Nicola Haken is best known for her novels Saving Amy and Being Sawyer Knight. By day she is a normal mom, by night she writes stories that are emotional and suck readers in. No matter what she will write next, the pages will turn.
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
Reading it! I’d never even considered reading an m/m one until I read Freeing by E.K. Blair because it was part of the series. As soon as I read it I thought ‘Wow, I’d like more of this!’. There was something so different about the chemistry between the two leads than I’d ever read before, it was new and exciting. That led me to pick up my first Kindle Alexander book and then the addiction spiralled and I’ve never looked back! It took me a while before I felt brave enough to write my own though. My readers were mainly New Adult m/f fans and I didn’t quite know how I’d ‘fit’ into the m/m world. However, it was the best decision I ever made. I have kept my old readers and gained tonnes of new ones and I have to say we have a lot of fun!
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
Like lots of people I’m an avid reader and one day I had this crazy idea that I wanted to give it a shot myself, so I wrote a book just for me. I never published it but I enjoyed writing it so much I wrote another one, then another one. Eventually I decided to pull on my big girl panties and try and do something with it. I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never heard of self-publishing and thought it was one of those scams where you end up spending a fortune just to end up with boxes of dusty books in your garage that you can’t sell. After receiving lots of rejection letters from literary agents I started to look into who published books by some of my favourite authors and that was when I discovered what self-publishing really was. So, that’s what I did. And holy hell, when I sold my first book I was so ecstatic I think I might have weed a little bit 😉 I remember calling my mum and saying ‘I’ve sold a book!’, then the next day ‘I’ve sold 6 books!’. It meant the world to me and it still does.
I was completely clueless though. I’d never heard of a book blogger, didn’t know what a beta reader was and had no friends who enjoyed reading as much as I did to ask for advice, but I plodded on. The next stage was discovering bloggers (I would be nowhere without their support!). I noticed them on Goodreads reviewing other books and in a few days I had liked a tonne of Facebook pages. Those pages taught me so much. I discovered the meanings behind so many ‘book’ terms – ARC, Blog Tour, Beta Reader etc. More importantly I found myself striking up friendships with some of these blogs and from then on things just started growing.
How I’ve gained my followers though, I really have no idea! It continues to amaze me every single day when someone new reads one of my books or likes my author page. I always try to interact with everyone, tell people how grateful I am and offer to help wherever I can. I think the best, and most important, part of this journey is making friends – authors, readers and bloggers. We’re all in this together. Or maybe, it’s because I’m freakin’ awesome 😉
Has living so close to family and where you grew up influenced your writing in any way?
I wouldn’t be able to do this without my family. They’ve helped and supported me through everything, not to mention the fact I wouldn’t get any time to write if my mum wasn’t such a wonderful nanna to my four children! We’re always on hand to help each other out living so close and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not sure where I grew up has influenced me. I’m a dreamer, I always have been. I was born with an overactive imagination so I don’t necessarily want to write about places I’m familiar with. My books tend to be set in places I always dreamed of living as a child, or places I dream of visiting in the future. When I write the story is like a movie playing out in my head,a movie that I’m in. I’m always inside the head of whichever person I’m writing about. My ‘real life’, as everyone else’s, isn’t like a movie! So I like to move as far away from my ‘real world’ as I can.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
I don’t think there is anyone I’d be bothered about finding out! I’ve never been the type of person who would change or hide to suit others opinions. I feel so passionate about the genre and am incredibly be proud to have my name in it. My whole family knows and seeing as I’ve always been considered as the ‘weird’ member, they’re not surprised! My mum was a little embarrassed at first I think haha. I remember her worrying people wouldn’t like me anymore or think I was ‘too rude’! But really now, there’s no such thing as being too rude!
What inspired Saving Amy? What was it like creating the story?
Saving Amy is a really special story to me. There are some parts of it that were born purely from my imagination, and others which came straight from my heart. At times it was incredibly hard to write. It is definitely the most intense story I’ve ever written, too intense for some people, and some scenes cut so close to the bone I had to stop and take a break. I lived in Amy’s mind for so long and felt every emotion she went through. Sometimes that was hard to deal with because I knew the pain she was going through. But when you get to give a character like Amy a happy ever after it makes it all worthwhile.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
Because it’s hot! It’s different. As women we can’t experience it in real life so it’s exciting to read about it. I find the connection between two men to be so much more intense, passionate and once again HOT! To anyone that’s afraid to read it because they’re not sure they could connect to the characters because they’re a different gender to themselves, I’d say there are still ‘feelings’ there – love, sweetness, caring and wanting. We can all connect to those feelings regardless of whether they are male or female.
What was it like writing the relationship between Sawyer Knight and Jake Reed?
Oh I loved it! It was so far away from anything I’d ever written and I enjoyed every second of it. I always knew I wanted Sawyer to struggle with his sexuality, mainly so I could make him stronger and give him his happy ever after (I have a thing for broken characters!). It’s something that I wish no GLBT person should have to go through, but the fact is it happens. You don’t have to come out as straight and it should be the same for everyone. For my children, they know they can just bring someone home and say ‘this is my girlfriend/boyfriend’ and that will be all there is to it. Unfortunately though, so many people are brought up to believe it’s wrong or shameful and I wanted the chance to tell that story, and to prove that ultimately love is love, no matter what gender they may be. As for Jake, as soon as I came up with the bodyguard idea I knew he had to be strong and bossy! He’s just what Sawyer needed – someone who really ‘knew’ him and was strong enough not to let him go, to wait for him.
What are you currently working?
I’m currently working on the second book in the Souls of the Knight series – Taming Ryder. Anyone who’s read Being Sawyer Knight will have met Ryder as a side character and this is his story. He’s given up his career in hairdressing to become a full time porn star and we soon start to see that the fun, confident and mischievous Ryder we all know is actually pretty broken on the inside. This is his journey of overcoming his past, accepting his present and starting to believe in his future. After Ryder, I will be writing Matt’s story – and there are a LOT of surprises in store for him!
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I’m not nearly organised enough to outline! I usually start with a basic idea and start writing it out straight away. I don’t usually know how a book is going to end until I’m at least half way through because honestly I don’t think there would be any point in planning that far ahead. My characters have minds of their own and constantly change where the story is going whether I want them to or not!
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
In the beginning it would take my three months from idea to publishing. Naturally though the more books I’ve released the busier I’ve become. It’s not just about the writing anymore. It’s about connecting with readers, going to events, signings, marketing etc. But I love that just as much as the writing! So now I allow myself four-five months from start to finish.
What was it like writing Dexter Michaels? Was he hard to write?
Oh I miss my Dexter 🙂 Dexter was actually easy to write because I enjoyed doing it so much. Although he was very broken with a lot of demons, unlike Saving Amy they weren’t anything I had a personal connection to so I could just enjoy taking him on that journey. I loved that series because as well as the gut wrenching and emotional moments, there were also a lot of incredibly funny ones – mainly caused by their friends Rachel and Jared. With it being a four book series I could add a lot of different characters, all incredibly different and unique in their own way. And of course without Dexter we wouldn’t have Percy Penis 😉
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
Watch gay porn! Okay so I might have developed a bordering on unhealthy addiction to it since I started writing m/m but seriously it’s genuinely good for research! Also, talk to people! I have become great friends with a lot of other m/m authors, many of who I completely looked up to before I started writing it (and still do!) and have received such wonderful support. I’ve also connected with quite a few gay porn stars on Twitter, and even met up with some in person, who have been amazing in offering advice and information for Ryder’s story. Honestly, they are some of the sweetest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. Research, read, talk and ask!
As for building up a following, just keep going! Join groups, like pages, add friends who you have a genuine interest in getting to know. Be nice, help others, just make friends! I can’t stress the friends thing enough. I’ve done this on my own and I’ve done it with friends and the second way is so much easier and a lot more fun. Authors, readers and bloggers – we’re all part of the same team. We would be nowhere without each other. There are a few arseholes out there but don’t be disheartened by them. The book world, and I’ve found the m/m genre especially, to be an amazing group of people. Write because you love it, not because you want something from it, and the rest will follow. 🙂