Thursday, June 18, 2020

Nikki Dolson on the drags and the glimmers of publishing

Nikki Dolson's new collection, Love and Other Criminal Behavior, is a wonderful group of stories. I've been a fan of her work for a while, so it was an absolute treat to be able to read all these stories in one collection.

Here are the details:

The collection starts with "Georgie Ann" a tale of kept women, betrayal, fake friends, and oh, so much blood. Nikki doesn't pump the breaks before throwing the reader into the ring in "Take the Hit," where Kendra must go back into the boxing ring and throw a fight if she hopes to fulfill her dream of having a family.
In "Sunrise," Nikki takes us to the desert to die. But not before unwinding the lost loves, regrets, and complicated relationships all plaguing one family, as two cousins try to decide whether they'll let their beloved Uncle join his late first wife.
"Our Man Julian," is about a washed-up actor who is cultivating a wild San Diego garden, and a lifetime of loneliness and regret. Hit with the reality that he will die soon with no savings and nothing to offer the daughters he loves but barely sees, he plans an outrageous kamikaze mission. But can a man who's survived it all really turn off that survival instinct?
Love and Other Criminal Behavior will keep your heart pumping fast, right up until it's broken.

Nikki Dolson was kind enough to answer some questions I had, so let's get to it, shall we?


Steve Weddle: This collection spans quite a few years and publications. What drove you to choose these stories for this book? 

Nikki Dolson: I have a writing teacher who insisted it was beyond time for me to put together a collection. I’d been poking at the idea for awhile and once I had a publisher interested, I put together the stories that made sense to me. 

I’d read a collection of short stories in 2015 called American Housewife by Helen Ellis and it was everything I wanted my collection to be. She had funny little flash fiction up against longer, deeper stories. I realized that my traditional ideas of what made a collection were based on writers who didn’t write like I did. So all of my stories aren’t crime. There’s not always a dead body. But I think they work together. 

These thirteen stories are the best representation of my writing without the false notes of other writer styles I tried, of structures I did poorly.
Nikki Dolson

SW: You have a wonderful technique of starting a story in the present, then dropping back into the past for background, and repeating that process throughout the narrative so that the reader is gifted with layer upon layer of storytelling and character development. Is that technique something you've worked on or has it come naturally?

ND: I’m glad you say think it works! I LOVE backstory. I want the reader to know everything I think I know about a character, but it can bog down a story or stop it cold. When I revise I am always trimming down the back story in favor of forward momentum. Man, it’s hard.

SW: On the other side, is there anything you've learned in your journey as a short story writer, either in the writing itself or the business of writing, that you wish you hadn't learned? 

ND: I wish I’d never learned the hard truth that publishing is a business, that publishing can be misery. Chasing after royalty statements and payments is such a drag. Indie publishing is hard for everyone involved, but damn if it doesn’t seem like writers are the ones getting beat down.

SW: What is it about the length of the short story that you find appealing, and how do you know when you need to develop something longer or when you need to cut back to something shorter?
ND: Of late, I’m writing stories for anthologies which often come with a max word count. Trying to tell a story within those constraints is hard sometimes. Left to write without an end publication in sight, my stories hover around 6,000 words.

SW: As you've been publishing stories for years, is there anything you wish you'd known a decade or more ago that you've recently learned? 

ND: I’m figuring out that I don’t need to catch up to anyone. I’m not behind. I’m maybe not where I’d hoped I’d be after fourteen years, but I’m not in a bad place. I can see little glimmers of future books ahead of me. 

Pick up your copy of this wonderful collection at your local indie or wherever fine books are sold.

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