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I was lucky enough to have a Q and A with Nicky English, author of Florid Eyes. In case you’re not aware, Florid Eyes is a vampire novel, but it’s different from any vampire novel that I’ve read.
Karen: Hi Nicky! First of all, where are you from?
Nicky: I was born in Hong Kong. I moved to the US for college and spent some time in most of the places mentioned in Florid Eyes. Now I’m back home, but I’m ready to move again.
Karen: Nice! Are you married and do you have any children?
Nicky: No, I’m very single indeed. I don’t have any children, but kids love me.
Karen: When you were a child, did you always want to be a writer?
Nicky: Not at all! When I was college I double-majored in journalism and political science because all along I had dreamed of being a TV reporter. We all had to take a basic writing and reporting class, and my mentor happened to be Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Berry, a very respected print journalist in the field. He once said I had ink in my blood. To everyone else, that would’ve been the nicest compliment, but I didn’t care and went, “meh.” I feel kinda stupid now. I think he was the first person to see my writing potential.
Karen: What books/author influenced your life most?
Nicky: R.L. Stine was the first author to get me interested in reading. I loved his Fear Street Series when I was a teenager. Actually I told him how he had inspired me on Facebook a while ago, and he wrote me back to wish me good luck! But style-wise Dan Brown definitely is my biggest influence. I know we write very different genres, but I appreciate his dedication to staying true to facts. I’m very obsessed with little details and could spend hours Googling something that no one cares. For example, I looked up the National Register of Historic Places to make sure it wouldn’t be completely out of line to place Woodrow Mansion in the town Radnor.
Karen: Wow! What book are you reading now? (That’s assuming you have the time)
Nicky: That’s true I haven’t really have time to read because I’m so busy promoting my own book! But Dan Brown’s Inferno is sitting on my bookshelf now.
Karen: Your book Florid Eyes has an unusual and unique title. I know now where it came from, but what came first the title or the book?
Nicky: The book. The coming of this novel is more random than you’d want to believe. At first I only wrote it for my own amusement and to fulfill my own romantic fantasy because I had quit my job and had nothing to do while I was waiting for my graduate school admission results. Somehow I got more obsessed with writing this than I had with writing anything else even though I wrote for a living. I kept talking about it on Facebook, and one day a friend of mine just suggested me to publish it. It was then I decided to give more thoughts into the title. It was originally called Until We Meet Again, taken from the first conversation between Violet and Josh, but it sounded more like a chick-lit than a vampire romantic thriller. I wanted something that could highlight vampirism but I didn’t want it to be too literal with words like “blood,” “suck,” “bite,” or “eternal.” Even “crimson” is a little overused. I picked Florid Eyes when I was about one-third in and incorporated this concept into a few scenes.
Karen: I was wrong then. Florid Eyes is a bit different from the usual vampire series, I’m not going to give away how, but how did you come up with this idea?
Nicky: It actually sounds very fangirlish, haha. I’m a big fan of a certain vampire show on television, and I had been very unhappy with how the story had been going for a while. One day, I got fed up and said to myself, “You know what? I can do better!” So I flipped open my Macbook and started writing a vampire story that I think women like me would want to read. But I have to make it clear, Florid Eyes is not a fan fiction. I tried very hard to create my own vampire universe, and I dare say it’s better than that TV show now, at least to me.
Karen: Hmmmmm. I wonder which one. I love Violet because she’s an intelligent and strong woman. A lot of women in vampire stories are beautiful but are the classic ‘femme fatale’. Was this your intention?
Nicky: I’m very glad you recognize that in Violet! I think vampirism is very romantic because it represents the notion of forever. If a vampire like Josh, who has seen thousands, if not more, women falls in love with you, you’ve got to be pretty damn special, right? Also, if a vampire really loves you, this love has the potential to last forever, as long as he stays immortal. However, what I don’t like about most vampire stories out there is that the girl is always the victim. Her life evolves around the vampire, and she doesn’t have any goals. Even though when I first started writing, I really didn’t know where it was going, there was one thing I was certain since day one–I wanted my heroine to be smart and strong and not a pushover. She’s the guy’s equal, not a victim waiting to be rescued. Violet isn’t breathtakingly beautiful like Scarlett Johansson. She may even come across as too headstrong or too know-it-all at times, but I think these things make her more relatable. She is a dorky PhD student after all.
Karen: I’m a teacher so I love dorky and I’d like to think I’m an independent woman so Violet ticks all the boxes as far as I’m concerned. Josh thinks she’s beautiful. Now Josh. (Sigh) Did you have anyone in mind when you wrote this character or was he just a character from your imagination?
Nicky: Haha, I like that sigh. This is a love story written for female readers, so it’s only natural that the hero is super gorgeous. Appearance-wise I wrote it with Chris Pine in mind. If any filmmakers are interested in my book, they need to cast him! But in terms of character, Josh is a projection of what I love in a man and also a combination of the guys I had been in love with through the years. I went, “Aww…” while I was writing some of the sweetest things he says to Violet. In fact, I cried a few times because I was so moved by their love! Josh is romantic and makes words flow like a poem. He pays attention to everything Violet does and reads her like a book. But like Violet, he has his own flaws too. He’s been in solitude for too long, so sometimes he forgets basic dating rules, and he’s very impetuous sometimes. What I love about them is how they complement each other and make each other a better person. They’re what I picture soul mates to be like.
Karen: Aww…! Chris Pine is a great choice AND he’s an Australian. Woo Hoo! When I got to the end of Florid Eyes, I felt that Josh and Violet’s story could continue. Is this the beginning of a series? If it is, how many books are you intending to include in the series?
Nicky: At first, I only intended to write a stand-alone novel, but I also saw the potential of turning it into a series. The preliminary idea I have right now is to take Violet to a very dark place in the next book. It’ll challenge her every belief, more so than in the first one. We’ll see how she deals with that. I’ve written a critical scene already, but I still need to make sure this is the direction I wanna take. Anyhow, I think we should expect to see at least one sequel. I can’t say when yet, but it’s in the plan.
Karen: Well, you’ve got me. I like your ideas.Do you have a specific writing style? When you are writing what are the “must haves” ?
Nicky: I need to be in complete silence. I can’t listen to music or anything when I write. I also like to write at night because there’re fewer distractions. I think I’ve completely adopted the vampire lifestyle, haha.
Karen: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Nicky: It wasn’t my intention to write preachy literature. I’ve read so-called modern literature with very flowery sentences, but the story doesn’t move forward, and I just couldn’t stand it. This novel is supposed to be a fun, light, easy read, but I do want girls to finish the book inspired to be someone strong and smart like Violet. I hate that in the 21st century girls are still taught to play dumb. Violet is pretty and dorky and bookish with goals and dreams, but she can still land true love, so can we.
I decided to go a bit off topic and have a bit of fun with the last few questions.
Karen: If you could have a super power, what would it be? Would you use it for good or bad?
Nicky: I wish I could read minds when I want to, so I can understand guys better, haha. Is it good or bad?
Karen: Well, I think it’s good. If you could visit another country, which country would it be and why?
Nicky: I’m actually planning to move to Australia for my PhD in a couple of months. Hope it will happen!
Karen: You’ll love it! If you could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
Nicky: Steve Jobs. Like Violet, if anyone has noticed, I’m a big Apple fan. Steve Jobs has been my inspiration through the toughest time in my life. Every time I feel like giving up on my dream or on believing in myself, whether it’s my competence as a writer or an academic, I’d read his quotes. If I get to have dinner with him, I’d make sure I milk all the wisdom from him!
Karen: He’s a special man. What do you consider to be your favourite book and why? (If you can’t decide, you can pick more than one or a style of books.)
Nicky: Thriller: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. Many people don’t know it came before The Da Vinci Code. I like how Mr. Brown isn’t afraid to piss off people. I love the twist ending; Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It’s probably the least known work of Miss Austen. I think Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice is too boring and too typical. I like Mr Tilney in Northanger Abbey because he’s mature, but he’s also witty. He seems to be a very fun guy to be with. Literature: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell. It’s a heart wrenching dystopian masterpiece. I’ve always been fascinated by the injustice in North Korea, in a negative way of course, and I was blown away by how Mr. Orwell was able to foresee something so similar to what the North Koreans are going through right now. More than 60 years ago! The ending was so cruel that it made me feel like I had been sucker-punched, but it was needed.
Karen: What is your favourite drink?
Nicky: Coke zero and skimmed cappuccino with Splenda.
Karen: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Nicky: I work out twice a week. It makes me feel healthy even though I don’t do anything hardcore. I also love TV dramas. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I actually think good TV makes people smarter. It stimulates creativity.
Karen: Pet peeve?
Nicky: Stickers. They make me want to vomit. No one gets that. I also hate people with body odor, but who doesn’t?
Karen: I’m with you there. Can’t they smell themselves? What is a typical day for you?
Nicky: I wake up in the afternoon. I check my email and facebook and get ready. I have a late lunch and give my class, but I go work out if I have no class to give that day. I have dinner with my friends and then I go home. I blog or write or work on my academic things till one or two in the morning. I catch up on my shows or watch a movie or two online.
Karen: Thanks Nicky. I really enjoyed reading your book and I enjoyed your answers.