Interview with Lisa de Nikolits

Author of - No Fury Like That 

See my review HERE and enter two giveaways!

Lisa, I love you, you know I love you, but you are seriously demented... and brilliant! You have to be to write books like this!
Thank you Dear Wendy, I consider that a huge compliment!

So the first obvious question -
1. The storyline for this book is so different, wacky but deep! - How did you come up with the idea to write this (Nightmares? Drugs? Were you a therapist in a previous life?)?
Ha! I wish the reason was something that exotic! The reality is that I was let go from my job, a job I loved very much. I think about 70% of the staff were let go, before, during and after my experience so I wasn’t alone, which made it a bit easier, but not much!

We all knew ‘changes’ were coming and although I tried to prepare myself, one is never prepared for loss when it actually happens. I’m a magazine art director in my day job and it’s something I’ve always loved doing. I always looked forward to going to work and then, wham, I had no work to go to!

I think that’s how I came up with Purgatory. Thinking back, I was definitely out for revenge, I wanted to write something to make up for the hurt I felt at losing my job and I definitely felt like I was in a kind of purgatory, not being able to go to my desk and see my friends and do my job.

So, to psycho-analyze myself, I was in purgatory but I didn’t cognisize it as such but that’s where it came from.

And why an airport? Perhaps because I’ve spent so much time in them! I’m originally from South Africa, then I moved to Australia and then I came to live in Canada. I’ve gone back to South Africa about five or six times, from Canada, and I’ve also gone to Australia about five or six times. There are long layovers and the whole thing takes about 24-36 hours and you have to change planes and it’s not an easy trip. Also, I try to stop somewhere on the way back, a place I’ve never been, and that adds another leg to the journey.

And when I was an art director with Redwood Custom Communications, I did a lot of business travel to Chicago, Houston and Vancouver. For a country girl from Johannesburg, I’ve definitely done more mileage than I ever imagined!

I hope my answer isn’t disappointing – I wish my reasons and inspiration were less mundane!

I agree that the story developed into something quite crazy and I’m not quite sure how that happened! As with all my books, it’s quite weird really (and wonderful), the way a story unfolds. Sometimes, I just type as fast as I can, to see for myself what’s going to happen next!

I was deeply concerned that readers wouldn’t accept the magical realism aspects of the book (the purgatory/is she dead or alive aspects) but that was worry for nothing!
I think that was pretty exotic! I love Magical realism - that’s what I loved about this book!

2. The characters are really what made the book for me. They were all so crazy but yet lovable.  How did you come up with this zany cast of characters?
Ah yes, I love them too, thank you! To start off, let’s look at Julia Redner, the protagonist. I tried to imagine somebody as unlike me as possible, in appearance, outlook, manner and behavior. That was my starting point – look for opposites. She swears like a trooper and I was so worried that would put people off her and the book! I was also worried that her anger would put people off but readers find her funny, which is a great relief!

I wrote about Agnes in a short story for the Mesdames of Mayhem anthology, Thirteen O’ Clock, and I wanted to know what happened to her when that short story ended. So she had been floating around my brain for a while.

The same with Grace and her way of dissolving. I wrote a short story a very long time ago, Fall From Grace, and I’d always loved that character.

I based Samia on my good friend from work and so, no surprises that she wound up in the story, because I really missed seeing her on a daily basis! If I couldn’t see her, I’d write about her and hang out with her in that way! I told her what I was doing and she loved the idea!

But Isabelle, Beatrice, Tracey and Cedar Mountain Eagle… I have no idea where they came from! They kind of just showed up!

3. Who was your favorite, the most fun to develop and write about?
I love Beatrice. I love her forthright bluntless, her sense of humour and her unexpected kindness. I’m a great fan of urban exploration and there was an abandoned house I climbed into (I never break in, but if there’s a window open, in I go!), and it was very much like Beatrice’s house. I was in there years ago, so I definitely store things for future use. In fact, if I find a sparkly gem that I can use in my writing, I never let go of it, until I’ve used it entirely! Much like the story of Grace. The initial short story I wrote with her in it never amounted to anything but I liked her and I must have written that story in about 2004. So, a note to writers, if you have old stories that cannot be redeemed, throw them to the dogs but keep the characters. You can always write them into a better work.

But, back to that house. It was much like Beatrice’s one although I had a lot of fun dreaming up the awful décor and the upstairs scenario was an complete work of my imagination.

And it’s odd – how did I come up with the baby’s crib and the neat arrangement of clothing? And the spectacular wallpaper? I don’t know! Which is why I thank the creative gods and goddesses for every lovely idea that drops into my lap. I think it’s a largely a game of ‘what if’… what if two spinster sisters lived together… one had a bad love affair… she had a baby… what happened to it? But still, that doesn’t explain the specifics of how those details themselves emerge, does it?
Beatrice reminded me of Kathy Bates (Misery) and Cedar reminded me of George Carlin (the comedian).
Yes, haha, Kathy Bates and George Carlin!! :)))))

4. Not necessarily your favorite, but with all their quirks and sad stories,  if you could go into the book what character would you be and why?
This is a tough one! After much pondering, I’d be Cedar Mountain Eagle! I think he helped a lot of people and his contribution was a very valuable one. He met a lot of interesting people and he was kind and lovely and gentle to all of them. Here’s an admission I’ve never told anyone – every single time I read the ending, I cry! Isn’t that ridiculous? I do!
I did love Cedar, but my favorite was Agnes.

5. All throughout the book there are these sayings on "the sign" where did you get the sayings from? Did you make them up or are they from some big book of philosophical sayings?
I made some of them up and I got some online by googling ‘church signs’ and checking out the images that came up for that. I adjusted the ones that I used to fit the content of the book. I had a huge amount of fun with the signs! I wanted to do the cover as a church sign but I couldn’t make it work. The Calvary Baptist Church near where I live has great signs and I also always take pictures of church signs in the summer when we go for drives in the country. So church signs are another gem that I’ve hung onto, wanting to use them somewhere and they were perfect for this book!
I loved the sign! It was one of my favorite parts of the book - I always looked forward to it!

6. OK Lisa I'm going to get personal with you now LOL and you can answer this anyway you want to, you can be straight or funny. The theme of this book is about regrets, not living your life the way you should have or the way you really wanted to, what would you have done differently if you could go back. So Lisa, what's one of your regrets in how you have lived your life and what would you change if you could go back?
This is a tougher question than which character would I be! Wow… hmmm… Well, for sure, some of my decisions have resulted in difficult consequences. For example, I wasn’t happy living in Australia and so I came to Canada. I came on a whim, I was looking through some image books, stock books, back in the day when The Image Bank gave you printed catalogues instead of online catalogues and I saw a picture of the CN Tower and I thought hey, I’ve got a cousin in Toronto, Australia isn’t working out for me, I should try Canada. I sent my cousin an email that I needed to bunk on her sofa and I bought a round-the-world ticket. Toronto was my first stop and I never left!

And I love it here but I’m very far from my family and I really didn’t realize that the winters were quite as long and quite as bitter as they are. My husband and I recently returned from visiting my family and when we landed it was minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 68 Fahrenheit) here and it was 28 C (84 Fahrenheit) in Australia! And we looked at each other and said “It’s good to be back home. Right? It is good, right?” ☺

There are so many things I love about Canada and, apart of my husband who is my main good Canadian score ☺, I have my books with my beloved Inanna Publications. I wouldn’t have my books if I hadn’t come here. I mean one could say yes, you would have books and perhaps so, but they would be different books with a different publisher and I love these books and this publisher.

So I can’t regret coming to Canada, even if the weather sometimes makes me long for warmer climes!

I’m the worst person for second-guessing myself. Should I have tried to stay at this or that job for longer, could I have tried harder to make amends with a friend who got angry with me and dumped me? Should I have been more people-focused and less results-focused at my day job? Because I admit, I often put the job first, ahead of kindness. Haha, actually, although I tried to make Julia Redner my opposite, she isn’t really, not when it comes to her work ethic!

I regret the instances when I thought I was right and others were wrong and I regret thinking that being right mattered so much. It doesn’t. What matters is friendship, love and kindness. Doing the kind thing matters more than winning an argument.

I think we learn to live with regrets. We know we did the best we could at the time but consequences are not always straight arrows and you have to accept the complexities of life and of being human.
Wow! That was very philosophical!

7. You remind me of a cross between Stephen king and Christopher Moore, but in a way a little more twisted lol. Who are some of your favorite authors and what did you read as a teen?
I love that SO much! Thank you! My gosh, I was never without a book ever since I can remember. I remember reading those Reader’s Digest Condensed versions of novels and simply devouring them! I read pretty much everything at the library – which reminds me, libraries in South Africa have a different smell to the ones in Canada. I can still smell the libraries of my youth so clearly, the slight mustiness, the glue, the paper, the waxed linoleum floors, the wooden desks and chairs. I can feel the quiet and the optimism of finding a great big stack of books to take home. Not one but many! I remember thinking that if I could just have one book of my own in a library, that I’d be happy forever and I’d never complain about a thing again!

I can’t remember exactly what I read. I know I read a huge amount of Enid Blyton’s books although much of her work is considered offensive, racist and sexist today.

The first book I loved with all my heart and which made me fiercely determined to be a writer was A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

I love Christopher Moore, The Stupidest Angel is my favourite. And I love Stephen King’s writing (and I’ve read them all of his books!) but I love his work to 2004 and after then, not as much. I know it’s a travesty to say it but I don’t love his latter books as much as his earlier work. The writing is polished and he won his war on adverbs and adjectives but I don’t find the stories to be as chilling or gripping or downright disturbing as they once were. You take Christine for example, or Cujo, or Needful Things… they were terrifying!
I love both of them! I used to read any and every Stephen King book I could get, but I haven’t read anything recently. And, I LOVE Christopher Moore - he is hilarious!

I love Harry Crews – The Gospel Singer, Car, A Feast of Snakes and All We Need of Hell – I just love them! And John Steinbeck, and Lionel Shriver, Ordinary Decent Criminals and So Much For That, and everything by Annie Proulx. And Joyce Carol Oates, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (for the fascinatingly awful relationship between the two characters), Jonathan Franzen’s work, early works by John Irving, A Prayer For Owen Meany, The World According to Garp, Cider House Rules, all these are books that have affected my writing directly, inspiring me and urging me to work harder.

And there are literally dozens of Canadian writers whose work I love. Margaret Atwood is all the rage but I’ve never truly loved her books, another travesty, I know! Except for The Heart Goes Last, I loved that a lot! But Michael Ondaatje was greatly inspiring – back when I didn’t even realize he was Canadian!

My list of Canadian writers is too long to write here but I have a website called The Minerva Reader which is dedicated to treasure reads that book lovers might have missed. I’d love it if readers would check it out – they might find a book that they’ve never heard of, that they love! I’m constantly reading. I have waist-high piles of books all over the house! Columns of them!

8. Are you writing something now? What's the next book you have in store for us?  
First up, coming in this Fall, is Rotten Peaches which I’m calling a gripping epic filled with disturbing and unforgettable insights into the human condition.  Love, lust, race and greed. How far will you go? Two women. Two Men. One Happy Ending. It’s very different to anything I’ve written before and some of it is disturbing indeed!

I’m working on the self-edits of Rotten Peaches right now, and I’m nearly done. Then I want to work on a noir novel titled The WeeGee Doll. I finished the first draft and as I got some amazing feedback from a wonderful writer friend of mine and I love her suggestions, so I need to work on that. And I started to write a book while I was on holiday in December in Australia, Boomerang Beach. I wrote on longhand – I wrote thirty-five thousand words! Talk about a crazy story there!
A woman leaves her husband on a whim and joins a cult. The things that follow are just nuts and I can’t wait to get back to it! I wish I could work on all of them at the same time!
Wow all this sounds amazing! Especially the woman joining a cult - that sounds like the makings of a great book!

Thank you very much for having me as a guest today Wendy, and thank you for your excellent and extremely thoughtful questions, I thoroughly enjoyed answering them!

And thank you to all your readers who stopped by today! 

Giveaway: Two ways to win!!!

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  1. WOW! What a fantastic interview!! After reading your review yesterday, I knew I needed to read the book. And now this interview, I need to put Ms. de Nikolits on my "authors to read" list. I believe everything happens for a reason and reading that she lost her job allowed her to write, I think that ended up being a positive thing! Her next novel, ROTTEN PEACHES sounds So good.

  2. Dear Wendy, I loved your questions so much! Very thought-provoking! And thank you CMash, that's GREAT to hear! And I agree, everything does happen for a reason!

  3. Thanks for the interview. I always enjoy "hearing" an author's thoughts and opinions as well as snippets from life.


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