Interwiew to Stan Nicholls
Who is Stan Nicholls?
I’m someone who always wanted to be a writer. When I was nine years old I wrote what I thought was a novel. It was about a group of children who see UFOs over a lonely moor. None of the adults believe them, and these kids end up saving the Earth from an alien invasion! Even then I was drawn to fantastical subjects. Of course this so-called novel was terrible. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to tell stories, and I was fascinated by the written word. I don’t know where this interest came from, because I was born into a very poor family and there were no books in our house when I grew up. Yet somehow I had a passion to be an author.
When I left school I got a job working with books - I was employed by a company that supplied books to American libraries and universities. After that, I worked in various science fiction bookshops. I had my own bookshop, in London’s Notting Hill district; and then I became manager of a bookstore called Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, named after a Ray Bradbury story, which at that time was Europe’s largest sf and comics shop. From there I went on to manage Forbidden Planet bookstore, in both London and, for a while, New York.
All this time I was writing, and occasionally selling my work to magazines. Eventually I decided to try being a full-time writer and quit my job. I became a freelance journalist, working for newspapers and magazines. I also acted as what’s called a “first reader” for various publishers and literary agents. A first reader is the person who reads all the manuscripts sent in by members of the public. I learnt a lot from that. In the late 1980s I started to have books published, and I’m currently working on my thirtieth.
What are your working methods, and how long does it take you to write a book?
When you’re a full-time writer you have to act professionally and be disciplined. I write every day, although sometimes I take off Sundays, or my birthday, or Christmas. I plan out my books before I begin writing, but not in too much detail - you need to keep things loose so that you can incorporate ideas that occur to you when writing. I try to turn out one thousand finished words a day, although this doesn’t always happen! These days, it takes me between nine months and a year to write a novel. I have written books in much less time than that, when I was first starting out - I once wrote a book in ten days - but nine months is a comfortable amount of time.
How much of yourself is in your books?
I don’t think a writer can avoid putting something of themselves into their books, although I don’t do it consciously. But a writer’s style is usually very distinctive, like fingerprints or eye colour, and you can’t really change it. Most writers have a unique “voice” and it comes through in the way they express themselves. So I guess that all my books, and many of my characters, contain something of me.
Perhaps your best known books feature orcs. Why did you use them in your books? Why not elves or humans?
Elves and humans do appear in my books, but not as main characters. Orcs are the stars. Many people think that JRR Tolkien invented orcs, and wonder why I should be able to write about them. But Tolkien didn’t create orcs. He needed an evil horde for The Lord of the Rings and took orcs from very old European folklore. People write about elves, trolls, fairies, dragons and all the rest, so why shouldn’t there be books about orcs? The thing is, I’ve long felt that orcs were poorly treated. They were always the bad guys, and they were presented as very two-dimensional characters. I got to wondering if they might not be bad but misunderstood. Supposing they were savage, pitiless warriors but not actually evil? And I wanted to tell their story, to give them a history, a culture, hopes, fears, ambitions and a code of conduct. Why can’t orcs actually be noble? In doing this I intend no disrespect to Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and his other works are wonderful pieces of mythic storytelling, and I have a great admiration for them. I’m not trying to add anything to what he wrote, or take anything away - I’m just doing something different. It was time to see orcs as heroes!
Your first orcs trilogy is set in a world called Maras-Dantia, which is full of fantastic races and wonderful places. If you could go there, what would you do?
I’d probably hide in a cave to avoid all that fighting! But it might be nice if I could meet up with the Wolverines, my orcs warband, and share a tankard of ale with them in a friendly inn. Assuming they didn’t kill me first …
Who is your favourite writer?
I have far too many to list. I’ve been reading science fiction, fantasy and horror stories all my life, and there are lots of writers I admire and respect. I tend to think that the totality of these genres has inspired me, rather than one particular writer.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like walking in the countryside, visiting other countries, looking at art galleries and museums, practising archery and, of course, reading. But do you know what my favourite hobby is? Writing.
Puoi immaginare qualsiasi cosa, ma la realtà sarà sempre più spettacolare.
Vivi ogni giorno della tua vita come fosse l'ultimo...
Piangendo seduto su un marciapiede.
Un giorno senza un sorriso è un giorno perso.
La vita è come una lunga strada, prima o poi troverai un incrocio.