Nikki LeClair (who also writes under the pen name Vivian Brooks) is the author of chick lit and cozy mysteries. Her recent book, Haunting Me, is a cozy mystery that takes the traditional theme of a ghost story removing the fear factor in favor of an emotional, thrilling mystery. I recently spoke with Nikki about her writing. Read what she had to say below.
When did you decide to become a writer?
“It probably happened in the middle of university. My brother is actually the writer in the family and when he was younger, he would make me write all the romantic scenes in his novels and stories because he wasn’t very good at that stuff. So when I went to university, I took a writing elective course and I realized that I enjoyed it. I had a really great teacher who was also a published writer who told me that I should move my focus away from law which was my major at the time and look at the options in the book world, editing or doing public relations for books or being a literary agent because that was clearly my strength. So I pursued that. I was lucky. My teacher was very supportive. I don’t think many people get a chance to meet a teacher who is upfront and honest like that.”
How did you conceive of Haunting Me?
“The whole story started off completely different. There was no Edie. There was no ghost. Phoebe stayed the same but it was essentially just a regular chick lit and it wasn’t working. I had written about six months worth of it. I hated it. Every time I sat down to write, it just didn’t click. I read a couple of articles. I actually believe that Tracie (Banister) retweeted one about when it’s time to give up on a story and when it’s time to rework it. I needed to start from the beginning. I really liked Edie so I decided to keep her. It just suddenly became Haunting Me. Edie is a hoot. Everybody loves her so I’m really glad that I nailed that character.”
You’ve done a wonderful job in creating memorable characters in Haunting Me, particularly Phoebe or Edie. Are these characters based on people you know?
“I wouldn’t say Phoebe is. I think I took different traits of her personality from just people that I know. She’s very normal in a sense and kind and a little bit dramatic and a little naive. But Edie…she has always been around. She comes from my childhood when I used to play house with my brother and sister. I always played the grandma. They always cast me as the grandma. And Edie was the grandma. She was the rich, spoiled, loud grandma (laughs).”
Haunting Me is Book 1 in a series. When you first started writing Haunting Me, had you decided that it would be part of a series or did this decision come about as you got further in the writing process?
“I always knew that it was going to be a series. These three books…because I planned it out prior, I realized that I just loved her already without even writing about her yet. I just had a little bit of an outline and dialogue going and my notes. I realized that I loved her already without even writing anything really. I wanted to focus more on her life. I was warned by some authors who were like ‘your first book is really good, but you’ll feel the pressure of the second or third book. You have to ignore it. Try not to think about the pressure.’ I think that’s great advice because I’m definitely starting to feel it (laughs).”
What would you say is the message of Haunting Me?
“The message is…I’ve been asked this before and I would say ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I wanted it also to be a little more of nobody is quite as they seem because I come across people I’ve known forever and they still do things that surprise me. I really wanted that to be shown with Phoebe’s relationship with Riley. We tend to look at things through rose colored glasses and that was another message that I really wanted to put out there. Sometimes you just need to take those glasses off and see what situation that you’ve put yourself in.”
Are there any routines that assist you with your writing process?
“I think that one of my routines is that I have a playlist for every book that I write. It is music that I get from Spotify as I’m sitting writing out notes for my books. I’m not much of a planner. I usually write by the seat of my pants (laughs). I’ll write a scene or a certain piece of dialogue. I’ll have music playing in the background and when a song catches my attention, I add it to the list. Also, most of the time, I need a cup of tea or a glass of wine sometimes that helps to get the writing going and the juices flowing when I’m in the middle of writer’s block.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
“Write and read like everyday if you can. If you can write for five or ten minutes. It can be anything. A journal entry. Anything. You just need to make writing a habit. You need to do it everyday. I also think that you need to read alot and not just in the genre that you write. I write chick lit and cozy mystery. But I read suspense. I read thrillers. I read science fiction. I think how you learn is by reading other writers.”
Are there any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
“I’m writing the sequel to Haunting Me. I’m about sixteen chapters in. I’ve got ten to go. I’m hoping to have it out by the first week in November. Other than that, I have a few ideas in my head for a couple of novels under Vivian Brooks that are mostly chick lit once I finish the sequel.”