League Interview: Nicole Peeler

Happy New Year, Leaguers! Today we have a special treat. Nicole Peeler, who recently sold her debut novel to Orbit, sat down with me at the League clubhouse for an interview. Nicole’s TEMPEST RISING is set for release in November of this year.

Jaye: Hi, Nicole. Welcome to the League! Why don’t you start out by telling us a little about TEMPEST RISING.

NP: Sure! No problem, Jaye. Are you comfortable? (Takes a deep, deep breath)

Tempest Rising is set in Rockabill, Maine, a fictional town outside of Eastport. The protagonist is Jane True, who works in a book store and is, in many ways, utterly normal. Except she's got a few odd secrets, the most obvious being her need to swim. Which doesn’t sound all that strange, except that Jane swims in the freezing cold winter ocean, naked. And in the Old Sow, which is the fifth biggest whirlpool on earth, and has all this bizarre tidal phenomena. She should be dead of hypothermia or drowning after her little ocean jaunts. Instead, she emerges all after-glowey and pumped with energy. Knowing the swimming isn't normal, she's managed to keep it to herself for years. Everything changes, however, when she finds a murdered body during one of her clandestine nightly swims. Finding the body precipitates the revelation of her true heritage: that her mother, who abandoned Jane and her father when Jane was six, is actually a Selkie, and Jane is only half-human. Jane also learns that there is an entire, secret world laid out next to ours, which consists of all the beings that inspired human myths and legends. After Jane's introduction to this supernatural society, the action really takes off. Jane meets Ryu, a handsome bloodsucker--in the literal, rather than the corporate, sense--who is sent to investigate the murder. Soon enough, they discover another body—this time that of a goblin—which means that major forces are at work. As they plunge further into the intrigue of the nearly immortal beings at the top of the supernatural food chain, they fall equally hard for each other. Copious amounts of sex ensue. And some violence. So the book will make an awesome stocking stuffer for the kids next holiday season!

Jaye: (blinks) Wow, that was certainly … thorough. Did someone forget her Ritalin today?

NP: Well, that's an interesting question, actually . . .

Jaye: Never mind. Just focus and I’m sure it'll be fine. Now, what kinds of fantastic creatures will we meet in TEMPEST RISING?

NP: Well, Jaye, the world of Tempest Rising is absolutely chock-a-block with fantastical beasties. I did most of my undergrad electives in mythology and religion, and I've always been fascinated by how completely divergent cultures across the globe share similar mythologies. So, to a certain extent, the world of Tempest Rising is my imaginative response to why these diverse legends sprang up in communities with no other obvious connection. Jung says they're archetypes that emerge from our collective unconscious, tapping into our instinctual, pre-civilized, shared bonds. Tempest says, "Bah, humbug. It's really because all these creatures exist and people saw them running around. They made stories about them. But humans exaggerated or got things wrong." So the series is full of myths from all over the world. Jane has Celtic origins with her Selkie heritage, Ryu is the vampire/strigoi/nosferatu/baobhan sith legend that's found all over the place. Another major character, Anyan, is a barghest, which is a Germanic myth. There are Ifrits, Djinn, Nagas, Incubi, Succubae, Satyrs, Dryads, and Nahuals. So myths from all over the place. And, for nerds like me, there are lots of jokes about mythology. The book is crammed with every level of humor possible. I'll laugh at just about anything, I have no standards. So there are super-immature potty jokes, then a joke about Kafka, then something really slap-sticky. So even though there are all these huge, crazy, magnificent things happening all around Jane, she's always seeing it kinda off, or breaking it down into something funny so she can handle it. Where other UF heroines put their hand on their gun, or their knife, to feel more secure in a situation, Jane reaches for a joke. She's a complete smart ass, and definitely uses humor as her first line of defense.

Jaye: Okay, we need to have a little talk. I know you're excited and all, but you're turning this interview into a novel. But don't worry, I have an idea. See the guy tied up in the corner over there? That's Mark. Whenever you start getting too wordy, he's gonna get a few lashes with this here Cat O' Nine. Cool?

(Whimpering sounds come from Mark.)

Shut it, Henry. This is payback for killing me in Rowen's interview.

Now, where was I? Oh, right. Interview. So, tell us how a professor of English Lit ends up writing Urban Fantasy.

NP: Hi Mark! I love your red, seeping wounds. They really make the color of your eyes pop. Anyway, Jaye, have you seen what academics get paid? Seriously? It was either write genre fiction or sell my eggs. And apparently nobody wants short, truculent children with a penchant for sarcasm.

Okay, it's really because I love this genre. It's what I grew up reading. I mean, I read everything that wasn't nailed to the floor (and you’d be surprised how often books in the Midwest are nailed to something). But I always came back to fantasy, and when I discovered Charles de Lint, it was over. I was hooked. So I always wanted to be a writer, although I always did think I'd write "literature." Then I got older, and I was lucky enough to know some really amazing writers, some of America's greats, and they're these incredible, charismatic artists who pour their whole lives into their work. Meaning that a lot of people, including themselves, get hurt along the way as the writers reveal so much of themselves and their lives. I realized that a big part of my problem, besides the whole not being a genius thing, was that I didn't want to go that far. I am not brilliant, but even if I was I don't know if I could strip myself bare the way people do in order to write "real" literature. On another note, I also think that popular literature is really important to society on a number of levels, but I will refrain from putting on my professor hat and giving you a cultural studies lecture.

(Whipping sounds come from across the room, followed by girlish shrieks. Nicole is so in love with the sound of her own voice, she doesn't hear Mark's muted cries for mercy)

So then I finished my PhD., which was perfect training for being a genre writer. It's all about coming up with an idea and executing it without letting your ego get in the way. Then you whittle it and hone it until it's as good as it's going to get. And that's what I did on Tempest Rising. I approached it just as I did my thesis. I researched, outlined, then drafted. Only I didn't have to read nearly as much Nietzsche, for Tempest. And I did get to "research" sexual positions. Which I totally didn't get to do when I wrote my thesis, at least, not legitimately. Although, as I did write about Philip Roth, I suppose I could have researched the whole onanism and liver thing. But I don't have the right equipment. I also prefer my livers fried in butter with onions and then blitzed and eaten on crackers. What was I answering? I give good tangent.

Jaye: (sweating for exertion) Seriously? We didn't notice. Did we Mark? (Mark has passed out from the pain). Okay, obviously you're immune to others' suffering. Is there anything that will make you keep your answers succinct?

NP: I love the word "succinct!"

Jaye: (Sighs) If you keep it up I'm going to have to end the interview. Trust me when I say you don't want that. Now, I'm almost afraid to ask, but what happened when you got The Call?

NP: Again, great question! You're so good at this, Jaye! Well, when I got the call, I shat myself. Maybe. Just a little. Okay, no I didn't. But it was close. It was around five o'clock, I was just getting ready to leave for my belly dancing class. I was totally not expecting a call, as I’d been firmly, if lovingly, told by my agent, Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh and Otis, to stop spazzing the fuck out, that nothing was going to happen for at least another month as my subs had been out for only four weeks. So, like a day or two after she commands me to relax, Rebecca calls, and proceeds to tell me there's been an offer. And that it's big, three books, and it's Orbit (which blew me away, as I know Orbit well from living in the UK, and know what a fantastic house it is). And that they want to "pre-empt" (keep in mind I have no idea what I'm doing and don't know jack about publishing). And that they're pushing to get something finalized by Wednesday, as the editor is leaving Thursday for India. Did I mention it's Monday? There's all this talk of "leveraging," and "negotiating foreign language rights," and "auctions," and I'm crapping in my pants. I sort of managed to keep it together on the phone with Rebecca, and made appropriate grunting sounds when she told me more stuff I didn't understand. Then she told me she’d call me the next day after she’d contacted the other houses still involved, yadda yadda, and that she needed short synopses of the next two books in the series.

(Jaye presses a red button on the table. In the distances alarms echo through the halls of the League compound. Nicole is oblivious to the flashing red lights.)

Do you hear something? Anyway, so then I called My One Friend here in Shreveport, Mary Lois, to tell her she’d have to find her own way to belly dancing, only instead of telling her any of that I just start crying hysterically. Mary Lois, who had actually paid attention when my agent told me nothing was going to happen for another month, thought someone had died. Then I called my parents. And then I called my friend Loren. And then I called my brother's family. And then I called my friend Jana. . .

(Jaye gets up and goes to unhook Mark from the wall. He groans, but notices the red lights and his eyes widen in fear. "Stumpy's waking," he whispers. Jaye nods solemnly. "It couldn't be helped. Talky McTalkerson over there forced my hand.")

. . . and then I wrote the synopses. And then Mary Lois and I tried to go out and celebrate, but it was Monday, and our favorite bar was closed, so we went to this meat market place that was the only thing open, and a random drunk guy asked Mary Lois if she'd like to watch porn with him. She was eating a taco salad. I pointed that out to him, hoping he’d realize that most people wouldn't get up from their taco salad to go watch porn with slightly elderly strangers. But he persevered. So we went home. Anyway, it just got more crazy over the next two days, and there was some screaming involved, maybe some more crying, and I started swearing at my agent at one point because I loved her so much all I could do was drop the f-bomb on her. In my family, love is often expressed through gratuitous swearing. We're like pirates. All in all, selling the book was the longest three days of my life. I think my students thought I was drunk the whole time, but I wasn't. I just didn't sleep, didn't eat, didn't do anything except try to wrap my brain around the fact I'd actually sold the books. I still haven't really come to terms with it, I don't think. Bye Mark! Why is he limping? And bleeding profusely? That's a fierce whip, Jaye. It's hot. And whips are hot on the runway right now, they're totally this season’s black . . .

Now that Mark is safe, Jaye walks over and pushes another button. This one opens the trap door under the interview area. Nicole falls through the gaping hole and into the clutches of Stumpy, the League's pet were-chupacabra. Will Nicole fall victim to the goat sucker? Or will she live another day to terrorize the world with her lethal verbosity? Check in next week to see if Nicole survives to answer the rest of Jaye's questions.

In the meantime, check out Nicole's Facebook page for more info.


macbeaner said…
I'm not sure what to say.... lol.
December/Stacia said…
Hey Nicole! Fancy seeing you here, lol. :-)
Jaye Wells said…
Sorry for the weird formatting, guys. I'm on my way out the door, but I'll try to fix it this afternoon.
Nicole Peeler said…
Hi Stacia!!!! I know, I pop up in the weirdest places. ;-)

You ROCK it Jaye, thanks. Weird formats and all. I blame myself. It's probably a Mac thing.
Mark said…
In spite of Jaye's sadistic tendencies, I'm convalescing nicely at my sumptuous seaside retreat. Flowers won't be necessary. Send books!
Campanula said…
I heart Nichole aka Talky McTalky. She is so smart and funny. Where do Urban Fantasists go to play?
Campanula said…
Sorry, Nicole... no H.. Nicole. Or just Nikki..
Nicole Peeler said…
I think they go to Norway. But I'm not sure.
Jaye Wells said…
Duh, they come here. To the League. To, uh, play with the were-chupacabra.
Nicole Peeler said…
Is that a euphemism for your vajayjay, Jaye?
This was freakin' hilarious! Nikki, are you a fan of Neil Gaiman? You would like American Gods, I think. Awesome read. Speaking of which, I CANNOT WAIT to read your book! I had no idea about all the myth stuff. I love that shizzat! I'm reading Mr. Joseph Campbell right now. EEEE!!!
Nicole Peeler said…
Funny you said that, as my friend Ervin JUST gave me American Gods. Great minds, and all that. Joseph Campbell ROX, btw. And I bet those three "words" have never been used together, before.
First of all, a big fat congrats on your success. By the way, I also suffer from ADHD.

You are truly an inspiration to us all. Because of you, I think I may author a novel based on what fascinates me most. I may need to rip off some of your storyline, though.

It will be set on the west coast, likely in Van Nuys. The title shall be "Member Rising." A man who is part-human, part-horse will plunge into the deepest, darkest abysses of humanity... You know, methinks this story has previously been told.

Dammit, as hard as I try, why can I never be appropriate?

D. <3's N.
Nicole Peeler said…
You are horrifying, Dave, and I love it. Thanks for the shout out. If Tempest gets turned into a movie, I'll put you forward to write/direct/star in the porn spoof.
I'm holding you to that. I'm gonna be a star, momma!

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