JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Nick Quesenberry, author of Thorn
(Epiphany Corner Publications)
Enter into the life of Detective Jackson Thorn, of the Highland Meadows Police Department. His beloved wife has long lain comatose. His son recently perished in a fiery C-130 plane crash over the Atlantic. His adopted daughter languishes in suicidal depression, confined to the local sanitarium.
Despite all this, Jackson achieves the greatest success of his law enforcement career in an operation against the dominant Yakuza crime lord in North America, in which he suffers a serious injury. Meanwhile, a deadly international assassin, long thought to be dead, returns from the ashes of Jackson’s past. She seeks Jackson’s affection but finds a life-or-death showdown with the killer, whose agenda remains mysterious.
Even the principle players in this saga of romance, betrayal, suspense and intrigue can cost Jackson everything as he learns that the sins of yesteryear can return.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write Thorn?
Nick Quesenberry: To be honest, at the time I began writing Thorn I was thoroughly miserable and morbidly depressed. I think that the need to write this book thus arose from a need to tell myself a story and thereby alleviate my depression. A story, to me, serves two exceedingly important purposes for the human psyche: it’s facially conflicting yet quite harmonious upon deeper reflection.
First, a story allows us to escape the tribulations and woes of our respective existences by affording us a mini-vacation from our troubles. Secondly, a story allows us to confront our troubles through a vicarious and cathartic experience taken in conjunction with the characters. What I mean by that statement is that stories allow us to place ourselves in the shoes of characters whose existences are as bad as, or worse than, our own. As these characters confront, struggle with and finally overcome their seemingly insurmountable troubles, we live that experience with them. In turn we are encouraged and strengthened to face our own demons.
In writing Thorn, then, I accomplished both of these purposes for myself. Firstly, the experience of writing the book and becoming engrossed in the story I was telling myself enabled me to escape for a time from the things that were causing my morbid depression. Secondly, as Jackson Thorn met and overcame, one by one, the impossible challenges he faced, somewhere subconsciously I was rejoicing with him in his triumphs and strengthening myself to face the boogey-men, both internal and external, that awaited me the moment I got up from the keyboard.
JP: What sets Thorn apart from other novels in its genre?
NQ: I think that the profusion of intense conflict and the sheer number of surprises in Thorn help to set it apart. There is hardly a syllable of storytelling in this work that is not set in a context positively rife with tension. Even the pages set aside for the characters’ inward reflection and for humor turn against a backdrop of grave urgency. In short, there is hardly a dull or a slow moment to be had in this reading experience.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Thorn getting out to the public?
NQ: Firstly, I have a good publisher. Secondly, as a writer I tend not to hold back or to circumscribe the pace at which the story progress nearly so meticulously as some of my colleagues. Pacing is an exceedingly important element of storytelling that is a function of both the story which is being told and the author’s own personality. Thorn is the sort of story that naturally lends itself to a brisk pace. Couple that with my own high-octane approach to life in general, and you have the ingredients for a wild, satisfying ride than seldom slows down.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish Thorn?
NQ: Stories have three basic elements–the setting, the plot, and the characters. I typically start by envisioning one of the three elements and then constructing the rest of the story around that element. In the case of Thorn, I started by conceiving a character, Jackson Thorn. I looked into his heart and mind, and I looked around him. I built a setting and a plot progression that explained and accounted for the feelings and thoughts I saw there.
For another book, yet to be published, I imagined a setting within which I created characters and a plot that accounted for that setting and made sense within it. For other works, especially short stories, I might imagine a basic story I want to tell. Then I build characters and a setting around that plot structure which are appropriate for its telling.
In any case, having one of these three elements in my head, I just sit down and start writing. Having written, I revise and revise until I am sufficiently satisfied with the work. I say “sufficiently satisfied” merely because it is a common affliction among writers. We are never wholly satisfied with anything we write, so that we are forced to draw the narrow line between necessary revision and psychotic nitpicking.
I never use outlines–my brain just doesn’t work that way. I sit down and just write and write until the first draft is completed. This process of writing as I go lets me sort of read and write at the same time, sharing in the experience of both reader and author. If I, as a reader, enjoy what I, as an author, am writing, then there is substantial basis for concluding that my readers will enjoy it, too. If I, as a reader, do not enjoy what I, as an author, am writing, then the inverse is true.
There is good reason for me either to revise what I have written or to abandon the work. In writing for myself, then, I am writing for my readers, offering to them no less than the same quality work I would want another author to write for me. It took me a few weeks of pondering and mulling before I started Thorn. All told, the process of writing and revision took me between a year and a half and two years with the revision taking much longer than the initial draft.
JP: What’s next for Nick Quesenberry?
NQ: In terms of writing and publishing, Thorns, the sequel to Thorn, should be coming down the pike relatively soon. All of the things that made Thorn such a joy for me to read/write are multiplied geometrically in Thorns, a book that flatly surprised me virtually every time I sat down to work on it.
Thorn represents the best book I’d written up to that point. With Thorns, I truly came to a new place in my writing, a breakthrough, even beyond where I went with Thorn. A writer must never remain stagnant, but must always grow, and I think I am growing noticeably with each new book–at least, my publisher seems to think so! 🙂
Also, I have finished the first draft of a science-fiction work that I hope to submit for publishing shortly. It is a complete rewriting of a work I previously published on a much, much smaller scale, and I am very excited about it. Lastly, though the subject matter of most of my work is not for consumption by children, I hope shortly to publish a children’s book which I wrote some time ago.
BTW, thank you very much for the opportunity to interview this way with you. I very much enjoyed it, and I hope to do it again with you in the future
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