The following is an interview with Chris Nicholas, a writer/blogger from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels and currently working on his third. He also runs a successful website, The Renegade Press (https://therenegadepress.com/), and has contributed publications in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
W.: What makes you start writing? And how did you find inspiration for each of your pieces?
Chris Nicholas: People often ask me what it is that inspires me to write, and the truth is that I never know how to answer. There are so many things that inspire me to write; be it music, films, books, conversations, or just sporadic thoughts that surface in my mind. I mean, I once wrote a blog post about a conversation between a little girl and her grandmother that I overheard while lacing up my shoes.
But if I did have to choose one thing that motivates me to write more than anything else, it would be music. I come from a family that has a very musical background, and I love the way that music can alter my mood. I tend to listen to very heavy artists and genres. I love metal and hardcore. And I really dig hip-hop and rap when I’m trying to write dialogue. But I will listen to just about anything if the lyrics draw me in. Sometimes I will find myself listening to a song or an album and a line will just get stuck in my head and I’ll think about it over and over until a creative thought starts to blossom.
Whatever it is that inspires me though, it usually creates something akin to an imperceptible itch inside of my head that builds until all I can think about is scratching it. Once I have locked in on an idea, it eats away at me until I can put it onto paper.
W.: You mentioned about music. Do you have a piece (or pieces) that is totally inspired by a renowned song?
Nicholas: I guess renowned is a relative term. Like I said, I tend to listen to a lot of hip-hop or heavy music. Which means the songs that I would consider to renowned are probably a lot more known by fans of their own genres than they are by the wider community. But to answer your question; yeah definitely.
The concept for writing Midas started with a song called Help by an Australian band that existed in the early 2000’s called Sunk Loto. The song begins with a gentle interlude and almost mournful vocals before a few guitar chords begin to chug away and drums kick in so hard that it hits you like a fist buried deep into the pit of your stomach.
I’m an incredibly visual person, and every time I listened to the song I would see a dark street with a puddle lining the roadway. Just as the interlude fades and the song explodes to life, a boot would strike the puddle, sending plumes of water in the air as someone ran for their life. The images in my head ultimately became what is now the opening scene of Midas as my protagonist flees from a group of soldiers after a mission gone horribly wrong.
And then there’s my blog. So much of what I have written is inspired by music. Sometimes I openly reference the music that has inspired me; I often name posts after songs or albums, or use lyrics as epigraphs. But sometimes it’s subtler and a song or album will spark a thought pattern that will blossom into something else entirely.
W.: You have published two books: “Midas” and “You.” Tell us about both of your pieces, and what you want to achieve in both of the books.
Nicholas: Oh wow. OK. It’s probably worth starting by saying that both of my novels are so different from one another that even I sometimes struggle to comprehend that I created them both.
Midas is a high-concept action thriller which takes the concept of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and injects them into the modern world. The story follows a former MARSOC operative as he joins a team of international soldiers in a race against the clock to prevent a biological attack against Europe. It’s a quick, it’s dirty, and it was written purely because it is something that I would love to read.
I have always loved the character of the anti-hero, so the story’s protagonist is often abrasive, with just the faintest touch of humanity woven in to keep him feeling real. I have written and edited a sequel, however I after breaking ties with my former publisher, I have never really tried to find another publishing house to take it on.
And then there is You…
You is a love story, and one that is all about healing and my own personal growth. I went through some dark times a couple of years ago when a relationship that I was in ended. At the time, I was devastated and I tore myself apart for the way that my life was turning out. I lost a lot of weight, isolated myself, and got so sick that my friends and family would take turns checking in on me just to make sure that I was OK.
But I knew that I had to get better. So, I set about writing myself the happy ending that I never thought that I would experience, in the hope that by doing so, I could move on with my life and find myself once again. It’s a novel about second chances. It tells the story of a writer who has allowed anxiety and depression to ruin a relationship, and the manuscript that he writes to win back the woman of his dreams.
You hurt to write. I really can’t stress that enough. I poured my heart into that manuscript. And I cried my way through most of the first draft. But it allowed me to put my past behind me and become a stronger writer, and a man. In a strange way, I’m grateful that everything fell apart for me. If it wasn’t for You, and all the heartbreak that came with it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.
W.: What’s the big message you want to achieve in your writing?
Nicholas: It depends on what it is that I’m writing. When I wrote Midas, there was no message. It was just a manuscript designed to keep a reader on the edge of their seat. It was full of guns, explosions, swearing and violence. But when I blog (which I admittedly haven’t done a great deal of lately), or work on some of my more recent manuscripts, I tend to try and dig a little deeper and say something worthwhile.
I’m a man consumed by the idea of legacy. I firmly believe that when I write, I have an opportunity to say something that that connects with my audience, and hopefully stays with them long after they have finished reading. When all is said, and done, and I’m a wrinkly old man sitting in a rocking chair on my front deck, I want to look back at my body of work and know that what I did touched someone. Even if that someone is just one person.
I try to think big and to write about issues that are far greater than I am as an individual. But I try to do so in a way that prevents me from coming across as though I’m soliciting hackneyed advice about life, politics, or any other subject that I broach. We all have our own unique realities, and what is true to me, isn’t necessarily true to others. So, I write to say hey, there’s an issue or a topic here that I’d like to discuss or draw attention to and then I lay my own truth out there for the world to see as a starting place for a conversation. Sometimes people resonate or agree with what I say, and sometimes they don’t. But as long as I cause some form of reaction, and get the reader thinking, then I have achieved my ultimate goal.
W.: What is your proudest accomplishment in your writing career?
Nicholas: It’s a tough call to have to make. It sounds arrogant to say, but I have been blessed with a lot of wonderful accomplishments. I published two novels before the age of thirty, have won a few writing competitions, and blogged for magazines and websites around the world. I even had multi-award winning author Lee Child once tell me that I don’t look like the average writer because I’m not in terrible shape, which I guess is an obscure achievement in some respects. But perhaps my proudest accomplishments are the interactions that I’ve had with strangers over the course of my writing career.
From sharing a meal with a group of writers in New York, to a drunken conversation about religion and politics with a journalist in Budapest, to pitching my work to publishers and film studios in person, the countless emails I have received from readers online, and even the death threats or trolling that I’ve experienced when my content pushes someone beyond their own comfort zone. Every single interaction that I’ve shared with readers, other writers, and industry heavyweights has helped to shape who I am, and who I am ultimately going to become.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr once said that a mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions and it is true. I’m a better writer, and a man because of the good, the bad, and the ugly that I have experienced both personally and professionally.
W.: In your blog, the Renegade Press, the tagline for your blog is “Tales from the mouth of a wolf.” tell us the meaning behind the tagline.
Nicholas: I used to suffer from anxiety and depression. In my early twenties, I went through a particularly rough patch where I felt like I just didn’t belong in this world. My Dad got sick for the first time, a relationship ended, I moved interstate, failed at university, and became so broke that I literally couldn’t afford to eat. My life was rough, and I was struggling to see a way that it could ever get any better. But then I won a writing competition, and through doing so I found a little glimmer of hope inside myself.
That hope grew inside of me for a few months, until I ultimately decided that if there truly was no place for me in this world, I was going to make one. So, I started a blog, and I wrote about how I was feeling, and what it meant to keep striving to face one more day. After a while, I noticed that my writing often referenced wolves. It had happened quite organically; I never intended to devote so much of my creative thought processes to them, but woven through much of my work was the concept of being a wolf.
At first I misinterpreted my own subconscious affinity towards them as a need to savage the world. My anxieties manifested themselves as anger, and I talked a lot about baring fangs, and violence. But when I started to research them, I learned that wolves are fiercely loyal, intelligent animals, known for their cunning as well as their strength. Which was everything that I needed to be on the days where my own self-doubts felt as though they were crushing the air out of my lungs and making me want to give up.
Eventually I embraced the moniker, and began to openly refer to myself as a wolf. It became a symbol of how I saw myself, and allowed me to find my voice as a writer.
W.: What are your goals in the future?
Nicholas: To be the best writer, man, son, brother, friend, lover, and whatever else I can be. I’m competitive as hell, so I constantly push myself in every aspect of my life to be better than I was yesterday. But more specifically, as a writer I want to recapture some of the momentum that I lost over the past eighteen months.
My Dad was really sick for a number of years. And I spent all of 2019 helping to care for him before he passed away. During that time, I put my writing on hold; partially because I wanted to spend time with him, and partially because I was so emotionally exhausted that I could barely string a sentence together and found no joy in trying to force myself to create. Now that he is gone, I feel as though I’m slowly starting to regain the passion to write that I lost while my family did our best to survive his illness, and I’m excited at the prospect of embracing my creativity once more.
Right now, I’m splitting my time between two manuscripts and have started tinkering with a few concepts for my blog. It’s not unusual for me to spread myself so thin; I tend to always write multiple manuscripts in parallel. It allows me to jump between ideas if I’m creatively blocked on one project. So right now, I’m working on a passion piece that builds on my love of sport, as well as a novella about a brunch date that turns into a blood-soaked fight for survival.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’m hoping to get back to the space in time I was once at where writing came as naturally as breathing. If I don’t, then I’ll probably spend the next two years trying to clear through the backlog of ideas jammed up inside of my head.
W.: Does your experience regarding caring for your dad change how you perceive the world, especially in your writing?
Nicholas: Absolutely. I had dealt with death before dad’s passing, having lost grandparents and friends. But losing a parent feels different. Watching Dad physically and emotionally deteriorate helped me to understand the fragility of my own existence in a way that I never had before.
As a child, you see your parents as heroes. You rely on them to teach you, protect you from harm, and hopefully give you the tools that you need to create a life that is your own. To grow into an adult and see one of the parents that you idolized struggle with mental illness and severe physical complications can be earth shattering. But it also puts a lot of things into perspective.
When you realize just how quickly a life can fall apart or be taken away from you, you spend a lot of time questioning what it is that you value. The compassion that perfect strangers showed Dad during his time of need was unbelievable. Although he was often so mentally exhausted that he couldn’t see the beauty in his life, the truth is that he wouldn’t have lived as long as he did if it wasn’t for the people who helped him face just one more day. So now in my life, and in my writing, I try to offer people the same support that he received.
What that means is that for my writing is that I continue to float ideas that I believe need to be discussed, providing people with a medium through which they can ask their own questions, find their own answers, and understand that no matter what they face in this life, they are never alone. In a more holistic sense, it means that I constantly try my best to be more human.
A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in line at the grocery store. In front of me two men that were around Dad’s age were trying to buy themselves some food. They had rice crackers, some dip, and a few snacks. They looked down on their luck, and when it came time to pay, they were about $12 short of what they needed. The lady working at the counter was horrible to them, explaining that they didn’t have enough money for what they wanted in a tone that suggested they were somehow beneath her. So, I gave them the cash they needed. Not because I had to, but because all I could think about was that if that were my Dad just trying to survive, I’d hope that someone else would help him out and spare him the embarrassment of being belittled for not having enough money to feed himself.
After I’d paid the difference on their bill, I spent a few minutes chatting to the two men. It turned out it was one of their birthdays. They didn’t have much money, but they were trying to have a picnic to celebrate. And something so small as lending them a couple of dollars allowed them to do it.
I guess what I’m saying is losing Dad hurt. It still does. But it’s made me tolerant, more understanding, and more focused on what matters in my life. It’s made me realize that life is a beautiful thing. And to never take anything for granted. A younger version of me would have been greedy and watched the cashier turn her nose up at two men without any money and kept my wallet firmly in my pocket. The older me shaped by Dad’s experiences saw a chance to share a little kindness and make the world a brighter place for a couple of people I’ll probably never see again.
W.: Any final comments/thoughts for our readers?
Nicholas: Watch this space.
I first started writing in 2006, and started blogging six years later. And yet here we are in 2020 and I feel as though I’m starting all over again. After spending years pushing myself as hard as I could to create, and to build an audience, I walked away from writing to spend all of 2019 caring for Dad. Which means that sometimes when I sit down and try to write, it feels like I’m teaching myself how to think creatively all over again.
Hopefully that doesn’t sound like I begrudge my Dad, or that I hold any resentment towards him for the year I spent helping him survive. Because the truth is that if I had to do it all over again, I would. I’d live through all the ups, and the downs, the doctor’s appointments, the arguments, tears and the heartbreak. And I would give up a hell of a lot more than writing just to see him one more time and tell him that I’m proud to call myself his son.
But nothing I ever do will bring Dad back, so the best that I can do is keep outworking the writer that I was yesterday and know that while he was alive, he was one of my biggest fans. And that if he were still here today, he’d be proud of who I am.
So, watch this space. Because while it might feel like I’m starting over, I guarantee that this won’t be the last time that you hear my name. I once wrote a blog post about how I was the best damn writer the world had never heard of. And I still believe it.
We thank Chris Nicholas for answering these questions and to accept this interview with us. You can check out his website, “The Renegade Press,” here: https://therenegadepress.com/
You can also view his published works, “Midas” and “You,” in his website. And as he said, “watch this space,” as he might publish more books and writings soon.
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