Nicole Wolverton reads incessantly, feeding her odd hunger for random bits of knowledge—it makes her an excellent candidate for Jeopardy. Though she’s always wanted to be writer, Nicole has served as a money-whisperer for health and human-serving related nonprofits, wrangler of Italian pastry and accountants (not at the same time), and schlepper of unloved platform shoes. Currently she keeps a roof over her head as a freelance writer.
She shares the roof in question with her husband, dog, and two cats. Her spare time is spent on the Schuylkill River as a member of the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix women’s dragon boat team (2010 Club Crew Nationals silver medalists) and sky diving. Nicole has an avid interest in fiber arts and locally grown foods. She owns Farm to Philly, a website dedicated to eating the Philadelphia area foodshed.
Her work appears on a variety of websites and blogs as well as print publications, including Black Heart Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and Penduline, among others. Nicole attends Temple University and has a certificate in grantwriting from The Grantsmanship Center.
1) Have you ever taken the test to be on Jeopardy?
I have not, but my great-aunt was actually on Jeopardy (before I was born). She won a year’s supply of Turtle Wax. Maybe one day I’ll follow in her footsteps. Of course, I don’t own a car, so I’m not sure what I’d do with the Turtle Wax…give it to my husband, maybe. Or wax my scooter.
2) What was your path to publication?
I started like most people do: querying agents for my manuscript. But The Trajectory of Dreams is an odd novel. It’s an adult psychological thriller told by an unreliable narrator (a la Fight Club), but there’s also a science component to it—sleep science, the science of space travel. Not in a super technical way, but it’s there. And that really made it appear as a hard sell to a wide market, which is perhaps not the thing agents are looking for in a writer’s first novel. Bitingduck Press is a relatively new press that is focused on fiction and non-fiction in the sciences, and they have a solid reputation thanks to their acquisition/merger with Boson Books, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Bitingduck Press loved the novel! They wanted some revisions to the first half of the novel to change the pacing, which took a few months, but ultimately I’m quite happy with the book.
Trajectory comes out in March 2013, but already the path to my next possible publication (a young adult horror novel) is quite different, but I’m not at liberty to discuss that just yet.
3) How long have you been working on The Trajectory of Dreams?
Let’s see…I think I started outlining Trajectory in November of 2010 (although I got the idea while reading Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, which came out in August 2010). The first draft took only maybe two months, and I spent another few months revising. I queried for a little bit, revised again…queried a bit more, revised again. I think I finished the edits for Bitingduck Press at the end of July 2012. So, off and on, for a little over a year and a half.
The ARC of The Trajectory of Dreams is currently available via Netgalley, so if you have an account there, consider requesting a review copy. I’ve received really great feedback so far from readers and the writers from whom I’ve requested cover blurbs.
4) If your novel takes place on Mars, does that automatically qualify it to be put on the SciFi shelf?
A resounding no. The Trajectory of Dreams is set in Houston, Texas, but the novel I’m currently working on (the working title is Expiration Date) is set on Mars. It’s a young adult suspense novel. I guess in a way it could be pitched as SciFi because of its setting and maybe because of a few other details, but the plot doesn’t center around things I personally consider traditional SciFi.
5) What is the relationship between thrillers, horror, and SciFi?
There’s an action-oriented story to tell that involves fear or a spooky unknown to some extent. There’s always an element of horror in what I write, whether it’s a thriller or something else. The first movie I can remember ever seeing is The Exorcist, so maybe I was warped early on.
6) Are you working on another novel yet?
See question 4. I just finished the first draft of Expiration Date. I plan to start the revisions by the end of September and hopefully finish up toward the end of the year/beginning of next year. In the meantime, I’m considering some options for my next novel outline.
7) What is Farm to Philly?
Farm to Philly is my little labor of love. It’s a group website I started in 2007 when I wanted to give the 100 Mile Diet (eating only foods from within a hundred mile radius of your home) a try. At the time, eating local wasn’t really super popular, so it could be a struggle to find locally milled flour or whatever. The website is devoted to talking about eating locally and sustainable living in the tri-state area (PA/NJ/DE)—where to find things, what to do with seasonal produce, etc. I’m really proud of the work we do there.
My initial answer to this was huge—it was a five paragraph diatribe. Yes, I’m passionate about this. Anyway, the quick and dirty answer is this: supporting local farmers means keeping money in the local economy and keeping the tradition of the small farmer going (my grandparents were dairy farmers), and I like knowing where my food comes from because it gives me more control over the chemicals with which my food is grown. I have a ton more answers to this, but I’ll spare you. :)
9) How did you get involved in Dragon Boat racing?
Purely by accident. A friend’s aunt started a rag-tag dragon boat team for a community race. I fell in love with the sport and joined the team I’m on now, which is a competitive women’s team that trains year round and competes internationally. I’ve been racing for about nine years, six with my current team. Philadelphia’s got a fantastic dragon boat community—probably one of the biggest in the U.S.
10) What’s the best argument you have to convince someone to go skydiving with you?
You have less of a chance of dying during skydiving than dying while in a car. Simple, effective. Most people have thought about skydiving, but it seems scary and dangerous. I suppose it can be, but no more so than anything else. I love it…the feeling during freefall is inexplicable. Right now I’m confined to tandems, but I plan to get certified within the next couple years.
11) How did you hear about 5 Minute Fiction? Have you ever won?
I can’t remember how I came to follow Leah Petersen, the original moderator of 5 Minute Fiction, on Twitter, but I did…and that’s how I started participating. Yes, I’ve got a couple of wins under my belt from when 5 Minute Fiction was hosted on Leah’s website. A few of those wins were expanded to full short stories that have gone on to be published in lit magazines.
Leah found a wonderful publisher for her novel Fighting Gravity…and then got really busy with all the things that go along with launching a novel. Rather than let 5 Minute Fiction die, she found it a new home. I’m sure I’ll pass it along to a new home one day, too. 5 Minute Fiction is a really fun writing exercise, and it gets tweaked with each new owner—a challenge like that needs something new every now and then to survive and thrive.
13) Who can participate in 5 Minute Fiction?
Anyone!! It’s five minutes out of your life, you know? Five minutes to be creative and think fast. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a writer or a poet or something else entirely. I don’t have much of a chance to participate anymore, but when I was competing there were days the things that came out of my head were terrible and some days that brought good things.
14) What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
It’s a toss-up. I love my laptop (and Scrivener), but I also find my Blackberry invaluable. If I get a plot bunny on the train or in the middle of the night, I grab my phone and type out the idea on the notepad. Every few weeks I transfer the list of ideas to my laptop.
15) What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
The dragon boat or the outrigger canoe. When I’m paddling, my brain clears of everything but the stroke. When you’ve been thinking about your character all day or freaking out about revisions, being able to clear your head is healthy and can lead to breakthroughs in writing.
16) What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Baking. I like to bake bread and cake and cookies. When I’m having a tough time with a scene, my brain starts screaming “Hey, you! Screw this! Go bake something!” Sometimes stepping away from the laptop for a few minutes to mix dough is therapeutic…other times it just keeps me from writing.
And I’m also in school full-time right now, so my homework and class often sucks away my writing time.
I have a website (where I blog) and a Twitter account. I use those most often, and I talk about both professional and personal things. Here’s the thing: I don’t think you can really separate the two (not really) because writing IS personal…and, you know, you end up making friends in social media. It’s what you’re supposed to do. Otherwise, you’re just talking AT people, not TO people. I also have a Tumblr, Facebook page, and a Google+ account, although I don’t use them nearly as much.
18) What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
Sequestered on my own private island with perfect 75 degree, non-humid weather and sunlight-compatible laptop, writing while my wonderful husband plies me with Vosges chocolate, smelly cheese, wine and rubs my feet. And no, alas—not able to create it.
Seriously, I write most of the time sitting cross-legged on my loveseat in the livingroom. One of my cats is usually curled up at my hip, or my dog is asleep on the rug in front of me. The television is usually on because I need background noise. If I need a change of scenery, I head on my scooter and go write at the coffee shop around the corner from my house.
19) Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing. Do you ever feel this way?
I almost always hate every single word I write. It’s healthy, though—no writer should ever be satisfied with their own work because that’s when you stop improving and learning. If you ever hear me say, “I’m a damn fine writer; worship me,” you have permission to slap me silly.
20) Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Don’t shoot me: I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars films. I know, I know: I’m a mutant or something. Anyway, I tend to think it’s hard to re-edit/revise a novel after it’s out in the public sphere. I guess if you self-publish or something, sure, it’s possible at least … but if you’re working in the traditional publishing side of things, which I am, a] it’s next to impossible to reissue a book (unless maybe you’re Stephen King) and b] there’s not much of a point. I mean, I personally wouldn’t re-purchase (or even re-read) a book I’ve read before simply because the writer wanted to change something. Of course, this is reminding me of Roland Barthes’ essay “Death of the Author” that calls for critics to ignore authorial intent because, well, who gives a shit what the writer intends; it’s about how the reader relates to the text. It’s not that I’m on board with Barthes, necessarily, but when the horse is out of the gate, there’s no going back.
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