep at it until 10% of it is worth saving. Discard the rest and start over again until you have a few hundred passably good words that can be used as a building block for the entire project. If you wait for divine inspiration and the perfect time and place you'll be waiting when you're 80 years old and wonder why you never wrote anything worth reading. Inspiration is over-rated. Sweat and grit results in good writing.
Q. What advice would you give to a new writer, someone who’s just starting out?
A. Get a job that lets you write: advertising, copywriting, even if it's describing retail products or creating a retail business brochure. Just get a job that lets you practice the basics of writing all day long so you can master the skills needed to sustain a piece of creative writing that someone might actually want to read. Write a blog. A diary. Learn how to re-write and edit. Read books about how other writers conquered their fears and achieved success. Copying the habits of successful people is always a good idea — whether you're attempting to be a carpenter, a sales person or a writer. You can't be a good violinist unless you practice every day. You can't be a good writer unless you practice every day.
Q. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
A. I'm re-writing the second draft of novel that will hopefully be published next year. It's a psychological thriller in which a serial killer makes the mistake of murdering the family of a forensic psychiatrist who works as a criminal profiler for the FBI. The setting is Las Vegas and Venice, Italy. I'm also working on a novel that's set on the DMZ in South Korea during the early 1970s, a particularly volatile and dangerous period for that region of the world.
To read The Gopher King: A Dark Comedy by Gojan Nickolich, click the picture next to this.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gojan Nikolich is a former Chicago newspaper reporter, editor and public relations agency executive.
He graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature from DePaul University, served as a decorated U.S. Army sergeant with both the 2nd and 4th Infantry divisions and has worked as a journalist in Korea and Japan.
He lives with his family in Colorado, where he and his wife once owned a weekly newspaper.