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An Interview with Paige Nick

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Paige Nick, author of A Million Miles from Normal.

EB: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Firstly, can you tell us a bit more about Paige Nick, the woman behind the author?

PN: I’m 36. I’m an Aries. I live in Cape Town. I like long walks on the beach, romantic candle-lit dinners and flirting… on no wait, that’s my online dating profile.
In reality I’m an only mildly neurotic writer with a slightly worrying shoe problem.

EB: Since you work in the ad industry yourself, how much of A Million Miles from Normal did you base on personal experience?

PN: One or two of the scenes in the book are roughly based on incidents that have happened at agencies I’ve worked at. Like the phone number debacle for example. And some of characters are also very loosely based on people I’ve known, guys I’ve dated and clients I’ve worked with over the years. But they’re all laced with huge wads of fiction.

Back in the day we used to watch the TV series Melrose Place and some of the characters worked in advertising. I remember thinking that the writers always got it so wrong. Like the copywriter did a client service person’s job and wore a suit and tie. For years they totally misrepresented what it’s like to work in an ad agency. So I really wanted to be true to the ad industry as much as possible. That being said I did play into a lot of the cliché’s of the industry, like the mad boss and the ridiculous clients and the drug addict art director, those things aren’t necessarily the norm, but I wanted to take everything to the extreme to make Rachel’s life as insane as possible.

EB: What made you decide to start writing and what inspires you to write?

PN: I’ve always been passionate about writing and as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write a novel. In fact most of my New Year’s resolutions have included – this year I will write a book and lose twenty kilos. It took me years to actually write that book and I suppose next year I’ll get to those twenty kilos.

And what inspires me to write? Amazing writing often inspires me to write. I’ll think damn, I wish I’d written that. Also more often than not, deadlines inspire me to write.

EB: How would you describe a regular writing day?

PN: When I’m working on a novel I try to get my first draft out as fast as possible. It’s important to keep it fresh and keep the momentum going. Also the characters tend to chatter on incessantly in my head, driving me crazy, and the only way I can get them to shut up is to write down what they’re saying. During those spurts I tend to write obsessively and become Paige-No-Friends. When I’m not at work, at gym, eating or sleeping then I’m at my computer writing. And then on top of that I spend at least an hour a day writing posts for my blog, Like I said, Paige-No-Friends.

EB: As readers we are fond of thinking that an author writes a book, sends it off to the publishers and it gets printed. Were there any parts of the publishing process that came as a complete surprise to you?

PN: It’s been an amazing experience getting to learn a whole new industry from scratch. I think the most surprising part of the process was the cover design. It was completely different from what I had expected and it was a massive challenge. We must have gone through just short of thirty different covers before we found one we all really loved.

EB: According to your publishers, you are a copy writer by day and an author by night. How do you balance the two without burning yourself out completely?

PN: I’m not quite sure about that yet. This is all quite new to me and I’m still figuring out how it’s going to impact on my life.

But while both my day job and my night job are as a writer, both jobs use entirely different writing muscles. In my day job I have to be true to the brands I’m working on. If I’m writing for I get to be nutty and quirky, and if I’m writing for Allan Gray I have to write smarter, more focussed copy.
And then at night time and on the weekends when I go back to working on my novel I have to be true to my characters, plot and storyline. No two jobs are the same which helps keep things fresh.

After a day spent coming up with ways to sell The Cape Argus, it’s quite nice to go home to the freer fiction writing space. And then by the next morning I’m usually ready to sell soap again.

I think the trick is learning to take proper breaks between projects and doing lots of travelling and spending time with family and friends, which should carry me through the next writing phase.

I’m generally aware that burn out is imminent, but I’ll be sitting at my desk writing fiction and suddenly become conscious of the fact that I’m grinning from ear to ear. So as long as I’m still loving all this writing, a bit of random burnout is bearable.

EB: I am sure that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the creation of this novel and it shows in the smart, sexy and un-put-downable end result. Can you describe some of the unmentioned (or unanticipated) perks of getting your book on the shelves of your local bookstores?

PN: Before all of this I actually never thought past the physical act of writing a book. I was so focussed on putting one word in front of another that I never really considered the part where you finish the manuscript and find an agent and then find a publisher and come up with a cover and see it in book shops and have people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed it. So I’ve really been getting a kick out of seeing the actual finished book and people’s reaction to it. It’s a very surreal experience.

EB: What is your favourite book of all time, and why?

PN: That’s the toughest question you’ve asked. I don’t think I have an all time favourite book, there are just too many to choose from. But last year I discovered a book called Being Dead by Jim Crace, and I’m currently a little obsessed with him and devouring anything of his I can get my hands on. I’m a bit like a crack addict, desperate for my next Jim Crace fix.

EB: What can we expect from Paige Nick in the future?

PN: Hopefully more books *she says crossing fingers and holding thumbs*. I just finished the first draft of a new novel and have sent it off to James, my editor at Penguin. So I’m currently waiting with baited breath to hear if he likes it or not and trying desperately to avoid the temptation to call him every five minutes and ask ‘So did you read it? What do you think?’
Hopefully if all goes according to plan we’ll have something new coming out some time in 2011.

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