Friday, 12 April 2013

Interview with Nicolai Grunnet

Now that spring is making an appearance, it's nice to spend time outdoors. Perhaps in the backyard where the grass is nicely trimmed, and you can lay out in the sun among the garden gnomes. And if I've piqued your interest by mentioning gnomes, I've got an interview that touches upon that subject in an extraordinary way. Let's meet author Nicolai Grunnet.

Welcome to We Do Write, Nicolai! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you! Allow me to say that I’m so thrilled about having this opportunity. My name is Nicolai Grunnet, born in April, 1982 and still feel younger than ever. During the day I’m a clinical psychologist and at night the author of the psychological, satirical fantasy series "Heureka". Writing has been one of my greatest passions since school, especially when I was allowed to tell wild fairytales in my assignments (usually about my friends). Once role-playing games were discovered, I happily took up the mantle of game master and storyteller.

I have travelled the world much and met up with many exotic people and their stories. This day I live in Denmark and have former careers as a warehouse operative, sales clerk, gardening assistant, teacher, actor and now psychologist and author. Who knows what might be next?
My style of writing attempts to remain within the conventions of the classical fantasy story and yet twist it as I please. They are stories of ordinary people with ordinary problems, in a disorderly world. While satirical elements are certainly present, through various clich├ęs and pop cultural references, the stories also present more serious themes.

Gaming takes up a big part of my life. D&D, MMO's and Warhammer to name a few. Alternatively, I take my pet-hedgehog for walks around the house.

How cute! How long have you been writing?

I suppose it really began in school, as mentioned, but back then I was very inspired by the artwork of D&D and the universe of Warcraft, so I practiced drawing a lot. I never really became good at it, though.
I took up writing in 9th grade and mailed my first manuscript to a publisher. Needless to say, it wasn’t that good and I had a pretty rough review; still I am impressed they even bothered with an answer.
Writing went a bit on and off for many years. In 2011 I began working as a clinical psychologist, for a time with severely traumatized patients. It meant that many days were full of tales (and pictures) of war, torture and rape; things that really got to me. I had to find something to do in order to cope with it.
Thus I began writing, and as Sir Terry Pratchett once said, writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.

Tell us about PANDEGNOMIUM. What’s the story about?

Pandegnomium is the first book of the Heureka-series; a satirical, psychological story about a world that is not plagued by a demon or an evil dragon, but an international crisis. It only gets worse as the gardening gnome is, quite by accident, invented and kick starts the economy. But the gnomes are soon about to take their revenge. Thus, a strange expedition sets out to find the Ban-Hammer; a mighty weapon that can battle the gnomes. The expedition is neither great, nor heroic, but consists of a depressed warrior, a barmaid and a young wizard with Arcane Deficit Casting Disorder. So they travel out into the mad world to stop the gardening gnomes, only to contend with talking hippos, old ladies and obsessive nerds collecting board games.

If you wish to relate it to other authors, I’m mostly inspired by the two authors Sir Terry Pratchett and R.A.Salvatore.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

It’s actually a rather old idea, Pandegnomium was the first story in the universe and I clearly remember having it on a night in Italy back in 2002. I’ve always had a thing with gardening gnomes just being wrong and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to spread the message. Most of the story was written in the UK around 2005, however, and since then a lot of things have been changed in editing. For example, the first drafts were purely in Danish, but I felt it was too much of a niche for anything but the international market.

Interesting! Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I’m happy to have a solid (albeit small) group of beta readers at my disposal, who luckily all share my black sense of humor. While I think my writing is decent there is no way I’m getting around using a proofreader. Her name is Satine and she does a terrific job at pointing out my mistakes and remembering things I wrote 20 pages ago. I hope she one day manages to teach me the correct use of lay/lie.

One of my best friends through several years is kind enough to read through the first draft of every manuscript, whereas my sister, Sophie, is the main illustrator for the covers and always the first one to hear what the book is about. Of course, when it comes to the practical editing I go at it alone.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser at heart, as long as I have a general idea what the story is supposed to be about. I know where it starts and where I’m supposed to go, but the landscape in between is unknown. Observers have described that I almost weave it together, which is a pretty nice picture, really. For me it has the obvious advantage of letting yourself be surprised at times and seeing how your characters react. And again, I’ve burned myself more than once by almost ‘writing myself into a corner’. That’s when I need to take some steps back and try to intervene as best as possible.

It can especially backfire in fantasy, I believe, as so much in this genre depends on the consistency of your world. Which is likely why the entire world of Heureka has so few rules set in stone. It is, after all, an existential nuthouse of ideas that have run wild and don’t care for such trifle concerns as ‘rules’. It leaves you with a lot of freedom to just throw stuff in it. One of the new characters we will see in the third book is the Assassin of Language, Etoia. I made her up pretty much on the fly, as one of my friends complained that ‘there was too much killing of language going around in society these days’. She fits right in, even though she was never a part of the original idea. And now it looks like she will play out a prominent role, brewing poison from dangling participles. That’s really one of the greatest things about being a pantser.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Bad conscience whenever I don’t write, actually. Being your own master is a terrible responsibility, especially because there is always something to do! Even after 3000 words in a few hours I can feel terrible for calling it a night. Then add in the immense amount of publicity and advertising you have to do afterwards. I can also have a rather hard time coping with how lonesome being an author is and the realization that your friends might not always be as interested in your work as you are. As I’ve said in one of my articles, I envy graphical artists because they can post a picture and get tons of feedback.

But you asked about writing specifically; I believe the hardest thing is getting started. I mustn’t allow myself to stare at the blank page for too long, otherwise nothing happens. Just write something and things will eventually follow, sort of like getting the train up into speed.

Oh yeah, and when you’re a nerd, roleplayer, mmo-gamer and warhammer-enthusiast, it’s not like you’re short on temptations.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Darkness and soda. I have a notorious relationship with either, through several years. I write really poorly in daylight, maybe because so much activity is going on outside. The sound of cars, people, everything. During the night, quietude is just so much better with fewer things to keep you occupied. Maybe because you tend to forget about dishes and cleaning and just focus on the books? Some of my readers have pointed out to me that my stories often take place at night. “Bloody Peasant” is pretty much one nocturnal battle, starting a bit into the book. I hadn’t given that much thought.

And soda, well, just because. My old, Indian bus driver once told me; “Just stay off the booze and the cigarettes and you’ll do fine!”

I’m taking his word for it.

Sounds like sound advice. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Depends. I’d go for the ability to freeze time indefinitely, but isn’t that more like a god power? If it is, I’d instantly go for teleportation. From my calculations it’s both cool, can keep me alive (think about how much money I could make, if I started taking people with me) and is still usable to keep troublesome people away. Plus, who wouldn’t want to buy books from a teleporting guy?

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

I’ve googled a LOT of weird things for my books. From the top of my head; ‘Most dangerous enemy of hippos’, ‘Goth Bears’, ‘Zombie gardening gnomes’ and likely the top candidate; ‘tentacle owl’. I’m sure there are more of them.

My general google rule, however, is to never click on the Image-tab. Bad things happen there.

LOL. Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: panda, gnome, and momentum.

On the top of his momentum, the panda smashed the gnome. 
I really don’t like gnomes.

I gathered that. ;) Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

Sleeping or feeling bad about not writing. Possibly at the same time.

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

The Academy, of course, as I know they will give the upcoming film version an Oscar. But the very special shout outs go to the persons working with me on the first book. Sophie, my sister and artist who made the lovely cover and is still busy with the second one (and soon third, she just doesn’t know yet). She has been a kindred spirit as well, her too fighting her way forward in the world as an artist. I love it how she listens eagerly to the story and her way of adapting my characters into drawings, often in ways I couldn’t imagine.
I was extremely lucky to meet Satine, who’s primarily my proofreader and has slightly turned into sparring partner for my various ideas. She’s shown impressive skills and taught me a lot about writing in English, also been a great source of inspiration for my third book. A lot of grammatical humor is going on there and half of the jokes wouldn’t’ have made it if not for her. Just like Sophie, I hope to work with her for a long time.
Of course there is the emotional support, mainly from my better half, my mother and best friend. While they might not always get to read the books, they believe in me. And that is one of the biggest things for an aspiring author.

I owe all these people so much.

And finally, where can people find you and your books online?

My homepage is the central hub for all my books:
There they can find links to the various sites that sell them, mainly Amazon and Smashwords. It also features news and other nifty features, and if you want for further updates, I strongly recommend joining up on Facebook!
Finally, if you want the direct link for Pandegnomium here it is:

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Nicolai. Good luck with your books!

It’s been a pleasure being here! Thank you so much for the opportunity!

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