S.K. Nicholls is a Florida regional crime romp author who writes a Private Investigator Series. Naked Alliances is the first book in the Naked Eye Series. She moved from a small town in Georgia to Central Florida, twenty years ago, thereby earning the title of Florida Native. A Registered Nurse and former Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, (S.A.N.E.), she has a special interest in sex-trafficking. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing and, in this instance, are tinged with humor. She is owned by a jolly old pug and an Australian cattle dog that also functions as a barometer. Her family has owned and operated a nudist resort in Central Florida since 1964. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Florida Writer’s Association and Writers of Central Florida…or Thereabouts.
When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are fleeing men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back on them, even if helping them makes him a target.
Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case with the potential of getting him off the streets and into air-conditioned offices. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder.
Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, he reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, they go undercover in a nudist resort, determined to catch the killer and bring down the mastermind of the Alliance before someone else dies.
From the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon, to the sunny exposure of Leisure Lagoon, the Naked Eye juggles his cases to keep his balls in the air.
Naked Alliances, a dual plot thriller, is the first book in the Naked Eye Series. It’s a 74,000 word crime thriller romp set in the seedier side of Orlando that the amusement park industry tries to hide from public view. The book opens in downtown Orlando near a gay resort complex, but ends up at a nudist resort out of town. No possibility of encountering a concealed weapon there! With bodies piling up, Richard’s pulse-quickening quest for answers leads him into trouble where he will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare? It’s not a comedy caper, but a thriller with a humorous edge.
My husband is a crime novel aficionado. He reads two or three crime novels a week, and turned me onto comedy capers that tickled my funny bone. I fell in love with authors like Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Baker and Randy Wayne White, as well as their characters. I had written a very serious historical fiction novel and needed a break, but wanted to keep writing. My husband challenged me to write a crime romp, and Naked Alliances was born. The ideas for the book and its characters were derived from personal and professional experiences. My family owns and operates a nudist resort near Orlando, and we attend the comedy shows at Orlando’s Parliament House, a gay resort complex. The friends we’ve made in these venues over the years influenced the story.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I begin with a fish-bones outline that’s not fully fleshed. My writing starts out in a word doc, but by the time I’ve gone one-third into the book I have to write an outline to keep up with details. There are too many twists and turns, evidences and such, that require a guide laid out in front of me to keep up with what’s behind me. I quickly moved into Scrivener to outline and stay organized. I love how you can set up a binder where you can easily move between chapters, keep your outline on index cards in the top right corner of your writing screen, and manage all the finite details of your writing process like word counts and targets. Adding the photographic images of famous people as my characters to refer to in profiles was fun, too. It’s a mild learning curve to use it effectively, but once you get it down, you’ll never go back to writing any other way.
What was your goal when writing this book?
I wanted to write something entertaining that also addressed some serious social issues. I want readers to be able to laugh, but think deeply on the things that affect our communities.
Who is your target audience?
People who enjoy reading Florida regional writing, thrillers, humor, private investigator stories, murder mysteries, and stories on organized crime will enjoy this book.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
In my opinion, people who have lived life have most to offer. I’m not saying younger people don’t write well, but having been through traumatic experiences, those that stimulate emotions, and meeting a variety of people from all backgrounds compliments the writing process.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
I get my best ideas when I lay down to rest. I will write for hours on end, but when I tire and lay down, more ideas start popping into my head and I find myself bouncing out of bed to write more before the ideas escape me. I may go weeks without ever getting any sound sleep.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
The first draft, produced with me editing along the way, took about two months. It took two years to get it beta read by advanced readers, rewritten after feedback, then edited by a professional editor, and proofread.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I know some people are disciplined enough to sit down and write X number of words on any given day at a specific time of day. I can’t do that. I get a story in my head, then it’s a manic race to the finish line. I will write from sun-up to sun-up, for weeks on end, outlining and plotting, designing mind maps, setting up Scrivener, typing away until I have that first draft completed, editing as I go. I take breaks to swim, walk, or attempt to rest, but the laundry doesn’t get done. The phone doesn’t get answered. My husband feeds me frozen pizza at my desk. (It’s the only thing he knows how to cook, ie. microwave.) It’s probably not the healthiest way to write, but it works for me.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
In Naked Alliances, sex-trafficking, a horrendous crime that exists in all communities whether urban or rural, is examined as part of the ongoing theme in the Naked Eye series. That thread begins with book one, but will return in subsequent books, laying the fabric for the series. A theme of crazy characters who do outrageous things also underpins Florida regional fiction. Honor, loyalty, justice, revenge and other underlying themes are usually not revealed until the work is complete.
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
Silence. I don’t even want to hear the birds chirping, the water dripping, or the clock ticking.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced writer’s block, but I get anxious about writing humor because different people find different things funny, and appealing to a large audience is a challenge. I can be funny all day, but sit down to write something amusing and draw a total blank.
Murder is easy. Funny is hard. The characters and the plot are all there when I sit down to write. Often, I have to sit back and allow the characters to take the reins. My anxieties stem from the fact that I am a serious person who worked to save lives. Shaking off that seriousness and letting go, releasing my inhibitions, and learning that it really doesn’t matter if I offend somebody cause somebody else is gonna laugh have been key to loosening up to write humor.
I was scolded as a child for constantly asking the question, “What if…?” What if dogs could fly? What if horses had feathers? What if all the people in the world had blue hair? What if Leprechauns had club feet? What if dentists paid you to let them pull your teeth? What if you got scared half to death twice? What if you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
It was cause for punishment as a kid, but I still use hypothetical questions as a warm up exercise to write humor.
Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite Florida author is Tim Dorsey. I am crazy about his anti-heroes, Serge and Coleman. These serial killers only murder people who are scammers in Florida. His writing is hilarious, tight and moves quickly. He has a whole series of Serge and Coleman books. It’s the sort of wacko crime fiction for which regional writers are famous. I also enjoy Carl Hiaasen, but doesn’t get quite as far out there as Dorsey.
I also adore a book set in my home State of Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. He was one of the first self-published authors who made the bigtime and the book was made into a movie that starred the real, Chablis, a character in the book. Brandi, in Naked Alliances is a contemporary version of Chablis.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
There is a web site under construction at sknicholls.com and I blog at sknicholls.wordpress.com.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
Last February I had the manuscript of Naked Alliances completed and attended Sleuthfest in Boca Raton sponsored by Mystery Writers of America. We were given opportunity to read excerpts from our manuscripts. I was scared to death. Public speaking is not something I’ve done outside of my nursing career. “What if they don’t like it?” also ran through my mind.
I stood up and read my first chapter in the ten minute allotted time. We had been listening to deep, dark, gritty crime stories for an hour and mine was different. Well, the audience laughed at the funny parts, clapped, commented on what a relief it was to hear something lighter, and gave me standing ovation!
Audience and readers are everything to a writer…at least this one. Yes, the story is my baby, but when it is well received, it makes an author’s world brighter.
Sleuthfest, a writer’s convention, is open to both readers/fans and writers. In 2017, it will be held in Boca Raton, February 23-26. We would love to have you and your readers join us. It’s a fun event with keynote speakers, workshops, raffles and banquets. And the hotel serves warm chocolate chip cookies at the desk. All you have to do is ask for one.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
If you are a writer, never give up. If you are a reader, tell us what you think when you’ve read our work. I read all reviews personally so that I may continually write what people are wanting to read. Naked Alliances is Book One in the Naked Eye Series, your feedback is crucial. And thank you for your support. Peace, and keep the faith.