We love telling you all about great new authors we’ve discovered, so once again we bring you a Crime Writers Interview, with Nichelle Seely this time.
Nichelle Seely is a writer and architect living on the Oregon coast with her husband. Born and raised in Oregon, she has also lived and worked in Alaska and Colorado.
She has been writing since she was a child. An eclectic reader, she dips into almost all the fiction genres and also a fair amount of non-fiction.
She loves the outdoors, walking in the woods or on the beach, and bicycling. An avid traveler, she has visited 26 countries and once spent a year traveling alone with a backpack. In the rainy winter she enjoys playing games, including a mean hand of cribbage. She has a B.A. in English, a Master’s degree in architecture, and half of an MFA in creative writing.
Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang): Welcome, Nichelle. I’ve known a lot of authors who were something else first, but never an architect turned writer.
Tell us more. Has being an architect influenced your writing?
Nichelle Seely: I’m a very self-motivated person, especially when I have a worthy/important end-goal. I realized this as an architect—the project type really mattered. When I was living in Alaska doing schools in the remote Native villages, just knowing how important the project was helped me get through all the difficult and tedious parts of the job, because my focus was always on the end goal.
When I moved to Colorado and was working on office buildings, all my motivation went away. I couldn’t care less about office buildings and corporations.
Now that I’m writing, I’ve found my focus again and I’m climbing steadily up the learning curve of indie-publishing. I’m also really open to adventure — I love the outdoors and solo traveling — and that has its place in the indie world too.
Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?
Nichelle: I think because at bottom, the story is always about the search for justice and righting a wrong. Flawed as the protagonist may be, she is always on the side of the angels.
Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?
Nichelle: I would say traditional with a touch of the paranormal, in that my protagonist, private investigator Audrey Lake, has an emerging psychic awareness of past violence that she doesn’t yet trust or understand. But the story is solidly in this world, no vampires or ghosts.
My own reading tastes are broad, but I rarely read modern cozies. Mostly because I feel like murder is a tragic subject, and I don’t enjoy it when an author treats it too lightly.
Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?
Nichelle: Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and the sequel A Wind in the Door. I loved these books because the heroine was a plucky, problematic, and intelligent girl that I could relate to. At that time most books for younger readers had boy protagonists. I also loved her creative weaving of science and spirituality.
Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.
A Memory of Murder is my first published novel, although I’ve got three novel-length works in the drawer: a travel memoir based on a year I spent backpacking around the world alone; another mystery, part of which is told backwards; and an epic fantasy which is much too long. AMoM is the first one that really works, I think.
I’ve also written some business magazine articles as a freelancer in Alaska, covering some of the remote projects I was doing.
If I can digress, I got the magazine opportunity in a funny way. I knew the managing editor slightly, as she was a sporadic attender of a public writing group I also attended. One night we were both at a function at a local restaurant, and we were both a little, shall we say, tipsy? Or at least I was.
Filled with Dutch courage, I approached her. She saw me, and literally asked me what I thought her magazine should cover. I said I thought it could do a better job covering projects in the remote regions of the state instead of just the urban areas. She asked me for an example, and I told her about a building I was working on, a community center that would also be an emergency shelter for the people of a village that was literally falling into the sea. She said okay, write me an article. I want it by (date). In other words, put up or shut up.
I went on to write quite a few articles for the magazine, even after she left. But this editor gave me a chance and gave me confidence in my writing ability.
Kass: That’s hardly a digression! I too found my confidence as a writer by writing professional articles.
Tell me, what made you decide to write A Memory of Murder in the present tense? I’ve rarely seen that done well, but you did it so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice until I was well into the story.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened. I started writing the opening scenes and it was present tense. I didn’t notice until the fourth or fifth chapter. And honestly, I mostly dislike novels written in present tense, because the language always seems unnatural to me. So I don’t know why, but it seemed to be working so I stuck with it!
I think the advantage of present tense is it feels more immediate, but it also can hinder the flow of the story because it can be less flexible, especially during flashbacks or memories. I think it helps that Audrey has mental health issues and is very focused on the ‘now.’ She doesn’t spend much time thinking about the past, and it comes back to bite her.
Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?
The most fun is the first draft, just letting the story flow. My biggest struggle is with structure. Very ironic for an architect. I’ve read a ton of books on it by various authors, but it wasn’t until I started using Story Grid that it started to click. I used to be a pantser, and could never see the big picture of what I was writing, so I would write myself into corners.
A Memory of Murder is the first book I actively plotted, really paying attention to pacing and the location of important scenes. It still feels unnatural, like trying to write with my non-dominant hand, but I think it made for a more cohesive story. And I finished it faster, too.
Kass: It is definitely cohesive. It’s one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read!
Folks, you can find my review of her book HERE. And see below for deets about the story and where to purchase it.
You can also connect with Nichelle on:
A disturbing vision. A drowned woman. Tragic accident, or vicious crime?
Former homicide detective Audrey Lake is determined to start a new life as she recovers from an emotional breakdown and a nearly-fatal stab wound. She settles in the old and mossy town of Astoria on the Columbia River, a thousand miles and a world away from the gritty streets of Denver and her career as an undercover cop.
But Audrey begins to have recurring visions of a woman being attacked and forcibly drowned. The hallucinations bear all the familiar, terrifying earmarks of psychosis. And when the river yields up the body of the woman in her vision, Audrey is forced to ask: is she finally losing her mind, or is there another explanation?
You can purchase A Memory of Murder at: AMAZON
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